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Saturday, November 22, 2014

10 things I wish I would have known coming into medical school

So I'm a creep. I joined the incoming class' facebook page and was forced to remember the terror, anguish, and fear I felt as I prepared to head off to St. Maarten (the horror... to live on a tropical island- that has its own trials, trust me). Thus, I decided to make a list to reflect and maybe help (lol right) with a little unsolicited advice. Boo-ya.

If there's two things everyone loves it's: 1) unsolicited advice and 2) the phrase Boo-ya

1- It is not that hot. Trust me, that's a big deal coming from me. Me, the girl who kept her air conditioning at 68 and often vented the set heat of the dorms with an open window in Chicago in January. But it is not that hot. Sure, it gets up to like 95 but you get used to it. In the beginning I thought I was going to die every time I stepped outside but now I actually love it. The air conditioning is always set on the lowest setting and I wear thick sweaters to every class. The heat is a force to be reckoned with (see the post where I compare walking off the plane to walking into a warm, damp mouth) but it is totally adjustable.. I grew to love it. Unless I'm carrying heavy stuff... then... NOPE.

2- You do not need 5 suitcases of clothes (+2 boxes of stuff...). You do however need more underwear than expected.. unless you're way less lazy than me and enjoy laundry, lots of comfy clothes to study in because that will be your new leisure, work, and hobby. You do not absolutely need 17 dresses. Although I have no regrets. You do need a boat load of ibuprofen; that stuffs expensive here.

3- This island has everything you could ever want, need, or never want to know existed. As many of you may know, my stomach hates me, so I spend a lot of time osculating between eating dairy, not eating dairy, gluten, no gluten, random other phases and have been able to accommodate all of that here. The only thing I really miss is shopping. However, given the above studying habits, that's probably a good thing. There are places to shop here, I just haven't had time or the will to seek them out. There is a really excellent party store with everything you could need for a festive gathering or cake-baking party. Is that something people do? I don't know. As far as things you never wanted to know existed: see the post detailing the woes of the coconut-wielding hooligans on the golf course.

4- You will discover new things about yourself. I don't mean that in the hokey way at all. For instance: I have discovered I learn best by using multiple colors that have little to no significance and by anthropomorphizing proteins, anatomical structures, cells, you name it. For instance "The gene duplicates and that makes it super mad. To protest it stops functioning properly and gets stuck at the top of the gel. That kid isn't going anywhere" Hey-o fragile X syndrome! (And any other triplet repeat.. it was an example.. I'm not going to list specificities... who has time for that nonsense?). On a more hokey note, I have discovered I like cooking. I'll give you a minute to re-hinge your jaws. Maybe I'll post recipes! Hahahahaha, good joke.

5- You will move a surprisingly little amount. I feel incredibly busy but then sit in the same spot for 10 hours. My brain is super busy though, that counts. Some people find time for other things like basketball and I occasionally make time for running but I find that medical school is so exhausting that I prefer to use that time to sleep and or move as little as possible.

6- This is honestly the hardest thing you have done or will do. On top of moving to a new country you're starting medical school and on top of that it's accelerated. Huzzah! It is totally doable though. I have managed to stay on top of everything, pull off decent grades, fly home twice, and watch every episode of "The Office".

7- Failure is a thing. It's hard to figure out how to wade through all of the material thrown at you and pick out what's important. The one thing I have found most amazing though is the HUGE network of support AUC has to offer. I was extremely competitive in undergrad and would not dream of asking my peers for help or admitting I wasn't doing as well as I wanted. I still am really competitive but instead of with my peers I compete with myself. (Copyright inspirational poster, 1998). It isn't a sign of weakness to ask for help here. Upper semesters frequently post study guides and notes to help us, our facebook page is an explosion of questions with long discussions, and people are not afraid to admit how hard this is. It's really a huge community. It was a hard adjustment for me- a very individualistic, in my head person- to get used to being helped and helping other people, saying good morning to everyone I pass, and spending 12 hours with the same people every day. But it's great and you will grow to love it.

8- Cadavers are REALLY cool. There are some weird quirks, for instance, when you finish a region it disappears from your body bag. We're now on the upper and lower limbs and that is all you will find in our body bags. I always assumed the bodies would just hang out all semester. Another thing about the cadavers is it is honestly amazing how much you can learn from this person's gift. They constantly say "This is your first patient and greatest teacher" and it is so true. You can look at diagrams and books all day but it won't click until you see it in the body.

9- Do not fly home! I know I bragged about how well I flew home and still managed to do well but DON'T DO IT! First of all, it's exhausting; second, it makes you even more homesick; third, you won't study- you'll bring your books and say you will but then you'll go to target and see your family and will quickly forget about that weird school somewhere in the Caribbean. Don't get me wrong, it's fun and I loved it but catching up was so freaking hard. Grant it, I did have a hurricane and double lectures to contend with but it just wasn't worth it. Make your friends and family come here, it's better anyways.

10- Don't listen to anything anyone says. I took in every word of advice thrown at me and tried to make it work for me but the only thing that works is figuring out how YOU work. Oh my god I should have become a guidance counselor. Everyone is going to say such and such was hard and don't worry about that but it's not going to be the same for you. It's hard and uniquely hard for everyone. Ya gotta do you boo boo. (I had to, I'm sorry.)

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