If I’ve learned anything in medical school, it’s the importance of time. With so much to study and not enough time to accomplish your daily to-do-list, it sometimes feel like you’re playing this never-ending game of catch-up. However, once you finish your M1 year something magical happens: For the first time in nearly a year, you finally get your first REAL break. You get 8-10 weeks where you get to decide exactly how you want to spend your time.
By the end of the year you’re going to feel burned out and exhausted and the summer break is much, much needed. Everyone is going to tell you something different when it comes to your “last summer.” You’re going to hear:
“Make sure to do research over the summer- that’s what everyone does”
“You’ve got to do an internship in order to be competitive for residency”
“Get a head start on M2 year and get some early STEP 1 studying in”
“Just make sure to relax and take the summer off”
“Go travel because you won’t get the opportunity again until after you graduate”
At the end of the day, the best advice I can give you is to follow your heart and do what’s best for YOU. If you feel like you want to go home and catch up or relax with your family-go ahead and do that. If you want to travel to different parts of the world and explore/eat/experience new cultures- do it. If you find an internship doing something you’re passionate about or interested in learning more about- by all means, go for it.
There is no wrong way to spend your summer- unless you’re doing something you feel that you have to do and don’t necessarily WANT to do.
I’m someone who gets a thrill from the unfamiliar and I wanted my M1 summer to be one of personal growth and self-exploration. I was torn between going home to California and seeing my family or going back to Boston. Ultimately, I thought about my desire to seek out something unfamiliar and began applying for summer positions at Massachusetts General Hospital. Ever since studying abroad in Australia in 2012, I’ve become fascinated with travel and every year since I’ve been fortunate to travel to a new part of the world. As I began applying for internships, I made my focus on finding something where I would be able to travel internationally and after several months- I finally found something.
I found a global health internship through the department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and was put on a preliminary research project in collaboration with the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala, Uganda. My project focused on finding effective ways to train parents to take vital signs and I was able to spend 5 and a half weeks in Boston working on designing the materials, reading a lot of research and presenting my findings to my PI, meeting with different people in the department of global health. With a passion for art, medical education, and global health- this experience was perfect for me and my interests. I had to work 9-5 every day but I had my evenings and weekends off and definitely found time to relax, go to the gym, go out with friends, and enjoy living in the city. Every weekend I would take my guitar and the novel “When Breath Becomes Air” and I would spend the whole day at the Boston Commons. Many friends visited me and I was able to go kayaking across the Charles River, take Salsa classes in Cambridge, go to a few Red Sox games, have dinner in North End’s “Little Italy,” and catch up with all of my old friends and coworkers from my gap year.
My last 17 days of break were spent internationally at the Uganda Cancer Institute and got to learn from some incredible physicians, nurses, and children. Being in Uganda was a huge culture shock for me but I knew that with discomfort comes an incredible opportunity for personal growth and reflection. I made many new friends from across the world and felt like I did something meaningful for the people of Uganda. For me that was my way of “recharging” and I’m so happy I decided to go with my gut feeling and pursue something I was passionate about. Even when I was in Uganda, I had the opportunity to go white water rafting down the Nile River, see the sights in Kampala, and experience an entirely new culture.
My number one priority during my summer was to seek out something uncomfortable and enriching and I would recommend sitting down and asking yourself what would make YOU happiest. Whether that’s a research project or summer days with your loved ones and friends back home (or some combination), there is no wrong answer. Regardless of what you decide to do, take the time to enjoy your time off because once M2 year starts, its back to the same grind. If you have any questions, please shoot us a comment!