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Tips From an IMG

When I got into Medical School, I never thought it would take me on the journey it has nor that I would learn so many things about medicine and life so quickly. I’m an IMG and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. These are my tips.



Make Connections

I think if there is one thing I teach my hypothetical teenage children or my more probable dogs and cats, it is this. Make a friend, make an acquaintance, make a professional relationship with a superior (or even you’re equal or inferior), let your 85 year old facilitator care for you like a grandmother would, make a teammate – whatever it is, have people you know. Have people you can be with in times of happiness or sadness and in times of need or giving.



I claim to be a strong, independent medical student but I still need people. Everyone needs people. You never know when you are going to need someone. Someone to come help change a tire, borrow you cash until you can make it to one of the three ATMs on the island, go for a drive with, or just be in silence with in the library. I think the coolest thing about connections is that the kindness you give, is easily reciprocated to you 10 fold. I always feel like I am receiving far more than I am ever giving. This is definitely a kudos to all the people I have met. But in general, it’s so true. That one small thing you did for one of your “connections” may be a ride home in the rain, a friend going out of their way to fix your computer, a homie buying you a cup of coffee because you fell asleep on your books in the library, a bro giving you a reassuring fist bump just because, or someone driving out after their night shift to change a tire so you can make it to class. Yeah, these all happened. I’m still trying to figure out why I deserved it all but when I do, I’ll get back to you.



Take Care of Yourself

I have heard this over and over again as I fumbled through college but I don’t think I every really got it. As conceding as it sounds, I think I never understood it because I never really needed to make time to take care of myself. I just had time so, I did take care of myself (for the most part). In med school if you do not make time to take care of yourself, you might actually never do it. I can attest that people I know, do not take care of themselves and their brains are fried mush, the stress of getting our scores back from our first exam is eating their frontal lobe, and their hypothalamus is failing them. Basically they are sad zombies. And it effects everyone around them – which is totally unfair. So take care of yourself. Stop to take a shower, eat a meal, fuel your brain with rest and relaxation, go for a run, and slow down to enjoy whatever it is that you love. You will be thankful for those 3 or 4 hours it took.  You will study and work better. You will retain more. You will have energy to make connections and be a leader in your classrooms and community. And you will know you passed that exam.



Be a Leader and Make Changes

If you don’t like something, fix it. Do not complain about how it sucks without trying to make it better. I am all for a good vent session but if you are not trying to make the best of it, it won’t get better and all your frustration will be a waste. So be a leader. Start making changes. Change how your small group functions, change your schedule to study more efficiently, change your schedule to allow “care for you” time, change your attitude. I don’t care what you have beef with, makes steps to fix it. And work hard on those steps. Don’t quit until it’s changed or better. Make it the best it can be. Because you will be happier and naturally people around you will also be happier (and thankful).



Slow down. Maybe even pause.

American hustle and bustle is not a thing here. Nothing is fast. And that’s okay. Slow is good. It gives you time to be a person and enjoy what is happening in the present instead of always pushing yourself to do something for the future. The future will be there, just do today and right now. Worry about only what you can change now and what goodness and connections you can create. And do it well.



Go to the Beach

And drink the rum. (I mean a bottle of water?)



Always Have Extras for the Island Cats

They are always there for you. They will always remind you that you are important. So what if they are just using you for your left over lasagna and ear scratches? To them you are a queen and you deserve to feel that. I have mastered the art of cat herding and I don’t think I can get any higher than this. I am a God. I am the mother of all these wonderful stray cats and I am proud of them. They are kind (except that orange one who doesn’t like to share leftovers) and they know how to lift spirits.

I am not a crazy cat lady. I just have a hard time getting 40% on practice tests for hours in a row and it’s my self care, okay. Don’t judge me.



Wake up for the sunrise and make it back out for the sunset!

Watching the sun over the ocean is surreal and it makes me feel so grateful to have another day. I know that’s cliché but honestly you are just a blob on a large and powerful and beautiful planet. We should really take better care of it. Maybe some earth care, ya know?



It’s Not Personal

Things do not happen just to crush you. The administration did not decide that one rule just to spite you. And that person didn’t say that thing just to get you (and so what if they did). Move on. Most of the time people do things without even realizing it’s bothering you and people don’t have enough time to make sure that what they are doing is pleasing everyone. So forgive and get up and keep going. It’s not personal, nearly ever.



Take pictures so you won’t ever forget, but also get off your phone.

And look back on them. You don’t realize it now, but you’ll miss it. You’ll miss it even it seems unreasonably hard right now.

If you move to a new, third world country you will be doomed to learn so many beautiful life lessons. When in Antigua, do as the Antiguans right? In retrospect, if you don’t want to learn how to speak a little softer, love a little harder, laugh a bit more, contribute to community, make a connection, or breathe breaths often, you quite frankly aren’t going to be able to enjoy the simplicity of such a beautiful place. And you deserve that!

Study hard friends and best of luck on all of your learning – both in life and school!

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