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Here’s How You Can Survive and Thrive as a First-Year Medical Student

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Congratulations! After months of preparation and stress, dredging through a taxing process of getting through interviews, taking entrance exams, requesting all who would listen to write you a letter of recommendation, and writing personal statements, you have finally got an admission in the best Caribbean medical school.

This is an astoundingly exciting time for you and your family. Life at medical school can be quite nerve-wracking and overwhelming; you may be moving to a new city, meeting new people coming from diverse backgrounds, contending with juggling a host of unprecedented responsibilities, and adjusting to a new course, but don’t panic. You have got this!

It is true when they tell you that medical school can be rather hard; however the greatest struggles associated with the first year are more internal than external.  Indubitably, this year will push you in ways that are unbeknown-st to you. Discovering what works for you, finding your rhythm, and making the right adjustments become the ultimate battles that prove that some of us are better warriors than others.

Starting medical school life can be exhilarating and scary at the same time, it’s quite normal to go through a gamut of emotions and feelings about this thrilling experience. You may have misgivings, fears, and concerns about what is coming your way and this is where we step in. Here are some awesome hacks to survive and thrive in your first year at a Caribbean medical school.

Get Organized

If you are a disorganized person, prone to thinking of yourself as an absent minded genius or a whimsical personality, and are not one for staying on top of things, now is the time to turn over a new leaf and buckle up. To succeed in college or in your career as a physician down the road, you must cultivate a habit of staying organized. You have to keep track of your medical school schedule, slides, lectures, notes, assignments, due dates, and homework, or prepare to get ambushed by pangs of anxiety when you find yourself riffling through piles, unable to find that assignment you finished a week ago or miss an important seminar because you forgot to mark it on your calendar.

Buy an organizer, get a big wall calendar or consider a note taking or organization app to input all your important dates and set reminders. Gather all your study slides, notes, books and other important material in one place to stay more organized and ultra-productive in order to prepare for one of the most rigorous academic trainings known to man.

Adjust your Expectations

You might think that you are cut out for the Caribbean medical school life, but the actual experience can be a shock. You are all but a small fish in a vast ocean. The style and pace of what is being taught can be at odds with what you were acquainted with in school, and the size of your year group can leave your jaw hanging open. You will feel like you are starting secondary school all over again, however, what you need to do is to find your feet at your own pace and take your time.

You may also discover that you are not as good as you thought you were. Every other person in your group will be just as smart, or even smarter, than you. This might bring out your competitive streak and upsurge your standards. However, just because you are not scoring as much as you would like, it doesn’t mean that you are not giving your best. Medical school can be challenging even for the best of us, but anytime you feel that you are feeling suffocated, don’t just suffer in silence. Find a friend to confide in and lighten your burdens.

Make the Most of Fresher’s Week

You are the new face of the campus and everyone is waiting to welcome you. Make sure to attend all the Fresher’s events. Meet new and like-minded people and make friends for life. Make your best efforts to socialize and spend time with your new mates in the first weeks. Explore your campus, take time to get to know your fellow first-year students, join a selected group of student organizations, clubs, and sports teams, try new things, learn new skills and cultivate new hobbies. You will feel more connected to your campus.

Know your Learning style Early on

Being strategic about time allocation and management and working persistently throughout the year is all fine and good, but have you thought about what you would do when you need to make sense of intricate concepts pertaining to renal functions or when you have to memorize those hard-to-pronounce drugs or muscles?

They key is to find a learning style that suits you best. What you can do is to tinker around with various styles to figure out which techniques resonate with you.

Some people are visual learners and note takers, for whom having intelligible and organized notes win the battle. Perhaps you are a tactile learner who best absorbs information when it includes activities such as labs, demonstrations, or dissections. If so, you can get to grips with more theoretical concepts with the help of puzzles or flashcards. On the other hand, some are auditory learners who can benefit from listening to medical education podcasts, recording their lectures and playing them back. If you are a procrastinator who needs a push to go a mile beyond, you can work with a study buddy or even study in group sessions.

Carefully Attend Lectures

This much is quite obvious. But sometimes sleeping in and skipping your first class might seem like quite an enticing thought. Avoid this temptation if you really want to succeed in your Caribbean medical school. You need to attentively attend lectures and take notes, otherwise, you would quickly fall behind.

Create a Financial Plan

You have finally stepped into an independent life, out of your comfort zone and away from home. Money management is probably one of your biggest struggles at the moment. To overcome this, you should create a budget, figure out the amount you need to spend on food, travel, social gatherings, and other necessities. Make sure to stick to the plan. Keep track of your money, and pay your bills and rent on time so that you don’t run out of money for the basic needs.

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