Hello, my name is Tara D’Ignazio and I am a soon to be 2nd year medical student and the soon to be National Officer on Research Exchange of IFMSA Quebec. You might be thinking, great, I’m happy for your future exploits, but what exactly are you doing now?
Let’s talk about the past: I’ve managed to survive 21 years. In these 21 years, I’ve lived in the West Island of Montreal, which makes me painfully Anglophone. I enjoy boxing, running, weight lifting and other activities that predispose me to premature osteoarthritis. I like reading and dogs and travelling.
You might be saying, superb, but what are you doing NOW now?
I’m preparing for the August Meeting in Macedonia quite diligently, amongst other things. Between the oversaturation Shark Week documentaries, I glimpse over the number of contracts I need to get in order. Between sips of Pinterest perfect lemonade, I respond to international emails on my smartphone. Between dispatching Snapchats of my shih tzu, I answer calls from confused medical students stopped at the Canadian border.
How did I become so competent? One Sunday afternoon during my premedical year, I realized it would be cool if I were involved in one student association, so I typed up a letter of motivation, had it spellchecked by a friend, and submitted it to the VPI. The pickings must have been slim, because I got the job of local officer on research exchange at Université de Montréal (which bears the affectionate acronym of LORE).
I jest, but the experience has been very rewarding overall. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting international medical students and complaining about our program to them as they complain about theirs in return, an experience I consider nothing short of cathartic. Everything about the exchange, from the apartment to the project to the contact person to the pocket money to the keys for the apartment to the airport arrival to the fancy emails about immigration customs, is organized by my colleague, Xiya, and myself. It’s a lot of work, but there’s something special about seeing the smile of an incoming as they navigate the strange world of Montreal for 4 weeks. It’s nice to see someone enjoying what you walk past everyday for the first time. You might think the cobblestones in the Old Port are are an unnecessary risk to your ankle ligaments, but to an incoming, the Old Port is charming. You might find the festivals to be an unfortunate loud noise that permeates your thin apartment walls, but to an incoming, it’s exotic. I’ve literally seen an incoming student make an Instagram post of poutine from La Belle Province, and that frankly weirded me out a bit. Anyways, to the crux of the matter: the incoming also acquires 4 weeks of research experience at a university-affiliated lab and can bring back their experience to their home country (along with smuggled bottles of maple syrup, which is another form of wealth we impart onto visitors).
That’s the goal of IFMSA SCORE exchanges: sharing of research experience, sharing of culture, and perspective building. We take a student in Quebec, and we send a student out into the world to do the same thing. Everyone learns, and everyone wins. I lose sleep and hair follicles, but it’s a small collateral damage that we accept.