By Georgia Adamson
To be honest, I had no idea what the International Federation of Medical Students Associations’ March Meeting was going to be like. Even the name IFMSA is confusing – let alone trying to personify it into a huge event attended by students from all over the world.
From all corners of the globe, medical students had flown into the tiny, little-known country Montenegro. It was the most scenic landing I have ever experienced; gliding across a luminous turquoise lake, the UK delegation stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac that formed the floor of a sprawling mountainous basin. Armed with a purple, Harry Potter-themed t-shirt, I felt excited but awesomely underprepared – mainly because I had no idea what I was supposed to be prepared for.
Luckily, I quickly discovered that this did not matter at all. It would have been impossible to prime yourself for something so awesomely huge (yet impeccably organised!).
I thought the thing that I would enjoy most would be the sessions run by the stream that I was attending, ‘SCORP’ – the Standing Committee for Human Rights and Peace. As expected, they ran some really interesting and thought-provoking sessions, including topics such as ‘International Humanitarian Law and protection of healthcare services in conflict’ and ‘Negotiation in conflict’. These were practical in nature, and provided much opportunity for discussion and comparison of ideas with people from a diverse range of countries – precisely the thing that I enjoy the most, and what makes attending international events such a mind-broadening experience.
However, as well as loving this, I also discovered an appreciation for plenaries. Plenaries are basically where representatives of the different member countries of the IFMSA gather to vote on topics relevant to the organisation itself. In March these included the election of members to the Executive Board (EB), voting on changes to constitutional bylaws and the adoption of policies designed to represent the views of the organisation. It was really special to become invested in what the result of the votes would be, and to feel connected to the running of the federation – even when the outcome was not what I wanted! This year several people from our delegation proposed policy statements, all of which were passed; it was great to share in their excitement and for us all to feel jointly proud. Reading through the EB applications also meant that I was able to get to know everyone hoping to be elected, as well as meaning that I now feel familiar with those who were successful. All of these things have resulted in me feeling like I have a better understanding of the organisation, in addition to feeling more connected to its intricacies and inner workings: I think that this would be impossible to do without attending an international general assembly.
So, basically, I wrote this blog so that anyone unsure of whether or not to apply to an international event knows that ignorance should not be a barrier! You will almost definitely enjoy one aspect of the event, and prior knowledge is not a requirement. The best way to get involved is to just go for it and enjoy!