I've finally come to the end of six years in uni... Six years! That's more than a quarter of the time I've been alive. I went into an undergrad medicine program straight from high school, lacking life experience in the extreme, and here are some of the things I'd tell my seventeen year old self if I could go back in time to meet her.
1. Keep in touch with your old friends. My gang from high school (and some from even earlier) have stayed friends through uni, even though we studied different things. They've kept me grounded and have made sure I can still hold conversations about non-medical topics.
2. You can't do this alone. For a long time, I thought having an external support group was enough. But as well as my non-medical friends know me, it's hard to convey what a bad day on the wards feels like to people who haven't been there. Having people in the same situation as you to debrief with lightens the load a lot. Also, I would not have got through these last two years without study-slash-gossip sessions.
3. Prioritise, then balance. The idea of "balancing" studying, social life, and other things came up a lot but no one actually told me how to go about it. Before you can balance, you need to be able to prioritise what's more important to you. Is the difference between a mark of 70 and a mark of 80 worth it if I'm miserable because I'm never seeing my friends? Is taking half an hour off to go for a run really going to be the difference between a pass and a fail? My first couple of years were horrible because I couldn't figure this out. I was studying all the time and getting good marks, but I hated my life. I spent the last two years studying less, but making sure I was seeing my friends at least once a week, and I was way happier.
4. You'll get through this. There were so many times when I thought I would never get the hang of something. There were so many times when I thought I wasn't going to get through an exam, or a rotation, or even a week. But I did. And I've started to keep a mental list of all those times, so whenever I face down something daunting, I can remember that I survived and sometimes even gave myself something to be proud of.
5. Shake it off. One of the best things I've learned to do in these past few years is to laugh at myself. I can't even count the number of stupid or embarrassing things I've said or done in front of relatively important people. I'm a really awkward person (one of those people who think of an incident from years ago and cringe for five minutes) and pretending I'm in a sitcom (hello Scrubs) or some sort of dark comedy movie actually helps a lot. Doing recaps and re-enactments for your friends from #1 and #2 works well too.
And thus closes another chapter! Let's see how well I can remember these lessons when I start work as a doctor in late January. I'm terrified.
P.S. Check out my interview at Blog Socks! It's a great concept and I've found a bunch of new bloggers to follow through it.