Two Diverse Endeavors

I can’t believe it’s almost becoming time for me to graduate! I hardly even feel like a college student right now, so I am in serious wonder of how I will feel when I finally leave. One of the things I will miss about college is the ability to socialize and quickly make friends with people of different cultures and backgrounds. I’m not saying you won’t meet people of diverse upbringings after college, but it will not be as new and fresh an environment to make friends as in college, since later in life people start worrying about their work, how to start families, and other personal commitments. In college, basically everyone is trying to figure out where they are going, and a huge part of that journey entails meeting new people.

I myself have gotten to appreciate other cultures over the years, and below I list two of the ways I have explored backgrounds different from, but also including, my own.

One of my endeavors is attending cultural events at Marathi Vishwa Professional Association with my family during the fall season. Here, I travel with my parents on a weekend to any local NJ high school where the event is sponsored and get to socialize with family friends and make new ones, almost entirely in my first language, Marathi. There is great food (always the best part), dance performances, theatrical skits, and a great chance for me to stay connected to my Indian heritage. Best of all, it’s a great break from the academically stressful environment of the weekdays. Even if I have an exam to study for later in the day, I at least find it relaxing that I got to go to one of these events. Of course, the event is not only exclusive to people who speak Marathi, so it’s also nice to see people from all over India dressing up in traditional Marathi attire and connecting with their culture.

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Another way is that I spent two of my summers interning at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in which I described my experience volunteering in the waiting room of the pediatric clinics, almost entirely in Spanish. I had described my experience in a previous post titled “The NYPD – New York Presbyterian Department“, and I had the privilege of doing it again this past summer, this time as a paid intern! I even got academic credit for it at the Rutgers Internship and Co-op Program! I am glad to know that the initiative to address patients’ social determinants of health (non-biological factors such as occupation, education, and housing) is gaining ground at NYP, and I do hope it grows out to other healthcare institutions as well. The best part about this experience was that it introduced me firsthand to the Dominican culture in the Washington Heights region of New York City, and it thrilled me knowing I was part of an initiative to help the children and their families adjust to their living situations with support from local government-funded and private community resources. The sooner the problems are addressed, the better the lives of the family improves and the less of a chance they have of developing unhealthy eating habits or building up risk factors for chronic disorders. Speaking Spanish to these patients really made me feel like part of their lives and able to communicate what they may have been anxious or had not known about.

Those were two of the experiences I had that I considered as being the most diverse. One was for clinical experience, and the other was for pure family enjoyment. I am sure I have many more that I will talk about in my future posts, and I am sure many of my peers also have something to share regarding their diverse experiences. Whether you realize it or not, each one of us really does have an interesting experience that is worth writing or talking about. Engaging in free discussion was one of the ways I was able to build relationships in college and connect with other cultures. At the end of the day, nothing makes me feel more satisfied than walking away from a conversation where I learned something new about the person, the culture, or myself.

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TDLWTSD: To Do List for When Things Settle Down

Hey everyone,

I know you missed me, seeing as I posted last in July I believe! It’s great to be back writing, despite the loads of writing I did for my primary and secondary med school applications. I will spare you all the details, seeing as it was mostly

  1. Write an essay
  2. Pay for the essay
  3. Write another essay
  4. Pay for that essay
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 at least 15 times

I have a better list now, one that will allow me to do the fun activities I have always wanted to do but never got around to due to schools and extracurriculars. This list is called a “To Do List for When Things Settle Down” (TDLWTSD). I would recommend everyone to have a TDLWTSD, to keep your spirits and motivation up during the hardest times of the semester, especially during exams and for pre-meds, the interviews, as well as that time when you’re waiting for a response from any of the schools. Most importantly, a TDLWTSD will allow you to remember what you said you would do once the exams are over, or once Thanksgiving or Winter Break hits. If you were like me, during those times, you just wanted to sleep and forgot many of the things you promised yourself you would get around to doing. This disappointed me when I was in my room studying at 3 AM thinking “Wow, I just let that opportunity slip by and now I want to do those activities I suddenly remember”. Thus, the TDLWTSD was born.

