In honor of a new school semester coming up in a few months, I decided to write about my summer before I started medical school. Recently, a lot of prospective students have been asking me about my experiences leading up to medical school, what I did the summer before, and general advice before starting. I figured I’d write a post on it since it’d be a great resource for lots of incoming students!
I graduated college in December 2014. My plan was to take a break for a semester to work and have fun. I had an awesome job at a pharmacy, I was a college graduate, and I just wanted to relax and make some money for a bit. A few weeks go by after graduation, and one night I’m laying in bed on my phone. This thought comes in my head that I’m bored of just working and not really doing anything. I had always been in school and always had something to study for, so I decided that my “semester off” was going to get boring really quick. I started researching different medical schools and graduate programs. I had enjoyed my undergrad major of Spanish & Public Health so much that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to grad school or med school. Over those next few weeks, I filled out countless applications and wrote a bunch of essays. I couldn’t decide on what kind of school to go to, so I just kept my options open. Long story short, I was just a few points short on the GRE exam to get into the grad program that I wanted. I had gotten into medical school, and ultimately I knew that’s what I truly wanted to do. I had always wanted to be a physician ever since I was a little girl, so I knew that it was the right path for me to take.
I started packing in June 2015 to leave in August. Moving to another country is an overwhelming thought, and I asked tons of questions to current students at the time on what was available in stores, what I needed to bring with me from the States, etc. I ended up with four suitcases, 50-52lbs each (probably overkill, but I am very organized and wanted to ensure I had everything I could possibly need). I ASKED SO MANY QUESTIONS. I was so thankful for the current students who were kind enough to answer me and reassure me. They’re a huge reason why I decided to start this blog to help future students as well.
I was very anxious about the whole process. Every day I did something to prepare for the move, whether it be doing research on the island, researching the school, talking to current students, packing a little more, or trying to make new friends via the incoming class’s Facebook group. I highly recommend getting involved in a class FB group because you will be able to “meet” your future classmates, and make some friends before getting to the school. You also will be able to bounce ideas and questions off each other. I definitely feel that I prepared as much as I possibly could before leaving the US, as far as packing the necessities for me to be comfortable on the island. I did my research on every possible thing ahead of time, so I’d be left with no surprises. It really helped too that my mom came down with me and helped me move into my new apartment and made sure I got settled in. My mom also encouraged me to hang out with the other students and get to know people, because all I wanted to do was lock myself in my room and miss my old life and be homesick. Getting out there really helped me to adapt and adjust much quicker. I made some of my best friends during that time.
I made sure to do a lot of fun things that summer before I started. I went to amusement parks with my siblings, hung out with my best friend, and caught up with old friends who I hadn’t seen in awhile. I took lots of little family trips, worked in my spare time, and made some extra money. I wasn’t going to be able to work when I got to school on the island, so the extra cash helped. I had a savings account where I saved this money in case of emergencies (highly recommended). I knew that once the semester started, I wouldn’t have time for as many fun things anymore, so I wanted to make it count. I also contacted my bank and credit cards to let them know I’d be traveling out of the country, so they wouldn’t put a hold on my accounts when I spent money overseas.
For those who ask — no, I didn’t study the summer before I started medical school. As mentioned above, I cleared my head, had a lot of fun, and made some extra money. It’s all personal preference on what you choose to do, but I really feel that taking it easy and enjoying my summer really helped me to focus and settle down once medical school started. It’s going to be intense for the next two years of basic sciences, so why not enjoy your free time before that starts? I’ve literally been studying ever since I started medical school, so enjoy your summer beforehand and enjoy the free time you have.
In conclusion, my advice to incoming medical students: Take it easy. Clear your head. Have fun. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Talk to current students who are there experiencing what you’re about to enter. DO NOT consult online forums with anonymous people. Enjoy your free time before you enter the world of being a medical student, where all you do is eat, sleep, and study. But also know that your medical school career is going to FLY BY. It feels like just last summer I was packing and stressing over school, and now I’m already in my third year getting ready to start clinical rotations. Time goes by SO fast, so take care of yourself, because we will be physicians before we know it!