One of the main goals of the First-Year Experience (FYE) Committee and orientation is to help first-year students hit the ground running to begin rigorous coursework. Knowing what to expect helps new learners prepare and harness the resources needed to succeed.
First-Year Experience (FYE) committee members Aish Thamba, Makayla Morning, Doriann Alcaide and Alex Piroozi sat down to share what to expect during the first weeks of medical school.
What are tips you have for approaching the first month of medical school?
Human Structure is going to hit you like a freight train. At least, it did for me. Be sure to take your time to organize and plan time out for studying and personal wellness. It can be overwhelming to listen to lectures, plan for dissection time and also find time to do wellness/meet your fellow students. Don't feel bad if you can't do all of these things at once. Remember that everything is good in moderation. Also, don't feel like you have to be a perfectionist in knowing everything there is to know in anatomy, or even in the broader subject of medicine. Medicine is a vast ocean of secrets, some discovered and some yet to be discovered. It's alright to not know everything. Take time to celebrate yourself including the small wins and the big. The first month is super exciting and thrilling to step into your role as a medical student. You're going to do great - just take time for yourself to process everything and have fun!
The first couple of weeks will feel great! Your course load is lighter and you have the opportunity to really be getting to know your peers. Take advantage of this time!! Once Human Structure starts, it will really start to pick up pace. This is ok! Do your best to not fall behind (there's a lot of info so just take it bit by bit) and work to determine if you're actually studying well (practice questions work best for me). Everyone will be working to determine the best study habits. It's ok if this changes or if it takes you longer to find what works best for you. Allow yourself time to adjust and establish a new routine. And again, it's ok if you have to change something up! Don't be afraid! Be sure to get plenty of rest and still take some breaks. This will look different for each person and can even look different for yourself as you adjust more and more!! And always, be sure to reach out if you need help. It may be easy to feel like you're the only one struggling, but it simply isn't true. If you need help, the sooner you reach out, the better!
Use transitions to get to know your classmates and build that academic support system and study groups. Once the actual courses start, there will be many IU School of Medicine and outside resources. Finding the one that works for you will be key in succeeding. Realistically, there won’t be time to go through them all so choose one or two and stick with them. On that note, don't compare your techniques to others. Talk to people and see how they are approaching the class but only to gather information, not as comparison.
During your first two weeks of med school, you will have your Transitions class. This is not really a class and more just a way to ease you out of vacation mode and back into learning mode. Use this time to meet your classmates and learn more about your campus. However, human structure will come fast and furious. You will have a ton of material thrown at you all at once. But it is absolutely manageable! There are so many resources available for you during your time at IU School of Medicine so don’t hesitate to use them if you feel like you need them. It usually takes a poor performance on an exam before reaching out for help, but if you start feeling like you are behind, I highly recommend getting help. Also, be sure to talk to your classmates about their study strategies to see what works for them and what doesn’t. Being malleable with your study routine will only be beneficial for you as a med student!
What were some of the feelings you had and how did you work through those?
I reached out for help with changing up my studying habits, from passive methods such as highlighting and reading textbooks to more active methods such as teaching my friends and doing more practice questions. The friends I made in the first month of medical school helped me stay accountable in studying habits and helped me become a better student since I was able to learn more about myself and how I like to study through studying with them. I also felt a bit overwhelmed with all the volume of information I had to learn in my first month. I scheduled in 30 minutes a day to focus on myself through yoga, walking, jogging and spending time with my family via Zoom. I also kept things in perspective and was realistic with myself. I knew that I wouldn't be able to know everything but there were some things that I was super passionate about that I could recite or teach like the back of my hand. I leaned on my friends and family for support because I knew I wasn't alone in feeling excited yet nervous in anticipation for what was yet to come.
First semester was a whirlwind for me. I personally adjusted quite slowly and having predominantly all online classes was harder for me than I thought. I struggled with apathy and loneliness, since I'm a pretty extroverted person. I had to put in long hours of studying, sometimes longer hours than I had hoped, which initially took time away from my loved ones. With time, I learned to be ok with sacrificing different things at different times, finding the balance that worked for me! After the first couple of months, I worked hard to maintain a routine as best I could. This helped me tremendously once we were all online! I contacted my professors frequently and attended office hours. Even just listening to other people's questions helped. Be honest with yourself and your feelings, and find someone to talk to about them and to help keep you accountable! Keep working hard and also relaxing, and you will make it! Find what works for you and know that at least for me, second semester feels much better! \
For me, I quickly experienced some imposter syndrome especially in small groups where everyone seemed far more apt and prepared for classes. It took a while for that feeling to fade and realize that my strengths are not necessarily showcased in small groups. However, a big outlet for me to deal with these emotions was therapy. Two months into medical school, I decided to start therapy to ensure that my feelings and emotions were kept within my control especially with the fast paced and ever-changing environment of medical school.
When I first started human structure, my study methods were extremely unproductive and would cause me to work way harder than I needed to while still feeling like I was falling behind. But, after talking to many of my classmates to learn how they study, I was able to create much more efficient study plans for myself that allowed be to keep up with the material at hand. I still needed to tweak my study strategies well into first year. And I still do! But, learning that I can talk to classmates about their study strategies to figure out the best way that works for me has really allowed me to adapt to anything med school has thrown at me.
How did you lean into support at IU School of Medicine?
As an out-of-state student, with absolutely no family in Indiana, med school friends quickly became my support system. Their support was vital in my transition to Indiana and medical school. From studying together to making sure I had a warm enough coat for winter, they really have been my support here at IU School of Medicine.
While I didn’t use the tutoring services at IU School of Medicine right away, I found them so helpful once I did. I have gotten much use out of working with a tutor on course material, but something that I found extremely beneficial is the review sessions that the tutoring services hold before an exam. I used to never go to them but now I make sure to never miss it. They usually involved an MS2 who will discuss their study strategies for the exam and also walk you through practice questions on the material at hand. They are an extremely useful resource and I have seen my exam performances directly benefit from the review sessions in the past.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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