Keep in mind that this is different from a traditional bucket list, which simply describes the activities you want to do before you die. But why does everything have to focus on before you die? Just focus on the short run for now. We’re all young. The TDLWTSD will get smaller and smaller as we get older, but will still allow us to push forward, even if there is only one thing on the list. A TDLWTSD should be constantly updated, rather than a bucket list, which one simply makes and then forgets about. I may still make a bucket list eventually, but starting out as a college senior, I believe it’s a bit early, so here is my first TDLWTSD, which I probably should have started during my hectic organic chemistry classes of my sophomore year. Hopefully this should inspire some of you to begin thinking about the (fun) things you want to do in between the times you are working hard during winter or summer break. Because I don’t want to bore you guys with unnecessary details (congrats on even getting this far in my post), I will only list 4 of the things I really want to do on my TDLWTSD.

 

1. Catch up on Game of Thrones

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This one I am sure relates with many. I am only on Season 5, and I try to close my ears off to any spoilers, but unfortunately, I do know of some unexpected deaths that occur later on, which will ruin the experience when I am watching it for the first time. How I wish my ears had a mute button…

2. Go on a road trip with friends

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Having missed my Costa Rica trip with my closest friends this past summer because of my applications, I have sought vengeance against this goal, as it has become personal. There is nothing like the horrible feeling that you missed out on a fun experience that your friends had. Ever since, I have clung onto the desire to go on a fun trip out of the country the next time break rolled around. If I let the stresses of my previous semester tire me out to the point where I would miss the opportunity to embark on such an incredible journey, I would not forgive myself. It does not even have to be a road trip, it just has to be somewhere else other than New Jersey. The best part about being busy is that when things settle down, I will make any effort to have fun in whatever I experience, with no expectations or inhibitions.

3. Read Sherlock Holmes books

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As a huge fan of mysteries, I had heard so much about the Netflix series about London’s greatest detective (which I should also add on this list) and am interested in the original character’s adventures created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and how the cultural and historical roots of Victorian-era England contributed to the establishment of such a profound and inquisitive fellow. Taking me back to that time period will be an interesting experience to see how crimes were solved and what logical deductions Sir Doyle had in mind for Mr. Holmes beneath that detached and stoic exterior, and how this never ceases to amaze his partner in crime, Dr. John Watson. The best way to go about it: crack open A Study in Scarlet, which marks the debut of the great detective that remains popular worldwide to this very day. Here is a fun fact: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was also a doctor before he became a writer. I’m starting to get ideas here.

4. Play games on Steam

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Haha! Pre-meds who play video games! Such babies! Shouldn’t you be studying!?

I had long thought I outgrew video games, which I stopped playing regularly after middle school. Everyone plays Fortnite, Heartstone, PokemonGo, the ones you find on your phone or console, but for me, the gaming journey was a bit different. This past summer, I was curious to know of the online platformer, Steam, that would allow me to download many PC games, including the ones I always wanted to play back when I was a regular gamer. After I finished my primary med school application, I downloaded the platform, which had no subscription fee, and bought the first game I had on my mind: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.

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I originally had this game for XBox, but the game kept freezing at one point and so I never got around to finishing it. But that was 6 years ago, so I’m ready to start the game over and hopefully get past it this time. This RPG is so relaxing, where you get to play a Jedi (or Sith) and go around completing fun mini-quests while simultaneously building up your skill set to defeat the Dark Lords of the Sith, or the Jedi. It’s similar to other games like Fable and Witcher. With many plot twists, unexpected allies, and unforeseen betrayals, this game I am saving for the end of the semester, with all my willpower, because once I start, I know I won’t be able to stop. For those of you wondering how I could possibly get hooked onto a Star Wars game, if you’re not a fan, think about what you really like, and how it is difficult to get off once you get hooked on. By the power unleashed in my four years here at Rutgers, I have resurrected my interest in video games! After I knock this one down, more will follow. Don’t worry, this will die down again, possibly permanently, once I enter med school…

The best part about platformer games is that the game won’t stop working if the CD has a scratch on it, or if I accidentally press the home button on my computer. For Steam games to stop, the internet has to stop.

That is all for my TDLWTSD, and stay tuned for more as the semester progresses. Life is short, and many things you wish you did will go past you if you don’t actively take the opportunity. So get on and make that list. Start off small, of course. The last thing you want is another checklist you can just cross off once you get one thing done and move onto the next like you would do with academics, exams, or applications.

 

 

So What Now?

Could the summer progress any faster? Although I’m glad that I have some time left to enjoy it, there is really no other question that lurks at the back of my mind other than how I am going to spend it. Up until very recently, the answer was easy, with the MCATs buzzing around my head like bees around the most nectar-filled flower. Now that that time is over, which I didn’t even think would actually be possible, what grand brain-draining project will there be to replace it?

