Chris Cameron is an Edinburgh alumnus three times over, and with degrees in three very different subjects. He tells us why he kept coming back and what drew him to study English Language.
Medicine, English Language, MSc by Research
|Year of Graduation||1964, 1998, 2001|
Your time at the University
My University of Edinburgh career is a little unusual in that I obtained three degrees. However I can only look back on the whole escapade with great delight.
I embarked on an MA degree course in Latin, Greek and Ancient History, but quickly became disenchanted with these subjects and changed over to medicine by undergoing some sort of Damascene conversion. I still find it difficult to understand why (or how). Thus I found myself on an MBChB as my first of the three degrees with an inevitably highly inadequate level of scientific knowledge. The medical faculty insisted that I found myself a crash course to remedy this inadequacy as far as possible. I found these subjects (the basic sciences) fascinating, and managed to learn enough to pass all relevant exams first time round. This put me on a par with my scientifically trained colleagues, though I was regarded as a bit odd!
We were all keen to gain clinical experience as soon as possible, particularly in the nearby hospitals, and thus eager to discontinue preclinical subjects as soon as possible, important though we knew them to be. We were all keen to gain experience in the wards – the hallmark of clinical medicine. Partly to this end we identified hospitals (our own and throughout Britain) which accepted distant medical students like ourselves to stay and work there during vacation. I worked in several such hospitals over the clinical years in summer. We also enjoyed evening sessions in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, sitting in with the duty ‘on take’ ward, and learning a lot from the registrar on duty. I feel that I learned more at such times than at almost any other, and more – in particular bonding with patients, staff and colleagues.
And so we graduated. I retained contact with many of my fellow students throughout the years that followed. In particular we arranged reunions in Edinburgh, from wherever we worked or lived. These are wonderful experiences, and still take place, though not all are now able to attend, through death, illness, or being too far afield.
I retained contact with many of my fellow students throughout the years that followed. In particular we arranged reunions in Edinburgh, from wherever we worked or lived. These are wonderful experiences, and still take place.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
After 25 happy years in the Scottish Borders as a country doctor, a beautiful area with more sheep than people, I retired early owing to, luckily, reversible ill health, but as I felt too young to put my feet up I rematriculated in my old university. I felt drawn towards studying for an MA in English Language (which contains many fascinating components), and have never regretted it.
I was lucky to meet and be taught by a fine group of staff in this fascinating subject. My MA included Scottish History, which increased my knowledge of Scotland greatly – knowledge I now know I should have had long before. I chose Russian as I had recently learnt that I had relatives in St Petersburg – with an Irish connection. I have subsequently met these Russians in Dublin at a union of the Irish/Russian family.
I found myself in a school class, mostly half my age. We all found the language hard, but especially me at my relatively advanced age: the young students were dramatically quick at learning language and vocabulary. We were all offered a two month placement in St Petersburg (staying with a family). As you can imagine this was an event which would take many thousands words to describe. Let me just say that it was an amazing venture, and led to my inviting two of the family to our home (I checked with my wife first!). They were thrilled and delighted. My wife and I have visited them twice since then. Russian is a hard language, although I got through.
I was then grateful to be offered the opportunity of studying for an MSc by research, involving a subject that interested me greatly – birds and bird song, especially in the area in which I live, and especially with the hope of applying to the subject some new thoughts, and researching the etymology of their names. I had much help in this from two of my earlier teachers from the English Language department, both of whom were very interested in all aspects of my research.
Don’t let exams daunt you if you’ve done the relevant study.