Intercalation is probably a foreign concept if you’re not (a) in medical school, (b) applying to medical schools, or (c) very close to someone who is. I’m convinced the word was made up purely for this specific context. In the briefest terms, most schools give students the option to take a year out to do another degree. People do it for different reasons… I have a feeling you get more points when you’re applying for a junior doctor post if you have more than one degree. It gives you a chance to study a topic in more depth than you would have been able to do in Medicine (seriously, the entirety of Medicine is basically a whistle stop tour of how humans work). You might get the chance to hone specific skills (like lab work and other research-related things) that you won’t really get to do in the medical degree.
I chose to do a degree called Human Behaviour which is run by the Psychology department. We had a module in September all about research methods (which is a shame cause I’ve largely managed to avoid statistics thus far). Now we’re dipping in and out of second- and third-year lectures whilst doing (or not really doing, in my case) a dissertation. Some of our assignments are separate from psychology and some are together: I’ve never had to be so organised before.
All joking aside, I’m glad I chose to take an intercalated degree this year. I’ve heard from older years that it’s less full-on than pre-clinical Medicine: I think my poor brain needs a break. I’ve also had a sort of nagging interest in psychology which I’ve never had the chance to satisfy before. Also, I kind of wanted to go into psychiatry a while ago and we (a) only have three months’ worth of psychiatry in clinical years and (b) generally skate over mental-health-related things in pre-clinicals. Even if this year just eliminates a career possibility I think it’s worth doing. (Yes, this year eliminated psychiatry as a possible career option, haha).
I laughed at the fact that we have five contact hours a week but seriously, coursework-based degrees are more stressful than it sounds. I’ve never had to do an academic piece of writing which contributes to my degree classification and I was hit with three in about a month. Yeah, that’s not a lot for some degrees but most medics are terrified of writing, for some reason. Also, all the private study and dissertation reading that I’ve had to do this year means that I’ve had more practice doing literature searches this month than I had in two years doing medicine.
So yeah, this is my year out of Medicine. Here’s to the start of a new adventure!
EDIT (12/11/16): Veterinary and Dental degrees also have the option to intercalate (thank you Sarah for pointing it out).