The first year of students have graduated BL Malta and entered their 2nd year of studies on the MBBS Medicine course. A statement that alone seems very normal for such a school as Barts and The London, however we found out last year through brief communications with BL Malta students that this was not the case. A year characterized by feelings of isolation, uncertainty and malunion that emanated from the students living and studying in Gozo contrasts to students in London and seemed mismatched from the out-facing façade of the course. The fact that many students are unaware about our peers in Malta, what they do and how they’re faring is perhaps an indicator of how much progress there is to be made.
We at BL MESS strongly felt that a student led approach to bridging the two campuses could make a lasting impact on student experience in Gozo, so when the opportunity arose through Barts and The London Annual Fund we set about the task of building a project for the students of Malta.
Our primary aim was to bring some of the BL family-feeling to Malta by creating avenues for peer communication and learning that at BL we often take for granted. We are privileged as a university to have a historical society that covers all pre-clinical teaching under one roof and nurtures academic collaboration between peers in a way unseen by any other UK medical school. Every 1st year and 2nd year at BL knows that MESS will support them throughout those crucial years whenever they need it and whatever they need it for. In this sense, MESS is ingrained in the BL student experience in a way that often goes unsaid purely because it has become part of the fabric of the medical school.
This year, our aim is to bridge years 1 & 2 in BL Malta both internally, through peer-teaching, and externally, by enabling a line of academic support in the form of BL MESS. The result, we hope, would be to increase academic welfare and subsequently all aspects of student welfare within the campus. In addition, the creation of GozoMESS long-term will provide an autonomous source of support run and maintained by BL Malta students with a permanent foundation and link to London that augments those lines of support already in place through the faculty and BLSA. Through experience and resources we were confident BL MESS could achieve this and be part of the process bringing consistency in student experience between BL Malta and BL London. In turn, we also hope this will inspire other societies within Barts to reach out and bridge the gap to Malta. After all - we are all one big BL family.
After leaving Bow at 3am, a 3-hour flight from Gatwick and a 2-hour drive including 40 minutes on the ferry, we arrived 11am in Gozo with our best game-faces and set about getting started. After an extraordinary amount of 3 point turns we found where we were meant to be and started the process of settling in. After an extraordinary amount of 3 point turns we found where we were meant to be and started the process of settling in. What is MESS? While we often ponder our own existence, we ended the day by introducing ourselves to the new freshers in BL Malta as well as some of the returning students, hoping to inspire a fledgling committee into existence on Friday morning. GozoMESS made themselves the very next day, creating a committee tailored to how they thought MESS can work for them. Founding presidents Georgia and Joycee immediately began piecing together meetings, plans, ideas – the feels were extremely real.
For anyone who has worked with BL MESS, you will know we take a lot of pride in doing things correctly and doing things well, so it was fitting that we set about training the first generation of GozoMESS teachers. Osama Omrani eloquently set about inspiring BL Malta in such a way as that no one in Gozo will be safe from the amount of knowledge to be shared over the coming years. As is tradition, the inaugural ‘Unofficial Guide to MBBS’ was given to the freshers and at last, when we were at peace maybe at least one student would be inspired to a better year than they would otherwise have had. And so we set about the social.
Spreading the word – James Stevens and Osama Omrani delivering sessions to the students of BL Malta
Barts and The London is a family and as a family we share. So, it’s my duty to share with everyone that on behalf of you, we socialised and we socialised hard. No-one does organised fun as well as BL, so it was in tribute to that we set about breaking down international campus borders and chin-wagging until the early hours of Sunday morning.
It’s a serious issue when your welfare isn’t where it should be and in opening up and talking about it there is always a way forward. In BL Malta we found an inspiring group of students who embody the values of Barts and The London in full and then some, despite being so far away.
Societies – branch out! Open lines of communication and through technology or otherwise you can make an impact on the careers of a now 60-strong group of future doctors.
Students – if you meet a Gozo student offer them the full BL London experience. If you’re in a sports club for example, a 2-week London SSC could comprise of 2 training sessions, bonding though fitness and 2 nights at the jewel-of-the-BL-crown Griff Inn.
If we learnt anything over the 4-days we spent in Gozo it’s that we have 60 more brilliant members of our BL family than some of us know about. In creating GozoMESS BL Malta has begun an exciting journey in working towards matching BL London for academic support. Family is everything and in BL we do it great, but we can be better. Let’s do it. Maximum Effort.
Co-President BL MESS