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Six hundred and fifty young people from more than 70 countries met up in the Netherlands for a warm week in August. While one group discussed their medical studies and how to improve medical education, others presented community and international projects that they had developed. The more experienced students trained others in fundraising, presentation skills, recruiting, and leading a student team. Between them, these young people arranged more than 7000 clinical and research student exchanges.
What brings this group together twice a year? Each medical student is a member of one of the national medical student associations that are part of the global network of the International Federation of Medical Students' Associations (IFMSA). With 90 countries already represented, the network is still growing-the most recent general assembly welcomed Bolivia and Malaysia as new national members.
Since its inception more than 50 years ago, the IFMSA's core activity has been exchange, with tens of thousands of students benefiting from the opportunity for clinical, research, and cultural exchange with their peers from institutions around the world.
Like all of the IFMSA's activities, these exchange programmes are powerful because the whole process is initiated and managed by the students themselves-the IFMSA is run by students for students. By taking on this responsibility, students gain more than they would if they were passive participants with someone else leading them.