Getting a medical degree

Getting a medical degree
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A passion for humanitarian work and a desire to help others are what motivated Sonia Wu to pursue medicine. Having just started her second year, Sonia is finally getting comfortable juggling the responsibilities of medical school. Here, she shares some advice on how to stick with it and succeed.

“Nothing prepares you for the endless challenge and intense learning pace,” Sonia is quick to admit. It’s no secret—you need nerves of steel to earn a medical degree. It’s a long-term commitment that requires at least six years of study, on top of solid time management and more than a few sacrifices. She keeps track of it all in a digital calendar synced with her computer and phone. Everything, even her sleep schedule, goes in this precious tool.

Don’t give up your passions

Quitting her hobbies was out of the question. Between long hours studying, her commitment to the students’ association and her part-time research job, Sonia still makes time to coach her school’s cheerleading squad and go to violin lessons. “I think it’s important to balance your academic and personal lives.”

To do this, you have to be able to make choices and stick with them. “Occasionally, I have to turn down invitations to go out with friends,” she adds.

Sonia acknowledges that, sometimes, she has a dip in motivation, which is normal. When this happens, her strategy is to remind herself why she wants to become a doctor. “I want to help others and make a difference in their lives.”

Share with your peers

Given that medical school is so intense, Sonia suggests finding other students with whom you can talk – they’re going through the same thing, so it will be easier for them to understand the high level of commitment required by your studies.

“There’s always a classmate that I can talk to, and that’s how we keep each other motivated. There is a lot of support in my group, and everyone encourages each other to keep going and work harder. We have a great group dynamic.”

Contrary to what some might think, there is a lot of mutual support among the students. “Each person is working hard to get into their speciality, but that pushes everyone to work harder, to be better. It’s healthy competition!”

Prepare yourself financially

Given the number of years of study involved, Sonia is aware that getting a medical degree requires good financial planning. It’s important to establish both a plan and a budget.

Sonia knew that her schedule would not allow her to have a typical student job. “I spent a few summers working before starting medical school, so I could put some money aside.”

In addition to saving, Sonia decided to continue living with her parents. “I don’t have many expenses and my part-time research job helps me earn a little money.”

Sonia also applied to scholarship programs. She snagged a few research scholarships and these provide her with additional income.

Don’t forget how lucky you are

Medicine is a very in-demand discipline, and Sonia never forgets how lucky she is to develop her skills in a field she loves – even if she worked really hard to get there.

What really excites her is the volume of knowledge she is acquiring. “The pace of theoretical learning is ultra-fast. From the outside, it may seem tedious, but when I think about everything I’ve learned, I know the effort is worth it.”

The level of intellectual stimulation and the human side of her chosen field are what really motivate Sonia: By deepening her theoretical know-how, she’ll be able to establish great relationships with her patients.

Edited on 20 August 2018

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