Survive your 1st-year of medicine

Congratulations! You have made it to medical school. Suddenly, your feet get cold and you start wondering how to survive your 1st-year of medicine?

These are my best tips.

  1. Study from day one. No excuses. 
  2. Focus on understanding. You have a brain to make sense out of the world, not only to memorise.
  3. Avoid fear. This was one of my biggest challenges in the very beginning. I felt really overwhelmed by the amount of material that is thrown at us right from the start. As a result, I wasted hours looking at the books, completely paralyzed, feeling miserable, unable to learn a word. Fear will freak you out and make you lose control over the situation. So, please, do not fear. Keep calm and carry on. 
  4. Study efficiently. Many students tend to measure their effectiveness by the number of hours spent in front of the books. Do not fall into such a trap. Learn what you need to learn in the least time possible.
  5. Take breaks. Your brain will reward you for that. I usually take a break up to 20 minutes for every 45-50 minutes of efficient reading. 
  6. Organise your day so that you hit the books when your productivity is the highest.  
  7. Eliminate distractions. In my case that meant no Instagram account, Netflix, games, skype calls, etc.
  8. Prioritise. Get the most important tasks done first. What is necessary to be done in order to survive tomorrow’s anatomy lab or histology weekly test? Firstly, the most important. Secondly, if time and energy have not run out yet, the important. Finally but not least, the less important.
  9. Be realistic and make realistic goals. After 8-12 hours at school, it is not realistic to think that you will manage to read a bit of every single subject until bedtime. Focus on one or two instead. Being realistic will help you making slow and steady progress.
  10. Do not give everything at once. Remember, this is a marathon, not a 1500m run. What is the point of studying like a maniac the first month and burn yourself out during the second? 
  11. Listen to your body and respect its limits. Eat healthy foods, drink lots of water, exercise whenever possible and rest. Sleeping and eating were never sacrificed. Without them, I can’t function. I sleep an average of 6-8 hours every night and I make an effort to keep my sleeping routine consistent. Bedtime between 23:00-24:00 and getting up between 06:45-07:30.
  12. Stay away from drama. Trust me, you will have enough on your plate without it.
  13. Take advice from older students with a pinch of salt. Everyone has a different experience and whatever worked for some of them might not work for you. Talk to different people and gather a variety of information.
  14. Put your life into perspective when things get tough. Don’t let the stressful lifestyle of a medical student eat you up from the inside. You live in a bubble here. The world out there, with bigger problems to solve, keeps spinning around. Therefore, no matter how chaotic things might be at times, you will make it through.
  15. Do not isolate yourself. You are not the only one feeling the pressure. Be social. Make friends. It will make things a lot more fun.
  16. Keep the ones you love the most, close to you. Take the time to keep in touch with family and friends. They will lift you up whenever you fall down.
  17. Stay positive. Every day that goes by is one day less that you have to go through in order to graduate. Others have done it before. Successfully. You can do it too.

2 comments On Survive your 1st-year of medicine

  • a girl looking for guidance


    I was recently recommended to your blog by a friend and I really love it. It is inspirational, interesting and fun to read about what’s to come. You also gave great tips so thank you. Would love if you wrote about how it is living away from family and friends . The hard stuff about med school expect exams.

    Anyhow, keep doing this!

    • Thank you so much for your comment.
      Do you have any concrete questions?
      It might help me understand what you would like me to write about in more detail.
      Do you wonder about our difficulties living in Poland as foreign students?
      Anyway, I will keep this in mind.
      Thank you and have a great week.

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