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Finding a Groove: How to Pick a Study Space and Reflections from Common Read


The Orientation Committee has been hard at work this summer. From research projects in England to teaching high school students about medicine at summer camp, life as a medical student is always busy. But that’s why it’s so important to find a good study space and take breaks for self-care—in this case, to enjoy Common Read!

Check out how the Orientation Committee found their ideal study spots and what they’ve enjoyed most about their Common Read experience so far. Any of these experiences sound interesting to you? Take part in Common Read this summer and join the Orientation Committee for the discussion!

Rebekah Roll

Finding My Study Space

Rebekah's study space; coffee, books, a laptop, and highlighters

Rebekah’s study space

My favorite spot to study is literally anywhere that I can have all my books, notes and computer open at the same time. And, of course, my handy-dandy cup of coffee. I like to spread out! Plus, I like to have a window to get some natural light. One of my favorite spots to study is in our medical library. I actually started out hating studying in the library, but once I found a cozy corner with a huge desk and desktop computer with a dual monitor – I fell in love and never left!

Favorite Quote From my Common Read: Body of Work

“The most alarming moments of anatomy are not the bizarre, the unknown. They are the familiar.”

As soon as I read this, I knew immediately what Dr. Montross was referring to. Many times, standing in the lab as my partners drove through the body while I navigated with the dissector, I would look over to see the cadaver’s hand – so similar to mine, yet unmoving and pale. It really grounds you and makes you appreciate this wonderful gift the donors, our first patients, have given to us as future physicians.

Jarrett Campbell

Jarrett giving a thumbs up under a table

Jarrett’s study space

Finding My Study Space

Finding a study space requires you to know yourself and knowing your study habits. Think about what you need in a good study space: setting, noise levels, crowd levels. Find someplace in which you are comfortable, but not someplace that makes you want to lie down and watch Netflix. Be sure to do what works best for you though!  I love studying outside and being exposed to nature, but I while at school I found myself studying a lot under tables!  They gave me kind of a shield away from everything going on around me and kept me away from distractions like my phone or computer.

Favorite Quote From my Common Read: When Breath Becomes Air

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”

The author of When Breath Becomes Air was very intrigued by the idea of finding the purpose of his life. Unfortunately, it is impossible for one person to know the answers to every question they have. In the context of medical school, a big struggle I have endured being a student, is the frustration of being unable to retain all the knowledge I need. It took some time to learn to accept this, so if you find yourself also in that situation, don’t be afraid to talk to your peers and ask them how they are feeling. Working together, you will likely find you are not alone and obtain more knowledge from group interaction than you could on your own!  If you haven’t started reading this book yet, I highly recommend it!

Emily Cage

A park in Europe

Emily’s study space

Finding My Study Space

Finding a place where you can focus and learn effectively is vital in medical school. As you’ve probably heard a thousand times already, you will be studying A LOT, and you will not be able to do this efficiently if you are in a distracting environment.

I have several favorite study spots in Indianapolis, including the IU School of Medicine library, coffee shops and the second-bedroom-turned-office in my apartment. Since I tend to get bored if I sit too long in one place, I try to rotate through these. For example, I might work in my office for a few hours in the morning, then take a break and head to a coffee shop in the evening.

While I study alone almost all of the time, I have found that I am usually more productive when I study in public places (I’m less likely to start shopping online or playing games on my phone if I think people might judge me for it!). It’s all about finding what works best for you. Try out different places! Form a study group! There will be some trial and error, but eventually you will find your ideal study spot (or spots), too.

Being in England this summer for a research position has forced me to switch up my study habits. Because the weather has been so beautiful, I have actually been doing some work in the park pictured here. It is fairly quiet and peaceful, and it is located just a few blocks away from where I am staying here in Leeds. I wish I could say it has been a great place to read When Breath Becomes Air, but I haven’t started it yet…. However, I will finally be receiving the book later this week, and I am excited to read it next week as I travel to London, Dublin, and Paris before finally making my way back to the USA. I’ll see all of you in a couple weeks!

Eric Galante

Eric's bed with a book on it

Eric’s study space

Finding My Study Space

Believe it or not, one of my most popular study spots was my bed. On days where I didn’t want to be at the library, I found my bed to be a relaxing place to study. Of course, at times it was dangerous not to fall asleep, but, like everyone else, finding a calming and quiet study spot is so important for successful studying. Aside from my bed, I’d walk around campus and try to find different study spots so I wouldn’t get sick and tired of a single place. I think it definitely helped keep me sane throughout the year.

Favorite Quote From my Common Read: “Wit”

“But if you think eight months of cancer treatment is tedious for the audience, consider how it feels to play my part.”

One idea that this book highlights is the difficulty that physicians have in humanizing all patient encounters. With the hundreds of patients that doctors see, and the extensive treatment regimens many patients face, physicians often fall victim to losing the empathetic approach that they strived to maintain when they entered the profession. Patients become numbers, and encounters, chores. Wit reminds us of how mentally exhausting it can be to be a patient, and that being a one is not a choice. To me, the greatest lesson of this book is that as physicians, we must remain caring and empathetic toward all patients we encounter.

Gabe Gerena

Gabe studying while playing with his puppy

Gabe’s study space

Finding My Study Space

There are a handful of study spots that I switch between from time to time. I spend most of my study time in my apartment since I have a pup to take care of​! I also need food every two hours :)

Favorite Quote From my Common Read: TED Talk and case study with a global health/AMPATH focus

“We must choose to live on the verge of tears, in the orbit of famine, poverty and HIV, if we are to change the ordinary and do the extra-ordinary.”

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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