How do you describe the life of a medical student in one word? Studying. Constantly. I study all day Friday through Friday nonstop. Some might think those type A personality medical students are studying this hard to get ahead. But the reality is that we do it to just keep up with the volume of material thrown at us, and often we still feel behind. Not all of us are geniuses, yet in one week we are expected to absorb material approximately equivalent one of an upper division science course. At the same time, we are human beings, not robots. We also have to sleep, eat, and have laughter in our lives. So on the weekends, I do try to go out and see the sun at Spring Valley Lake, watch a movie at the local theater, or go bowling.
On a typical weekday, I start off by preparing my breakfast, lunch, and some tea. I usually go to the school gym to exercise for at least 5 minutes to help me wake up. After a quick shower, I run to class because my lecture starts at 8 AM. Luckily, the gym is only a minute away from the lecture hall. Classes continue until noon with a few short breaks in between for bathroom runs and socializing. At noon, I have my lunch either alone, while studying, or by the fireplace with some friends for a nice break. If there is time, we go out for lunch at the local sandwich shop or grab some aromatic chai from the local café. From 1-5 we have anatomy or pathology lab classes or clinical skills classes where we practice clinical skills peer to peer or on standardized patients. Other afternoons include clinical rotations or project meetings and there’s always a research project to work on, including a longitudinal community project. Mine involves a healthcare career pipeline program as well as a mentorship program for local 10th graders.
The evenings are for cooking dinner, doing laundry, studying and working on any of the numerous projects we have. Another cup of heavenly tea helps set the mood. Sometimes I study as part of groups to help break up the monotony and lighten the mood. Group studying also means it’s easier to ask my classmates questions if I don’t understand something. I also use our class Facebook page to ask questions, in addition to contacting our professors of course. To be active and involved in the community outside of my studies, I often attend events hosted by specialty interest groups like a case study presentation event by the Internal Medicine Interest Group or a movie screening plus discussion by the Bioethics Interest Group. Attending an evening Borgess Emergency Medical Services continuing education class, for example, is a great break from studying with enough hands-on experience to remind me there is another world outside whatever basic science I am learning. The day ends just a sit started with another round of studying and more tea. Around 9 or 10 PM, I call it a night. After all, sleep is sacred, and it’s what I look forward to every day.
It’s tough and humbling to work so hard while feeling I have not mastered anything, with more and more work routinely piled on. Since I don’t have any extra time, I know I have to become more efficient in managing my time when I get too far behind. Just as importantly, I need breaks to maintain my sanity. Regardless, no matter how difficult things become, I am very grateful to be a medical student. This path isn’t easy, but I chose it for a reason. I love learning about medicine. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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