Studying Public Health online – Valentina’s story

Valentina, from Austria, is a second-year Public Health by Distance Learning student. She tells us how she has enjoyed joining a network of international students from all over the world.
Valentina Marino-Melán

Please explain a bit about your academic/professional background  

I started at LSHTM in October 2019, one day after my last medical school exam at the Medical University of Vienna, while moving to a new continent. All this was possible because I had enrolled on the MSc Public Health by Distance Learning, which allowed for flexible and online studying.  

During my medical studies, I gained international clinical experience in the field of paediatrics, particularly neonatology. I worked for a paediatrician, had the opportunity to engage in voluntary work with children and in a clinic (e.g. in Ghana) and performed paediatric rotations in several different countries. Besides being enrolled at LSHTM, I am currently working on various consultancy projects as well as at the UKModelWHO. 

Why did you choose to study your course with LSHTM? 

The flexibility of a distance learning programme in a leading global health school, with a network of international students from all over the world, drew my attention to the course at LSHTM. I heard about it through various global health contacts, as LSHTM is a well-known name in the field. I enrolled to broaden my professional horizon and get a general overview of the field but maintain my flexibility of working and fulfilling family responsibilities. It is possible to finish your studies in a timeframe of two to five years, depending on your availability. 

What have been your favourite aspects of the programme? 

Also now being in my second year, I enjoy the interactions with international students and getting to know their perspectives on global health. I am keen on being a Student Ambassador at LSHTM, answering questions from prospective students and painting a picture of what they can expect from the course I am enrolled in. After the introductory modules in the first year, I am now especially keen on the electives in my second year, even though they are a lot of work. 

How will the programme help your career in the future? 

I am learning specific skills, such as evaluating public health interventions, which I will be able to use in my future career. My research interests lie in the field of maternal and newborn health in low and middle-income countries. Therefore, I am grateful to have the opportunity to write my degree thesis in this field. My future goal is to work full-time in this area and usefully apply both my medical and public health backgrounds.

We have motivated students who organise virtual study groups. This way, I regularly meet with fellow students from South Korea and Belgium. It’s amazing how interconnected we are! 

Have you been able to connect with other students? How have you done this?

Studying by distance learning is not always easy. It may be lonely and requires discipline to perform self-directed learning. Fortunately, we have motivated students who organise WhatsApp and virtual study groups. This way, I regularly meet with fellow students from South Korea and Belgium. It’s amazing how interconnected we are! 

What advice would you give to someone considering studying your course at LSHTM? 

My advice for prospective students would be to carefully look up courses and interview student ambassadors to get a realistic view of the respective course. No course is perfect, and the lack of a realistic view of the programme could result in being the source of disappointment for some students.  

Please sum up your experience of studying by distance learning with LSHTM

Personally, I am very happy with my course and would highly recommend it. I knew what to expect, learned how to organise my studies and established a dedicated study place, which helps me focus better on my tasks. Now I also know when I need a break, which was an important learning experience for me. 

Tell us a bit about you – what do you do when you’re not working or studying?

When I am not studying or working, I organise regular online pop-up events on topics which matter to the women who surround me, such as female quotas. I also love to explore New York City, where I now live. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I loved to go to sports events or musicals on Broadway. Since COVID-19, I have started to become passionate about hiking Upstate, meeting for picnics with friends at Central Park and cooking.