Hey everyone! My name is Shelby Deacon and I am a first-year dental student studying dentistry abroad at the University of Melbourne in Australia! I am from a small northern community about 8 hours North of Toronto (think as far as the highway goes North, then add an hour).
Growing up in a rural northern community where access to medical/dental resources is scarce has given me a great appreciation for how the social determinants affect one's health, and is a big reason I decided to pursue dentistry. In addition, I underwent extensive orthodontic treatment and had braces for 5 years and 4 teeth extracted (two being supernumerary adult teeth!), and spending so much time in a dental office over the years, I became increasingly interested in the field. I like that it is a combination of art, science, and health.
From Dentistry to Chiropractic School
I graduated from Western University in Ontario, Canada in June 2022 with a Bachelor of Health Sciences, Honors Specialization in Health Science with Biology. I wrote my DAT in June 2020 (between my third and fourth year) and then applied in my fourth year. I applied to Western, the University of Toronto, and then a few schools in Ireland and Australia. Unfortunately, I was not interviewed for either Western or U of T and at that point was feeling quite defeated and knowing how competitive the schools overseas are, I actually started chiropractors college at CMCC in Toronto.
My Journey Back to Dentistry!
I'm a firm believer in things happening for a reason so when one door closed, and another opened, I saw it as the opportunity that was right for me. I quickly learned in chiropractors college that it was not the career path for me, and my heart was set on dentistry. I interviewed at a school in Ireland during the summer but never heard anything back until I had already started chiropractors college and at that point, I declined the offer. I was then also interviewed at two schools indentistry-abroad-a-canadian-s-experience-in-australia Australia. Right before Thanksgiving (October 7, 2022, to be exact), I received an offer to enroll in dental school in Australia at the University of Melbourne.
Common Questions About Studying Dentistry Abroad
What is the application process like for applying to foreign dental schools?
Applying to Australia was very straightforward! Oztrekk is the educational agent most Canadians use to apply (every Canadian in my program used this as a matter of fact). There are a number of accredited programs in Australia that translate back to Canada directly, so it is similar to going to school in Canada.
In terms of the U.S., I am not 100% sure how they translate but I am sure it can be found online. Oztrekk collected all the documents necessary, transcripts, DAT results, letters of recommendation, etc. One very beneficial part of this agency, I only have to request (and pay) for one transcript to be sent to them, and then they are allowed to distribute it to the school and it remains an official university record, so I don't need to continuously pay for official transcripts.
Same for DAT results, you pay once to have it sent to them and then they are authorized to send it to the schools. In addition, the application for Canadians through Oztrekk is completely free and they guide you through the whole process!!
How do interviews work when applying to foreign dental schools?
I interviewed at one school in Ireland and two in Australia. All the interviews were very similar for me, essentially similar to a job interview. Asking questions similar to:
Why do you want to study dentistry?
How do you know this is the right profession?
How do you cope with failures/challenges?
All my interviews were conducted over Zoom. One thing to note is that it is entirely possible you will do the interview in the middle of the night due to the time difference, as they work on their 9-5 schedule, not ours. For example, one of my interviews was at 9 am Australian time, but that was 7 pm Toronto time.
I was offered admission to all three schools I interviewed at as well, but ultimately ended up choosing UniMelb.
What is it like living in another country for dental school?
Living in Australia has been amazing! Growing up I am so North that I have 8 months of winter and -40°C is normal, so I have been LOVING the weather here! It’s also such a cool experience to be living in a different part of the world, one I probably would not have visited if it weren’t for my living here.
The time difference has taken some getting used to because trying to talk to family at home can be difficult because my morning is their night. Australians are also much more relaxed than Canadians. Being so Type A, I am used to strict schedules and operate very structurally, but Australians very much value the work-life balance, and that has been good to try and teach me to be more flexible and just roll with things as opposed to being so structured.
How does dental school in Australia differ from dental school in Canada?
The program is very similar to programs in Canada. This is a doctor of dental surgery program (DDS) which is the same as what is offered at Western and U of T. It is also four years, similar to both those programs! One difference is we get into the clinic by the end of our first year, in a limited capacity, whereas in Canada they typically don't get into the clinic until 2nd year.
What have been your favorite experiences with dental school in Australia?
One of my favorite experiences so far is forming connections with the people I have met here. I have recently begun working with the Melbourne Mustangs AIHL Ice Hockey team (yes they have hockey here!) and have created some amazing friendships, and this adds meaning to my time here. Another of my favorite experiences has been traveling around with my friends during our breaks. Being so far from home, we can't go home when we have a week off, so we spend time traveling this beautiful country together!
Any other pre-dental tips?
This might sound crazy, but don't be so rigid in your thinking.
Many pre-dental students get so wrapped up in dental only and don't explore other interests they may have. You may think you want dentistry because that's what you've been telling yourself for years, but maybe you have just convinced yourself that is what you want because you have been working so hard at it.
Take the time to self-reflect and see if this profession really suits you, because it truly is not for everyone. If you are in this profession for the money, you are in it for the wrong reasons.
For extra-curricular activities, I also recommend doing something that interests you rather than what is the typical pre-dental EC. This gives you something you're passionate about to talk about during interviews and you’re more likely to make a bigger impact with something you are interested in (fun fact, I actually wasn't even on my pre-dental club throughout my 4 years at Western)
Any more questions, reach out to me on Instagram @deacondentistry