Simon (24) has progressed very far with his medicine studies at the UvA. He’s still in doubt whether he will finish them, though. Having grown up in an underprivileged neighbourhood, he’s always felt like an outsider. ‘Because I’m different, I’m never a part of the group.’
Simon: ‘I chose the medical profession because I regard it as a trade, a true skill. It doesn’t matter whether or not I’ll ever work in that profession. It’s simply a good skill to have.’ At the moment he is in the final stage of his studies and he has passed all his exams, except one practical exam.
He passed all his theoretical exams with ease. It’s just the practical exam that he has failed three times. ‘It’s the method of testing. You have to study twenty course books for the thirty syndromes they end up asking. The result is that it is an extreme amount of subject matter and in the end you never know what they’re going to ask. I think that’s bizarre. You don’t realise how pointless it is, until you read all the books on the list.’
At one point he approached the teaching assistant to ask him why they couldn’t just tell the students what to learn. ‘The answer he gave me was that if they did that, they may as well be training monkeys.’
‘It was a conscious choice to study medicine, the rest didn’t interest me much. I don’t socialise with my fellow students much. There are a few types: the really serious ones. They drive me nuts. Then you have the ones who constantly ask the most stupid questions or the ones that become hysterical about absolutely everything. And then you have the fratters.’
Simon has little contact with his friends from secondary school anymore, either. ‘No, I’ve lost touch with a bunch of people from back then. We hung out together a lot, until we went to university and then we simply didn’t see each other anymore.’
Simon is from a lower class background. He still lives with his parents, in an underprivileged neighbourhood. ‘My mother is always worried whether I’ll find my way in life. She’s afraid I will drift; she calls me a loose canon.In a way she’s right, I can be a little nihilistic from time to time. In the neighbourhood I come from, it doesn’t matter what you do. You can throw paint on the wall, for all anybody cares. When you go into a better neighbourhood, to skateboard for instance, you’re often sent away by the police. I don’t like that. It’s the same with medical students. I feel different than the other students, because my background and approach aren’t the same.’
Not being labelled
‘Sometimes my fellow students talk about underprivileged neighbourhoods. I don’t tell them that I’m from one. I don’t want to be labelled that way. I used to wear skater’s clothes, like worn shoes and ripped trousers. But when I started studying medicine, I bought smart shoes and smart trousers.’
Being an outsider has its advantages as well. ‘Because I’m different, I am not a part of the group. If people criticise me, I don’t take it personally. It makes me feel stronger and care less.’
Simon has now passed his practical skills test and successfully completed his theoretical internship. He’s still in doubt as to finishing his studies. ‘I have heard that the social pressure becomes even worse during your internships. That’s why I’m not sure whether I will actually fulfil those internships.