Chinese medical student Xu Jibang: ‘St Petersburg is an excellent cosmopolitan city, a great choice for tourism, education and living’
Biomedicine and human health is one of the most advanced areas of research at St Petersburg University. The high level of scientific research and expertise in this area is achieved through focus on lifelong learning, creation of new theoretical perspectives and practical approaches, and continuous expansion of available educational programmes.
The excellent quality of higher education at St Petersburg University is recognised worldwide, and foreign applicants are increasingly interested in Russian medical education. The University therefore offers three undergraduate medical programmes taught entirely in English — General Medicine, Nursing and Dental Medicine.
Xu Jibang, 22, a medical student at St Petersburg University from Qingdao, Shandong Province, China told us about his experience of studying in Russia, his choice of university and specialisation and his advice for foreigners who want to study in Russia.
Why did you choose to study in St Petersburg?
Personally, I considered three main factors. Politically, although Russia and China are major land powers sharing a long common border, their geopolitical interests are not currently in conflict. Close bilateral relations and certain historical factors mean that the two peoples share a sense of friendship, the political situation is secure and society is stable.
Secondly, St Petersburg is the cultural centre of Russia, an excellent cosmopolitan city, a great choice for tourism, education and living. Its history stretches from the Peter and Paul Fortress, built on the Neva River, to Petrograd, which survived the First World War and where the first shots of the October Revolution were fired, to Leningrad, which triumphed in the Patriotic War. Witnessing Russia’s turbulent history through the lens of St Petersburg is a great way to understand the country’s history and culture in depth.
Finally, given the high quality of Russian higher education, admission requirements and tuition fees are more accessible than in other countries or regions, while living standards are at the same level.
Could you please describe your experience of learning Russian and whether you spoke Russian before coming to St Petersburg University?
I had only taught myself some Russian before entering St Petersburg University, and it was only through preparatory courses that I developed a partial understanding of the language. The logic of grammatical order in Russian is very different from that in Chinese or English, which made it quite difficult to learn at first. As for my current level of Russian, I think there is still a lot of room for improvement.
What made you choose medicine?
I myself have always enjoyed biology, and I have relatives who work in the medical field, so my choice was also influenced by my family.
Medicine is said to be the most demanding profession, what are the difficulties of studying medicine?
First of all, I think the language issue is the biggest problem, if you want to choose medicine, it is better to have a solid level of Russian, the mandatory B1 level of Russian required for enrolment is not enough, in my opinion. Language difficulties are then directly reflected in daily study; if classes are difficult to follow then a lot of time has to be spent on revision, but some subjects that require a lot of memorisation, such as anatomy, already take up a lot of time. So the language thing just adds insult to injury. It is very important to establish a daily routine and make the most of your free time. My Russian friends helped me a lot in the beginning and I am very grateful to them!
What do you think of the classroom environment?
The combination of purely theoretical and purely practical classes is very unique, and in Russia the students are more active, they ask questions throughout the class, which is unusual for me.
What do you think are the differences between the Russian and Chinese education systems?
The Russian and Chinese higher education systems are quite different, and I personally feel that Chinese higher education is more standardised at the macro level, which is particularly noticeable when you take an exam. The oral rather than written format of the exam was a shock to me at first. However, it is a better way of assessing a student’s overall ability.
Second, the resources of Chinese universities are more centralised, with all faculties concentrated on a single campus and all resources managed directly by the university. A decentralised university experience here can encourage students’ independence and give them more freedom in their daily routines and leisure choices.
Finally, the Russian distinction between practical and theoretical classes may also be one of the factors contributing to a more active participation in the classroom.
Which class is your favourite? And why?
Anatomy, as this course represented a major crisis and challenge in my otherwise comfortable academic life.
What do you think should be emphasised when it comes to medical training?
In my opinion, clinical medicine should definitely focus on clinical practice-oriented training, and I think the curriculum is very much in line with that.
Traditional Chinese medicine is very popular in China, but you chose to study Western medicine in Russia, why?
Traditional Chinese medicine stems from thousands of years of accumulated medical experience. And now it can benefit from the achievements of modern medicine and gradually separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. In Chinese higher education, a medical student also must know anatomy, surgery and other such expected disciplines, so the two paths lead to the same level of competence. After studying Western medicine, I hope to contribute to the modernisation of traditional Chinese medicine.
Do you plan to practice medicine in Russia or China after graduation?
At the moment I’m leaning towards returning to my home country for work.
What advice would you give to other international students going to Russia?
Personally, I think that the language study period on the preparatory courses is very important, and I would also recommend that you find out as much as possible about the educational programme before you apply and make an informed decision.