By Eric Leung, SCCO 2020
I want to preface this by saying that this is in no way a definitive guide on how to be successful in graduate school. I am merely offering this as small bits of advice as someone who has just been through a few of the trials you will be facing in your first year. I hope you can take a few pearls away from my experience and can make a unique one for yourself. Maybe even pay it forward if you happen to be sitting where I am next year.
Think of a list of interesting facts about yourself for your first couple days. Introduction week will likely be a blur of new faces, names and icebreakers. I honestly forgot most of these as quickly as I heard them but re-learned them organically throughout the year. You will begin lectures in the first week at a relatively easy pace. Fall quarter may seem busy but it is not going to get any easier, so do everything that you think you might want to do early. Buy those annual Disneyland tickets, go to those s’mores parties, bond with your classmates.
Find your groove with balancing lectures and tests. Both will be a ubiquitous part of your new life for the next few years. Know that there is not any one way to study. Some learn by hearing a lecture once and can miraculously recall material verbatim. Some have to revisit to portions of lectures on lecture capture and rewrite notes. And some, like me, need to make diagrams for everything, condensing the material into smaller more manageable sets.
Make a schedule and keep to it as much as possible. Think of fall quarter as a warm-up and use it as practice to build good habits. Find out what works and, even more importantly, what does not. Losing attention after 4 hours in the same spot? Change your environment – give yourself a brief mental break while in transit. Find your study oasis. You may think you know how to balance your academic life but don’t underestimate the workload. By spring quarter you’ll be balancing 2 midterms and 3 proficiencies in a single week.
Now onto the fun stuff. Join any club you think sounds interesting. Whether it be medical mission trips, private practice or medical Spanish, it is a great opportunity for you to get a glimpse into a world that may one day be your professional specialty. Broaden what you think health care is because I can almost promise you that there is something out there that you didn’t know can be an infinite source of self-learning.Go to club info night, go to the next class social, meet with your classmates inside and outside of school – the connections you build will be invaluable to your academic and professional success. It is impossible to get through graduate school alone. Eventually, either you will need someone to practice skills on and vice versa. So don’t hesitate to rely on your classmates, they will definitely rely on you. Your fellow classmates, your faculty and your upperclassman all want the same thing – for everyone to succeed.
And before you know it, just like that your first year will be over. And maybe you’ll be reflecting back just like me at this very moment, wishing you could do it all over again.