Lorena Preciado Llanes
Lorena graduated from The University of Sheffield in 2013 with a PhD in Molecular Medicine with Integrated Studies
Since I was a child I dreamed about becoming a doctor, but definitely I did not have in mind that it would take so much time! Back in my home country, after 6 years of Medical School plus 2 years of medical work experience and research training in Biomedical Sciences, I decided to go abroad and to achieve a post-graduate degree. Although being at hospitals treating patients is something that I enjoy doing it, my research curiosity in understanding diseases was more powerful and brought me to the New Route PhD program in Molecular Medicine at the University of Sheffield in 2008.
Choosing a University where to accomplish a post-graduate degree is a complicated decision which cannot be taken in one day. This decision implies paying attention to every little detail and has to be based on the institution´s prestige, the outstanding degree of its diverse research areas, the quality of the staff and the magnitude of its facilities. The University of Sheffield fulfils all these requirements offering a history and tradition of more than 180 years teaching Medicine, being among the top 10 universities in UK and with a ranking of excellence for the research programs within the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Indeed, I became a post-graduate prospectus student and I started my contact with the staff at the Medicine Faculty in 2008. I got really impressed by the unconditional attention that I received from the admissions staff, they were very patient and helped me with the application process, giving me useful tips and all the extra information that I needed about the research areas in which I was interested in.
And last but not less, I came to study here because the city of Sheffield is a perfect option to enjoy and living the British culture. Sheffield is big enough to contain all the entertainment you would like to have, like museums, public parks, shopping centres, sports and fun night outs; but at the same time, is not as big as to be an unsafe city and allows to walk mostly everywhere at any time. Even better, Sheffield has one of the lowest student living costs around the UK and is centrally located within the island and near to international airports, offering the chance to save money, travel cheap and meet new places around Europe.
The well recognized reputation of the University of Sheffield around the world has made it one multi-cultural institution, hosting students and staff from Europe, North and Latin-America, Africa, Asia, Middle East and Oceania. Such diversity is one of the most enjoyable and exiting things about studying at Sheffield, because it allows an easy cultural exchange among international students, promoting friendship and tolerance among religions and governments.
I consider that the most valuable aspect of my PhD program is that "this research degree teaches you how to think and solve problems, it does not tell you the answer of a question but it gives you the instruments and skills to find the answer". I am really happy with the quality of the program and now that I am starting my PhD seems that the good and big things are just about to arrive. Every day is a chance to explore the research facilities and to obtain training from the big team of qualified technicians and post-doctoral fellows. Furthermore, my courses are always divided in practical and theoretical modules that promote a scientific thinking useful for small labs, big industries or pharmaceutical areas.
Although I know the teaching and study methods of the University of Sheffield are similar to the ones applied at the best UK and European universities, the whole system resulted completely different to what I was used to have back in my country. For example, the New Route PhD program in Molecular Medicine includes one first year as a Master´s student and three more years as a PhD student. I remember that at the beginning of my Master´s I was scared, worried and confused because the teaching system was completely new to me and my English was not perfect either. However, after one month my English improved importantly, I was completely fitted into the program, I understood the aim of my course and I was learning not only new academic material but more important I was "learning how to learn". I made friends with my classmates very quickly so it was easy to get together and discuss things we could not catch during the lectures, of course using the great library facilities and resources of the University. In addition, lecturers were good motivation through the whole year, always being kind and helpful when answering questions. My first year was full of ups and downs and implied a lot of effort to overcome the demanding academic program, but at the end I got an outstanding and amazing learning experience from my Master´s and I even got distinction!
The prestige and the top quality of the programs at the University of Sheffield will improve my curriculum vitae and will open me the necessary doors to work as a team and to form links with other leading institutions in the research area of my interest. In order to get a well paid job, nowadays we are forced to be specialists in our areas, to work extra hours and to be fast but without making any mistakes; therefore the importance of trusting our education to a leading institution that will enhance our existing skills and rise new ones.
The student life at the University of Sheffield is one of the most enjoyable things thanks to the Student Union, which is one of the best ranked Unions around the UK. The Student Union has a big organizational infrastructure and offers a large number of events for free or at really low costs, like dance lessons, theatre, movies, sports, trips, parties, etc. If you do not know what to do with your free time, going to the Student Union or signing up to any of the several societies is always the best idea to have fun and be outside the lecture theatres.
At the end of my PhD I am intended to earn research skills that allow me to teach other medical or post-graduate students the relevance of the research in basic Sciences, which later will result in clinical relevance and/or the improvement in treatment and management of patients. After I finish my course, I would like to obtain work experience in the UK before going back to my country, I would like to continue involved in research projects about Infectious diseases and Immunology, maybe within the Medical School and its teaching hospital.
Arriving to a new country, with different traditions, language and a tough educational system was challenging to me, but definitely the experience of study abroad is so rewarding that after the first month you realize that the worries you had before coming here have disappeared. Coming to Sheffield have changed my perspective about being a post-graduate student, I have learned how to learn, I have had the most fun ever and I found excellent friends and mentors here. I will advice the prospective students to choose one of the top programs at the University of Sheffield and apply to become a better student. We are waiting for you, so come! I promise you will not be disappointed!