Genetic Counseling

School of Health and Human Sciences

By Mercedes Zoeteman

Coming from Canada to Greensboro, holy moly has it been an adjustment. Going from the land of “I’m sorry” to the state of Cheerwine and y’all(s) has been a fun one. But here are some of the observations that I have made thus far:

  1. Understand that the healthcare system is completely different than ours in Canada. Healthcare is definitely monetized, meaning for the most part those who have money can access the most healthcare. For example, I found out that down here you have to pay for blood tests! Crazy talk. But there are significant differences that are relevant both personally and professionally. For example, I had no idea what a deductible was before coming to the United States (basically the amount of money you have to pay on your own healthcare before insurance steps in). Then there are copays and Medicade and Medicare and the list goes on. It will get easier though! I found calling my insurance company down here to be helpful in explaining the system.
  2. Insurance in the United States in more relevant to genetic counseling than you think. When I shadowed in Canada I do not believe insurance was mentioned during a genetic counseling once (aside from life insurance). However, insurance down here is critical for understanding what testing options are available to patients, if any. I have since found out that some genetic testing companies will offer reduced pricing for some genetic tests depending on the indication and annual income. Back home most laboratories either do genetic testing in house or through contracts with other companies, so being able to have so many choices of companies make genetic counseling slightly more involved.
  3. The dollar is bad. Unfortunately, as I type this post, the conversion is $0.81 USD for $1.00 CAD. This means that going to school and living in the United States is quite expensive. I personally had to take out student loans to cover tuition and what not, which isn’t ideal. However, Greensboro does have fairly low living expenses so it is not as bad as I think somewhere like New York would be. Finances are a huge part of grad school, so please keep this in mind when applying. I personally felt as if getting to pursue my dream career is more important than having some student debt (because now a days, who doesn’t), so I am more than happy to move away.
  4. Southern hospitality phenomenon is real. I think every grocery store or restaurant I have entered I have been addressed as “M’aam” or “honey” or “sweetie”. While most of the time I don’t mind, somethings I can be taken aback because it’s weird being called M’aam at the ripe age of 23.
  5. Classmates will make fun of some of the words/phrases you say. During a presentation about sickle cell trait I was talking about capillaries. Little to my knowledge my classmates had to hold back laughter based on how I pronounced it (No, it is not CAP-A-LARRY, it’s CA-PILLARY). Sigh. Don’t even get me started on the word pasta…
  6. I didn’t expect there to be so many hiccups in moving down to the United States. From coordinating immunizations before moving down here (FYI get your TB Skin tests done in a US medical facility), to getting forms signed for student loans, to the logistics of finding an apartment in a different country… I won’t sugar coat it, it was tough at times. But I am finally at a place where I can say that I am so thankful to be here and at UNCG. The opportunities that I have, and the leadership that are here within the program make up for every frustrated tear that I have shed along the way!

I’m sure there are many more things that I have noticed throughout my time at UNCG (and in the South), but this may provide prospective Canadian applicants some insight into my experiences! It’s been a tough one, but I’ve managed. So Canadians, don’t be afraid to reach out if you have questions.