As the end of September nears, the medical school will be inundated with a new batch of first year medical students which is always a welcome sight. Transitioning to university life from school (or possibly a previous degree) can be a complex process with unexpected tribulations along the way. I have outlined a couple of things below that I found personally helpful whilst settling in to medical school.
- Seek help from seniors: Students from senior years have been in the same place as you just some time back so they tend to possess fresh and useful insight. Don’t be afraid to approach a senior to acquire tips about effective ways to learn and how to organize and prioritize information. Most seniors are usually more than happy to help – after all, isn’t medicine about helping individuals to flourish and grow?
- Rent books before buying: As a first-year medical student, impulse purchasing of all recommended textbooks may be tempting. Whilst this may be useful for some, others might find it more beneficial to glance through library textbooks to determine which book they wish to purchase. For instance, if you’re a visual learner, you might find it more useful to buy a textbook which relies primarily on flowcharts, images or tables to illustrate information. Having said that, I definitely recommend purchasing books that have cross-semester value. For instance, the Clinically Orientated Anatomy textbook by Moore is a comprehensive anatomy text that is useful for learning the anatomy of all body systems. A sound embryology and pathology text will also most certainly be required at multiple points over the course of five years.
- Participate in a non-medical society: Fresher fairs often host a plethora of stalls that cater to diverse tastes; whether you enjoy baking or prefer to put on your hiking shoes for an endorphin rush, there is bound to be a society that is worth investing your time in. Joining societies is also a great way to meet students from other degrees and inculcate interests that help you prevent burnout in the long run.
- Enjoy the prospect of learning about life itself: Medicine is a unique course which combines the learning of several different disciplines into one five-year degree. Expect to be immersed in an array of topics that range from the intricate helical structure of DNA molecules to the multifactorial nature of lung cancer. Try to appreciate the greater purpose of what your learning and how it may be pertinent to your work as a future doctor. Medicine is thoroughly enjoyable if you endeavor to be proactive about your learning. Don’t shy away from additional reading on topics that intrigue you – you never know when that little pearl of information will be useful to you in your future career.
- Keep exams in perspective: Exams are a critical part of medical school and if not kept in perspective, they can appear overwhelming. Staying up to date with lectures and periodic reviewing of material taught in previous weeks may help reduce the amount of stress you experience during exam season. Testing yourself in the form of flashcards or study group sessions is a tried and tested way to stimulate your neurons and ensure that your studying is on track.
- Carve out time for yourself: This is singularly one of the most important things that will tide you through medical school. Whether its going for a quick sprint at the gym or learning a new instrument, find your true calling and attempt to devote time to it.
- Embrace change: Last, but certainly not the least, expect and embrace change. Starting medical school represents a major milestone in your life which can be daunting at first, but will soon become some of the best years of your life.