Friendly advice from a wise MS2…
First thing first, Congratulations on making it through your first year of medical school! Really, congratulate yourself, as this is a pretty big accomplishment. For many people, the transition can be difficult and life as a medical student can only truly be understood by other medical students, regardless of what your law school friends tell you. 🙂 Just kidding! I’m glad you all have made it this far, and what you have upcoming this summer is something you will truly cherish in the future when you reflect on your medical school experience as a whole.
My name is Mehul Patel and I am a soon to be third year (scary times!) I believe many of you are on your way out of the country right now, and I must say I am very envious. I’m in the middle of studying for boards, so I am quite happy to take a break and attempt to give you all some tips about the upcoming summer. These are just my own thoughts that I was asked to share, so use your own judgment to decide what is best for you as you travel the globe.
Just FYI, I spent my “last summer” (it’s really not your last summer, by the way) in Hong Kong and China working on a glaucoma project. I’ve been really fortunate to spend a decent amount of time abroad in different places the last 4-5 years. Whether this will be your first trip abroad working in a medical setting or your fifth, you will have an enriching experience undoubtedly. I’ll try to be brief (my question-bank awaits me) on the points I want to get across to you guys – having been in your shoes last year, and then let you think about what you want to take away from your experience abroad.
1. We’ll talk BRIEFLY about boards. I know you guys have finished first year, and even with the summer ahead of you, some of you might be thinking about Step1. My advice is to NOT think about Step1 at all over the summer. You can start thinking about it in August once you have started second year. (Email me or your advocate with questions come August.)
Just take a moment to think about what you will remember most about this “last summer” ten years from now? Probably the awesome time you had in Machu Picchu, serving the rural communities living in the Himalayas or the safari you went on in Tanzania, yeah? You won’t remember Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome or Orotic aciduria. Don’t study for boards the next couple months – there is a time and place for that. (That time is NOT this summer.) You’ll burn out quickly into third year and making it through June 2012 for you guys is important.
2. Be adventurous. Meet the locals. Try the local cuisine (at your own discretion on this last one – you all just finished up micro so you know what you’re susceptible to.) If it’s a place you have never been to where they speak a language you don’t know, learn it a little and see how receptive the native speakers of the country will be. Random fact–63% of US citizens don’t have a passport–while you’re abroad take in the culture and the sights and have a great time in a different country. You define what you want from your experience, so think about what it is you want to take away from this summer. What are your goals?
3. Go abroad with an open mind, another obvious piece of advice. Research projects and clinical experiences rarely are executed the way you thought they would be when you were sitting in Chapel Hill. Once you go to a new place, there will always be adjustments to make, so know that everyone has to adjust and take each situation as it comes. Work hard on your project (within reason, of course), enjoy the people you are with, and don’t think about anything school related that you don’t have to. Looking back, I am so glad that I spent the summer abroad resetting myself for second year and doing something worthwhile, too. You won’t regret it!
4. Come back rested, and focused. You’ll have lots of stories from your summer, and hopefully many more positives than negatives from the adventures you went on. You do pick up the pace during second year, and then that test is waiting for you at the end of the summer, too. The last thing you want is to have such an exhausting and non-relaxing summer that you feel like you’re about to crash and burn by December. Second year is a marathon and getting rest before it starts is really important to conquer second year and boards.
5. If you think it might be worth it, make a list of what you want to do this summer from a project standpoint and from a personal standpoint. (I made a list last year.) Hopefully it is filled with more relaxing activities than not, but be realistic and make sure you spend time doing things that make you happy, whether it’s here in Chapel Hill or anywhere else your passport takes you. 🙂
I hope my thoughts were worth your time. Hopefully they give you a little perspective from someone that was in your shoes not too long ago. You will love being away from Chapel Hill and everything med school related for a quick breather, I’m sure. You’ve worked hard this year, and this is your time to have a pretty awesome experience before you reset for the start of second year. Safe travels to all, and come back in August with the feeling that you made your summer the best break you could have. Take lots of pictures, too!