The Partner Dental School Course is implemented jointly by the IMU, Malaysia, in collaboration with partner universities, with the students spending the first phase (5 semesters, 2.5 years) in Malaysia and the later years in the partner universities. The students will receive the degree from the respective Partner University after graduation. University of Otago is one of the Partner Universities for Dentistry. You can find more info in http://www.imu.edu.my/imu/programmes/undergraduate/dentistry/
I recommend those who are interested in the PDS programme to apply fairly early, as there are very limited spaces each year. I applied online in March/April the year before intake starts. An interview will be carried out around November. The interview was pretty informal. The interviewer will provide a situation and you need to solve it. The question I got was if someone was having a heart attack on the plane, which place will you fly to (A,B or C)? My answer was I couldn’t choose as I have no idea which place is the plane closest to. The questions they asked are usually easy, as long as the answers are not too far off logically and are ethical you will be fine.
There are many things to adapt to in the first year. Lectures are like learning a whole new language as there are many new terminologies, especially anatomy. Some lecturers may have a strong accent. Dental students will be having the same lectures as medical students in 1st and 2nd years, in addition to dentistry lectures. Clinical and simulation sessions are extremely important as it builds a strong foundation in the future. It may seem overwhelming at first but just remember your classmates are in the same boat as you.
In the 5th semester (3rd year) those who are in the PDS track are required to list PDS in order of preference. You will be required to write about yourself and why you chose the specific partner school (something like personal statement). A computerized system will then assign each student to the PDS. Partner schools have the right to decline acceptance if you do not reach the minimum IELTS requirement so do not take it lightly. If you (touch wood) failed to secure a place you may opt for the local BDS track (5 years in IMU).
As University of Otago intake starts middle of the year, I only had limited time to apply for student visa. I applied through visa agency (Selset) but that is optional. You need to have chest Xray, medical report, translated ICs and photocopies of important documents stamped by public notary. Some of these processes take time so visa application process need to start as soon as PDS result is out. There will be a refreshers course for dental students in Otago to familiarize you to the clinic and the Otago way of doing things. There is considerably more clinical exposure in Otago compared to Malaysia as you are exposed to more patients in the clinical years. Patients in Otago are also more medically and dentally complicated than Malaysia.
Otago lecturers and staff are very friendly and encouraging. Don’t be afraid, they are not there to reprimand you, they are there to guide you through. There is a very strong student support group there. There is an Otago Malaysian Student Association (OMSA) ready to give support for all new students coming to Otago. I felt like home whenever I join OMSA activities. Plus great discounts everywhere as an OMSA member. More info about OMSA can be found here: www.omsa.org.nz There is a lot of Asian restaurants in Dunedin so don’t be worried about not finding Asian food. Dunedin is a small student city that is generally cold, so I would recommend people to invest in a good warm jacket.
All in all, just enjoy your student life as much as possible and as long as you study regularly and attend all the classes, you should be fine. All the best!
Ong Jinn is currently a Dentistry student at the University of Otago.