I have finally made it through my first semester of medical school! Starting medical school in the middle of a pandemic has definitely been an experience. Even though I spent most of the past four months in some form of lockdown a lot has happened. Anyways here’s a little bit about what it’s been like to start med school, in another country, during a global pandemic.
In September I flew to England with my two suitcases and a backpack. I posted about that trip before, so if you want to read about it you can find it here.
This has been my first experience living away from home and its been a lot. Mostly I’ve realized just how expensive groceries really are?? I’m slowing getting into meal planning more and more because if I just get groceries without any recipes in mind I tend to end up with a bunch of random stuff that I can’t actually make much out of. So while I have not been living off instant ramen I have been making a lot of mac n’ cheese (probably not particularly healthy but its gooood).
Honestly the one of the most stressful things about moving to England was getting COVID within the first two weeks of arriving. This was definitely unexpected as I hadn’t gone anywhere since I arrived, but as it turns out 18 and 19 year old university students are really bad at following COVID restrictions. A total of four of us in our flat ended up getting it and being sick. I have to say I was lucky as far as symptoms were concerned. I didn’t have much of a cough and my fever was pretty low grade. However, my taste is only now returning to normal. Going to get tested for COVID was actually my first time out of my flat since I had arrived so that was nice (sticking a swab down my throat and then up my nose was not). I am also grateful that I was over being sick by the time I actually started my classes.
My classes for the most part have been a combination of pre-recorded lectures and seminars where we discuss cases or practice communication skills. We have also had a couple of times where patients have joined in on our Zoom calls to give their perspectives and answer our questions which I have really enjoyed.
In November we finally got the chance to go into the medical school. I was excited to actually have the chance to do some in person stuff (and wear something other than pyjamas). In the session we practiced doing cardiovascular examinations on each other (wearing PPE). And yes, I was excited to actually get to use a stethoscope on someone else.
Shortly after that we went into a national lockdown so for the rest of the month our classes were completely online. It’s definitely harder to have classes completely online and I know I learn better when things are in person (Though when instructors talk really slow on a recording you can just increase the speed). One of the hardest parts about online classes for me is the lack of a schedule or structure really of any kind. I’ve been rely unmaking my own schedule and to-do lists to keep myself focused.
When I left home in September we had realized that it didn’t make sense for me to come back home for Christmas as I would have to isolate when I got home and when I travelled back to the uk again which wouldn’t be worth it. So the plan had been for me to spend Christmas in the UK. However, the UK government decided that the uni’s had to move all their classes for December to online to allow students to travel home.
So I ended up traveling back to Canada at the beginning of December. My flight was pretty early in the morning so I left my flat around 3am and took a cab to the airport. This time I was flying with just my backpack and small bag … both of which were stuff with chocolate and candy for my family. Unlike when I traveled to the UK in September the airports and plane were actually relatively busy. Once I landed in Canada It felt like forever standing waiting in line for customs, and then we had to go through a another line to check in with public health and then finally one more line to get tested for COVID so the I could have a shortened isolation period (plus taking another one 6 days later after that one came back negative). My mom picked me up from the airport and when I was finally able to take my mask off in the car my face was definitely red and irritated (though not surprising as I had been traveling for nearly 19 hours at that point).
The downside of traveling home was that I still had to attend my classes …. but with a 7 hour time difference added in. I ended up having classes at 2am and doing a presentation at 4 in the morning. According to my classmates I looked pretty dead on zoom LOL. In order to be up I was going to bed around 5 or 6pm but I still managed to sleep through one of my classes (oops).
Once classes finished I was able to get back to a more normal sleep schedule and spend some time with my family which was really nice.
At the end of December I flew back to the UK. For a few days there was some doubt that I might not be able to return to the UK as countries started to close their borders with the new of the new COVID strain. I was somewhat concerned as I was supposed to have in person first aid once the semester resumed. Although my mom did not seem that concerned that I might have to stay a little longer. In the end I was able to travel back as planned (I just had to take another COVID test before I left).
I had to isolate for another 10 days upon my return and then take two more COVID test before attending anything in person (for those counting that makes a total of 6 covid tests since moving to the UK). Almost immediately after I arrived we into another National lockdown. The upside of being in a lockdown before exams is that there was literally nothing else for me to do but study.
I had one more week of classes during which we learnt about diabetes and other metabolic disorders. After that I had a week off before my exams where I pretty much just studied all day. In our exams we were tested on different biological and clinical aspects of the body and the diseases we had covered as well as ethics, communication, and social theories related to health. Overall I think they went went, all thats left to do now is wait for my results. Until then I have the next few days off and then we start our next semester on Monday. We are starting on some clinical experience and I have a virtual GP session coming up; I am looking forward to it but also a little bit nervous.