Up until June 30, the fateful day of my exam, this was how I was thinking.

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So far, over the entire month of July, now this has been more in line with how I am thinking, possibly even right now.

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No matter how redundant and cliche this may sound, the MCAT is the test, the one that really sucks all the brain power out in many different ways you could never imagine and makes you never want to go back. The best part about that is, never before have I gotten to enjoy myself so much with binge-watching Friends on Netflix or rewatching old classic Disney films I used to love when I was little, especially after my trip to Disney World last month. I am not afraid to admit that Disney really is magical for all ages, so call me a kid if you have to. Hey, how about a nice magical picture here? No admission fee!

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Unfortunately, not thinking can really get to me at times, and although the urge to relax endlessly constantly lingers over me while I am so busy with clinical work during the week, I always strive to somehow keep myself busy. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a new endeavor since the application cycle for med school has already begun. I am so looking forward to (sarcastically I say) the return of the college essay phase from four years ago, this time in the form of my personal statement- the literature that dictates my aspirations of donning the garb of the upholder of hope and the surrounding wind of circumstances that gave way to my ambitions to embark on this grand journey to that vast realm equipped with the essential maxim to ensure the fine fettle of all who embody the essence of humanity. If you’re like me and not really thinking, half, maybe all, of what I just stated probably made no sense, and you look as confused as my dog when I ask him if he knows he’s a dog. Basically, it’s the essay that states why I want to go to medical school to become a doctor. On top of this essay that addresses all medical schools I apply to, each school has their own secondary applications that ask why their school fits the bill for me specifically.

Although it may seem pretty straightforward what I should do now, the truth is, I don’t actually have much of an idea, and that’s okay. The scores for the exam take a month to come out, and during that time, all I really can do is plan my statement, since most schools don’t send the secondaries until the primary applications include the scores. Another thing to be mindful of is the guilt that comes with uncertainty. If you haven’t laid everything and figured out where you’d want to go, that is totally fine. In fact, I would argue it is essential for healthy development into a more productive lifestyle later on.

With that, I move on to brainstorming possible topics, and my time writing on this blog really has prepared me well with more confidence in expressing myself, both orally and written. Hopefully, that carries over well into those admission piles, and one thing is for certain in all of this: I enjoy it all the way, in spite of the fact that it is painful, long and exhausting, but precisely because it’s painful, long, and exhausting, and because it’s real. I really am applying, I really did take the MCAT, and I really need to start working on my essays before the fall semester comes. The reality of the endeavor and the hard work is what makes the results much more rewarding and fulfilling, instead of me wishing for the results and them magically appearing because of a genie in a lamp.

This is turning out to be one of the busiest, yet most satisfying, summers I have had so far. My mind and thinking power will come back soon, I am sure, and by that time, I do hope that the personal statement that I ultimately craft accurately reflects how much I have thought through this decision to write and master the magic of healthcare through a period of lifelong learning.

As an Only Child, What Do I See?

Growing up, I would always hear  people talking about how their siblings would either steal their stuff or have their friends over and annoy the living daylight out of them. I would hear how siblings would scare them about the eighth grade. Sometimes, it would be the opposite, and I would hear how siblings inspired my friends to want to be just like their brother or sister who graduated. And of course, a common complaint, one that would be the most annoying of all, for me, was not having available bathrooms in the morning.

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For me, the situation was different. I never got into fights. I would always have my toys and games for myself and didn’t have to share. I had my own room and bed to sleep in at night, and a nice, peaceful, unused bathroom in the morning. It’s not because I was a selfish sibling, but because I was not a sibling.

Being an only child has its ups and downs. Although I used to complain about it a lot back in grade school because almost all my friends had siblings, I realize that it’s actually not that bad. I know many of my friends would call me lucky for being an only child, as something they wished they were. But for those who have always wondered what it’s really like to be an only child, here are some of the things that I have experienced being the sole offspring of the family.

  1. You get almost all the attention from your parents

Most obvious is that parents have all eyes on you. There is no “just because we don’t always pay attention to you doesn’t mean we don’t love you”. Also, any time I wanted something that my sibling would have also wanted, I didn’t have to argue with them over it or be forced to share. Don’t you even think about touching my PS3 controller when I’m not around.

On the other hand, always getting attention from my parents did work against me at times. They were stricter about my curfew coming home, they would always check in on me to make sure I was going to class and studying (they still do that now), and there were always times I wished I had a sibling to redirect the attention to when I suffered a tragic fate, like failing a test.

