The School of Medicine in English at the Jagiellonian University Medical College is attracting hundreds of students from Western countries such as Norway, the U.S. and Canada because of its top-flight teaching, its English-language curriculum and its cheaper tuition and living costs.
Many students are from the Polish Diaspora in North America and Eastern Europe.
But the largest contingent is Norwegians, more than 200 of whom study medicine at Jagiellonian.
?Norwegians have always studied medicine abroad,? said Jarle Bjornsen, who recently began a six-year medical program at Jagiellonian. ?We only have four academies of medicine in our country.?
But until recently most Norwegians studying medicine abroad went to Denmark, Prague or Budapest.
?Recently, Krakow has made its way to the top of this list,? Bjornsen said.
In September, 50 young Norwegians began their medical studies in Krakow.
?We had more than four people competing for each place at our school,? said a Jagiellonian official. ?We obviously couldn?t let everyone enroll.?
For 11 years, the medical school has offered two types of English-language programs for international students. One is a four-year program for students (after pre-medical colleges) from the U.S. and Canada, where medical school is a four-year process.
The other is a six-year program for students from Europe, where medical school is a six-year commitment.
Altogether in Medical College of Jagiellonian study 5,806 students. Among them 394 foreigners from 20 countries study in the English-language programs. More than half of the students are in the six-year program, and 90 percent of them are from Norway.
Each year, 20 to 30 Norwegians receive their medical degrees at Jagiellonian University.
Superior grades and perfect English are necessary to get accepted to the medical school.
The annual tuition is 9,000 euro.
?This may only be slightly less than in other countries in the EU, but living in Poland is much cheaper,? Bjornsen said. In Norway they can study expense.
However, that?s not the main reason he came to Jagiellonian, he said. ?Jagiellonian University has a wonderful reputation among doctors,? he said.
The quality of the Jagiellonian alumni practicing in Norway has impressed Norwegian doctors, he said
Sixty-nine Canadians and 68 Americans also are studying at the university. Forty new students from the two countries came in September.
Many of the North Americans are from the Polish Diaspora in the two countries.
?I came here to study and learn more about the country that I left when I was 3 years old,? said Aleksandra Szabla, a second-year student from Toronto.
But it?s no secret that most of her friends chose Krakow because Jagiellonian is prestigious and the cost of studying here is cheaper than in Canada or the U.S. For example full-time tuition for a medical student at the John Hopkins School of Medicine in the U.S. is $34,000 per year.
?I know people who were accepted at premier universities back home, but opted to study in Krakow instead,? Szabla said.
Jagiellonian graduates have no problems finding work. Its MD diploma is recognized around the world.
The students say they feel at home in Krakow. The school organizes commemorations of holiday events in the students? homelands, including Norway?s national day for Norwegian students and Thanksgiving for Americans. The main off-campus hangout of the Norwegian enclave is the Nordic Pub on ul. St. Anna.
?We are watching with great pleasure the increasing interest among Norwegians in Polish medical studies,? said Maciej Rogala spokesman at the Jagiellonian University Medical College.
Part of the reason is ?the renown of the Medical Faculty here in Krakow,? he said, but also because ?the city is becoming trendier and trendier.?
?These students are passing along their recommendations to their friends back home. Has Krakow become an international student center? Well, almost!?
This year 1,009 international students attended classes at Jagiellonian, in medicine and other fields. Most were Socrates Erasmus scholars from Germany, France, Italy and the UK or students with Polish roots from Eastern Europe — Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Slovakia.
The number of foreign students at all Krakow universities increased by 20 percent this year.