I know that studying medicine requires certain sacrifices, but a line must be drawn when we see that these sacrifices turn into toxic behavior. So, how is the social life in med school in general? Let’s dive into this topic and try to answer this question.
I remember when during lectures professors would ask us where we were going for the weekend. Then there would always be silence. You study on weekends – you don’t go out. Everyone’s plans for the New Year’s Eve were reduced to sitting home and studying. My friends and I shocked our colleagues when we spent the New Year’s Eve in the mountains. Every time I went out with friends, we couldn’t ‘shake off’ that feeling of guilt because we weren’t at home and studying.
If you go to Reddit, more specifically to r/medicalschool, you will find a bunch of threads with titles like ‘How is your social life in med school?’ So, if you’re wondering the same, don’t worry. According to most redditors, they actually maintain a social life in med school. But, of course, you will have to find the perfect balance and plan your days to make the most of your social life.
Below, I bring you a few tips and lessons I learned the hard way about the importance of social life in med school.
Long breaks between lectures are your friend – use them!
Of course, our lives get a little complicated the moment we decide to enroll in medicine (preparations for the MCAT begin), but one way to maintain a social life is to incorporate people similar to yourself. After giving yourself some time to get to know your colleagues, invite them for coffee and accept someone else’s invitation. Sometimes you will have long breaks between lectures or exercises, which you can use by spending at least half of that break having coffee and relaxing, and the other half reviewing the material. I promise you’ll be more productive then!
Group study – a combination of productivity and fun!
Feeling unmotivated and don’t feel like studying? Invite your colleagues and ask if they’re up for group study and review. Write exam questions on pieces of paper and draw them, or test each other with past generation exams.
First, you’ll see where your knowledge gaps are. Second, a colleague can explain a concept to you in simple language that you haven’t mastered yet, saving you time that you would spend searching the internet or rereading the textbook. Third, there are breaks where you can Google some material together and come to a new conclusion.
The weekend isn’t just for studying!
Of course, you have to study even on the weekend, but keep in mind that you need socializing beyond the circle of your college. Don’t forget your friends who don’t study with you, and the weekend is perfect for hanging out with them. If you feel tired, invite them for food and a movie in your home or room, or make plans to go out.
What about holidays?
During the holidays, I always set aside one full day for family and friends. And yes, if the gang is getting together for New Year’s Eve and they invite you, JOIN THEM! If you studied before and prepared in advance, you can join them for several days. DO NOT BRING BOOKS!
I made a mistake here and brought books that just created pressure for me, and I didn’t even have time to open them. Trust me, you won’t be any more productive if you sit in your room trying to study that night. Many colleagues have told me that they regretted turning down invitations to celebrate so they could study, only to end up scrolling through Instagram and Facebook in sadness.
If you really know that you won’t have time for a proper night out and socializing, I have the perfect suggestion for you! When you have to go pay bills or run errands in town, invite a friend or two and have some fun while you’re walking around the city.
Don’t forget that you also need time for yourself to recharge your batteries!
Don’t deny yourself simple pleasures. If you feel tired when you come back from lectures, take a nap (of course, don’t forget to set an alarm). Can’t focus on your studies because the latest Netflix series has taken over the world?
Grab your laptop, get comfortable, and make a deal with yourself that you’ll stick to watching one episode and then get back to studying. And if you fulfill your obligations and aren’t sleepy, reward yourself with one more episode. Recently, I read a post from a girl who always watches a really bad TV show when she doesn’t feel like studying, which quickly bores her and motivates her to get up and start studying 😀
I hope these tips have been helpful. To answer our question from the beginning: yes, a social life in med school does exist.
As for the feeling of guilt, over time you will learn not to pay attention to strange looks from colleagues when you say you plan to go out. Your colleagues don’t mean anything bad, they’re just victims of stories they were told before coming to college about how you have to study 24/7 and that you’ll only have fun in your fourth year of study, and until then you’ll suffer. These stories were probably told to you too, but realize that we are social beings and we need socialization, especially when times are tough.
Don’t deprive yourself of that because it won’t bring you anything good in the long run, it will only increase your anxiety. There are countless studies showing the negative effects of social isolation on a person. And after the lockdown in the recent pandemic, I believe that only a few will pass up an invitation to have fun. If you’re currently struggling with stress due to your medical studies, take a look at my other article about stress and anxiety. In it, I delve more deeply into this topic and offer some tips on how to manage it.