Want to know what medical school is like in first year? Here, Maria describes her first year at Barts and the London – and what to expect!
Having just finished my first year of medical school, I’ve been reminiscing about where I was a year ago – in the midst of exams, stressing about whether I would get the grades I needed and, if I did, how I would cope with medical school.
One year on, I’m glad to say that despite the struggles, it’s been an incredible year! For those of you worried about the academic side of things, here’s a taster of what I learnt from my first year…
It’s common knowledge that medical school is difficult, but the medical school will do their best to ease you into it. For example, they might have an introductory week of lectures or a whole introductory module, where they will recap a lot of A-Level science and build on some of your current knowledge.
However, the pace is likely to be fast and it will take a bit of getting used to! Depending on your university, you may have several lectures a day and a lot of content will be covered in each of these. This may be challenging to keep up with at first but, as time goes on, you’ll find the best way of learning for you. There is also likely to be a fair amount of independent study expected from you, which may be in the form of Problem-Based Learning (PBL), for example.
In terms of similarities, much of what you learn to start with will be based on A-Level Biology content (and a little on A-Level Chemistry) and lots of the new material will build on your existing knowledge. Lectures and PBL are likely to be somewhat similar to classes at school although sitting in a lecture theatre trying to follow the lecture might be a new experience!
However, medical school will be unlike anything you have experienced before. First of all, you’ll be studying a degree; something you haven’t done before! As well as that, there will be some new methods of learning and new subjects to get used to, such as pharmacology, anatomy and histology. In terms of anatomy, you may study by dissection or use prosections – or both. Dissection is something that you are unlikely to have ever done before, and is probably one of the few experiences that is simultaneously terrifying, exciting, mind-blowing and inspiring!
Histology, which I hadn’t even heard of before I started medical school, is the study of tissues under a microscope, and may be lab-based or computer-based depending on your course. In most courses, you’ll also be visiting and talking to patients throughout the year, as well as learning some clinical skills which is likely to be something completely new for you, but I found it to be one of the most enjoyable parts of my first year!
Depending on how involved you get with activities at university, you’ll be juggling lots of commitments; your academic studies, society events, going out with friends, part-time jobs, family commitments…the list goes on. However, I would definitely encourage you to get involved with lots of activities; it’s great fun, will help you make friends and make sure you get a break from medical school studies! The first year of university is one of the best times to get involved with societies, especially since you’ll be based on campus for most of the year.
There will also be some juggling on the part of your studies to meet deadlines and cover as much content as you can. For example, you might have essays or write-ups due close to an exam date while simultaneously trying to keep up with the lectures from your current module and prepare for the exam. However, the medical school will provide support with this if you need it and will usually set you a volume of work that is manageable (even though it might not seem like it at first!).
No matter how difficult you might find medical school at first, as long as you keep up with the work and manage your time effectively, you will be fine. Medical school is a challenge for everyone but the important thing is to make sure you take time to relax, go out and have fun! I definitely really enjoyed my first year and I’m looking forward to going back for another great year (after some months of holiday of course!).
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