Life at Monash-Parkville as a Pharmacy Student

My name is Leong Kum Chuan and I am studying the Bachelor of Pharmacy (Hons) in Monash University, Melbourne Parkville campus. It was a dream come true to be given an opportunity to study in the best pharmacy school in Australia, Monash University – Victorian College of Pharmacy.

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Monash focuses mainly on research hence research assignments and lab reports are essential. The curriculum of the school of pharmacy provides me great exposure allowing me to gain a vast knowledge in the field of pharmacy. Monash provides us with the latest technology in learning such as MyDispense: a pharmaceutical leading technology allowing us to virtually dispense through a computer. Besides that, Monash University helps us to overcome stage fright and improve our communication skills through the programme through our presentations each semester. Every semester, pharmacy students are expected to present topics covered in our lectures for 15 minutes providing us bountiful of opportunities to research and explore our interests. One of my previous topics was on gastroesophageal reflux disease. To counsel patients, communication skills and confidence is essential. Besides that, having a high proficiency in English is important for a pharmacist and proficiency in other languages too provides a leverage.

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Monash University has 3 campuses in Victoria (Clayton, Parkville and Peninsula). Monash Parkville is also known as the Victorian College of Pharmacy, which is the pharmaceutical campus for Monash University. The Parkville campus is located in close proximity with the University of Melbourne. As compared to other campuses, the campus is relatively small and accommodates lesser club and societies. Therefore my friends and I joined Malaysian of Melbourne University (MoMU) and we met a lot of friends there!

For me, the highlight of the campus is the library as we can have group discussion. The library is split into a quiet zone as well as the discussion zone provided for the convenience of the students to suit the purpose of the student in using the library.

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The syllabus of pharmacy involves a lot of scientific knowledge requiring a deep understanding and memorizing which proves to be quite a challenging course. In my opinion, we are on par with a doctor as we have to be competent in communication as well as a mastery in our knowledge.

Whilst a pharmacist is a mastery in the uses, interactions and its safety uses in regards to drugs and medicines, a general practitioner is good at diagnosing and providing treatment.  Besides gaining knowledge from lectures and researches we do for our presentations, we are also have to analyse a substantive amount of case studies, workshops and group tutorials. In case studies, we are given a scenario to brainstorm with our groupmates to solve it. Case studies requires one to think out of the box and encourage a good relationship and foster teamwork with your peers to solve the problem. On the other hand, workshops are held to expose us and give us a better understanding in regards to our lectured topics. It also teaches us the procedures of the experiments with the use of a computer and molecular modelling kit.

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Each year, Monash accepts 150 pharmacy students from Australia and different countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong and China. To put it in a nutshell, personally I think studying pharmacy in Monash University, Melbourne is great! It allow me to pursue my dream. I believe I will become a successful pharmacist in no time!


Leong Kum Chuan

Kum Chuan is currently studying the Bachelor of Pharmacy (Hons) at Monash University Parkville campus. He is an outgoing person, with a true Melburnian spirit. Food hunting around Melbourne is what he does when he is not busy with his studies.

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Life at Monash University as a First Year Medical Student

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Before writing this article, I checked my student e-mail for the thousandth time (my paranoid self does not think this is an exaggeration) for an e-mail about supplementary exams. Unless I’m hopelessly blind, I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t receive any, which allows me to introduce myself correctly – Hi! I have just completed my first year of MBBS in Monash University, Australia.

I did my A-level at Taylor’s College, Subang Jaya so if you’re reading this and grumbling about A-Level, trust me, you’re not alone and yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel. During the university application period, I applied for Pharmacy and Medicine in universities in Malaysia, UK and Australia. I was fine with studying anywhere as long as I had a university to go to. However, I did hope to get into an Australian university or International Medical University (IMU) because I wanted to start studying in early February. To cut the long story short, I never thought I could do it but thankfully, Monash saw a potential doctor in me.

I remember being so fascinated by the cultural diversity in Australia when I first arrived. I’ve met Russians, Greek, Europeans, Canadians, Hong Kongers, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Singaporeans and of course, Malaysians. I find the curriculum in Monash appealing because it’s a 5-year undergraduate programme. Some universities only offer post-graduate or 6-year programmes. We also get site visits to clinics and hospitals pretty early on, which is good to remind you that you’re treating real patients and not just textbook diseases. There’s also dissection of real cadavers in the second semester when we start Anatomy and that’s one of the advantages of studying overseas – you don’t get that in Malaysian medical schools.

