Ryan is from Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada and is studying Medicine at Griffith University’s Gold Coast Campus. He’s the Gold Coast University Hospital Representative and was the Year 3 Advocacy Representative for the Griffith Medical Student’s Society in 2022, and he is embracing life in Australia in his spare time.
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What made you want to study abroad?
If I’m being completely honest, the reason I wanted to study abroad was because I wanted to leave my hometown of Winnipeg. There isn’t much to do in Winnipeg and it gets very cold in winter (it isn’t uncommon for it to reach -40 or -50 degrees Celsius). After 23 years at home, I decided to use a postgraduate education to start a new life in Australia. I knew that my early 20s would be the best time to make the move because I hadn’t established my career yet. I chose Australia for medical school because international students who study medicine can stay here to work after graduating.
Why did you choose Griffith University?
- Reputation. Griffith’s health programs have a strong reputation so I was confident that I would receive a high-quality education.
- Location. The campus is next to the tram line, which means it is only 15 minutes away from the beach. The campus is close to anything and everything you need as a student.
- Facilities. The Griffith Health Centre (medicine building) is an impressive modern building where everything is held for the first two years of medical school. Gold Coast University Hospital is a modern 750 bed tertiary hospital across the street from campus, and where medical students can do placement for the third and fourth year.
- Programs: Lastly, the anatomy program is said to be the best in Australia. I honestly believe it could be one of the best in the world. Griffith has an extensive donor body program that facilitates student learning from hundreds of cadavers rather than plastic models.
What do you love most about your life in Queensland?
I feel like I’m on a vacation that never ends. It’s known as the ‘Sunshine State’ because, for the most part, it is hot and sunny here all year round. I don’t feel guilty if I study on a sunny day because I know that the next day will probably be sunny as well. There is SO much to do in Queensland: beaches, hiking, scuba diving, theme parks, water parks, surfing, waterfalls, wineries, restaurants, night life… the list goes on and on… opportunities are truly endless here. Please look up instagram.com/queensland and you’ll see why I love living here.
What was your biggest fear/concerns of starting your student journey abroad?
I had never been to Australia before so moving here was a huge shot in the dark. I had no idea if it was going to be the best or worse decision of my life. Leaving Canada meant throwing away everything that was familiar to me. Although I was excited, I was so scared to start a new life in a new country because I didn’t know a single person in Australia. I told myself that it was going to be okay, but in reality I had absolutely no clue.
How did you overcome your fear?
I said “yes” to every opportunity because I wanted to get to know people and establish a name for myself. It took some time, but things naturally came together. I made friends, I explored the Gold Coast, I picked up some Australian slang, and I navigated my way through medical school.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
The day after receiving my offer, I told the Associate Dean of Science at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Krystyna Koczanski, that I had been accepted into medical school in Australia. She she was someone that I had a lot of respect for and her son had moved away for university and never looked back. She told me that I’d be making a mistake if I rejected my offer because this was an opportunity for me to chase my dreams of becoming a doctor and live a better life. I think the reason her advice stuck with me is because she was so confident that moving to Australia was the right thing for me to do. She was right.
Who in your life has had the most influence on your career and life choices and why?
My aunt is an emergency nurse had a strong influence on my career choice as she would always tell me interesting stories from the emergency department. When I was 16, she suggested that I apply to volunteer in the emergency department so that I could discover if I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. I volunteered every week for eight years until I got accepted into medical school. My parents had a strong influence on my life because they supported me every step of the way and continue to do so to this day. They stressed the importance of post-secondary education but they never pressured me to become a doctor. I know that they would’ve been proud of me no matter what, but I am proud of myself for making it.
What has been a key moment in your life as an international student?
I’ve had two really special moments in my life as an international student. The first was when I was awarded the International Student Academic Excellence Scholarship. I felt a huge pressure lifted off my shoulders when I found out about this scholarship. I said it before, but I’ll say it again – thank you so much, Griffith. The second was when I got elected as the Gold Coast University Hospital Representative and the Year 3 Advocacy Representative for the Griffith Medical Student’s Society in 2022. As an international student, you are aware that you’re different; you didn’t go to the same school or university as your classmates, you don’t have the same accent, you didn’t watch the same TV shows or eat the same foods growing up. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s easy to feel like you don’t belong. When I was elected by my classmates, I felt a sense of belonging which really meant a lot to me. The thing I enjoy most about serving as a student representative for my cohort is the positive change that results from my advocacy work.
Are you part of any clubs, if yes, which ones?
I started the Griffith Med Beach Volleyball Club as a way to make friends with classmates who also enjoyed playing volleyball. It worked really well because I met some of my closest friends at beach volleyball! We play every Wednesday afternoon on the campus beach volleyball courts. It’s something I look forward to each week because it forces me to take a break from studying.
Where can we find you at the weekends?
If I’m stressed, you can find me studying all weekend. I’m a little more fun when I’m not stressed. In the morning, you can find me Facetiming my family on my balcony or drinking an iced almond latte with my cat (@lokaibengal) at a local café. In the afternoon, you can find me at the beach, hiking, or just hanging out at home with my cat. At night, I’ll often be hanging out with friends or just at home watching Netflix.
What are your dreams after graduating?
In 10 years, I hope I am a permanent resident or citizen of Australia, which feels like home now. I hope that I am working in a field of medicine that brings me satisfaction and gives me some flexibility. If I had to guess which specialty I will be working in, I would say emergency medicine. Neurology, infectious disease, dermatology, and plastic surgery are also a few interests of mine. I worked as an anatomy lab instructor during my undergraduate degree which is why I also hope that I am involved in medical education at some point in my career. I think it would be so cool to work while travelling, which is definitely possible as a doctor. Nepal, Argentina, and New Zealand are a few countries that are at the top of my list.
Want to connect and hear more from Ryan?
Connect via LinkedIn – Ryan Churchill
HUMANS OF GRIFFITH INTERNATIONAL
At Griffith University, we celebrate diversity and difference. Our community is made up of students from around the globe, all with a unique story to tell.
In this Humans of Griffith series, a selection of our international students have chosen to share their experiences, unedited in their own words – from the challenges of studying abroad, to building community and independence, and their dreams after graduation and beyond.
No matter who you are, or where you are in the world, whatever your study journey, Griffith University is with you all the way. Find out more at griffith.edu.au/international.
Interested in sharing your story? DM us on Instagram @griffithinternational.
View more Humans of Griffith student stories here.