One Semester Down, Way More to Go

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!


A New Type of Adventure 

After spending most of my winter and summer traveling during my semester off, it’s time for a new kind of adventure: medical school.

Medical school has been the end goal for so long it’s almost unbelievable that I am finally here, and part of the school I wanted to be at. What I have realized though, is that now I need a new end goal. Passing. kidding (but not really) It has been three weeks now and while I definitely can’t deny that medical school isn’t for the faint of heart (or of stomach in some cases), it definitely isn’t as overwhelming as I was imagining it to be. The first week was definitely the most confusing and exhausting though. We were thrown into classes (apparently syllabus week isn’t a thing in medical school) and given a million and two resources for each class that we could use “if we wanted.” Telling that to a medical student is just not ideal because obviously we assume we should try and use every resource available. WRONG. So my first week was spent trying out different resources and determining which ones I wanted to use and which I wanted to pretend didn’t exist. This took a while and I definitely spent the majority of my days and nights in the library that week, clocking in around 12 hours a day on campus in class or studying. As sustainable as that lifestyle sounds (lol), week two started and I was finally feeling a little better about my study tools. The mission for the second week was to determine what I wanted to get done each day so I wasn’t crazy stressed. Our schedule stays the same basically all semester, so I could pretty much make a weekly template of things to get done and review for each day, and it stays the same basically every week. I also managed to be efficient (enough) to feel like I could take a weekend “off” and go to Duluth with my mom, brother and boyfriend after my second week, which was awesome. We spent the weekend walking around the lake walk, riding bikes, skipping rocks, and eating yummy food (and drinking a few margaritas). The trip was definitely a needed break, and also made me feel confident that it is possible to (kind of) have a life outside of medical school if you use your time wisely. I also haven’t had any tests yet, so I could be saying all of this and then fail my tests because I’m completely ill prepared, but that’s a post for another week! Fast forward a little more to the present and I am sitting in a coffee shop on campus “studying” (or writing this blog, making plans for the weekend and not doing anything school related.. but you can choose which seems more likely) and I feel pretty good about where I am in terms of having a routine.

Don’t get me wrong, med school is definitely not “a breeze” and I don’t have a lot of free time, but the free time I do have to rest, see friends, and enjoy the things that make me happy, definitely fuels me and makes it easier to focus and keep moving forward in school. I’ve learned to treat it as a job, and my goal is to grind everything out during the week and give myself some more free time on the weekends to see friends and relax. If I am being completely honest, I’d have to say what I am most concerned about the next 4 years (besides failing and never becoming a doctor) would be my relationships outside of medical school. I have made AMAZING friendships in school already, that I hope to be life-long, but those friends understand the toll school can take on you because they are living it right along your side. On the other hand, my family and friends outside of school definitely don’t see or hear from me as much, and it’s hard to balance everyone along with my school work. I am doing the best I can to make time for everyone I want to see, whether it’s coffee, making dinner or just a quick chat, but it’s hard to do everything. First semester is a struggle for everyone as it’s definitely the most demanding, so I hope that even though I may be MIA for the next 5 months, the friendships I have are strong enough to withstand this period of (potentially) radio silence from me.

All in all, medical school is good (but ask me after my first exam). What I am learning is really interesting (especially learning skills that real physicians use!), and the people are definitely the biggest positive from the experience. The next 4 (*cough couch* 12) years are going to be a wild ride, but I am so excited to see where this next adventure takes me.

My family and I after my white coat ceremony. It’s official!

Paris, France

Paris was fun but also definitely a very welcome change in temperature. We finally had temps in the 80’s rather than 100’s and there was always a nice breeze. We got in really early our first day since we decided to sleep on the train; we arrived at 6:30 and after walking to the hotel and checking in we started our tour of France at the palace of Versailles, once home to Louis the 14th. After seeing the palace from the outside, it’s clear why the French were upset and started a revolution. The palace was gorgeous, huge stone buildings, gold trim on some of them, and the gardens were at least 5 times the size of the palace. With the admission into the palace (27€, 18€ on days without fountain shows in the garden or without the garden part on show days) we saw many of the palace’s apartments, Napoleon’s office, and other rooms used for various activities. By apartments, I mean a group of 5 different rooms that each had different purposes. Every individual in the family had their own apartment- those must have been the days!

