The International Student Experience: Yucheng and Justice

Jan 20, 2020

Yucheng Zhang

Our MD Program is pleased to welcome international students. Every year we receive applications from around the world, as well as from international students currently studying right here in Canada. Our admissions team caught up with two such students and learned why they chose to pursue their medical studies at U of T, and what they love about the city of Toronto.

Yucheng Zhang

Hometown: Beijing, China

Did you always plan on going to medical school? What sparked your interest in becoming a physician?

I grew up with my grandfather who was a general surgeon. I always loved hearing stories from him. From how he studied medicine in different languages, to how he was preparing for one of the first limb replantations in the city, I was consistently inspired by his dedication to medicine and became interested in this field. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, thousands of people in Beijing were infected and the panic spread in the city. However, thousands of healthcare providers stood out for the front-line battle against SARS. They demonstrated their medical expertise in saving lives, raised public awareness through advocacy, and showed bravery in the fight. From that time, I realized that I wanted to become a physician.

Why did you choose to join the MD program at U of T?

University of Toronto has one of the best MD programs in the world. The high standards of education and research make this institution unique. I have been studying at the University of Toronto for the past five years and I am still impressed by the opportunities that U of T offers to their students. The unparalleled resources prepare U of T students to become leaders in healthcare. U of T not only has a strong international academic reputation, but also has a positive impact worldwide. When I was in middle school in China, I learned about the stories of Dr. Norman Bethune, an extraordinarily accomplished alumnus of U of T. Generations of young people in China like me were inspired by his dedication, hard work, generosity, and leadership. As an international student, it is a great honour for me to join this family of remarkable scholars and leaders in healthcare.

What is the degree(s) you completed previously? From which institution(s)?

In 2017, I completed my undergraduate education at the University of Toronto in statistics and biology. Following that, I received a Master’s degree from the same institution.

What have you enjoyed the most about the MD program so far?

I enjoy learning from the extraordinary faculty and my talented classmates in the MD program. From lectures to Case Base Learning, from Clinical Skill sessions to leadership seminars, the learning experiences are phenomenal because of them. Faculty members are experts in their subject areas and passionate in their teaching. Our classmates are talented and very supportive, helping and inspiring each other.

What do you like to do outside of your studies for fun in the city?

I am a big fan of photography, especially film photography. There are a lot of wonderful photography spots in this city. I enjoy taking photos with the local photographers there. Outside of photography, I like exploring museums, galleries, and restaurants. As a diverse city, Toronto has a lot to discover and I love living here.

Justice Igweze

Justice Igweze

Hometown: Nigeria

Did you always plan on going to medical school? What sparked your interest in becoming a physician?

Medical school was something that had been on my mind from quite a young age. What I find perplexing is that I grew up in a family of engineers. My father and brothers are electrical, chemical and geological engineers. I guess I went into medicine because I wanted to do something different. One thing I knew for sure was that I had a love for science and a desire to be of service to people. My desire to become a physician combines these two passions. I spent the first 16 years of my life in Nigeria. My passion for science emerged during this time. I remember, growing up in Nigeria, my dad and I would sometimes have long conversations about space while admiring the night sky. Other times, questions would arise naturally while cleaning dishes. How is soap made? What is a cell? What is DNA? Although I was just ten years old, I was already very curious.

I discovered my passion to serve others after immigrating to Canada. In Canada, I realized that my curiosity was driven by a bigger desire to be of service to people. When I arrived in Canada in 2012, my father took me to a church in Scarborough where I could build a family network away from home. I began to serve within the church as an usher. I found it quite rewarding to assist wherever needed and I also began to take up leadership roles. Overtime, I realized that Medicine was one of the best ways I could marry both passions and my desire to become a physician became more concrete.

Why did you choose to join the MD program at U of T?

The faculty and students at U of T are outstanding. There are so many support networks and we really do look out for each other. The relationships I have built and the mentors I have such as, Dr. Mauricio Terebiznik, Dr. Lisa Robinson and many others are very valuable to me. With regards to the greater Toronto area, it is a wonderful place to live. The diversity of culture is remarkable. U of T’s reputation of research and innovation also attracted me.

What is the degree(s) you completed previously? From which institution(s)?

I completed my undergraduate degree in the co-operative program in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at University of Toronto Scarborough. I went on to complete a Master's degree in Cell Systems Biology at University of Toronto before starting Medical school.

What is it about the city of Toronto that attracted you the most?

Toronto has been my second home. I remember when I first arrived in Canada, I told my brother that I was afraid of moving to Toronto for my undergraduate degree because there were too many people in Toronto. I remember thinking that this would make me feel isolated. It turned out to be quite the opposite. Although Toronto is one of the largest cities in North America, it has one of the most diverse populations. I realized that because there are so many communities, I could find a community that makes me feel at home regardless of where I came from.

Where was the first place you visited on campus?

I completed my undergraduate and my masters at the University of Toronto, so I am very well familiar with the surroundings. The first place I visited that I had not been before I started medical school was the Hart House gym facility. It is a wonderful facility. I started playing basketball last summer. I often play intramural basketball at Hart House.