October 20, 2017, by studentcontributor

I had a less than typical first year

My first year spanned 2 years…

I had a less than typical first year of medical school; for a start, it spanned 2 years! During the first semester, I didn’t know what I was doing but I was determined to work hard. I set myself the task of watching every lecture again and making notes on everything. Looking back, that was an impossible mountain to climb! The more I realised how impossible it was, the more discouraged I became and by Christmas I had 57 lectures to watch, make notes on and revise. I couldn’t do it and I knew that. I tried, failed, got frustrated and ultimately gave up. It was no surprise therefore that January exams felt horrendous; I failed 2 and landed bang on the pass mark for another.

Semester 2: Trial One

I knew I couldn’t make the same mistakes in semester two, so I had a new note-taking plan. For the first week, it was working well and a bit of confidence was returning. Then I became ill! I struggled through another week before feeling exhausted and collapsing onto my bed. I stayed there for most of the following weeks, dragging myself out to make it to the compulsory clinical visits and seminars. It turned out I had glandular fever and the resultant chronic fatigue lasted for months. When Easter came, I tried to catch up on all the work I’d missed but it soon became apparent I was trying to climb my second impossible mountain! So, I suspended my studies. It meant staying at home for 9 months, leaving my new friends, year group and relationship back at university. It wasn’t easy and it felt like I couldn’t have had a rockier start to my life as a medical student! When the rankings for our year group were published, it wasn’t a surprise to find myself in last place. It felt like a bit of a crisis and at times I wondered if I’d ever come back.

Semester 2: Trial Two!

January eventually arrived and my first challenge was resits. It had been a year since I’d given up on revising for the very same modules and this time I was determined not to fall into the same mindset. Ultimately, it was good that I failed the modules; if I’d passed through pure guesswork (I nearly did!) I would never have learnt any of the core knowledge. Resitting forced me to review everything and I realised how little I’d taken in. They went well, but my next task was making friends; my original year had all moved on to second year and I didn’t know anyone in my own cohort anymore. I was worried about friendship groups already being formed and there being no room for the guy nobody had ever seen! Fortunately, I had nothing to fear and every medic I’ve met here has been lovely!

Finally, I was back to second semester; back to where I’d been before glandular fever had disrupted everything! I put a new work ethic into practice and it worked! I was more focused and learned a lot more, which boosted my confidence. A friend told me I looked like I knew what I was doing, more so than fellow first years! In a way, I guess I did. I’d learned a lot of hard lessons and knew too well what could happen if I fell behind, and so I always stayed on top of my work. I’m far from the perfect student, but I’m absolutely a better student than the one who arrived in September 2015.

This isn’t a one-off story of how to overcome obstacles. Whilst the ones I’ve written about have passed me by, there are new ones. I struggled with exams again, tempted to give up. Mental health issues I thought I’d left in the past came back to bite me and they bit hard. I’m not writing this for sympathy or pity or to put anybody off, that’s just life! Some people may breeze through their first year but everyone, at some point, will face challenges that will test their limits. Part of becoming a doctor is acquiring that resilience, being able to keep pushing and learning from the experience.

We’re also all here because medicine is what we really want to do, so enjoy it! Sometimes it might feel like university is overwhelming in comparison to school, but don’t be discouraged; the medical school provides lots of great pastoral support and you won’t be the only one. There will be many challenges and setbacks throughout the next 5 years, but if you seek help when you need it and remain resilient, you can overcome them.

Written by Euan Rainey, 2nd Year Medical Student

Posted in Medicine