Even the “Olympian heat” could not deter the teams of Atlasvegas, Brasseus, Brometeus, Calliope’s Copycats, Cerberus, Hipposeidon, Iceykarus, Leonidas’ Luncheon, Ouchetus’ Oracles, the Spartans or Tanpollo, that is the 800 prospective freshmen, including 38 international students and hundreds of their helpers, who populated this year’s Semmelweis University pre-college camp from 15 to 20 August.

In line with tradition, the newly admitted students arrived by special train to the Tata Youth Camp. The first day was all about getting acquainted, so the freshmen could start the forum day in a relaxed atmosphere, where Nóra Virág Viola, President of the Instructor Volunteer Group Association (IÖCS), welcomed the prospective freshmen, the rector, the attending leaders and lecturers of the university as well as the upper-year students.

In his opening speech, Rector Dr. Béla Merkely congratulated the new members of the university and continued, “We are very proud of you, and you should be proud of yourselves, as you have been admitted to the best university in the country and the region. If you look around you, you will see your fellow freshmen, you will see the representatives of the Students’ Union, the Instructor Volunteer Group, you will see your future teachers. That’s what we call the Semmelweis Family, which we hope will last well into your alumni years and give you a sense of belonging that can take the Semmelweis Community even further forward,” said the Rector. Dr. Béla Merkely outlined that in the upcoming four to six years, the newly admitted students will prepare not only for a profession, but for a lifelong vocation, in which, thanks to the new curriculum reform, practical training will play an even greater role than before.

The family atmosphere, frequent social events and a vibrant sporting life all facilitate the continual learning that is essential for success. The Semmelweis University Sports Club puts increased emphasis on team sports, as practitioners of the profession shall also work as a team to be able to carry out effective medical work, said the Rector, who finally presented welcome gift bags to the participants on behalf of the university’s management.

Csenge Gecsey, President of the Students’ Union (HÖK), in referring to the first-year students’ uncertainty, encouraged them to immerse themselves in the rich diversity of university life and the beauty of the sciences, throughout which they can count on the support of the student representatives.

In the audience stood Hunor Nádasdy Horváth, who comes from a family of doctors and decided to pursue a career in helping people two years ago, but he is also interested in the physics, biology and chemistry of medicine, as well as the aspects of human behavior. Inspired by his father, he would like to try his hand at anesthesiology, but would also like to delve deeper into ophthalmology. “I was determined to come to Semmelweis, my brother studied here and praised it, and I think Semmelweis is considered the top school for medical education in the whole country.” He described the freshers’ camp as a large, welcoming community where everyone does their best to make sure no one feels like a stranger. “If I had to choose one word to describe my feelings about my first year, I would choose ‘impatience’, I wish I could start right now,” he concluded.

Tamara Józsa was admitted to the Faculty of Medicine, she has been preparing for this career since the age of six, and has a strong interest in biology and chemistry. Regarding her first day’s experience, she highlighted the helpers’ contribution, who are very approachable and do their best to involve everyone in the community. “Obviously I’m scared of the first year because there are legends circulating about how tough it is, but so many people manage to do it that I hope I can somehow work my way through.”

“There is a wide variety of information about other universities available on the internet, but Semmelweis operates its own study scheme, so the most precise guidance can be received here. Once you obtain and remember the information here, it will be much easier for you after enrolment and during the rest of your studies,” said Enzo Farkas, member of the Students’ Union Events Committee, who happens to be the DJ of the Students’ Union, and also gave a presentation for the campers. As he explained, the number of camp participants has increased significantly in the last year or two, which he attributes to the Union’s greater emphasis on promoting the event, as they have managed to attract more people through promotional videos and by reaching out directly to newly admitted students at the Pont Ott Parti, a countdown event for the announcement of higher education admission scores. First-year students come from all faculties of the university, basically in proportional numbers, but the international student community and the Faculty of Health Sciences are also increasingly represented.

The forum day continued in faculty sections, too, where, in addition to the Rector, Dr. Miklós Kellermayer, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Péter Ferdinandy, Vice Rector for Science and Innovations, Dr. Alán Alpár, Vice Rector for International Studies and Director of the Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Dr. Nándor Ács, Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Kornélia Várszegi, Director of the Physical Education and Sports Centre, Dr. Katalin Fogarasi, Director of the Department of Languages for Specific Purposes, Dr. Péter Torzsa, Head of the Department of Family Medicine, and Dr. András Fülöp, Secretary of the Council of the Scientific Association of Students gave a detailed presentation on the course of university life, the expected requirements and the extra-curricular research, international cooperation and sporting opportunities. Following the presentations, prospective first-year students were given an opportunity to receive first-hand answers to their questions.

This year, for the fourth time, international students are joining the camp as well, assisted by instructors throughout the six days. The forum for students enrolled in English or German language courses has attracted participants from Brazil, Canada, China, Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Poland, Spain, Singapore, Slovakia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“My dad is a doctor, and it was his doctor friends from Budapest who recommended Semmelweis University to me. The more I looked into it, the more it looked like a pretty amazing opportunity. I decided to do it. I signed up and here I am,” said Phil Tripoli from the United States, who envisages his future as a practicing doctor. His father, a role model, has clearly been his biggest influence on his career choice, but he has always had a strong interest in mathematics and sciences, problem solving and quantitative reasoning. “There are pre-college camps in America, but they are nothing like this big, it seems like a tradition in Hungary. It is really cool, I feel like more people should do this,” he concluded, reflecting on his impressions of the event.

Nima Rahimian arrived in Budapest from Kermanshah eight months ago, having participated in a pre medical track program that helped him to get into his “dream university” with his sister, also a first-year student. Fascinated by the city, he heard about the university from a friend of his father, whose daughter also attends Semmelweis and was enthusiastic about the education here.

Réka Ábrahám and Dorottya Orbán are this year’s camp organizers from the Instructor Volunteer Group, a student organization which has been operating at Semmelweis University for more than 30 years. During the first brainstorming meeting, they were surprised to see that both of them jotted the theme “Camp at the Olympus” in their notes, so there was no question what this year’s event would be inspired by. As they explained, 10-12 instructors per letter group lead the freshmen, who then support the students during enrolment and course registration, but the bonding often continues in the form of joint exam preparation or even joint blood donations. Students were grouped by smaller study units within majors or by specialization, so that they could get to know the people they will be studying with at this early stage. In addition, the organizers were keen to encourage the faculties to open up to each other, as they will have to work together, so this year the cooperation day played a prominent role. As Réka Ábrahám pointed out, the camp would not have been possible without the help of service and support groups, called ‘gebins’. “Here, students can escape from the online space, they can connect with each other in person, real emotions and real friendships are born, the teams and instructors are assembled so that every freshman can find someone they like to spend time with,” said Dorottya Orbán, highlighting the benefits of the face-to-face gathering. “We are happy to see so many sparkling eyes,” added Réka Ábrahám.

The information overload of the forum day was followed by sports, beach and co-op days, where campers could relax and recharge their batteries for the school year starting in two weeks. The next personal encounter will be the Opening Ceremony on 2 September, where the university is looking forward to welcoming family members along with students, as their success is not only the result of their learning, commitment and coaching teachers, but also of their supportive parents.

Judit Szabados-Dőtsch
Photo: Bálint Barta, Attila Kovács – Semmelweis University