The Power of Maintaining Relationships in Medical School

I recently got a talking to from my best friend because I had not talked to her in 6 months. The unfortunate truth of being a student is that you rarely have free nights and weekends. Maintaining relationships (friendship, romantic, or family) can be challenging when school work transcends all boundaries of your life. I always feel like I have something to study and don’t quite have real Saturday’s. Sleeping in, for example, is a luxury. In the case of my friend, she was a student when were in college 6 years ago. I forgot that she forgot what being a student is like.

One of the key skills you must master as a student is time management. And that skill should apply to all aspects your life, especially your personal life. The weeks I do not have much time to catch up with my home friends or family are terrible for me. Your relationships outside of school work are critical to keep you sane and happy. They act as a buffer from the daily stress. Being able to talk about your day is such a huge relief, especially with someone who isn’t in the trenches with you. Venting to a classmate helps, but I rarely get as much out of the conversation as I do when talking to someone completely removed from the situation.

My relationships also give me a strong sense of purpose. They continue to remind me that I have a purpose and I am needed outside of school. When I get sucked into my daily routine or get down on myself about not doing so well on an exam, I remember that I am more than just a student. I am more than my student ID number, more than just one of 90 in an ambitious class of 90-some students – I am a daughter, I am a friend, I am a sister. I need to remember to prioritize these relationships more regularly.

My friends and family outside of school are also a huge source of support and encouragement. Even if my dad has no idea what I’m talking about when I am complaining about my microbiology exam, he provides comforting words on the phone that remind me of the other obstacles I’ve faced and I’ve overcame before. When you forget who your skills and talents or what you’ve accomplished, your close friends and family are always there to remind you. Sometimes a gentle, loving reminder in the middle of the week of what you are capable of and what you can accomplish and how bright your future is can tremendously impact your mood and sense of self. When you are stressed and feeling like you’re performing under the microscope because you are evaluated and critiqued all the time, it can be demanding mentally and emotionally.

The thing I have learned from that conversation with my friend is to communicate with your loved ones about your schedule and availability. A simple text letting them know that you will have a busy few weeks because of midterms or a big project due will help to set expectations. It really goes a long way to tell your loved ones when you send a small text or leave a voicemail or a handwritten note or post card that you are thinking of them and will reach back out at your earliest convenience.

School is important, but I’ve found that my relationships mean more to me than a good grade.

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sonal-kumar

Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.