News @ VCU School of Pharmacy
Students abroad: an excellent exchange
Are first impressions everything? Rania Ramadan of Alexandria, Egypt, and Taraneh Shojaci of Stockholm, Sweden (by way of Iran), should have an answer for that question by the end of July.
The two students arrived in the States, around the Fourth of July weekend, as part of the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation’s Student Exchange Program. They are spending part of the month with VCU School of Pharmacy and part of the month visiting nearby scenic, historical (and shopping!) sites.
A group of SOP students – Jennifer Austin (P4), Amanda Botteicher (P2), Amy Dembowski (P3), Deanna Flora (P4), Holly Gurgle (P4), Danny Jaek (P3) and Lindsey Madures (P2) – along with
Tom Reinders, associate dean for admissions and student services, welcomed Ramadan and Shojaci at a reception July 7 in the Smith Building student lounge.
Following a couple of weeks working with student pharmacists in the hospitals, Ramadan and Shojaci were scheduled to visit other related locales such as Buford Road Pharmacy. They also plan to check out Virginia Beach, Washington and New York.
The exchange students both are enrolled in five-year B.S. pharmacy programs, with two years to go. Slightly jet-lagged but none the worse for wear, they braved a battery of questions about their backgrounds, their trips and their plans. Here’s a snapshot:
What have you done since you arrived?
Ramadan, laughing: “We saw everything today … EVERYTHING!”
Shojaci: “Walking, walking, walking.”
This is your first time in the United States. How were your trips?
Ramadan: “From Egypt, it took 28 hours.” (Despite her attempts determination not to fall asleep upon arrival, she napped on the way from the airport to Richmond.)
Shojaci, nodding: “I came Saturday. After 12 hours, I was so tired.”
Any initial observations?
Ramadan: “People say, ’So, you live in the desert.’ I say yes, we have a camel, we park it in front of the house!’ “
[Alexandria, the second largest city in Egypt, is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.]
You both speak very good English.
Ramadan: “We choose three languages. I chose English, French and German.”
Shojaci: “In Sweden, I hear English all the time. In Iran, there are lots of courses and people are interested in learning English.”
What are your pharmacy programs like?
Ramadan: “Ours are more memorization than practical. Memorize, memorize, memorize! … In Egypt, we train for three months after the fourth year. But it’s optional.”
Shojaci: “The main difference here is when you learn something, you start to use it. We study theory. In the last six months of the fifth year [at her school in Sweden], you work in a drugstore.”
How big are your classes?
Ramadan: “We have 1,500 people in our class! We [the 1,500 students graduating in 2011] are split into three groups for classes, in alphabetical order for lectures.”
Shojaci: “There are 80 people in my class.”
So what is different in this country?
Ramadan, looking at Shojaci and laughing: “Jerry Springer! He’s crazy!”
Shojaci: “But we keep turning back to his show.” [The two were housed in Cabaniss Hall.]
Ramadan: “In Egypt, there are so many pharmacies that they must be 100 meters apart by law.”
Shojaci: “I’m very impressed by the technology. We visited some of your classrooms.”
Ramadan: “We have oral exams in Egypt. If you miss one question, you can fail. It makes some people very nervous, and they don’t do well. … Do you know ’pharmacognosy’?”
At this question, School of Pharmacy students burst into knowing laughter. As lively as this summer’s exchange students are, their American encounter is bound to result in some interesting stories in addition to worthwhile learning experiences with student pharmacists and faculty.
Local students have taken advantage of the Student Exchange Program, as well. Holly Gurgle will travel to Kathmandu, Nepal, in October for a five-week Student Exchange Program. And Jennifer Austin spent eight weeks working in a hospital pharmacy in Accra, the capital of Ghana, last summer.
Though there was a language barrier, Austin found that pharmacy students and technicians were allowed to do more than she was accustomed to doing back home. For a closer look at her Ghana experience, click here.
The IPSF Student Exchange Program originated in 1958. Currently, more than 50 countries worldwide participate in the exchange program with more than 400 international exchanges annually. The American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists is the member organization that represents the United States to the IPSF.
Interested? For details, visit the IPSF Web site by clicking here. Or talk to Lindsey Madures, the new IPSF chairwoman for the Virginia Academy of Student Pharmacists.
As APhA says, “It starts with one.”