What comes with this is the overwhelming emotional feeling when my parents drop me off to college every semester. Who will they take care of when they get back home? Me, of course! I have not had a single day when I don’t get calls and texts from my parents at least 5 times, and me not being the rebellious type, I always answer. I know, it’s “sweet”, but not so sweet when you’re in class and the professor hears your phone go off! I do go home on weekends, but since I only live 20 minutes away, it’s an awesome feeling, like I never really left, and coming back to my own soft bed!

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2. You do get lonely, but not often

Whenever I invite my friends or cousins over, I easily have some of the most memorable experiences of partying, dancing, and playing ridiculous games. At the end of the night, it’s all over. There is not a single human soul close to my age in sight.

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Often times, I do wonder what it would be like just to have one other person sleep in the same house (not counting sleepovers, of course), and whether I would want them gone or be happy that I still have someone to talk to. However, with the advent of social media now, getting lonely is not as common for me. I can go on group chats and post random selfies or memes just to show how great of a time we had, or pick up on a conversation that we didn’t finish.

Also, being alone again at night gives me time for deep introspection and made me more aware of what I liked to do when no one else was around. Inevitably, that time comes for everyone at some point, and for me, reading a nice book, or watching Netflix, would be relaxing, or, now that I am in the intense pre-med stage, being alone means I could be more productive with my study time.

3. You might be a bit socially awkward, at least initially

However, being alone also meant less room for face to face interactions, and like any skill, good interaction takes practice. Without a sibling, I may have tended to come off as being more isolated, more self-centered, and not aware of basic social cues when I interacted with my friends or classmates.

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But having close friends and extended family around to guide me really made things better. I have been told I am not like most other only children, in that I am not totally antisocial, I try to listen to others’ opinions, and am not spoiled or selfish.

4. You might not know how to stand up for yourself, or understand how the world really works until much later

While my parents did teach me good manners and prepared me, or attempted to prepare me, psychologically for where I am now, nothing could really make me ready to defend my own opinion intensely when met with disagreement. I am not even sure if I have a real opinion sometimes. I often found myself in conversations with friends nodding my head in agreement over something I clearly would have disagreed with, but not sure how to go about convincing them. My parents taught me to be polite and mature, which wasn’t hard for me to grasp with my being around adults almost all the time, but disagreeing with someone may have inadvertently been included in what I considered impolite or immature. Slowly, I am realizing now that it’s okay to have an opinion different than others, and that engaging in debate occasionally may actually be healthy and fulfilling, and improve my knowledge of present day events and world conflicts.

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Speaking of present day events, I am just now realizing how intensely competitive the career path I am choosing is. After expending all my energy and time into getting my academic record to where it is now, I realize that many of my pre-med cohorts are doing that, and also getting published, featured in the New York Times, being EMTs and scribes, shadowing over 20 doctors, and having way more clinical experience with actual patients than I ever thought I would be able to achieve. The worst feeling is when you work hard and realize it’s nothing compared to what your peers have accomplished. I’m sure we can all relate, but this can be partially attributed to me being sheltered in my own comfort zone at the end of each night. Not having to fight over the bathroom, not trying to make my parents love me more, and not going out of my parents’ way often to get what I want made me poorly aware of the level of competition the world actually holds. It only took a handful of rejections in high school and the inability to find a summer job my freshman year to realize that not everything comes easy, and that success requires time, patience, and persistence. Having your career path is clearly laid out right in front of you does not yield any exception to this. And I’m still trying to figure it out in time for my MCATs in less than a month.

I know that I didn’t get to choose whether I have siblings or not, and nobody gets to choose their family, but I did get to choose what I make of it. That all being said, regardless of the costs it came with, being an only child has made me proud of who I am today, and ready to experience the world with fresh new eyes at every new stage I enter. Even though I may not have real siblings, my friends, my extended family, and my dog have never stopped treating me like such. In life we learn to appreciate diversity as we progress, and hopefully this post has made you non-only children more aware of the world through the eyes of the sole family heir.

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There’s me and my (younger/older?) bro Prince.

On a side note, the number of only child families in the US and Europe is on the rise (up to 30% now in New York), and statistics show that this actually might help increase the nation’s productivity and intelligence, and can counter some of the negative societal effects of obesity and divorce. Yeah, let’s go us!

