OzTREKK Ambassadors: Life doesn’t stop when you’re in medical school
Griffith Medical School student Cameron Bowers would like to share some valuable advice for everyone considering studying medicine in Australia!
We are so focused on the future.
I just need to finish my undergrad, then I’ll…
I just need to study for the MCAT, then I’ll…
When I finish with med school applications, then I’ll…
After I get prepared for medical school to start I’ll…
Once I get settled into med school I’ll…
But the truth is that life doesn’t ever really settle down, especially in this career that is so future-focused. It’s always about the next degree, the next exam, the next placement, the next specialty.
I was naïve in thinking that life would somehow magically settle down once I was finally in medical school, a goal I’d been working towards for years. That my days would just be classes, study groups and late nights of self-studying. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things happen, but life doesn’t stop just because you’re in medical school.
All of the normal stressors are there, just take away energy and time to deal with them.
When you go abroad for school you add new issues to deal with. They say Canadians actually have the hardest time with culture shock because it feels so similar to Canada here that it’s easy to forget it’s a different country—until something very different happens. Take holidays for example. Fun fact in Australia, all the supermarkets are closed on certain holidays (e.g., closed Good Friday but open Easter Sunday and Monday). It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you forget that all grocery stores in the country are closed on a certain day it can be rather difficult to get the last ingredients you need for dinner, potentially leading you to buying mozzarella cheese from a pizza restaurant.
When you’re far away for school your friends and family’s lives don’t stop either. Things happen and you suddenly have to learn how to deal with it while being 16 hours in the future. Phone calls and texts require an eight-hour delay sometimes for a reply. The best time to call home is in the morning, but those moments are limited because classes start at 8:30 a.m. most days. By the time you’re out of class at 4 p.m. it’s too late to call North America.
The truth is it’s hard to manage it all while attempting to stay on top of school. A lot of times I put school first and my to-do list grows week to week, but the pace of medical school doesn’t allow for anything other than full focus. I laughed the other day remembering what is was like to procrastinate when I was in my undergrad. There’s no option to procrastinate in medical school. You stop for a minute and everyone has already ran past you.
I wish I could offer some concrete advice for how to manage it all, but the truth is I am still trying to figure all this out. Some days I feel like I’m on top of the world: exercising, studying effectively, marking off my to-do list, eating healthy, making time for my relationship, making time for myself. But other days attending seven hours of lecture with only a 30-minute break in the middle is all I can accomplish and I try to tell myself that it’s okay.
It’s okay to not have all the answers right now. It’s okay to not pre-read for lectures for the sake of sleep the night before. It’s okay to have breakdowns and let it all out. It’s okay to wake up the next morning and be excited that you’re in medical school and one day you will become a doctor.
So for now, all I can say is wherever you are in your life and your career journey, try to be present and enjoy it. Life doesn’t happen in the future, and learning to be present, while never easy, is so important because none of us has a guarantee of what the future will bring.
Griffith Medical School student
Follow Cameron on Instagram! @noborders.md