Starting the MSTP

It was time. I had waited for most of my years as an undergraduate for this, and now I found myself ready to take the next step and move to Alabama for next eight years of my life as an MSTP student. Was I nervous? You’d better believe it! Up until this point, I had lived at home, even through college. I had no idea what it was like to be on my own outside of the stories from friends or classmates. What was it really going to be like?

I had lived most of my life, up until this point, in Atlanta, Georgia. I say “Atlanta” as a general reference on the map and a general feel for the traffic. I actually live in a suburb north of Atlanta called Cumming, but, yes, I still got to experience the park-your-car-and-walk traffic from the city. Having never actually lived in a city, I wondered what Birmingham was actually going to be like. I found a relatively quiet city (except for the fire trucks going by every couple of hours) with a climate not unlike what I had come from: warm and sunny at one point and then cold or raining the next. There was plenty to do as well: every other place on a city block seemed to be either an eatery or a bar, some of them offering trivia during the evenings.

Not much of that mattered during the first part of moving in though (an event I hope not to experience again for a while). I had picked out an apartment with the help of my parents in a location that was close to the school but still away from it all. Then, for the first few days, I unpacked the copious supplies that I had brought (who knew all the stuff I could fit into my one bedroom at my parents’ house?).

What was next? Well, as I mentioned, there was plenty to do in the city and trivia was a favorite of all the other MSTP’s and something new to me, so I gave it several goes before medical school was supposed to start up and I would have no time to do it otherwise. My main enjoyment, however, was the sense of community that all of us entering MSTP’s had with each other. Most events that I went to were actually done as a group, allowing everyone to get to know each other and develop a close bond before going off to medical school and starting it all over again, with the medical students. But it was nice to already have that sense of familiarity with some of the individuals in the class.

Then it was starting a lab rotation. Sure, I had worked in the lab before, but as to how it would be different in graduate school, I didn’t know. What did I find when I got there? A normal lab. It was a rotation, my PI informed me that I was here for the general experience of the lab and to learn what I could along the way. I could go into gory detail about techniques, but suffice it to say that the more important aspect was learning about what the lab was like. What were the students in the lab like and how did it feel? Was I going to fit in there? Those are the questions that I asked myself after I came out of the lab, definitely not before I went into it. Now medical school has started and the pace has increased. It will never be easy as an MSTP, but I feel that the journey, with friends, will be worth it.

-Tim

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