This article is a list of things I’d have like to have known before I started medical school. Now that I’m a second year student, I’ve taken the time to reflect on what really mattered to me in first year, and thought I’d pass that advice on!
Making friends at university, whilst daunting, is also going to happen naturally. You’re in the perfect environment, and everybody else is in the same boat. If you can, make sure you get to know the people on your course. Not very many students are going to have the same hours as you (a side note: student nurses, paramedics and midwives have longer hours. Be nice to them. You’re going to be working together forever, and they can help you out a lot), and you are all at this university together for a reason. Also come OSCE season in a year or so they’re going to be the very best people to poke and prod at, and will probably be more forgiving for it than your non-medical friends!
You’re going to spend the rest of your life being friends with medics and other healthcare professionals. If you have a group of doctors together, the conversation inevitably turns to work, patients, theory, anatomy. Sometimes you really need time away focused on something else. Find friends you share other interests with – roller derby, politics, culture, religion. There are likely a million and one societies at your university for every niche interest you might have, and a niche interest is always something to bond over.
I’m going to let you in on a secret – I didn’t study all that much for the first couple of months of university. Sure, I went to all my lectures, but that was it. I didn’t make notes, I didn’t go over textbooks. I did, however, make a lot of friends and have a lot of fun. Provided you keep on top of your work and you know how much you can take on board at a later date, it’s okay to relax a little bit. Take the time to explore the city you’re in and your university, and don’t feel guilty for doing so. Nobody expects you to work all the time.
There are lots of reasons you might need a hand with work. If you haven’t already done a degree and aren’t exactly clear on the referencing guidelines, the library can help. If, like me, you haven’t studied maths since GCSE and there’s a mandatory numeracy assessment you have to pass, the library can help. If you’re dyslexic and need help understanding certain computer programs or software – the library is your best friend. I can almost guarantee your library runs programmes on most aspect of computer and academic work, and there’s no harm in asking what resources they have available.
You’re a medical student, and that means it’s time to start working as a team. From occupational health to your personal tutor, everybody is here to help you out, but sometimes medical students have a hard time taking people up on the offer. If you have a problem, talk to someone. You’re not a failure and you don’t have to handle everything by yourself. You will not get removed for your course for admitting that you’re struggling, or having a hard time with mental illness, or loneliness, or any other fear you might have. Talking to other people only makes you stronger and a better doctor.
Good luck with your first year of university! It’s a hell of a journey, but an enjoyable one.
Words: Riley Botelle
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