Natalie shares her journey studying medicine

Natalie Taffal joined our medicine course in September 2022 after studying for a year with ONCAMPUS UK North on the Medicine Undergraduate Foundation Programme. She discusses her journey from the United Arab Emirates to applying and enrolling at UCLan.

My school, The International School of Choueifat – Sharjah, alongside the foundation year at ONCAMPUS, really helped to prepare me for the self-study nature of university education. I recall being at school and putting many hours of self-study into biology and this has served me well because the hours here at UCLan on the demanding MBBS course can be long, even though the classroom time is relatively short – this is where the importance of having your classmates and friends is really shown.

I have loved meeting fellow students from various places around the world and, although the course is hard, there’s a real feeling that we are all in it together so you never feel alone, which is great because we will all be together for five years! The tutors explain complex material with passion and simplify it very well, so I really enjoy my lectures.

There is rarely a dull day on the MBBS course, I remember my first ever experience of patient interaction which comes very early in the first year here at UCLan. All my classmates’ experiences went smoothly, however, my patient seemed immediately in some discomfort and was breathing heavily, so I had to skip the usual introductions that we are taught and leap into action to help them as quickly as possible! I managed to stay calm despite being thrown in at the deep end.

I chose to study at UCLan because the UCAT is not required for MBBS students and there is a good chance of progression from the foundation year to first year. At ONCAMPUS my first impression was that I expected the lecture halls to be bigger but, in fairness, this was the foundation year so that changed when I progressed to Year 1 at the University. I really like the buildings and the campus being in the city centre where you can walk around – this is different to Dubai where there’s not much time spent outside and not as much nature.


"The tutors and professors are great; they make it fun and interesting whilst keeping it interactive."

Natalie Taffal, MBBS student

I have settled well at UCLan and I use the Library, the gym in the Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre (where I have a personal trainer and have managed to get in shape) and the Student Services Team for help with things like opening a bank account. I really want to get more involved with UCLan Sport and maybe try something like track athletics.

I have already made some good memories here in Preston, like my first ever time seeing snow! I immediately took pictures and sent them to my parents. In my spare time I like to hang out in my place or do things with friends, like go to brunch (I recommend a place called Rise). Whilst I am making recommendations, I took my dad, Akram, to the local Middle Eastern restaurant near the University called Jaffa – it was great! Being half-Palestinian and half-Jordanian it’s really good to have my local cuisine nearby.

Preston is very nice. I like the old-style buildings, which are different from what I am used to in Dubai. It is small and a student city, which means you feel safe at any time even if you are walking alone. It is always full of students at any time of day. It is also well located for visiting other places in the UK; so far I have been to London, Manchester, Bath, Birmingham and more!

It’s easy to make friends here at UCLan, I often say 'hi' to people even if I don’t fully know them because I see the same people every day. People are friendly here; I remember once going to the Starbucks in our Students’ Union and the barista wrote on my cup “I love your energy” which made me happy!

The weather changes its mind a lot but I’ve noticed the sun always comes out just after it rains! This is a great opportunity to see rainbows, which is not something I am not used to seeing. I really love the fall/ autumn season – walking in the local parks with music in my ears, leaves falling everywhere and a pumpkin-spiced latte in my hand.

If you want somewhere to focus, with not too many distractions, (unlike the bigger cities such as Manchester and London) but where the weekends are lively and you have a good balance, especially if this is your first time on your own away from home – then I would definitely recommend UCLan.