Get the most out of your first year of medical school

As we enter the fall, we welcome a new class of bright-eyed medical students. To such students, you are about to embark on a life-transforming journey. My first year on the said journey has been full of highs and lows. There was the morning I woke up before 6 and got upset with myself for sleeping in. There was the day I received my first exam score and realized I was right smack average. There was my first patient interview, also known as the day I mumbled some inaudible questions to a standardized patient.

Amidst these challenges I developed wonderful friendships with classmates from all sorts of backgrounds. One friend had a former career as an NFL running back, another was a formerly undocumented immigrant that, against all odds, made it to medical school, yet another was a guitarist that once toured with Run-DMC.

What makes medical school such a life-transforming period that doubles as a fond source of memories for physicians everywhere is the life-long relationships. I don’t know if I could have survived the endless tedium of anatomy lab without a lab partner that entertained my love for deep conversations while picking out fat, not to mention my friends that constantly dragged me out to do push-ups in the middle of the library as a study break. I hope these friends will end up being my friends for life. So in honor of all the new med students starting fresh, here are some things that helped me make friends in med school.

Take advantage of the internet. As an introvert entering an extroverted world, I was worried that I would get lost in the crowd. What I failed to realize was that we live in the smartphone era. I took full advantage of blogging, chronicling medical school events like anatomy lab and intraprofessional day, interviewing classmates about their life stories, and writing several excessive posts complaining about the workload. In addition to blogging, Facebook has helped bring our class together. We have a Facebook page where we post events like trivia night, trips to the beach, post-exam events, and also useful study tips and fun study-break videos.

Get involved. Everyone in medical school is similar-minded, but it helps to get involved with the community to track down people you click really well with. For instance, I joined a group of guys that played basketball a couple mornings a week before class, and this was a great way for me to meet a group of similarly motivated and competitive guys.

Study in the same place all the time, like the library.  By studying in the same place all the time, you’ll develop a community around you because you’ll eventually notice the ten other students that always study in that same place. You might even get drawn into a long meaningless conversation about whether certain material is testable.

To all the first years beginning the med school journey, congrats and enjoy.

Ken Noguchi is a medical student who blogs at sidenote.

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  • heartdoc345

    And for goodness sake, sleep in past six, and don’t feel bad about it! You’ll have plenty of rotations 3rd year where you HAVE to be up by as early as 3:30 or 4:00!

    • ken noguchi

      Haha, not looking forward to that!

  • Raddoc

    As a 4th year now, I’d would have shadowed every potential field that interested me for a few days throughout the year, you just don’t get time once clinicals come around.

    • ken noguchi

      Thanks for your thoughts. That’s definitely a possibility I’ve bounced around with my friends, and we are definitely hungry for more clinical exposures!

  • Ryan Gray, MD

    I like the spirit behind “study in the same place all the time,” but one big thing that new medical students struggle with is the volume of material and the change of study habits that might be needed from undergrad.

    One thing I suggest all the time is to give yourself feedback – are you doing well on the tests, learning the material properly and changing things and constantly trying to improve. Part of that might be your learning environment and study buddies. Don’t get stuck in a rut, just because that’s what you’ve always done.

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