Imperial College London. When I received my acceptance letter this time last year, I couldn’t believe it. I remember the morning of results day like it was yesterday, anxiously checking UCAS, realising that the days and weeks and months of endless work had finally, finally paid off.
Honestly, it feels like first year has been and gone in a flash. Like most people, I would love to rewind the clock and find out where all this time has gone. Although all my first year knowledge escapes me now, I do know that there was one point where I knew what the ECG rhythms look like and could recite all the enzymes and products of glycolysis from memory. Year 1 was no walk in the park, so I am here to offer the knowledge I have gathered over my first year of medical school, from my own experiences as well as from my friends.
1. Put yourself out there
“Sign up to everything” is what Harvey says. First year is the best time to try new things when the workload isn’t too high and you’re keen to give something a go. Go to the Fresher’s fair and see what takes your fancy. Over this last year alone, I’ve tried performing on stage with ICSM’s Light Opera, taking down a potential knife attacker with IC Krav, and auditioning for Indian Soc’s massive student show, East Meets West. “Try and participate in events, even if you feel it’s out of your comfort zone,” says Sagana, who danced as part of Tamil Soc’s Mega Malai last year, “because you might actually discover a new passion and it’s also one of the best ways to make friends.”
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff
I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t freak out when we received the brief for the first piece of written coursework. However, it’s worth remembering that first year is not designed to trip you up. “It’s more about getting used to living in London and uni life, then worrying about stupid stuff” is ICSM rower Megan’s piece of advice. You’ll have formative assessments to help you make sense of the exams and the coursework. “Use your formative assessments. I didn’t, and I probably could’ve done better if I did,” said another medical student, who wishes not to be named.
3. Don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do
To drink or not to drink, that is the question. Most people come to uni and start exploring their limits right away. Alcohol is the obvious one here, but also other stuff, like going out, trying a new sport or a new club. “Have fun, meet new people and try out new stuff but don’t get peer pressured,” says one of my flatmates, Kinan. If you don’t enjoy it, or it doesn’t help you in any way, don’t do it. Remember, there will be people who are probably similar to you, so regardless of your values or your interests, you will always find friends to stick with.
4. Don’t be worried if you don’t find friends straight away
Everyone (including myself) expects to walk into uni and find friends and just have it click automatically. Remember that friendships take time, and not all friendships can be good ones. “You will find support here and great people who genuinely take an interest in you and your future,” mentions Light Opera president, Harry. “Sometimes, it takes a bit longer to find them.” Uni can be lonely sometimes, but you will always find people who are ready and waiting to support you – for me, I found that lovely camaraderie in a number of societies: Light Opera, Medicines Sans Frontiers and Hindu Society.You are bound to find people – remember that there are people who don’t study medicine out there too (it can be easy to forget that). You just have to be willing to put yourself out there, and you’ll find friendships in the strangest places.
5. Remember to take time out for yourself
Medicine is a full course, and you need a reprieve. “Without my music, I literally wouldn’t function” is what my FCA partner Sharan told me in the run-up to exams. Whether it’s going for a run in Hyde Park, messing around with music in the Blythe Centre Music Rooms, or even just taking a stroll through the Natural History Museum, it’s important to find ways to ground yourself and take a break from studying and socialising. It can also give you a healthy dose of perspective.
6. Stay with it: Medicine is tough.
Time management is of the essence. Remember to utilise your study time effectively. Using apps like Forest and Hold can help you get off your phone while you learn the different antibiotics and what they target. There’s a whole lot to learn, but if you stay on top of your work and stick with it, it can be the difference between a pass and fail. Remember that you have an array of people to support you: your tutors, friends, societies you’ve joined, and your medic parents. At the end of the day, everyone wants you to pass medicine and have an amazing time doing it!
So there it is, my six smashing suggestions as to how to start your first year with a bang! Remember to hang in there: you know yourself best, and you are the only one who can push yourself to do anything you want to do.