By Millie Adams Davies
Most people when I told them I was going to Montenegro to a week-long conference groaned and asked, ‘Why are you doing that? A week? That sounds like hard work’. Then when I explained that the GA was by the beach and there were great socials every night they would say, ‘Oh, it’s a hard life! So you’re going on holiday then?’. It was hard to explain to them that the GA is not an easy week of lying on the beach with the occasional workshop but at the same time it is not boring!
So what can you expect when you head to an IFMSA GA?
Arrival day or Day 0 – this is the travel day. The opening ceremony tends to be in the evening. TAKE SNACKS! Dinner is always after the opening ceremony and so you will be starving!!
Day 1-5 – during the conference you are allocated to a specific standing committee. I attended SCORA sessions. SCORA is the standing committee on sexual and reproductive health including HIV and AIDS. For the next 5 days there are standing committee sessions each morning. These are an opportunity to explore different topics within sexual and reproductive global health.
On the first day, you will meet a lot of new people from all over the world. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but don’t worry if you can’t remember everyone’s name, they are probably thinking the same thing.
In the afternoons, you have National Member Organisation (NMO) hour. This is where you meet up with the other members from the UK to decide how Medsin-UK are going to vote on policies, bylaws and candidatures. You do hear of some delegations having their NMO hour in the pool or in the sauna (like the Finnish), however, Medsin take it a bit more seriously. It is also a great time to hear what everyone else has been up to.
Then plenaries start. This is where everyone piles into a room to vote. Sounds boring? I don’t think so. This is probably the most exciting time of the conference. People can make statements about the thing that is being voted on or another aspect of the IFMSA. It is also a time to lobby for support of a statement you might be making later in the week. Voting can be very intense, especially if you have worked on anything that is being proposed. This year, I helped write the Ending Gender Based Violence Policy statement with other SCORA members. It was so tense sitting there as the votes were tallied to see whether the proposal had passed. But the relief when I realised it had was amazing.
Each evening you finish at around 10pm, if everything runs to time! MM17 was amazingly time managed and so thankfully we all were able to enjoy the socials each night. Each evening had a different theme and involved dancing into the small hours. But yes, we were up for sessions the next day at 9am. How you may ask? Coffee becomes your best friend.
Departure Day – This is the day you say goodbye. By now you have mixed emotions, you are exhausted emotionally and physically but saying goodbye to all your new friends can be really sad. But there is always next GA.