 After looking through the palace we grabbed an over priced lunch and made our way out into the gardens. The gardens spanned a space MUCH bigger than the palace itself, housing many different gardens, groves and fountains. Many of the fountains were named after Greek Gods and Goddesses, and on weekends they spotted water to music, the “fountain shows” which we had to pay and extra 9€ for if we wanted to see the gardens at all. At the furthest park of the gardens, it’s the canal where you can find families and couples sitting in the grass under canopies of tress and people in the water in small boats enjoying the view. While I wouldn’t say it was worth the 9€, it was definitely an experience I am glad I had. 

After getting back from the palace, we took some time to rest and recover before making our way to the Eiffel Tower. We walked along the river for the hour and 15 minute walk to the tower and once we arrive walked around and then decided to go grab dinner. We settled on a pizza which we got to go, along with some drinks, and made our way back to the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. We enjoyed our pizza with a view of the Eiffel Tower and plenty of people to provide us entertainment for a while. We sat and people-watched while we ate and hung out until the sun set and the tower was lit up a brilliant orange and watched as it sparkles bright in the night. We also enjoyed crepes before packing up and heading back to the hotel for the night. Yummy! 

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast, and actually sat down to eat it for the first time since our eggs Benedict in Prague! We had coffee, juice, croissants and scrambled eggs with sausage while we discussed our plans for the day. We had another long walk ahead of us, about and hour and a half, to make it to the Sacre Coeur, followed by the Louve Museum, the Notre Dame, and a walking tour of Paris. It was a long walk to the Sacre Coeur but it was fun to see the shops and restaurants along the way. The inside was big and intricately decorated and definitely worth the long walk up the stairs. 

After the Sacre Coeur, we made our way to the Louve. The Museum is definitely large, with a beautifully carved stone facade. The Museum also surrounding the well known glass pyramids which stood tall above pools of water and the long lines of people trying to get into the museum. While we didn’t go in, it was still worth seeing the outside.
Our next stop, was the Notre Dame. Once we got here, we began our audio tour with Rick Steve’s which brought us through the Notre Dame and a few other important sites in the city. The Notre Dame’s outer facade was definitely a memorable one. The carvings showed the 12 disciples, and 28 other important figures. Additionally, there were gargoyles above and carvings showing scenes depicting life and death and decision day. The inside was equally beautiful, taking 2 centuries to build. Statues of Joan of arc and past arch bishops were found along the walls, along with carvings on the choir walls depicting important scenes in the Bible. The most beautiful part was the stained glass window, still containing the original glass. After finishing the walking tour around the city, we packed and got cleaned up for our last dinner in Europe. We enjoyed drinks and steak frittes while We people watched for the last time after a month of traveling across Europe. It was definitely an awesome and relaxing way to end our trip. 

Paris Highlights

  1. Versailles and its gardens 
  2. Picnic in the lawn of the Eiffel Tower 
  3. Notre Dame and Sacre coeur 
  4. The Latin quarter 

Backpackers Update 

  1. Versailles took credit cards so I had 30€ for our last day and a half in Paris, Yipee! 
  2. We can’t wait to be home! We’re also glad it’s only a 10 minute walk to the subway station. Our feet can’t take much more torture! 

Next stop: HOME

Toulouse, France

Toulouse was pretty much just a nice little day trip for us. We got in late (around 10 pm) got settled in and went to bed and then got up to see a few sights before taking the night train at 11 pm to Paris. Our first stop was the Japanese garden, filled with flowers, little ponds, metal sculptures and little kids running around in the grass. After the garden we made our way to a few museums. We peeked in the museum windows and admired the architecture of the outer facades and then moved on as we didn’t really have the money to pay the entrance fee, nor the interest in doing so. We get a little hungry after walking for a while and had our first “French” meal of hamburgers and ponme frites, or French fries. While there were a lot of foods in other countries we visited that I really wanted to try, French cuisine haven’t really had that appeal to me. Aside from a fruit tart and possibly escargot, all of the other French dishes are either much too expensive or aren’t that exciting since you can find them really anywhere in the US. Even on the menus at many restaurants you see the same thing as you would see at a restaurant in Minnesota: burgers, pizza, salad, maybe a few unique desserts, but not much is different. After lunch, we walked around the square that houses the capital. Similar to many other European cities, the plaza was surrounded by streets lined with shops. We went into some and looked around and then continued on to the convent in Toulouse which Napoleon used as Barracks at one point. The architecture inside was beautiful, the ceilings the most decorated part of the structure, as many of the paintings were no longer on the wall. We also stopped in the basilica.