I did experience a difference in the academic culture as studying in university is centred around self-learning rather than the spoonfeeding we’ve been used to. The lecture slides are never enough and I always find myself worrying about the depth I need to cover. So this is where VESPAs come in and it’s one of the huge reasons that I love studying in Monash University. I have never known what VESPA stood for (expect an update if I do find out) but it’s basically a study group where seniors from a year above guide juniors a year below them. Juniors get their questions answered and seniors present revision PowerPoint slides with the main takeaways from lecture slides that sometimes tell way too much or too little.

I’m just going to take this paragraph to shameless gush about MAMSA (Malaysian Medical Student Association). MAMSA, to me, is the reason why studying Medicine in a foreign land isn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. We’re made up of medical students from Monash and Melbourne University. We have our own VESPAs every week and two to three revision lectures per semester. We also have many social events! It’s different when you meet people who speak Manglish abroad; they became my safety net.

Truth be told, I’ve still got a lot of Melbourne left to explore as the workload is never-ending and the city is a 40-minute train ride away. However, for the little that I’ve seen, Melbourne is a lovely place. Thanks to its cultural diversity, the food in Melbourne is A++. Heads up for the massive meal portions which can feed two and free food everywhere! There are also various festivals going on all the time. I honestly think that Australia houses some of the friendliest people on the planet – any random person you meet on the street would go out of their way to direct you to your destination or give you suggestions about the events there are to enjoy. Strangely enough, I feel both abroad and at home in Melbourne. There’s just that perfect balance – or maybe it’s because there are just way too many Asians.

Come find me if you do come to Melbourne! I always seem over-excited at first but I really just love meeting new people. I’ll definitely try my best to answer your queries if you ever need help. Random note: be prepared to learn to cook if you’re looking to save $$!

Good luck! Or as the Aussies say – Chookas!


The writer, who chose to be anonymous, is now a second year Medical student at Monash University, Australia.

Pharmacy at University of Nottingham Malaysia

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The application process to study pharmacy course (MPharm) at University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) includes a personal statement and a reference letter from your referee. An interview will also be held before they give you a conditional/unconditional offer.

I believe that the personal statement is what applicants are always worried about. It is always a devil in the job since it does not only require academic-related content but also non-academic-related content such as what inspires you, why you are interested in pharmacy, and so on. But don’t worry, UNMC’s personal statement only requires applicants to tell them why you have chosen to study the course that you have applied for, what made you choose UNMC and what your future plans are. You only have to answer their questions in essay form with not more than 4000 characters. The personal statement is actually a reflection of yourself, so a simple essay with short, brief sentences will do! The most important thing is for the reader to understand the messages you are trying to convey!

On the other hand, do not worry about your reference letter. All you need to do is give one of your lecturers the reference form, which can be found on the UNMC website, and they’ll do the rest for you. (: Do also take note that your lecturer might need your CV or any relevant documents in order to write the reference letter.

I was notified to attend the interview session 2 months later. They have introduced a new interview system this year. We were given some short briefings regarding the MPharm course and given a campus tour. The 12 of us were then divided equally into 2 groups and were assigned to different sections of the interview.  My first session was actually a group activity where we were each given several cards with different information, and all we needed to do was solve a mystery together. It turned out pretty fun and it actually calmed me down. Though they informed us that it’s just a group activity, in my opinion it was to evaluate our soft skills. Thus, do your very best, and that will do!

My next interview session was divided into 6 stations. In the beginning, we were all assigned to different stations. Each station had a time limit of 5 minutes, and we had to move to our next stations when the whistle was blown. The questions asked were not the typical questions such as why you want to study pharmacy, etc. Instead, the questions all revolved around Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology and general knowledge regarding the pharmaceutical field. Though what I had prepared for my interview was about the soft skills I had that make me eligible to be a pharmacist, this actually helped me in answering certain questions. The interviewer will eventually lead you to get the answer so always keep calm so that you are able to think well.

Overall, that’s it for you to get a place in UNMC to take up MPharm. I would like to say that the early bird catches the worm, so apply earlier if you are interested! Also, utilize your free time to plan your personal statement well. Do believe in yourself, and all the best!


imageedit_2_8280296411Chong Kai Qian is a JPA scholar currently pursuing her pharmacy degree at University of Manchester although she also received an offer from University of Nottingham Malaysia.