A Walk in the Rain

Oh, New Jersey! Cannot decide on the weather and must incorporate both extremes to test its residents on their resilience to step out of the house. One good thing about this, though, is that more rain will accompany inevitably due to the intermittent scorching hot periods. For many, that means they can’t go outside and walk, and can risk getting wet. In my opinion, unless you’re a cat, you really have no reason to be afraid of getting wet. Now don’t go out and give yourself pneumonia, but getting wet feels kinda good actually, especially when you step inside and can dry yourself, and for when it gets hot in the same day.

But that’s not the main reason I absolutely enjoy rainy days.

Unlike bright sunny days when the sun is blasting in your face and you sweat at every step you take, or unlike freezing cold winds outside that threaten to freeze solid your face as long as you’re out, rainy days achieve a happy medium. They are not too hot to the point where you have to barely wear a layer, and not too cold to the point where you have to put on an extra 3 layers. They are warm enough for you to walk outside and still cool enough for you to keep your short sleeves. I know, this middle ground is not true of all rainy days, but I am mainly referring to those in April. After all, April showers bring May flowers, don’t they?

Also, there is just something about the calm, tranquil and serene atmosphere that you don’t get from other weather types. Being in the rain makes you feel more appreciative of what’s around you, just sitting there, basking in the raindrops and letting the natural cycle of water take its course. In a way, it makes you feel closer with nature, even in a place as highly urbanized as New Brunswick. It also makes you more introspective, and can alleviate stress through the gloomy surrounding presence of the fog.

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One time I was on College Ave, when it was burning hot outside, and was waiting to get inside where it was cool away from the beating sun. Afterwards, I could hear the raindrops thud against the roof of the classroom, and could not wait to go outside in my umbrella, or not. When I got outside, I just felt like walking around, taking in the surroundings with clearer sight than in the sun, when you don’t have to squint, or the wind, where you’re constantly getting your eyes shut by the brutal air. In a place as large and diverse as Rutgers, everyone has commitments, and it can be hard at times to remember that you’re still young, on a beautiful college campus, and that you don’t have to have everything figured out now. I realized as I was taking a walk down to the Scott Hall bus stop that getting overly worried about exams and med school was not going to make the situation disappear. I did not always have to be in a hurry. Just taking the time once in a while to see what’s around can improve your attitude. In today’s world of smartphones and social media, it’s easy to forget that we have an outdoor environment and there are natural surroundings we can appreciate. When not trying to escape it for the comfort of a classroom and more assignments, I was appreciating it more after seeing it under the rain. When I got to my next class, I felt more refreshed and ready to study, and not pressured to go outside or stay inside.

Those of you who say rainy days are depressing and gloomy, I can understand why. But there are other ways to enjoy the weather and make it beautiful. You may not be in control of the weather, but you sure can improve how you view it. Maybe my next post I’ll write about sunny days, which is less gloomy. Despite the criticism I have offered here, I still enjoy a good hot sunny day. I would just prefer to be at Great Adventure, Dorney Park, or down at the beach getting knocked down by waves! But at Rutgers, or any college campus, rain is the best way to keep me on track, reminding me that there is a life outside.

 

 

Study Craze

MCAT, MCAT, MCAT, and more MCAT. This is what my schedule looks like. Am I missing something?

Oh yeah, my classes!

In order to keep myself sane and not think about the tricks the MCAT exam throws at you in virtually every question, I decided to make this post more motivational, mainly for myself, but also for my readers, about how to ensure that you stay on top of your coursework and not get overwhelmed by other commitments (that could not be more cliche, could it?)

I remember when I first got to college, this was the scene that initially greeted me through the movies, the TV shows, the books, and the new friends:

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Then where did this come from??

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And as boring as it sounds, I know the bottom one is the better option, for me at least (if you’re better at managing your time and can be more socially outgoing, please alert me of your presence). It’s the one that reminds me why I chose the career I wanted, and how it will get me there through the intense workload and experience. Getting up and studying 3 hours a day for Biochemistry, and 2 hours for MCAT doesn’t sound exciting on the surface, but when I look ahead and see myself and my fellow pre-meds in the white coat, I realize it’s what I really wanted all along.

Most importantly, I know that staying on top of your grades and coursework is the most important, since even if you don’t get the score you want on the MCAT the first time, it can be brought up. Your GPA, however, is like your baby. Always nourish it, feed it, and don’t ever let it get sick, and it will not stay your baby forever. In terms of other commitments, usually arrangements can be made to accommodate for your courses. But I would love to meet a professor who allows me to change the date of an exam because I don’t feel ready.