After all of our sight seeing, we went back to grab our backpacks from our Air BnB stay (thank the lord for giving us hosts who allow us to leave our packs places), and wandered around until our train was to leave. We sat in the station for a while and then went across the street to sit and eat at a restaurant while we people watched and admired the stone facade of the train station. Finally, we boarded at 10:30 pm and were in for a night sleeping on the train.

Toulouse Highlights

  1. Japanese Garden
  2. Capital and plaza


Backpackers Update

  1. The night train was a good experience but definitely not something I hope to repeat
  2. We are getting more and more excited to be home as the days go by
  3. We can’t believe time has gone by so fast!
  4. At this point, pedicures may not help us… we may have to consider amputation to spare the eyes of the public

Next stop: Paris 

Barcelona, Spain

After listening to Ed Sheeran’s song “Barcelona” probably over 20 times this trip, we finally made it! Unfortunately, we also reached a new laziness low. Once we got in and found our Air BnB stay, we pretty much laid in bed for a few hours sucking up wifi and finally letting our bodies rest (and cool off). The heat was definitely a surprise since it was cooler than Toledo, but more humid, so it felt a lot stickier than we expected. We finally got our butts out of bed for what reason? Obviously to eat! We went over to a local tapas bar and had white sangria, nachos, tortilla española and patatas bravas. Everything was pretty good, though the sangria wasn’t our favorite. After feasting, and barely finishing everything, we headed back to our room and continued to be lazy in bed. I know I know, we really did hit a new low. It was hot, give us a break. 
The next day really wasn’t much better, as I think we’ve finally accepted that after 22 days of walking and sweating profusely we should take it easy every once and a while. So we woke up probably around 8, which was actually probably the earliest we’ve been up without alarms or plans to be up, and then laid in bed on our phones until about 10. Our bad. We did take that time to rehydrate though… and pack. So it wasn’t totally useless? After finally getting up, dressed and packed, we made the 45 minute walk to La Sagrada Familia. Unfortunately being poor, soon to be professional students, we didn’t have the $40 each to go inside. We also really didn’t have the 3 hours to wait in line, but let’s be real, money was the real issue. So we took pictures and admired from the outside before walking around town more. Luckily we had another audio tour (thanks Rick Steves) and we listened to that before heading to the train station. Rock led us to the cathedral, the art institute where Picasso went, the gothic quarters, the Jewish quarters, and the home of queen Isabelle and King Ferdinand who were really the creators of a United and catholic Spain. After our walking tour, we grabbed our bags, stopped at a grocery store for dinner to bring on the train (croissants, candy, and fruit all for the low price of $3.50) and made the long sweaty trip to the station. Of course, we listened to the song Barcelona one last time as we rolled out of the station on to our next destination.

*Pictures coming soon 
Barcelona Highlights

  1. The royal palace
  2. The cathedral
  3. La sagrada familia 

Backpackers Update

  1. As of today (putting aside money for hotels and Versailles in France) I have about 22€ to buy food for the next 3 days
  2. If you didn’t know, were tired. We’re excited to see France, but also really excited to be home with our friends and family (and boyfriend).
  3. We also can’t wait for fruit, vegetables and meat! And yes, it is possible Togo a month in Europe without really having any of those things… impressed?
  4. We are also excited to sleep in our own beds in houses with air conditioning, cold drinking water, and showers 

