New school, new opportunities

A major life transition like starting medical school is an important opportunity to become who you want to be. Because nobody comes in with preconceptions of you, you have the power and flexibility to shape a new social identity. In a time of many changes in your life (change in financial situation, new living space, different sleep habits, different eating habits, new social network), it is easiest to convince yourself that you can be a better you. This is the best time to fake it until you make it, as one of the second-years here advised.

I am not a social butterfly. In fact, I have always been an introvert. But I like people and hate being alone. Without T by my side, I’m left to fend for myself. I found a roommate who is very social and brings the party to our place. I’ve gone to way more social events than I imagined I would. (First year is all about drinking, according to second-years.) I just haven’t let myself say no at chances to go out to dinner, play pick-up basketball or ultimate or volleyball, or grab a casual drink at the bar. I signed up for all the sanctioned class-wide events (like a public health pre-orientation, a diversity retreat) purely for social purposes. Importantly, I didn’t let myself fall into a comfortable group of people who were similar to me. Sure that means I don’t have a regular set of friends yet, but I can savor this chance to hang out with a diverse, cool bunch of people. There’s at least one clique in my class, and everybody recognizes them in a not-so-positive light.

The way I see it, there is a limited time in which people are comfortable meeting new people. The last time I had this much fun was freshman year of college. After all, it is only the second week of classes. Studying can definitely wait. A second-year who is in the med student government said he didn’t study at all for the first month of first year. I reckon he poured his energy into making friends with everyone, which eventually paid dividends when he ran for office.

This feeling is definitely not shared by many at my high MCAT-powered school. I’m impressed at how hard-working my classmates are, how many of them pre-read, attend lecture, and review notes when our first quiz is weeks away. Whatever floats their boat. I’ll buckle down eventually. For the time being, I’ll savor the security offered by the (two-tier) pass/fail grading system.

Pass/fail grading will be the topic of my next post.



4 thoughts on “New school, new opportunities

  1. The beginning of first year is very much like freshman year of undergrad, and it has a similar denouement as well. Indeed, things change as med school progresses and the stress is cranked up a few notches, but it’s a great idea to enjoy the early days to the fullest. Don’t get me wrong, things don’t necessarily get bad, but the truer personalities begin to shine around the holidays and beyond.

    Your class can’t really fight the cliques, unless your class size is extremely small. IMO, cliques aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as they’re not hyper-exclusive. People do seek out personalities similar to their own, so the cliques are inevitable and I’d argue they shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

    But for me, I went about my first year a little differently. I have a personality that sounds similar to yours, and I too attended a bunch of the early social events. However, a variety of reasons led me to eventually stop going to them all together, in favor of building relationships outside of medical school. I found that I just didn’t get along well with many of my classmates once the excitement wore off and we got down to business. I now find myself treating med school very much like a job, and I try to keep that world separate from my personal one. Funny thing is, that I have more med school friendships in years above and below my class than within it, as the general personalities vary greatly from class to class.

    Anyway, just wanted to share that perspective. There’s no shame in being an introvert, despite the pressure to be hyper social during the first weeks of M1. Things will calm down eventually and you seem to have a very healthy attitude to your first weeks. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on pass/fail, as I have some strong opinions about it myself.

  2. OP: you’ve mellowed out since I last read you. Nice

    anon: I like reading your thoughts. Having close friends outside the med school makes a lot of sense to me – and is true in my case.

    It’s too bad anon, however, that you “try to keep that world separate from my personal one” because you might be missing out on some good fun with classmates; but, if you’re not getting along, why bother?

    Well, when you “stop going to them all together,” your contribution to your class is diminished. And by contribution I mean your perspective, which I personally like, and would be sad (although wouldn’t realize) I was missing out.

    Of course, we’re speaking about social relationships, but socialization is a demonstrably important part of training as a physician – and lest we forget, being human. Then again, being a physician is a job, and we’re only required to be collegial with colleagues, not friends. But being friends makes things so much more fun 🙂

  3. Chronicidal… I have known you on SDN for about a year or so. You and your gf are pretty famous on SDN (partly) because of Worldpress. I interviewed at many of the same schools you were at, including the school you are at right now. Best of luck with first year med to both of us. Maybe I will see you a couple years down the row for residency Interviews! 🙂


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