Understandably, the study craze can, for lack of a better term, drive you crazy. But there is one thing that really drives me in the face of that resistance: the spirit of competition. If it really were impossible to get an A in those courses, how are other people doing it? How can they complain and still emerge on top, whereas I tend to be too straightforward and actually mean what I complain? There is a way to bring yourself up, and I realize that wasting my time saying how hard a course is will only fuel my resistance, while others are finding a way that works for them. As a result, I usually tend to avoid the terms “boring”, “not fun”, and “hard” when I study, telling myself it is what I want and it is only temporary, and it will get me into that white coat (hopefully they have the right size). And when it is done, it does tend to feel much more relaxing and rewarding.

That is all for this New Year’s post. It has been a great 2017, and as always, I aim to make the next year better than the last. It might be hard, but, oh wait, I am not using that term. It is possible and it is what I want. Those of you who feel occasional lapses in motivation, it is part of the process, and do not forget that no matter where you go, your coursework is important. Even if your GPA doesn’t necessarily need to be on top for your career, the courses you take will undoubtedly have an impact on how you view the world.

For me, that world is currently Biochemistry, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Orgo, and Psychology and Sociology all at once, and it just keeps getting better from there…

Ways to Really Enjoy the Fall Before it Falls

As the fall semester draws to a close, and as finals approach, I thought I would compile a list of things to do to really make the most out of the fall season, my personal favorite. It is that period when outside is not too cold and not too hot. The days can go from feeling like summer to below freezing in the Arctic, and having that contrasting atmosphere just makes me feel more connected to the world around, since everyone dresses warmly and spends more time with friends and family. It is a transitional period of introspective reflection, of tranquility and serenity, building one’s sense of self one leaf at a time, looking into a transitional future that will give birth to a new period of growth, until it is time to catch one’s breath, shed old inhibitions, and continue the progress of growth for the next available round, bigger and brighter, blossoming like violet spring.

All profundity aside, here are some of the things I managed to do during some of the best fall seasons, and what can also be done for the pre-med students to not neglect their crazy workload (I’m also talking to me here).

  1. Watch a movie

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As cliche as it sounds, watching a movie actually has shown to reduce stress and improve one’s mental capabilities of handling uncomfortable situations. The mind can only handle a certain load of tension before it starts to take a toll on the health of the individual, and so transitioning temporarily into a different world of various characters may actually help unwind the loops the mind has made with all the information that it collects in a short period of time. So, next time you’re stressed for an exam, as long as it’s not the night before, don’t be afraid to take a few hours to watch that comedy you’ve always wanted to see, or see how the affair between those two characters is resolved in the sequel. The fall weather, when it gets too cold outside, offers the best time to plop down and escape into a virtual reality, especially when it gets dark a lot sooner. A word of advice: stick to comedies and dramas if you can, since if you watch horror movies when stressed it can lead to more stress, and possibly to jump scares at the slightest unfamiliar thing in your room afterwards.

2. Grab a cup of coffee (or tea)

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Personally, I’m a tea guy. I have it everyday in the morning, and in the evening when I come back, but the most enjoyable time to sip a cup is none other than that of the colorful descending lateral appendages of the tree branches. It just soothes and relaxes on those freezing Arctic days, and it really calms your mind down when you’re forced to study at such a beautiful time. The caffeine, when not taken based on psychological dependence and the spurious belief of improving performance when drinking in large amounts, actually can stimulate the nerves and generation of synaptic connections, improving focus and keeping one occupied with the important task at hand. The stress of exams can make one overlook the benefits and natural beauty of the surroundings, but to be honest, that beauty is accentuated when those times are limited. In other words, this particular break had made me enjoy the fall weather even more because it was a short break, and so I would not take such a season for granted otherwise. A cup of coffee, or tea, can do wonders for one who aims to retain his focus or simply enjoy the natural collapse of the previous season. However, be careful that one of the leaves does not accidentally fall into your cup!

3. Enjoy time with friends (and Friends)

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The theme song has started to buzz into my head now (So no one told you life was gonna be this way…).