Next stop: Toulouse

Toledo, Spain

Toledo- the city on top of a hill. And oh how wonderful it was to climb up that hill with a 20+ pound backpack and no food in my belly. Can you hear the sarcasm? The walk sucked and was not fun. For those Gustie grads that may (but probably not) be reading, getting to Toledo was like walking up death hill for about 35 minutes. Finally after you’re dead and crawling, you’ve made it. Woohoo. For those normal people out there, it was pretty steep and completely uphill, so you can imagine walking up it for over 30 minutes was painful. My calves were definitely burning. There was a silver lining though- when we checked in, our host so nicely showed us on the map the escalator we went up (he assumed). HAHA. ESCALATOR!? Yep, you heard right, there was an escalator that comes all the way up. Good time people. At least we got our steps in for the day right? Well, now we know. And you bet your ass we went down on the escalator when we left- It’s the small victories.
After braving the hill and checking in, we cooled off a little in the air conditioned room and then went out in search of some sort of fruit or vegetable. After over 3 weeks without basically any, we’ve been craving them lately. We found a local smoothie place and grabbed smoothies for our first meal of the day. They definitely hit the spot and gave us enough energy to walk around. We started out seeing Plaza Zocodover, the main square in the city, surrounded by restaurants, fast food places and other shops with clothes and souvenirs. From here, you could get to the escalators, the Alcazar, shopping, the cathedral, and much more. We set out first for the cathedral. Known for gold leaf, Toledo’s cathedral was full of gold everywhere you looked. While I didn’t pay to go in, Anna did and said it was amazing. Being poor, I peeked in from a different door though it only allowed me to go in about 10 steps into the church. That was enough to see some of the beautiful artistry and golf leafed sculptures and other structures. 
After the cathedral we made our way to the alcazar and the museum. Unfortunately, it seems our luck had run out for the day, because it was closed for the day. Of course the one day we are in Toledo it’s closed! It was a huge bummer, but we survived and instead walked around town more, looking in and out of shops. I also made my way into an art exhibit that was fascinating, showing Toledo in the eyes of a local artist featuring Toledo’s people and also art featuring his beloved mother. After a while we went to find something for dinner and I had some chicken fingers (solomillo in Spain) and Anna had a salad. Can you guess who is healthier out of the two of us? It’s not me. Oops. I figure I can eat healthy when I’m home, right? After we ate, we walked around a little more through town and then found the escalator we so conveniently missed that morning. We went all the way down to see where it came out, and then walked around at the bottom, taking in the town from a different perspective. A little later, after making our way back up to escalators, we grabbed dinner; my dinner consisted of a medium Fanta from mcdonalds and a bag of chips, and Anna’s was a medium Fanta and a milkshake. Solid, right? Eventually we got hot and bored of walking and turned in for the night to pack up and go to bed to get ready for another morning of travel the following day.

Toledo Highlights

  1. It’s very cool that the city is on a hill
  2. The escalator
  3. The Alcazar (even though we didn’t get to see it)
  4. The cathedral 

Backpackers Update

  1. We are officially self diagnosed as exhausted. 
  2. We have also officially worn all of our clothes at least once, yay! 
  3. My Birkenstocks may be cracked in half by the time we get home 

*Pictures coming soon

Next stop: Barcelona  

Cordoba, Spain

We got into Cordoba around 3 and made the half hour walk in probably a little under an hour. We get pretty slow with our backpacks, especially in the heat. Once we got to the hotel and relaxed a little with some A/C (woohoo thank the lord), we set out into the heat and walked for a while. We went to the Roman Bridge, which ran into the Calahorra tower museum on the other side of the river, and also saw the puerta del puente. Our time was mostly spent walking and looking at sights on the outside rather than going in, but they were still very cool.

 After a while we grabbed tapas and sangria (obviously) at a local restaurant. We tried salmorejo cordoba, basically a thicker tomato based soup/dip similar to gazpacho but thicker and creamier, topped with egg and jamón ibérico, along with calamari and croquettes of potato and ham. 
After a long night, we got up refreshed and ready to see some stuff (woohoo)! 

The first stop was the Mosque, now a Christian church. The mosque was very big and looked even bigger due to the arches inside all perfectly in line from every direction. They gave the illusion that the mosque went on forever! The architecture is definitely unique and makes this a really interesting place to visit. After the mosque we grabbed lunch; I had risotto with shrimp and a lobster head to get my fill of seafood, and Anna had a salad. After lunch we were disappointed to find that the Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos was closed for the day. So, if you’re traveling abroad, make sure you check the hours in person if you can because sometimes the hours online are wrong! And then you miss out on some cool stuff. Since we couldn’t see the Alcazar, we walked around more along with hanging out in the pension (yay for a/c) before grabbing dinner around 9:30. We have loved tapas, so naturally we got a few new ones to share. We tried jamón ibérico for the first time (cured meat, you see the legs hanging everywhere in Spain!) and it was weird at first, but definitely grew on me! We also had potato croquettes and a little bit of chicken (we are definitely probably a little low on protein and iron at this point, to say the least, since we’ve barely had any meat or vegetables). It was a great last dinner in Cordoba, and we got some free wine out of it too, so what’s better than that?

Cordoba Highlights

  1. Mosque 
  2. Alcazar
  3. Walking around the shops in the city 

Backpackers Update

  1. Someone told me my Spanish was really good, woohoo! Hope it wasn’t just because I bought something from him…
  2. We’ve definitely accepted that the heat is draining a lot of our energy, as we spend a lot more time inside that initially in our trip due to the heat.
  3. We will never take air conditioner for granted
  4. I am so tan my family may not recognize me when they pick me up 
  5. The birkenstocks are still surviving, though unfortunately this will probably be their last trip.

Next Stop: Toledo