Before I started medical school I really had no idea what a typical day would it be like for a medical student. Other than going to school, how many hours of class do I attend to?What else is there to do other than studying? All I knew is that I was enrolled to a medical school with a problem-based learning approach. Who would have known that medicine would really change my life. Well, for the good. Of course.
1. Change of lifestyle
During the first day, we were welcomed with a message, “your life will be over for four years.” I am not going to sugarcoat things but the first whole year will be hard. You’re bound to spend more time studying than you did in your undergraduate studies.
I was having difficulty in adjusting with the problem based approach, in managing my time with studies, and maintaining a good study habit. The year did not only taught me about medicine and disease, it taught me about myself, my strengths and weaknesses. It helped me reevaluate my priorities and find meaningful ways how to cope up with stress and insecurities.
2. As you build self-discipline, you build time management.
In Medicine, you are given a bulk of chapters to read and if you don’t finish reading the set of chapters given to you, trust me, you’ll be in misery. Why? Another set of chapters are given to you the next day and you’ll be left behind. When you do not have control over your own self, how can you control time? So, time management is important though it can become an overwhelming task.
3. Your coffee will become your best friend.
Back in College, coffee was the thing I never fully understood. The taste was just too awful to me. It has a bitter taste. I always have negative things to say when I hear the word “coffee.” Now that I survived drinking coffee for a year, and learned that you can add tons of sugar and creamer to a cup, I realized one thing: how the heck did I live without it? Hahaha.
Another reason why coffee will be your best friend is that when you are spending those long tedious hours of reading, it is there to keep you focused and on track. Since I got into med school, I am a “Procaffeinator.” If you haven’t encountered such word, it is when you have the tendency to not start anything (for me, studying) until you’ve had a cup of coffee. Drinking coffee concentrates my focus towards what I do.
4. You will be busy spending A LOT of time with the love of your life, your books.
Who said we have no love life? We do! We spend more than 8 hours with them from the sunrise to sunset. We plan a romantic date from Monday to Sunday in our favorite study out place. They’ve been with us all throughout the week! Yes, a medical student will first fall in love with his/her books and notes. It’s a sort of love or hate relationship wherein we will realize that we can’t live without them.
We will live with them, learn to love them when we succeed, and hate them when we fail. We will also learn to cherish the little details, the little interesting nuggets of information, that makes studying a little more bearable.
5. Prepare your heart for more missed events and vacations
I love traveling and writing about my trips. Well, I am no longer exploring the world but more of exploring the human body. Hahaha. Since I entered medical school, I have been missing a lot of family vacations. Sacrifice is a crucial part of this season in your life. Not only do we have to sacrifice but to get used to this life for the years to come.
I still remember I canceled my dream vacation to Dubai and Holy Land tour just to attend classes in school. It was really painful. It was a vacation to die for but I decided to let go of it and just be happy with my family. I’m sure this won’t be the last painful thing that’ll happen to me. I’m sure there’s more so just prepare yourself if going to med school is one of your plans.
6. Learning new things isn’t actually boring at all. If you learn to make it INTERESTING that is.
One of the greatest things in school is getting to know how the human body works. From how you breathe in and out, how you manage to move your body, how you digest food, how your hormones do its job inside your body and more! It’s just so fun and challenging to learn a lot of new things though understanding some topics make you crazy.
Therefore, in order for you to not get tired of memorizing unfamiliar things or to refrain from getting bored, you can at least save a picture of Ryan Gosling or your huge crush and start being creative! I tell you, it’s 100% effective. Two thumbs for our president for sharing this photo!
8. You will master the art of sleeping anywhere.
….without getting embarrassed. I feel good for doing it because the 15-minute nap is so worth it especially when you are sleep deprived. Obviously, the battles with sleep are well known to medical students. One doctor told me that in the future I will be able to learn how to sleep-while-standing, which by the way I call “steeping” and he wasn’t wrong about it because I have done it countless of times in senior clerkship.
Don’t you think you’re a bit exaggerating? It’s real and all the more when you become a Postgraduate intern, resident, or a fellow. Oh well, there’s one thing that I can really say, sleep cannot be cheated; it always gets its just due, one way or another.
9. If you sleep anywhere. So, will be your friends so don’t worry!
The good thing about being a sleep deprived medical student is knowing that I am not alone in this endeavor. We sleep at a coffee shop, we sleep at the library, we sleep just about anywhere safe and secure. Indeed, real friends don’t let you do things alone.
10. A Series of Firsts
You will always have your many memorable firsts in Medical School. To a bright-eyed first year medical student, marks a real turning point into the medical field the moment when textbook studies leave the stage, and actual flesh and bone take the spotlight. One of my first unforgettable moment is seeing our fresh cadaver for the first time.
As a medical student we often get questions like: “Do you really cut real bodies?” and “Isn’t it pretty disgusting?” Yes, we do dissect dead people and no, I don’t find it gross but it does smell sometimes.
Not only do we study the body by reading books but human dissection has been the classic tool to teach us and to help us learn the anatomy of the human body. Like, literally.
Being able to hold a real heart was another first. I was literally holding in my hands a human heart. Not only a human heart, but a heart that belonged to a human. I could see reflected in my hands the life that I choose to have- Saving lives. Once you hold something undeniably and excitingly amazing, how can you not want to move forward? How can you not feel happy wherein what used to be a dream is now a reality?
Ahhh! Trust me when I say that reaching senior clerkship and having to wear the white coat is very fulfilling! During my second year in med school, I passed by to a group of senior clerks and promised myself, “I will wear that white coat someday.” It was one way of motivating myself not to quit. Seriously, it helped me reach that goal even if there were days where I felt hopeless. At school, having to wear the most awaited white coat in senior clerkship was kind of a physical symbol of hierarchy and rigidity.
11. Be proud of your eye bags!
People don’t even have to ask, and they can tell we are medical students by the bags under our eyes. But remember this, behind every huge eye bags (don’t forget the dark circles) are endless sleepless nights, lamentation and perseverance in order to make it through the week! But above those bags, is the light of our fire. Our drive to be the best doctor that we can be. So be proud of your eye bags! Show ‘em off! LOL
12. Find your people
In med school, you learn that you can’t go through it alone. You need the support of people around you. That this is also a give and take relationship. Your friends will comfort you, help you, teach you, and be with you to burn the midnight oil.
13. Your Family will be your #1 Support System
A support system is very important in medical school. These people will be the ones to absorb your repeated rants and breakdowns. These are the people who will help you make decisions. These are the people who will continually encourage and motivate you whenever you feel like giving up. And I’m glad to say that I have that with my family! They support and pray for me all the time. I wouldn’t have finished medicine if it weren’t for them.
14. At the end of the day, it was God’s grace that sustained me.
When I can’t handle all the pressures, the stresses, and confusions in life- I just stop. I leave my books and open my Bible instead. In this manner I am reminded that God is near me and when I’m confuse and anxious He offers me His peace, a peace that will protect my soul and body from the destructive effects of continual anxiety .
How about you? Can you relate with this? Share your thoughts below!