international medical student US
Nicole Belliard Martuscelli at her white coat ceremony in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University . Source: Nicole Belliard Martuscelli

You could say Nicole Belliard Martuscelli followed her dreams to Hollywood, but not in a typical sense. Her journey towards becoming an international medical student in the US began as a teenager. In her homeland Brazil, she attended an American high school and took an affinity towards learning English — which she used to propel herself towards her goals.

Martuscelli first made the bold leap from Brazil to the US during her junior year. She enrolled in a high school in Florida (home of the city Hollywood, as well as outlandish news stories), thus laying the groundwork for her life in the US. “It was challenging at first; the language and cultural barriers were greater than I expected, and I ended up self-isolating in school and not enjoying it as much as I should have,” the 23-year-old tells Study International over e-mail. Despite the challenges, she completed high school and went on to university andapply to medical schools in the US.

That’s when her experience turned around. “During my undergraduate years at the University of Miami (UM), I met people from much more diverse backgrounds and developed a strong support system with my new friends. I had such a great experience there, living alone for the first time, learning in a way I never thought I would, and having access to amazing research labs and facilities that would never have been possible back in Brazil,” she shares.

Today, Martuscelli goes beyond her medical studies at Pennsylvania’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC) at Thomas Jefferson University to mentor young people who are lonely or unsure, as she once was. She does this as part of F-1 Doctors, a free student-led initiative for international applicants of the medical degree (MD), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), or residency programmes in the US. Here, this passionate international medical student in the US shares tips and memories from her time in the US.

international medical student US

Nicole Belliard Martuscelli is a second-year medical student at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College. Source: Nicole Belliard Martuscelli

Why did you choose to study in the US? What do you like most about being an international medical student in the US?

Originally, I decided to study in Florida because it was one of the closest places I could be to Brazil, and my parents could actually live with me there. Additionally, the weather and culture in Miami are not so different from Brazil’s. I really enjoyed meeting people from all over the world as well as having access to Brazilian markets and restaurants in Miami, which made me feel more at home. Additionally, I loved my community at the University of Miami and I truly had the best years of my life there.

Now I am in Philadelphia. I never imagined living in a cold state as I am not a huge fan of this weather. However, I have really enjoyed the city and the people I met here. Everyone is extremely friendly and, so far, I have been impressed by how much I enjoy it here.

What are you studying? Why did you choose this programme?

I graduated from UM with a BS in Biochemistry and Nutrition, and I currently study medicine at SKMC. I have always been drawn to the sciences and, since high school, I have had an interest in medicine. When I arrived at the University of Miami, I picked biochemistry as a major because it was an area that would allow me to study both biology, chemistry and a little bit of physiology; I saw it as a way of exploring the sciences further, and I was right.

I ended up doing neuroscience research for three years while at UM and learning a lot about nutrition, genetics, biology, chemistry and even psychology. During my undergraduate years, I spend numerous weeks shadowing physicians and fell deeper in love with the profession. Those experiences as well as other pivotal interactions I have had throughout the years were what led me to apply to medical school. Today, I’m a second-year medical student and I could not be happier with the decisions I’ve made so far.

Tell us about your most memorable time at Thomas Jefferson University.

My favourite moments in both the UM and SKMC have been meeting new people and spending time with my friends. I deeply value my relationships, and thankfully I have been able to cultivate amazing ones throughout the years.

international medical student US

When she’s not studying, Nicole channels her passion towards travel, dance, and cats. Source: Nicole Belliard Martuscelli

What are your top recommendations or advice to others planning to study in the US?

My number one recommendation is for people to give themselves time and be patient. It takes a long time for you to adapt when moving to a new location, let alone a new country. You need to be patient with yourself to learn the language and the ways of life in this new location. I think it is also important to have a good support system, so remaining in contact with family and old friends is huge when adapting to a new situation. It can be scary and overwhelming to have such a huge change in your life when you’re alone.

Another thing I would say is to believe in yourself and hear what your conscience is telling you. Believe that you can achieve your goals and that you will adapt, but at the same time, listen to your limitations and be kind to yourself. There’s a long road ahead, and remaining true to your essence should be your priority, the rest will fall into place eventually.

I would also like to encourage any international students out there thinking of going to school for medicine, dentistry and nursing in the US to check out F-1 Doctors. It is a volunteer group comprising pre-medical/dental students, medical/dental students, residents, and attendings that allows students to give and receive free advice from other international students undergoing similar situations.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan on advancing my studies and continuing to build and support my family. Academically, my next step is to study for board exams so that I can apply to residency programmes in two years. For now, I plan to remain in the US for residency, but I’m always open to new adventures and opportunities.