Sunday, August 16, 2009

My First Week

So far, things are going pretty well.

I'm overwhelmed by all the changes. New city, new house, new bed, new spice rack. Let alone, new occupation, new school, new transportation system, new people to meet, new lunchbox.

All things considered, I think I'm doing amazingly. Not a perfectly smooth path, but that's ok.

Day one was the white coat ceremony and lots of lofty rhetoric about the profession and the future of the world. My family was there for the ceremony and they were really touched.

Day two was full from 8-5 with a combination of classes (biochemistry, essentials of public health, etc) and orientation stuff (tutor resources, counseling resources, etc). At the end of day two I collapsed. Not physically, but inside. My parents left the morning of day two for home and the combination of saying goodbye to them, excessive heat and humidity, a new bus route and a day completely full of people saying, "don't worry, it isn't going to be THAT bad" had me seriously panicking about just how bad it will be. At lunchtime I had to attend a health screening and then I got dismissed early from it. This resulted in me not having anyone to eat lunch with. So, I went in the bathroom stall and tried to keep from crying into my sandwich. On the way home, my bus didn't come for 30 min and when I did eventually get a different bus home, it started raining.

With Ron's lovingkindness I cried it out and made some changes. First, I decided I needed to stop trying so hard. I was really concerned about making friends and not keeping to myself. So, at every ten minute break I'd been picking up all my stuff and moving to a new part of the auditorium to meet five new people. I've stopped that. I decided the odds are decent that I will make friends and I won't be horribly lonely. I sat next to someone whose name I already knew on day three morning and stayed there until lunchtime. At lunch I walked down 14 flights of stairs with a girl who was really friendly and we decided to have lunch together. We ended up at a huge picnic table outside that I didn't know was there with probably 50 of our classmates. If I can't find someone in the future, I'll look there.

In the meantime, I've covered the thousands of little details that go into getting settled in a new community. I have my ID card, I'm figuring out which books to buy, how to find my new gym and how to ensure I am HIPPA certified.

Day three's evening involved a social event that I could bring Ron to and by that night I was feeling excited to introduce him to some of my new "friends."

Day four ended mercifully at 1pm so I had time to take the shuttle to the main campus to get my blood drawn for a Hep B titer (because apparently records that I've had all three shots isn't enough!) during business hours.

Also, on day four, I went planner shopping. I spent two hours at home with all my syllabi, orientation events, advisor meetings and deadlines for purchasing my bus pass and made sense of all of it. I feel so much better having it all written out and being able to look and see how it lays out.

One tricky thing about our first week is that virtually every day was packed solidly. It made me have this building worry about how I was ever going to do all this studying and errand running they demanded if I was obligated during every business hour. Mapping out my planner also helped me see that this will only continue for another week or so.

I am grateful that they program so many of the little things into our days, but it just makes for really long days.

Day five had a couple forty five minute gaps where I was able to reserve my T pass for the semester, get my gym paper signed at one spot, turned in at another and find my way back to my lecture hall in time! It doesn't help that all the lecture halls have numbers, but are only referred to by their donor name. How do I begin to determine what floor Bakst is on? Building A Room 100 would be so much more helpful!!

The good news is that I'm finding both the school and my classmates to be all I'd ever hoped they would be. There are 176 of us picked out from over 10,000 applications. The level of dialogue starts out high.

They assume you are responsible, dedicated, compassionate, interested and engaged. I love that! Our group is incredibly diverse, people from 37 states (I'm the only one from Oregon), 22 countries, aged 19-40. I'm pleased to find so many people close to my age. I think there are about 60 of us age 25 and older.

The school is as missional and dedicated to patient care, excellence and professionalism as I hoped. It is a place full of people that I want to learn medicine from.

Every five minutes or so I get pretty overwhelmed. Looking at all the work in front of me feels like a tidal wave. But, as my dad used to say to me, "Trina, we're making roast beef sandwiches, not running up and sinking our teeth into the rump of the cow."

The more I learn, the more excited I am. I used to say if I won the lottery I'd go to med school...and here I am!

Walking home from school on Friday afternoon, I started to feel the excitement about what I'm doing, what I'm learning and who I am getting to know.

Our house is getting ever more settled thanks mostly to my parents and Ron's tireless efforts (he doesn't start for two more weeks). Every bit of that makes me feel more settled. You'd think after a year of no home I'd be prepared for everything to change every five minutes.

But, the things that are most upsetting right now are

1. Making my lunch.
2. Figuring out what time I have to wake up to shower in the morning.
3. Picking a transportation route.
4. Remembering my locker combination.
5. Deciding what books/papers I need to haul back and forth to school.

If I step back from it a moment, I can know that odds are those things will get less stressful with time. And, I'm sure I will soon be upset about not understanding something in Biochemistry...but
hopefully by then some of this stuff will be more settled.

Like I said, Ron is amazing. I am grateful he has had so much space to support me while I'm trying so hard. So far, he's ridden almost all the way to school with me everyday. I get that that isn't sustainable...but it has really helped me feel loved, confident and ready to start my days.

I'm trying to be gentle with myself. I know there is a lot of adjusting and I know I've already come so far. Sometimes I sit in lecture and feel like I'm going backwards, like I'm a student and this
should all be so easy. Sometimes I sit in lecture and feel like they're projecting so far forward to me being a life-saving veteran and I don't know what to do when the infant is in a PVS and the family wants my opinion on the biomedical ethics of pulling the plug!

Theoretically there is a lot of learning between now and then and that this is an incremental process with challenge and ability rising in step.

I did just finish my biochem reading and I really loved it! The part I forgot about is that even the hard parts I'm going to like. The topic is so interesting to me. So, whether we're doing chem or anatomy, they are constantly relating it back to the topic I'm the most interested in, human health.

I am happy to be where I am and I expect that week two will hold more academic humps but far fewer whole-life humps that week one.


Court said...

:) You are going to kick some serious butt with your new school. It'll take time to adjust to things. Especially after traveling the world and living in different cultures. It's a lot of change but you will succeed in any environment you are put in.

Marilee said...

You are a superhero! Ah, Trina, I'm so impressed and I admire you so much. Please move back to Oregon after you graduate so you can be my doctor!

Emily said...

It sounds like it's been tough, but that you (and the two of you as a team) are starting out fantastic in your new life there. You will both do so well in your new studies-careers, and how amazing that you're so good at supporting each other.

Matt said...

Do you know about the "by public transportation" feature on google maps? I've found that really helpful, it comes up with routes that the metro trip planner doesn't show. I also really loved looking at the subway map of Boston in Google Earth. Hopefully by now you've found a great bus routine, but's it's always good to figure out all your options just in case you miss one!

Matthew and Lisa said...

Trink - so good to read all about it. Some of it reminds me of "the awkward years" but hopefully that'll make you smile, not cry. I love your enthusiasm and have no doubt you'll do absolutely fabulously :) LOVE YOU!