Environmental Students Versus Medical Students

Looking up at the towering building for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, a trace of envy grew in my heart (it still grows when I simply think about it). People often brag about how awesome to be a medical student, or how wonderful their children are as a medical student, or how great the dream of being a medical doctor is. There are medical students everywhere in our country, from the most renowned University Malaya to private ones such as MAHSA University. Private medical schools are mushrooming, number of medical students are multiplying each year and the risk of medical graduates not getting a job climbs but still, having a dream to become a doctor is something that people proud of or looking up at. Zooming out from the medical campus and turning the direction towards the main campus, my faculty consists of a few easily-overlooked building (the tallest one is just three-storey high) with less than 100 students per year unlike medical schools which will never have enough places for all the applicants. When we mention about the environmental field to people in general, most probably they will give us an expression of confusion and ask, ‘what is it about?’. After some brief explanations, some of them will say, ‘oh that’s great’ (without making you feeling great) or continue asking, ‘what do you want to do afterward?’, ‘can you earn money in this field?’ etc. or give a statement like ‘you have to go overseas to work then’. The green trend is rising, but it is rising in an unnoticeable rate that people barely see it. That is one of the biggest difference between environmental students and medical students – people see doctor as something professional and ambitious to become while do not even know what is environmental science and thus looking down on it (with its pretty low requirement).

I agree the point that those who successfully being enrolled in medical courses of public universities are very smart people (and hardworking, too) as they have to get at least 4.0 in CGPA to be considered (nothing less than that). For University Malaya you even have to go through interview which is taken seriously by the university. On the other hand, as what general people believe, environmental studies are taken by students who did not get flying colours results and did not get what they actually want to study. I did not say this out of my own imagination but from my past experiences when I told people that environmental science was my first choice they will be wide-eyed and exclaimed ‘oh wow really???’ (maybe they would continue saying ‘you should have taken medical courses’ as my results were not bad at all, much further away from bad). Me and both of my Chinese coursemates took this course out of willingness, out of ambitiousness, out of the…blue? (hahaha I did not expect all of my Chinese coursemates put environmental science as first or second priority when filling up the university application form). Two of us came from matriculation (matriculation students have better chance to enter public university) and the other one from STPM (which is really tough to score). Yeah, I am really grateful to meet people with the same ambition although our views towards this field might be different.

Surviving in medical courses is extremely challenging as we can see. They have to cover a lot of subjects such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pathology, immunology, pharmacology and much much more subjects with terms that I do not understand at all in five years. This makes people think highly of medical students. Well, environmental students take a lot of subjects, too. But people normally think that environmental students are very idle people with easy-to-score subjects. Do you know that we what we learn includes soil science, biodiversity, solid waste management, climatology, hydrology, remote sensing, environmental law, environmental health, meteorology, pollution, drinking water treatment, waste water treatment, envirometrics, bioremediation, environmental forensics, natural resources and so on which involve all three biological, physical and chemical sciences in four years?
It might sound like Jack of all trades as almost all the people taking various courses can do what we do. I do agree that people from chemical engineering or forestry can also play a part in environmental field without having to take environmental science but all the subjects I mentioned above are interrelated as a whole. Just like the reason why medical students have to take all those subjects although they might not be specialised in that particular field in the future like microbiology as we already have microbiologists. (the fact is we really don’t get a schedule as packed as the medical students’)

Parents worry that their children taking environmental sciences will end up being a salesman or salesgirl. Honestly, most scientists (from various fields) went through the process of selling their own inventions or products company by company. We accept this fact. Sometimes people ask me what I want to be or do in the future and my answer is still a ‘not sure’. It’s not because I do not know what can I do after I graduate, but I know I can do a lot of things with what I study in environmental science. Our life is closely related to the environment. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the things we use, the vacation we go. Being a Jack of all trades is not necessarily a bad thing as you can fit in many fields at the same time. Environmental quality assessment? Yes. Conservation and preservation work? No problem. Renewable energy development? Definitely. Manufacturing factories? Why not? Education? Yeah. Agriculture? Sure. Green technology? Yay! Think out of the box! There are really a lot of professions we can do and all of them contribute to a better environment for everyone to live in. The world is so big. There must be somewhere that we can set our foot on and really do something great. On the other hand, here is a cruel fact for medical students: graduated with a medical degree does not 100% make you a doctor. This is a fact that we have to accept as well.

So now, dear fellow environmental students, take pride in what we study just like the medical students. People might think that we are less important than them but we know who we are going to become. We fly in the sky, we roam the land, we dive into the deep deep ocean. The environment is ours. This is a freedom, a blessing that God has given us. It is all about choices. Live it out loud and prove to others that we are something instead of hiding ourselves when people ask who we are. We are not unwanted students who were being randomly thrown into this course. See the value in environmental studies, see the value in ourselves.


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MESYM.com is a crowd-sourced platform and a living database for environmental movements in Malaysia. There are many good actions being done out there. Our goal is to bring them together. We connect the green dots.