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From left, longtime friends Erinna McMurtry and Gloria Sun how medical school is going so far during the pandemic. Submitted photo

Adjusting to Medical School in a Pandemic

The first three months of medical school have gone by quickly. As we stop to catch our breath in between midterms and finals, we have a lot of milestones to reflect on.

First off, we celebrated our white-coat ceremony at the beginning of October. We’ve started exploring student groups, which have given us opportunities to meet other students throughout the college.

We’ve also officially survived our first set of exams and are finally getting the hang of our new routines. Figuring out what we’re supposed to be doing everyday has become more familiar, although sticking to our schedules has gotten harder as the “first month keenness” has worn off.

Med school is an adjustment, virtual learning is an adjustment, and combining the two is a big adjustment. All the warnings about how fast course material piles up somehow didn’t quite seem real until exam season.

It seems like the work accumulated more suddenly this year because of our virtual format. The asynchronous format this year allows us more freedom to prioritize (which was especially helpful during midterms), but that freedom can also be dangerous, because it’s easy to tell yourself you’ll watch a lecture later and then end up with hours of lectures to catch up on.

Something we found really helped to keep us on track was setting ourselves a schedule that included time for things other than schoolwork. It was a steep learning curve at the beginning of the semester to balance a suddenly much fuller day with new extracurriculars, seemingly endless opportunities for new experiences, and time for ourselves.

The lines between school time and the rest of your life get blurred, so setting firm boundaries can help us avoid sacrificing other important parts of life because we feel behind. However, it's also important to be empathetic towards yourself, because there are days when you can’t tick off anything on your checklist and sleeping in feels more like a necessity than a luxury. When you have no outside distractions to blame, it’s easy to feel guilty or anxious about being off track.

Another thing that helped to keep us on schedule was connecting with peers as much as possible to create the same shared learning environment as usual. We’ve been using video chat to have group study sessions and make collaborative notes with Google Docs.

Even though the pandemic has been with us for a while now, we’re still finding new ways to be creative with socializing with friends. Whether by having a Netflix watch party or playing Among Us, there are so many ways to keep in touch with old friends and get to know new ones.

Hopefully, we’ve learned enough over the past couple of months to survive finals!

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