St Andrews medicine student encourages disadvantaged pupils to ‘go for it’

Friday 16 June 2023

A former Balwearie High School pupil, who is amongst the first in his family to attend university, graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Medicine from the University of St Andrews today (Friday 16 June).

Kofi Afrifa, of Jute Place, Kirkcaldy, first became aware of St Andrews Gateway to Medicine course as a result of attending the Sutton Trust Summer School whilst in S5. The Gateway is a one-year programme intended to promote the uptake of higher education, specifically the study of medicine, among those groups that are traditionally underrepresented at university.

Kofi, who was born in Germany but moved to Scotland when he was five, said he’d always been interested in science but also enjoyed speaking to people and enjoyed problem-solving. He said: “Medicine is a career that encompasses all these things, so I knew it was the career for me.

“My parents did not go to university, but my elder sister studied in St Andrews and my little sister is studying in Edinburgh. The gateway course offered slightly easier access to medicine, and I fitted the criteria for a scholarship worth £8000 which covered my accommodation costs. I was so grateful for that, as well as another scholarship worth £4000 that I received that was split between the University and Santander. These scholarships allowed me to focus on my studies, removing my need to work.

“The support I have received from the University has been incredible. During my Gateway year the access team regularly checked in with us, and the mentoring we received out of class time also helped to consolidate the material we had learned during lectures and helped us prep for exams.

“The Careers Centre was also involved in CV-building, interview practice and UCAT preparation. The School of Medicine has its own student support services which I used a few times to enquire about scholarship opportunities and other personal matters, and my tutor Dr Alun Hughes was a huge source of support.”

The 21-year-old added: “The University does have a lot of financial support available to students who think that University may not be accessible to them. Try not to let money be a factor in deciding whether to go to university and just go for it.”

Commenting on what it’s like to study at a university near to home, Kofi, a keen athlete and cross-country runner said: “The fact that St Andrews was so close to home, the beaches (where I could run for miles), the scenery and the sports facilities all encouraged me to apply for a place at St Andrews. I enjoyed the chance to have three years at this university, and then getting the chance to study three years at another university, allowing me to experience town and city life.”

As a truly international university, St Andrews also offered Kofi, whose family are of Ghanaian descent, the chance to join the Afro-Caribbean Society, allowing him to relate to fellow students with a similar background and traditions.

“Being at an international university is a great opportunity to find out more about other people’s ways of living and find out more about yourself.”

His love of speaking to people also led to Kofi becoming a Student Ambassador in his first year. In the last two years he has also become a PALS mentor for first-year medical students. During the past year, he was also an IN2MedSchool mentor, helping at UCAT skills events and aiding students from disadvantaged backgrounds, giving them the assistance and encouragement needed to make the jump. I hope I can inspire fellow young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, like myself, what they can achieve if they put their mind to it.”

Following his graduation from St Andrews, Kofi is moving to Glasgow to complete his clinical years. He has been helping with the University’s Fife summer schools programme and working as a medic in local hospitals.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

Category Student experience

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