Watching Friends on Netflix, while enjoyable, is not exactly what I meant. Instead, go to your friends house and enjoy what people call a Friendsgiving. If any of your friends cook, great (if the food is good), or their parents can do it for you. Or, you could try your hand at it yourself. There are some basic recipes that are not too hard to follow, even if you don’t even know the first step of cooking, which is getting all the utensils together. I have helped prepare penne vodka, roast turkey, and cornbread stuffing as part of the feast at my closest friend’s house. Eating it was the easy part, but coordinating with the family and getting all the guests to come over, I understand, can be quite a daunting task. The number one concern: what to do with all the food. Personally, that was never a problem for me, the “vacuum” who can suck up all the leftovers in an instant. The best part is, after eating, you all can relax and play some card games like Cards Against Humanity, That’s What She Said, among others. If you think that’s too much effort, go back to Tip #2. It applies well for a group just as much as individuals! For those crazy pre-med majors, a time with friends is exactly what you need to keep yourself sane. If there is any time you don’t have to memorize the Nucleophilic Substitution reactions, or the distinction between Photosystem I and II, please take advantage of it as much as you can!

If there are any other fun, cool party games that you play at Thanksgiving feasts, as long as they don’t involve too much memorization, please don’t stop the fun!

4. Study for MCATs (for prospective medical students mainly)

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Yes, unfortunately, it’s true. Sorry to end on a less fun note, but the breaks are the best times for those of you who have struggled to keep up with the intense load of material while struggling to maintain your GPA during the semester. It really gives you time to at least formulate a solid plan for when you think you want to take it, if you haven’t already done so, as well as which areas you think you need extra practice and/or tutoring for. I am taking mine in the Spring the week after Spring Break, since that will be the best time to gather up any last minute gaps and address them through review, and most importantly, not through study. By then, I should already have seen all the material at least once and have practiced most of it enough times to be confident when encountering it on the exam. This Thanksgiving break, honestly, I have only had time to go over part of the Psychology section, and I was planning on going to the hard science sections now and focus on those for the remainder of the few months I have left, considering they are the bulk of the exam. It is not too late for those of you who haven’t started preparing or planning yet, but doing so as soon as possible will allow you to go in with more certainty when you’re actually ready. Do not simply focus on the MCAT. Instead, focus on where you’re headed with it. What school are you aiming for? What do you hope to get out of studying? How badly do you want to go to med school? Are you ready for this application cycle based on your current position?

As a member of the Eboard for the Alpha Epsilon Delta Prehealth honor society, I can find ways to help any of you get in touch with the Health Professions Office and seek directed advice, as well as for myself. It is better to take a step back and analyze your situation now. Be objective. Do not blindfire with no clear goal in mind. You will do better if you plan. I know it sounds cliche, but when you are stressed, it can be easy to forget to brush your own teeth, let alone follow advice that could benefit you (quoting my earlier post “Pre-Med: The Fair Side”).

Use the time of the breaks, and the beautifully introspective fall season to really propel yourself forward with your future plans for medical school, or your future career in general. At the very least, use it to at least get you started on the right path towards your goal, and leave yourself time to enjoy. But you will enjoy more, if you have a clearer plan in mind, which you can of course modify along the way.

To keep yourself from burning out, follow tips 1-3 closely. Enjoy the rest of the Fall season, and remember: stick to comedies and drama, not horror (you might already be suffering enough of that).

 

FOMO: The Greatest of Halloween Horrors

Man, the semester has got me on a tight schedule. The most horrific thing about the great holiday Halloween is not the costumes, the movies, or the insane amount of decorations people put up around the streets at midnight, but rather the amount of work that we college kids are expected to do around a time of relaxation.

Remember the good ol’ days, similar to the scene below, where in elementary school, we kids could get away with eating all the cookies we wanted, pretending to be on top of the world with our costumes, impressing parents and fellow classmates alike, not caring about schoolwork or the tests that were coming up over a month from the date. Best part was, no homework on weekends! It seems like a utopia looking back.

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I can’t remember my last in-school Halloween party after 5th grade, since Halloween was just another normal day once I got to middle school.

Now that I’m in college, even though students do dress up, and can still go to those school night or “lit” Halloween parties, I find myself having to worry about how it impacts the rest of my schedule. I have two exams and an essay due next week as I sit here writing this, and had to cancel plans with friends multiple times in order to accommodate all these priorities. So I decide to reminisce of the days when we had little to no responsibilities, or have to worry about writing except for those cute little pumpkin cards I used to do in second grade.

