Keeping It Real
I really enjoyed my first year at UTSW. Sometimes the work and schedule got intense, but there were always opportunities to hang out with friends and do things outside of medical school. For me, first year was really an exercise in learning how to approach medical school. Everyone is different, of course, but I thought I'd pass along a few of my personal lessons learned in case they may prove helpful to others. Let's just hope I can follow my own good advice next year!
The most important thing I learned is that external structure can be a good thing. A lot of people, perhaps the majority of people, prefer watching video-streamed lectures on their own time as opposed to going to class. I realized that I'm not one of those people. Having somewhere to be in the morning helps keep me on schedule, and curbs my natural tendency to procrastinate. Ultimately it's different strokes for different folks in terms of class attendance, but it is important to establish a consistent lecture/study schedule that works for you because there's nothing worse than cramming for a medical school test. Don’t do that to yourself (even though we all will at one point or another).
I'm also a big proponent of being a good friend, to others AND to yourself! For one Biochemistry test, I tried to see just how hardcore I could get with my studying. Needless to say, it was not a friendly way to treat myself. My test results reflected the effort, but neglecting sleep, social activities, and respect for personal sanity made me feel unfulfilled about the achievement and I haven't repeated the experiment since. Finding a balance point between medical school and the other aspects of your life is pretty key. And do be friendly to others because it makes life better. Everybody contributes to an atmosphere of goodwill and camaraderie in a class. My interactions with classmates have been one of my favorite parts of first year.
Finally, it's important to keep an open mind and be honest with yourself. I came into first year thinking I would either go into neurology or psychiatry, and didn't really want to deal with the hassle of going through other options. But over time, I realized that such a narrow-minded approach could prevent me from exploring other fields that might actually be a better fit. External pressures can really influence the decisions you make, but at the end of the day, if you're not doing what you love, it's hard to find the motivation to keep on doing it. So keep it real.
That was a lot of advice that's much easier said than done, but hopefully it's a good place to start. Until next time!