When a first-year medical student from the United States left his skateboard by the entrance of a 19th-century lecture hall here, Professor Andrea Dorottya Szekely swiftly picked it up and reprimanded its young owner, The New York Times reports.
“We do things differently here,” Dr. Szekely said of Semmelweis University, a 244-year-old institution in Budapest that focuses on the medical and health sciences. Students are expected to stand at attention in classrooms until a bell rings and their professors enter, for example.
The New York Times said, despite having to bridge such cultural gaps at times, an increasing number of foreign students are heading to Eastern Europe for medical, dental or pharmaceutical studies. Though it still hosts far fewer international students than Western Europe does, the region appears to be attracting growing interest.
The number of foreign university students in Hungary rose 21 percent from 2005 to 2011 — to 16,465 from 13,601 — according to the Unesco Institute for Statistics, which defines a foreign university student as one who had not previously earned a secondary degree in the country. In Poland, there was an 80 percent increase in the number of foreign students from 2005 to 2010, the latest year for which figures are available. The Czech Republic reported a doubling of foreign students from 2005 to 2011, while Slovakia saw a more than fivefold increase in its foreign student population, according to Unesco.
Many of the foreign students who choose the region do so to study medicine or other health care disciplines. In 2010, the fields of “health and welfare” accounted for 30 percent of foreign student enrollment in Poland, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In Slovakia, 45 percent of foreign students were studying health subjects, while in Poland foreigners made up 15 percent of students in those classes, according to the O.E.C.D. study. In comparison, in countries like Germany, Sweden and Canada, where the competition for spots in medical school is especially intense, 6 to 9 percent of students pursuing those degrees are foreigners, according to that study.
In Hungary, where four universities offer medical and dental programs in English, 42 percent of international students are studying in health-related fields, according to the O.E.C.D.
The New York Times underlined, there are various reasons for the shift, including the growing reputation of degrees from Eastern European universities that teach courses in English. But other factors also come into play, particularly the facts that tuition at these institutions is not as expensive as at top Western schools and that they are not as difficult to get into.
by Attila Kovacs
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