I began my second first week as a second year medical student this past Monday, and after several months away from school, it’s been quite the transition back to the lecture, library, medicine-constantly-on-the-mind lifestyle that seems to define the first two years of medical school.
This week has been a challenge for a few distinct reasons, some I’m sure many other med students can relate to and others that are a bit more unique to my personal situation. Settling back into a diligent routine that largely emphasizes staring at a computer screen hour after hour has been difficult after a hectic and dynamic semester in clinic that kept me on my toes getting to know patients. Doing hands-on procedures and working on my clinical skills, getting the momentum rolling on a research project, and helping to organize a community health fair. Although I’ve been through this theme before, the pace of this year surprised me again: our first exam is after only eight days of lecture, so there isn’t really any time to dilly dally. The buzz and stress about Step 1 of the USMLE that we’ll take at the end of the year. My first Ironman triathlon was fewer than two weeks ago, and although I’ve been able to walk like a normal person for over a week now, today, I’m still physically and mentally recovering from the 14 hour athletic event.
As formidable as these four obstacles are, one of the most challenging things about this year has been (and probably will continue to be) the social aspect of meeting and starting school again with a new class of more than 140 other future doctors who have spent their first year of school studying, laughing, and bonding together as a class. I made the initiative to get to know, talk with, and hang out with almost everyone in my old class outside of school on one occasion or another, but for some reason, I just don’t feel like I fit in yet in this new group. I recognize that my social anxieties this time around are mostly self-created, but as a naturally friendly person, why have I been freaking out so much over making new friends in my new class?!
On the class Facebook page, try as I might, I just don’t understand the inside jokes. Walking into our mandatory Health Care and Society class yesterday, it was a bit jarring to step into the large lecture hall and recognize only a few faces in a sea of friends.
What’s that girl’s name again? Am I taking someone’s seat? Can I just hop into their conversation or would that be weird? Should I introduce myself to my new classmate sitting next to me? What if I’ve already met him before? Or worse, what if I’ve already met him before and he remembers me, but I don’t remember him?! It felt like walking into the cafeteria on the first day of high school (sans the braces and platform flip flops…I promise they were cool at the time).
After sharing my nervous sentiments with a friend, she gave me some wise advice: “If you don’t bite the bullet now, it’s just going to get more awkward.”
And so, as I enter my second second week of my second year of med school, I vow not only to continue to study assiduously in preparation for our first exam in a week (despite my mind and body insisting that I do other important things…most namely sleep) and try my best to tune out the premature fuss and horror stories related to Step 1, but also to make more of an effort to be friendly and reach out to my new classmates. After all, I suppose they will become my new surrogate family with whom I’ll be spending the next three years working, creating new memories and inside jokes, and learning all of the things. Or if, for any other reason, to avoid even more awkward future interactions.