24 October, 2017
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When you apply to GEMSAS, you get a single offer. You have to take it or leave it, regardless of where it is. Even if that means quitting 4 jobs, leaving your friends and family behind and starting from scratch. I mean, Med School is hard enough, but adding on a move to Brisbane, 1000 kilometres from everything I love, made it just that much harder. However, Med School is also the best thing that has ever happened to me, and moving interstate has transformed it into a totally life changing experience. Here’s some of my advice for moving interstate to study medicine.
Choosing Med Schools
First and foremost, choose the med schools you list on your GEMSAS application carefully. You have time between GAMSAT® Exam and applications, so make sure you study up! Look at the courses offered, entry requirements, attendance pattern, clinical years. Look at the school activities, extracurricular activities, clubs and societies. And then look at where the schools are. Are they easily accessible by public transport? Will you keep your car? Can you afford to live nearby, or will you spend precious study hours on a long commute? Can you keep up your hobbies and sports in the new city? Will you be able to find work? A good place to start with these details are the university website – don’t just look at the school of medicine page! Check out the student union, the Medical Student Society, and the non-medical societies – there is life outside of medicine! At the end of the day, you take whichever offer you get, so don’t throw it away by not looking into your 5th and 6th choices on the application!
So, you’ve got the offer. You’ve accepted it. And now you have just a few short months to work out how you’re going to shift your entire life to another city. Here’s a tip - start early! When I finally got my offer, I had only 6 weeks to wrap up all of my loose ends and move. I had to quit 4 jobs, resign from my volunteer work, say goodbye to friends and family, get my licence, complete application paperwork, not lose my birth certificate while packing, find a place to live and then actually move. Start planning right away. Pick key dates – pack by now, move by then, find place to live before this date. You might want to take a friend or family member to visit for a few days before you move – check out some nice areas to live, the commute to uni. If you’re going to be moving into a share-house or renting an apartment, see if you can arrange inspections while you’re visiting, so you’ll have somewhere to sleep when the big move comes along! Make sure you check your uni website – most have accommodation listings and can warn you of any scams in the area. Look into different forms of moving – will you drive yourself? Will you hire a truck or ship your belongings? Don’t forget to look at practical things like road rules, car registration and licensing!
Friends and Family
This, for me at least, has been the hardest part of the move. No longer can I just pop round to my mum and dad’s for dinner when I feel like it. I can’t squeeze in a sneaky catch up with an old friend on our lunch breaks. And there’s a very real chance I won’t be able to get the time off to fly home and be a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding. These are sacrifices that I have needed to make, in order to study medicine. What’s more, to preserve existing friendships you suddenly have to make a work a whole lot harder. Every time I fly home, I catch up with different friends for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, or drinks, whatever we can make happen. And if I don’t make an effort to organise these, to keep in touch during semester, these friendships risk getting left behind. I have friends who I call regularly – once a week, to talk with for 20 minutes or 3 hours, just so they are still in my life. And for my own sanity, I skype my family once a fortnight, to swap stories and feel connected. This has been a very important part of looking after myself at med school.
On the other hand, moving interstate, starting from scratch at a new university and med school itself makes for an excellent background to making new friends. On the very first day of orientation, I just happened to run into three people who have been my best friends ever since. These are the friends I study with, I explore my new city with, I moan about assignments and exams with. The friendships you form at med school are some of the strongest, most long-lasting bonds you will form in your entire life. And they’re also part of what makes med school so fun!
Starting Uni & Getting Involved
So, you’re all set up. You’ve moved in, located furniture, got all your vaccinations and the paperwork is ready to go. Orientation time! My orientation was a great introduction to med school. They say that the learning required when studying medicine is like a fire hydrant. Picture a little dog trying to drink from a high pressure hose. This is med school. Orientation day, or week, is an excellent warm up for this – more information than you can handle. However, try not to tune out too much, or drown in all the administrative stuff. Ask questions! See if there are resources you can access, university or student union websites that you can use to make your life easier. Orientation is also an excellent way to start meeting people and getting involved in university life. Go to the introduction barbecues, check out the clubs and societies that you can join. Go to the socials! Make friends and connections – you’ll be with these people for the next 4 years, and they’ll make your life easier!
Well, those are some of the lessons I learned, moving from Sydney to Brisbane in a few short weeks for Med School. Moving to Brisbane, and starting med school, are two of the hardest, most rewarding things I have ever done. Hopefully you’ll find my tips, and you’ll consider accepting the challenge of studying medicine interstate! Good Luck!