This post is probably about 25 weeks later than intended, but better late than never, right? Needless to say, while first semester didn’t necessarily get the best of me, it was definitely a new (sometimes very exhausting) experience. This first semester was a long 19 weeks – luckily that is the longest semester we have – and it definitely brought out the best and the worst sides of me. I could write for hours about the experience, which was both wonderful and borderline traumatic, so to keep it short here is a little (kind of) list containing what I learned this semester (about myself and navigating life as a medical student).
Time is precious
Medical school is busy. You will still have time for other things, but you definitely have to be good at prioritizing and scheduling. At times I felt like I was killing it; I was hanging out with my friends, studying, making dinner for myself, and still getting enough sleep. Other times… I sucked. I procrastinated school, making myself unnecessarily stressed, and then I let that stress take over all aspects of my life. This is a slippery slope that I definitely fell down a few times, especially during testing weeks. Luckily, I always managed to get out of the rut and find my flow again, especially after midterms. Long story short, figure out what and who is important to you because though you will have free time, you still have to use it wisely. Even more importantly, those are the things and the people that are going to keep you sane.
Your support system is everything
This goes hand in hand with the first tip. Your support system is everything, so don’t take them for granted. During the busy weeks don’t forget to take time to reach out. It will feel like it is too much work at the time, but in the end it will definitely decrease the stress, not make it worse. But if you don’t have time, don’t worry. The people who truly understand will still be there. The most important people in my life now (and the ones I reach out to) are the ones who understand that I am trying my best, and they don’t make me feel bad when I don’t have time. Whether I don’t see or talk to them for one week or one month, those people are always there for me – and I will always be there for them.
Choose 3 things that are important to you and write them down
A second year gave me this advice, and while I admit I didn’t actually do it, I did make a mental list. It definitely had more than 3 things on it, but it has still helped remind me what things are important. I really should write them down. If you do this, make the list and hang it on your wall or put it on your desk – somewhere that you will see it. I promise you will need a reminder, especially when things get crazy.
Make time for yourself
If you make the list above, I hope you put your name on it too (but maybe in parentheses so you can still add 3 more things). The craziness of staying up to date in class, doing assignments, and trying to spend time with family and friends will definitely be a lot to handle. While some people thrive in this environment, most people will get worn down eventually. My advice, pick one night each week that you take only for yourself. Don’t make any plans with friends, roommates, or anyone else but yourself. Grab a book, watch your favorite show, paint your nails- do something that relaxes you and makes you happy.
Keep things in perspective
Honestly, I am definitely the worst at keeping things in perspective. I am still working on it, and I know it will probably be a lifelong battle. With all of the things you have to do in medical school, and the pressure we put on ourselves to do those things well, it can be hard to look at the bigger picture. It is difficult to go from being a top student- because we have to be to get into medical school- to being okay with just passing. This is definitely a great, but difficult thing about medical school. We are all high achievers, but realistically, it’s not worth studying 24 hrs a day (and still not knowing everything) to get the A. Especially if it means giving up all of the other things that are important to you. Happiness and a B (or C) is much more important. Passing. Is. Passing. So, study hard, but don’t forget to take study breaks. And as long as you’re getting that 70% grade or above, be happy because P’s get degrees! Medical school is as stressful as you make it (for the most part), so don’t be harder on yourself than you need to be. Don’t be discouraged though, it’s also possible to have a life and still kick med school butt!
Make a budget
Med school is expensive. Life is expensive. Make a budget and try your best to stick to it. That being said, don’t deny yourself everything just to stick to your budget. You deserve to treat-yo self every once and a while!
What works for one person, might not work for you
Take everything you hear, including this, with a grain of salt. Ultimately, you have to figure out what works for you in terms of studying and balancing everything else you might have going on. What works for one person won’t work for everyone. Once you figure out your flow, things will start to get easier and easier!
Medical school is fun, and it will go by faster than you think
Or so I’ve heard… But seriously, medical school is not all studying and taking tests. I have made some amazing new friends, reconnected with old friends, and have strengthened other relationship since I’ve started school. I have managed to keep traveling and spend time with my family, and most weekends are still pretty fun! As much as exam weeks get stressful, and some days feel like they drag on forever, the weeks go by quicker than you think! I truly can’t believe I am already 4 months away from finishing up my first year of medical school. Before I know it, I’ll be graduating and a new adventure will be here! So enjoy it while it lasts, it will be over quicker than you think!