Although going abroad to study medical school may seem daunting, House graduate Alyssa McCowsky said it was the greatest leap of faith she’s ever taken.
Makovsky graduated from Pete in December 2021 with a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry and Spanish. She is currently attending Western Atlantic University School of MedicineIt is located in the Bahamas, about 80 miles east of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Makovsky intends to practice orthopedic surgery and hopes her experience moving from Pitt to WAUSM will inspire others to consider traveling abroad after graduation.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
home news: What prompted you to go abroad to study at medical school?
Alyssa McCuskey: You kind of graduated at a strange time. I graduated in December of last year, so it really put me in a weird place and [I was] Applying to medical school is like, “Oh, I might have nine months. I don’t know what to do, where am I going” So I applied to some American school and got an email from WAUSM just asking about a new school opening its doors in the Caribbean. And I was like, “Well, I’m from the Northeast, I lived through the winters in Pittsburgh.” I was like, “Maybe some warm weather is what I’m looking for. It would definitely be an interesting place to study medicine.”
So I applied, had an interview within probably a week of applying, and it was crazy about the medical school process, and I got accepted within two weeks. And so I was on the fence about it, thinking about it, and it was around October and November, so things started to get cold. And I said, “You know what? I’ve lived in the Northeast all my life. This is my time. So get out, see something new, go 1,000 miles.”
And so I decided that was a new adventure for me, and that would be something I wanted to do.
TPN: What do you think is the biggest cultural difference between the United States and the Caribbean?
A.m: I think they are somewhat similar. The one thing that took a lot of getting used to is that things aren’t open all the time as they are in the US, and you can’t use the UberEats stuff. Lots of stores are closed on weekends, or specifically on Sundays, so you have to finish all your groceries during the week. But other than that, it’s just like living in the US
TPN: What is the biggest advantage of attending an international medical school?
A.m: WAUSM is generally quite different from a lot of medical schools in the US, so they do a flipped semester. I kind of attended, you actually learned the material, so you’re dealing with cases, stuff like that. I think it’s just a different experience. You’re not at home, it’s just kind of adventurous.
It also allows for a lot of different variety, depending on age, race, gender, and things like that, because it’s more comprehensive in IMS. We have a lot of students from Canada, Puerto Rico and different places. Not all US students only.
TPN: What is the best memory you have in WAUSM?
A.m: We do this torch at the beginning of every semester, kind of like back to school kind of thing, and it’s really fun. Get everyone together for a night out, enjoy ourselves, and meet the new students. I think it’s really fun to connect with everyone.
TPN: Are you planning to stay in the Caribbean when you graduate or move elsewhere?
A.m: I really don’t know where I want to live, which is kind of why I jumped so big and said, “I’m going to try something new.” As of now, I have no plans or any idea of where I want to live. So we’ll spend two years here, and then we’ll go back to the States for two years and do our clerical duties in the hospital, and after that, I can go anywhere from there. So I kind of live on the edge, playing it by ear at the moment. I just want to try a few things and find out where I want to live.
TPN: Coming to the Caribbean, were there any major culture shocks you hadn’t considered before moving?
A.m: I love the Northeast, I love people, but I feel like people [in the Bahamas] They are the nicest people I have met in my life. Everyone says hi to you in the morning, and starts a conversation with you, which I feel isn’t very typical in a lot of other places. I don’t go to the grocery store in New York, and someone said, “Hey, how are you? How’s your day?” But it happens all the time here, and it’s crazy, but I love it so much. Everyone is very friendly and will talk to you [and] Whatever it is, which is great.
TPNDo you have any advice for people considering going abroad for higher education or even work?
A.m: Definitely do your research. The first week of moving here, things were crazy. But, I mean, that’s just moving all over the place because I’m now 1,000 miles away from my family and I’m just trying to figure things out. So definitely do your research and get things done. But if you think about it, I recommend it 100%. It was one of the best jumps or massive things I’ve done in my life. I love it here.
I make it look cool, but, like medical schools in the US, it’s very difficult. Studying on the beach or in nice weather is more fun. But it’s medical school, so it’s still a tough 80-hour school weeks, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.