Reflecting on my First Semester

It’s been a whirlwind of an adventure of ups and many downs since moving to the island and staring medical school. For as long as I could remember I’ve always wanted to be a physician and I finally got the opportunity to learn to be one! However, it’s been a difficult roller coaster so far and below are some of my reflections and what I’ve learned about myself through this process.

Academics and the Rigors of Medical School

Medical school is HARD. Everyone knows it. I knew it coming into it. Everyone warns you. You read blogs and talk to other people. I did MERP and mentally prepared myself for actually starting medical school. Well, as much as you’re warned and tried to prepare yourself mentally, you just don’t know how hard it is until you’re actually experiencing it. I was MERPed as many of us call it and at first it was tough because I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be in medical school and I had to spend all this extra money, time, and effort to do a program before actually starting medical school. It proved in the end to be a great experience and at the time, it was a confidence boost to reassure me that I was making the right choice and that I could succeed in medical school. I did well in MERP so I came into Ross thinking I would be okay as long as I kept similar study habits. It wasn’t until after my first mini at Ross that I knew my study habits in MERP were not going to work. I had to refine it. I tried but I also was not used to the test style questions at Ross. I struggled and I usually struggle in general with straight memorization. I’m much better with concepts.

A lot of people won’t admit this or talk about it because we are all medical students with Type A personalities with a competitive nature, innately compare ourselves to others, and create stigma upon ourselves but here I am repeating my first semester. It SUCKS that I have to repeat my first semester because that’s another 4 months I need to study my butt off, another $25k in tuition, and most of all energy spent studying. It’s hard when you see your friends and classmates move onto second semester and finally doing more clinical work and here you are stuck doing the same thing over…AGAIN. However, after talking to a lot of people, I am at a much better place. I realized that there are a lot of people who had to repeat first semester. But no one talks about it! So this stigma remains. When no one talks about it, I felt so incompetent and I questioned my ability to be a physician and to succeed in medical school. I was frustrated, annoyed, angry at myself and the school. I lost confidence. I became negative. But luckily, I snapped out of it because I knew I needed to work harder and change my habits to succeed this time around.

I am doing much better this semester and even though it has been difficult still, my grades have consistently improved significantly since last semester. My weakness last semester was Microanatomy and this semester, it is one of my strengths! I learned from a friend the trick to studying for it and it has helped me so much! I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s not always that positive, I still go through questioning my capability of succeeding in my basic sciences. I’ve learned that it seriously has been an up and down journey.

Relationships

Medical school takes a toll on your relationships. You’re always so busy studying and by the end of it, you’re exhausted. One of the struggles I along with a lot of people I know have is not being there for those that you love and care about in your life. You’re missing all the milestones for people like birthdays, marriage, births, kids getting older, other friends graduating from professional/graduate school, other’s white coat ceremonies, and the list can go on.

You’re also trying to build and strengthen the relationships you have here. Since we are on an island and so far away from home, we really have to form our own family here. Luckily for me, I feel so blessed to have found that community and family. My friends here have made school much more enjoyable and never fail to make me laugh so my stress levels don’t get too high.

Family: I struggled with this because recently my mom had health complications and it was so hard not to be at home to help around the house and go with her and my dad to the doctor appointments. I wanted to be there to advocate for my parents and help them through this process. But luckily I was able to still do all that from far away but it still would have been nice to be there in person. I also had family from China visit for the first time and my cousins are getting older now and I haven’t seen them in awhile. They did a CA trip and I wished I was there to welcome them to America and be there to help show them around too. Every time I visit China, they have always made it so welcoming and I only wished I could do the same.

Friendships: So many of my friends right now are getting married, having babies, graduating from professional schools and I wish I could be there to celebrate all these milestones! If I was in the states it would be so much easier to fly and spend time with them for a weekend but being in the Caribbean, it’s just not feasible. It makes me really sad to not be a part of their lives more. I’m at that age where all of this is happening. It’s also hard to just stay in touch in general from studying all the time. It gets very hard to maintain all the relationships in your life when you can barely handle staying healthy and managing school work.

However, I couldn’t be more than thankful for the friends I do have. They are all so supportive and most of them have been with me on this journey since undergrad. They are so understanding as well. I only wish I could be there for them more.

Romantic: I was in a committed relationship when I entered medical school but in the beginning of my repeat semester, we decided to end it after a year and a half. It was probably one of the most difficult things I had to do and I still struggle with it now. We tried working it out many times from MERP to this semester but in the end we realized that we want and need different things in a partnership. I’ve learned that having a long distance relationship is difficult, especially being in medical school. It’s not to say it’s not doable but being in a relationship is always a constant choice and it will take work. This was also my first real relationship and I’ve learned so much from what I want and need in a partner. It also taught me to open my heart, trust someone and let them be a part of my life in a way that I’ve never done before. Throughout this process, I am once again so thankful for my friends here and back home for always being there for me. I don’t know what I would have done without them hearing me rant, cry, and buy me ice cream or cheesecake.

Self-Care & Health

What is self-care? Who does that? Apparently not me. But I’m getting better this semester. I started boot camp here and did that once a week (except as of right now I haven’t gone the past two weeks). I love it in that it forces me to be active and I do it with a group of people so it makes it more fun. My main self-care though is the friends I have here. They always make me laugh and laughter is the best medicine!

I was really good about cooking when I first go to the island but this most recent semester, I haven’t been as good about it. New goal is to work on that. I did start baking more though! That I consider it more of self-care since it’s a hobby of mine (make sure to check out my section on baking in Dominica!).

I do recommend finding time for self-care and health though. I realized how important it is to stay healthy physically and mentally throughout this process. We need to practice what we preach. Plus, I’m learning all this stuff and imagining what’s inside my body freaks me out! I don’t want to die young and from living an unhealthy life! But with the amount of stress I have…we shall see.

Adjusting to Dominica

I’ve adjusted pretty well here. I knew coming in that I wouldn’t have all the amenities I wanted. I’ve had previous experiences living in developing countries so nothing was out of the ordinary for me. Also, we get water everyday and my current apartment complex has back up electricity so I haven’t had any issues. I also love my complex and landlady and everyone here has been so wonderfully nice.

I’m getting to know the local businesses around here and I love interacting with them. The locals in general are so nice and genuine. They are always praying for us to do well in school and know we are here to be doctors and are so supportive of it! These people are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

It’s also gorgeous here! Plus, I’m like five minutes away from the beach! But contrary to everyone’s belief, I only go to the beach about 3 times a semester if even that many. We have no time! I also haven’t really had a chance to explore the island more because once again, time. But I’m looking forward to it.

Some negatives is the rain. It’s now hurricane season so I hate when it storms because it makes getting to campus so much more difficult! I recently purchased a larger umbrella though so hopefully that will help. But when it’s windy and raining, no umbrella will help. It’s a lost cause!

Another thing I struggle with on this island is how difficult it is to find groceries and how expensive it gets. I wish we had a WalMart or Costco! I cooked almost every day in MERP which honestly is a first for me but here it’s been difficult. I have mostly eaten out this semester and since I study on main campus now, I am too lazy to make the trek home to cook, especially if it’s also raining.

This was such a long post! If you made it all the way to the end, wow props to you! I am applauding you! I crammed 7 months into this blog post. I will hopefully post more! But as you can see, I was trying to prioritize school. But at this point, I wanted to share my experience of repeating but also have a place for me to reflect as this semester is coming to an end. But out of all this, what I did learn is that I will never give up and I will continue to work hard to be the best physician I can be and that I am so blessed and thankful to have the people I have in my life <3.

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