I am not really a risk taker by any sense of the word. I like to think about every possible scenario and outcome before making a decision, I wear sunscreen in the winter, I set ten alarms in the morning, and I always look at the menu before going to a restaurant. So how did I end up at a Caribbean medical school, a place where the foreseeable future is filled with more uncertainties than absolutes? Thinking back to enrolling in school during the height of the pandemic, everything was constantly evolving and every aspect of the future was scary to me.
Having to move to a new country, away from family, on an isolated island, with new precautions and rules being announced and taken away day after day? Stress. And that didn’t even include the actual MEDICAL SCHOOL portion. Was I smart enough? Could I hack it? Was I insane for thinking this could work? I had about four million thoughts always going on, so when the school announced we had the option to start school remotely due to high case levels, I was ecstatic. One less component of stress to deal with off the bat. I could stay home, in a controlled environment with my support systems and not worry about xyz; only my grades, and prepare myself for moving after the first term.
Well one semester passed by and we all held our breath to wait and see if the remote learning would continue, as the situation in the world had far from improved, and it did. And continued to do so. As every semester drew closer to completion, every email ping and class chat message would bring about a new level of stress and anticipation. Would they let us stay home again? Initially concerning levels of Covid outbreaks became socially desensitized and lacklustre, until a new variant and wave would swoop in and take over, creating more reasons to stay home.
Each time we were told we were going to be returning to in-person learning, no questions about it. But like clockwork, every time the next start date drew near, the school would change their minds, offering remote options once again. This worked out heavily in our favor for four semesters, and I am wildly appreciative of it, and now as I am in my fifth and final pre-clinical (classroom learning) semester, we once again had to play the anxiety-ridden game of chicken to wait and see what the school was going to do.
Except this time it would seem there had been no minds changed aside from a brief extension for the month of May. So, it appears after completing almost all of my basic sciences without having to step foot on a plane, the time has come – I have to move to the island in NINE (?!?!?!) days. If I was in any other semester, fine, I get it. There has to be a point where learning becomes in-person again, fair enough. However, my current and final semester is only seven weeks long, meaning they want us to come down to the island for our very last two weeks of new course material of pre-clinical before the term ends and we begin our review journey for our four GIANT upcoming exams (three shelf exams and a comprehensive, all with a mandatory passing grade to continue).
Am I confused as to why the push for two weeks of in person learning? Yes. Am I disappointed? Yes. It’s hard to uproot from routine and try to stay focused in this extremely fast paced term while organizing travel plans, legal documents, packing etc. Am I still nervous about travelling in the times of Covid? Absolutely. Am I extra stressed that we have to write an exam two days after arriving on the island? Absolutely – I have already thought of one hundred worse case scenarios if my luggage doesn’t arrive, I miss my flight, the internet goes out, my laptop breaks etc.
I am aware none of these are fundamentally new stressors, as many of my classmates had made the decision to go to the island for previous semesters and I’m sure a lot of them already went through these feelings. But these stressors were/are all new for me. So I did what any slightly neurotic Type A stressed out nerd would do when stressed: made a shit ton of lists. Did it actually help me accomplish more? Who knows, but it sure did help curb some of the stress I have been trying to work through for the past two weeks.
Since this term started it seems like time is passing by a million miles a minute with a never-ending To-Do list.
Study for your Block 1 exam – check.
Study for your Clinical Skills OSCE – partial check.
Study for your Clinical Skills midterm – we will get there.
Buy sunscreen – check.
Book flights, hotels, travel insurance – check.
Find an apartment – check.
No seriously, buy more sunscreen – check.
Work ahead for Block 2 material since you’ll be mid travel during your prime study weekend – we will get there.
Valid passport? Oh shit – jk yes we are good.
Book covid tests – check.
Visa docs – dependent on covid tests, but working on it lol.
And it goes on and on.
Part of me is still hoping that they change their minds last minute and realize how silly it is for our last semester that relies SO heavily on us doing well on our exams but hey, in case they don’t at least I will have my bases covered.
In total I will be going to the island for two and a half months (nothing in the grand scheme of things), and hopefully that will be the end of it forever (fingers crossed for a P on all of our exams). It’s fine. This is fine. Anyone can do hard things for ten weeks. It’s just another box that needs to be checked off before moving onto the next phase of this whole process.
Wow Jess, why are you such a baby?
Thank you so much for asking. Because my main rule in life is you can complain as much as you want as long as the work gets done – so there. Also, I am of the mindset that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” so I think this entire plan is somewhat silly. At the end of the day there will always be a semester that draws the short straw for this remote-to-in-person transfer, so I guess it may as well be us.
Now time to work ahead on some heme things, get all my Sadie dog snuggles in, and make the most bare minimum packing list possible to get by.
So I guess stay tuned for some international study adventures, fueled by SPF 100 ginger rage .
Have a great Wednesday!