Fueling the Fire

My first semester as a veterinary student was a whirlwind experience! I was finally living my dream and, ironically, sometimes it didn’t seem like I was living.

Looking back and reflecting on all the time spent studying truly amazes me. I learned so much new information, information that will actually be useful when I land my dream job. I surprised myself with how much stamina and drive I sometimes didn’t know I had.

Surely, though, you won’t be surprised that the end of finals was cause for celebration and relaxation!

The novelty and excitement of starting veterinary school wore off and winter break was spent refueling. I returned to the clinic where I got my start to immerse myself back in the clinic culture and put my new knowledge to the test.

It was fun to see patients again and watch the veterinarians care for them from a first-year students’ perspective. Watching surgeries and actually knowing the anatomy or seeing a patient and understanding the disease process justified all of the study time and created excitement to return to Texas A&M for my second semester.

As the second semester commences, it’s time to draw on everything I learned about myself from last semester and the experiences over winter break to finish my first year strong.

I will take things one week at a time. I will ask for help when I need it. I will exercise regularly and feed my body well. I will give each class my best effort. And I will be a second-year veterinary student in just four short months!

The Trials and Tribulations of Medical School Applications

Courtney N.For those of us looking to enter medical school during the fall of 2019, the past couple of months have, hopefully, been very busy. Coming off a long stretch of interviews, I find myself completely exhausted.

I think that in the stress of the entire process, I have kind of lost some of my excitement for my senior year of college. It’s also difficult to focus on my current classes when the next step of my education seems so imminent.

One of the drawbacks of medicine, and really any kind of profession that requires extensive training, is the fact that everything is focused on the future. As an undergrad, you focus on doing everything you need to do to get into a good medical school. In medical school, you focus on doing everything to get into a good residency program. During your residency, you focus on getting a good fellowship. After the future arrives, where does our focus turn?

For this reason, it is so incredibly important to appreciate every step along the journey. I don’t want to look back on everything and realize that I never really lived in the present.

That being said, my advice for any pre-med major, and really any senior in college, is to enjoy your last year.

Even if you do attend some kind of graduate or professional school after undergrad, you will never have another opportunity to enjoy life with these specific people or these specific freedoms. Continue doing the activities you enjoy and try new things while you still have some free time.

Your future will work itself out in the end if you have put in the work, so take time to enjoy the present.

The Trials of a Pre-Med Student

Courtney N.The first wave of tests is finally upon us! As the second semester of my junior year flies past, I, like any pre-med looking to apply this cycle, am feeling the pressure of the process. I have found that the life of a pre-med is a delicate balancing act. It is difficult finding time to devote to extracurricular activities, volunteering, research, classwork, and readying applications for submission.  It feels like I am constantly adding things to my to-do list and never crossing anything off.

The first round of tests seems even more daunting when you have to start off the semester behind in all of your classes. I think my experiences are pretty indicative of the typical pre-med experience. I spent the entirety of winter break and the first week of classes studying for the MCAT, and I think about half of my anatomy class took the MCAT right along with me. Medical school hopefuls, and any student who wishes to attend graduate school, do not get time off, even during school breaks. As graduation approaches, breaks are spent gaining pertinent experiences.

I have learned a lot about myself through my experience preparing applications and taking the MCAT. Studying eight to 10 hours a day almost every day for the entire winter break definitely took its toll. However, it showed me how important it is to take some time for yourself. Sometimes stepping away from my studying was one of the hardest things I had to do. There were some days when I became so stressed from not studying long enough that I would force myself to study longer without actually absorbing any of the information; I was my own worst enemy and my stress kept feeding on itself. Stepping away from my studying allowed me to return refreshed and helped me look at old problems from new angles.

Similarly, I found that it was really important to do something fun and stress-free to break up the studying. Whether it was a movie night with friends, a night alone with Netflix, or a nice dinner with my parents, I felt like the day after I had taken a night off was much more productive than one after a long day of studying. Likewise, being able to lean on people who made up my support system (parents, friends, siblings, etc.) was so important during this extremely stressful time. Even if I couldn’t admit that I needed a break, the people who care about me pushed me to take care of myself.

I believe that the things that got me through studying for the MCAT can be applied to almost any kind of situation. It is important to take care of yourself and remember that even if you don’t do as well as you had hoped, you can always find the silver lining and take something away from the situation. With that being said, good luck to all on the first round of tests and good luck to anyone waiting on their MCAT scores!