Monday, March 26, 2012

The trouble with being in a new environment...

When you start medical school, you're making a commitment; whether your course is four years long or seven, you are signing up for a lifetime of medicine and all of its expectations. One of those expectations, as far as I can see, is that you engage socially with your peers at whatever level you might be.

I had the expectations even before I started med school that everyone else would be out getting drunk with each other and having a good time. They were pretty much met when I started; on my first night was a pub crawl in the city centre, and I wasn't even planning on going until someone practically dragged me along. It was okay for a while, though I was having difficulties making conversation with people. As usual, I was hoping that conversation would drive itself, and this was the case since everyone was excited to get to know each other. But, as the night went on, my willingness to engage was waning while everyone's blood alcohol content was increasing, and I wanted more than anything to leave and go back to my room.

After that first night, I vowed never to engage in another med student social event again, mainly because I didn't see any point in subjecting myself to that same stress of feeling the need to keep up with everyone else. I knew that nights out weren't my thing, so there was no point in even bothering to try it.

But where is the problem here? Well, in this environment, getting to know people can be important. This is especially so on a medical programme because you will be working very closely with these people for the next few years. I entered medical school wanting it to remain exactly that: medical school; not a social environment where everyone is friends with everyone. However, while I can try to adopt that mantra, I can't expect anyone else to feel the same way. While I would sit quietly in a room full of med students, they would all be talking about the events of the previous night or something else I wouldn't be privy to. Occasionally, someone whose name I didn't know would ask how I was doing and what I was doing that night, followed by an invitation to the night's social event that I would turn down. It can be a bit of a downer, but I also know that these people aren't the ones I would ordinarily be friends with anyway.

During my first year, when I didn't really feel I had any friends, I would sit at the back of lectures and leave as quickly as possible when they had finished. It got depressing very quickly - the routine was monotonous and, in a way, demoralising. Everyone else would be sat with their friends talking between lectures while I would be sat at the back trying to find a distraction on the net or texting friends from outside uni. I think that, while at the hospital one day, I even went to a toilet cubicle for an hour or so just so I didn't have to sit on my own in front of everyone else.

I prefer spending time with people who don't need to spend alternate days recovering from alcohol poisoning, but there can be a shortage of such people at uni, regardless of course. I have been lucky in that I have managed to make friends whose company I enjoy, but most of them are not medical students in my year so I rarely see them, and those who are in my year aren't always there. My first year was the hardest in terms of making friends, but I'm clearly not that bad a person if I have found some now! It just took a while. A long while.

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