Applying to Pharmacy in the UK

1. How did you write your personal statement?  

Instead of trying to emphasise on WHAT I have that will allow me to cope with studying Pharmacy, I wrote more on WHY I want to study that particular programme. I think that made my personal statement stand out compared with the rest of the applicants, and gave me a boost.

I am really lucky to have taken up multiple extra-curricular activities back when I was in secondary school.  They linked well with what I was applying for. Also, before starting the personal statement, I read up many of other successful applicants’ personal statements (TBH I felt really intimidated because I have no work experience), and really explored the programme to its core.

CollegeLAH UK Personal Statements Section can be found at: https://collegelah.com/category/personal-statements/

I included in my personal statement how I developed my interest in Pharmacy through studying Chemistry and my extra-curricular activities (mostly based in Leo and Interact). To further strengthen it, I wrote down my future career plans (after graduation) that I had in mind.

I was really worried about not having sufficient work experiences and past achievements to support my personal statement other than one or two state championship awards. I am not sure whether I got my offers based on my personal statement or forecast grades though.

2. What do you think contributed to your success of your application?

I tried to portray myself as a balanced student, and not leaning too far towards the academic region. I felt that Pharmacy requires more than just academic excellence, as pharmacists are required to communicate with and understand people. Therefore, I sort of linked my past ECA involvement to Pharmacy:

Leo and Interact made me aware that many people out there do not have access to simple medication, or even fresh water. They have also allowed me to taste the fruit of helping others. Self-satisfaction experienced.

Model United Nations gave me the chance to discuss some of the serious issues in a semi-professional environment. It will help me in the future when I am involved in policy setting on national healthcare.

Again, I really think that it is important to write on WHY we want to join the programme; instead of WHAT achievements we have and what kind of academic background we come from that enable us to complete the course.

3. Did you have to attend any interview sessions?

I was asked to attend interview sessions by only 2 out of the 6 universities I applied to.

University of Nottingham, UK Campus:

The interview was actually a full test. It revolved around knowledge of pharmacy, Mathematics, Chemistry and moral. I was not notified that we would be given a test. I was only told that the multiple-mini-stations-interview technique would be adopted for the 1st time by Nottingham for the interview.

I prepared by reading up on pharmacy, certain essential drugs and their functions, going through the background of some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies but they all ended up unused. I was really unprepared for a test.

The test had 6 stations in total, conducted by the same academic staff. I finished my test pretty quickly (I skipped some because I didn’t know the answer), so I had a talk with the academic staff. She’s a pharmaceutical chemistry researcher in the university.

University of Nottingham, MY Campus:

Because I attended Nottingham UK’s interview prior to Malaysia’s interview, I had better mental preparations. In fact, they asked almost the same questions as the ones asked in UK’s interview. The differences were:

  1. Instead of having 1 academic staff for all 6 stations, we were required to switch seats and approach 6 different academic staffs for different stations.
  2. There are some additional questions.
  3. A group activity is organized, where applicants interact with each other and made decisions together. The atmosphere was very lively.

4. What advice would you give to future applicants?

Be confident, and plan your personal statement well.


Links which you may find useful: 

  1. UK Nottingham School of Pharmacy – How to Apply

Zhen YuanLiew Zhen Yuan Gary received offers from University College London, King’s College London, University of Manchester, but he has decided to pursue his Masters in Pharmacy in University of Nottingham (2+2 programme).

Is AAAB sufficient for Pharmacy in the UK?

Q:

I achieved AAAB in my AS Level. The three As’ are strong but I got a B in Physics since I am very weak in Physics. I am planning to pursue Pharmacy in the UK but I am worried that I will not receive offers. Should I defer to have more time to study and prepare since I am a MoE scholar, so I have limited choices to chose from?

A:

AAAB is sufficient to gain admission into University College London, King’s College London, University of Manchester and University of Nottingham, and all of them are in the MoE’s University List. You don’t really need to defer, just try applying first and see how it goes.

Answered by: Liew Zhen Yuan Gary who received offers from University College London, King’s College London, University of Manchester, but he has decided to pursue his Masters in Pharmacy in University of Nottingham (2+2 programme)