Exactly a year ago I was telling you all about Orientation Week. I had just met 159 new classmates (and was obnoxiously in love with all of them), heard more medical school urban legends than I could count (some exaggerated, some tame in comparison with reality), and was gearing up for my first day of lecture by organizing my backpack and making my whiteboard gleam.

            That feels like a very, very long time ago.

            I am relieved to say that some of the same feelings are still with me as I get ready for Round Two. I can’t wait to re-meet all my classmates and fall in love with them all over again. I didn’t realize how much I would miss them as some traveled home or out of the country. Even those who stayed around were as busy or busier than I was, making summer socializing difficult. (It’s funny how when you get a break from the constant work of med school, you fill it with constant work for something else. Or you just travel enough to put Gulliver to shame.) This year I’m not pondering to myself who I’ll sit by in the lecture hall or trying to remember if that one guy stood up when they called out “single gentlemen” at the orientation dinner, but I consider myself pretty darn lucky to know what I’m in for and still feel thrilled to be around them all again.

            One feeling I’m glad to be rid of is the fear of the unknown. Yes, I’m entering a new block (Neurology) and that always means a certain amount of newness and muddling through until you get the feel of things, but at least this time around I have a vague idea of how to get started. Last year, all the wise second years recommended “front-loading” again and again during orientation, but no one knew exactly what that meant or how to prepare ahead of time. Did it mean buying a Netter’s anatomy book and letting it sit next to you, open to a random page, while you sipped chai in a coffee shop? Sure! Why not? (In retrospect, that would have been more helpful than what I actually did.) Knowing where your resources are and at least the bare bones of what you can do ahead of time to not feel like a lost puppy the first day of lecture is a sweet blessing. (I feel like a little bit of an academic masochist as I write that; if you don’t know what to do to be ready, how can you feel obligated to work before the summer is really over?)

            This year will be a new beast in lots of ways. Not only will we be learning lots of new material, we also have to prepare for the Step 1 Board Exam. I can’t help but compare it to the MCAT because its all-encompassing range of subject material and the way residency programs use it to compare applicants against each other. It should be a jolly good time and a source of lots of fun stories (if you consider endless hours in the library doing practice exams the making of a good plot… one twist? You study at outdoors instead, ooooooo!) It looms over this year like a dark cloud threatening to storm at any minute mostly because everyone’s stories about studying for it are so ominous and you feel like the weight of just how much you have to learn could hit you at any time.

            But that’s still a ways off, so I’m going to enjoy what little naivety I have left and focus on the bright pre-autumn weather I get to enjoy for one more day before the big beginning of medical school is really, truly over. Cheers!



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