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By Sarah McCandless

Life as an intercalating medical student

3 min
Group of students laughing together outside

My name is Sarah, and I have recently completed three years of medical school in Belfast. During my studies, I decided to take a year out to intercalate.

I’m currently studying towards an intercalating master’s degree in clinical anatomy. This degree has really helped me to better understand medical concepts and how diseases originate within the anatomy of the body.

As well as gaining further knowledge, I had other reasons for intercalating. It gave me time to explore other activities outside of a full-time medical degree. I’m also able to work part-time (giving me the resources to travel more) and become more involved with societies at my university.

Every day is different. Some days I have classes and other days I’m working. If I’m at university, a typical day looks like this:


I wake up and have breakfast. Breakfast is a big part of my morning. My day doesn’t go well if I don’t make time for breakfast. After breakfast, I get changed and hit the gym.


My gym is approximately 15 minutes’ walk from my student house. I enjoy the walk in the morning as it gets me into the fresh air, moving and warmed up. Living in a student house means any warmth is good!

I usually spend around an hour at the gym. Sometimes I go with my housemate, which is something I couldn’t have done as a medical student. I’d have been on placement, so my timetable would never line up with my housemates.


I arrive home from the gym and get showered before grabbing a quick snack, my laptop and notes to hit the library.

As I’m studying for a master’s, which has quite a lot of controlled assessments throughout the year, my work tends to be little and often. This is different to medicine, particularly when assignments and anatomy spot tests are looming.


I quickly make lunch and take a break, chatting with my housemates before heading to class.


Class time. Classes for my clinical anatomy course range from in-person lectures to practical classes (which involve dissection and some online content) and help with our summer dissertation.


When my classes are finished, I head home for an afternoon activity before dinner. This activity ranges from last-minute exam revision to any odd jobs I have for the societies I’m involved in. It could also be a simple chill with my housemates.


I make my dinner. I’m currently loving turkey burgers and sweet potato fries. They have quite a high protein content which perfectly complements my earlier gym session.


I’ve started taking French lessons to broaden my horizons a little more. I attend these lessons on a Monday evening. I did French for GCSE, but I haven’t practiced a lot since. You never know when you might need it!


I like to wind down before bed in the evening, so when it’s not exam time, I always finish any work before 9pm. Currently, me and my housemates are watching This Is Us on Amazon Prime. I’d highly recommend giving it a watch if you can.


After ending up chatting with my housemates for a while, I get into my pyjamas and ready for bed and another busy day.

As you can see, life as an intercalating student gives you more autonomy and is much less stressful than medicine. If you manage your timetable well, you can end up having lots of free time to work with.

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