I know I sound a bit overly nostalgic here, but keep in mind that I’m not saying these times are gone forever. Rather, they are simply present in a different form than the ones we experienced as children. Sure, I may have to work around a tight schedule, I might not go out as much as I’d like to, and I might have to settle for watching old-time horror classics like Friday the 13th or Halloween instead of the new Happy Death Day in theaters, but overall, I’m ok with that. It’s a compromise I have to make. I am happy with the career choice I am making in medicine, and I know it will all work out well for me in the end, so that is what I use to keep me going. The otherwise horrifying Halloween FOMO (fear of missing out) has little to no effect once I realize I am doing this for myself and my future. And it is not even true that I have missed out entirely, since I am actually planning to go trick-or-treating with friends by getting my work done sooner this weekend, and at the end of the day, I am a person who enjoys spending time with a few close friends rather than a big group (to avoid sounding cliche, I must point out that I also enjoy really big groups, and that’s why most of the time, when I am with friends, I insist on going to malls or football games).

I hope that this post finds everyone well in their studies, or if out partying or hanging with friends, having the time of their lives. It is true that college experience can never be replaced, so going out and having fun is no doubt a part of my schedule, but to incorporate both academics and fun into a single, balanced schedule, has no doubt been a daunting task at times, able to scare more than the jump scares in the Conjuring. Hopefully, when I’m out trick-or-treating, I get more energy to work productively from all the sugar in the candy…

The NYPD (New York Presbyterian Department)

Sorry, it’s not the NYPD you were thinking of, although I have had a few close encounters I do not wish to discuss…(just kidding!)

This NYPD refers to the New York Presbyterian Department (not an actual acronym), where I had the great privilege of volunteering over the summer. New York Presbyterian Hospital has been the #1 hospital in New York for 17 years now, and it includes the medical school campuses for two of the best schools in the country: Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Weill Cornell College of Medicine.

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Back in January, I wanted my summer to be spent in New York, since I had been traveling there since I was a baby and wanted to really explore the city now as an adult. On top of that, I was looking to gain more clinical experience. With the best hospital not too far from where I frequently visited, I decided to try my hand at applying for a volunteering position there. Saint Peter’s is great, but I still wanted to try.

In February, I got a call for an interview for the Health Education and Adult Literacy (HEAL) Program, as part of the Ambulatory Care Network for Columbia University Medical Center, to improve the health literacy (awareness of options and conditions) of the patient population. This year, the HEAL program was restructured under one umbrella. Instead of focusing mainly on health conditions inside the clinic, the program was designed to allow the pediatric patient families in the waiting room of the clinic access to many resources and free programs for their children, to address the growing need to focus on the social determinants of health, which is a sociological term that describes “the structural determinants and conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” In other words, the life of a person outside the doctor’s office. In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, where the hospital is located, many of the families require walk-in clinics for when their kids get sick, or well-child visits to ensure that the basic health needs of their children are being met, and many may be unaware of the role that they can play as primary caregivers in ensuring that their children are living healthy and active lifestyles. That’s where I came in, by speaking directly to the patients and their families in the waiting room about programs or educational information that would make the parents aware of their child’s needs and how to effectively handle them.  The name for the new program was Waiting Room as a Literacy and Learning Environment (WALLE).

It was about a two and a half hour commute to the hospital, including train time, getting an Uber, and walking to the clinic, which was about 10 blocks down. My summer shift was from 10-5, three days a week. When I first started there, although I had observed current great volunteers at work in the clinic, I was still initially a bit nervous, since I had to approach the families in the waiting room and explain to them what WALLE was. Making random conversation with strangers always was anxiety-inducing for me, as if the families weren’t anxious enough about what the doctor was going to tell them about their children’s condition. On top of that, 70% of the population in Washington Heights is Hispanic, primarily with roots from the Dominican Republic, so that meant I had to speak with many of the families entirely in Spanish!

Although I hadn’t really practiced my Spanish since my freshman year at Rutgers, when I took a Honors Hispanic literature course, I was determined to make this work for the children and the families. After all, it wasn’t up to me as to whether they actually used the resources. My job was to build rapport with them and provide them with access through my volunteer supervisor to programs such as Early Head Start, where kids under 2 would learn to read and interact with other children, or downloadable stories through the You Tell Me Stories app. There were new programs being developed and updated almost every month.

I realized that I could customize my encounters through each of the families I talked to, and in the past year, they had been very receptive to us young volunteers. Although all of this only slightly quenched my anxiety, I somehow managed to walk up to the first person on July 5, sit down next to them, and tell them about the WALLE program and anything about nutrition education or physical activity information they wanted. Based on this experience, I held onto one critical piece of advice I gave to all the new volunteers I taught towards the end: do not make assumptions! Some of the adults may have come in with the children, but often times grandparents and extended family liked to accompany the kids to the clinics, so I had to be careful and know who I was talking to. One time, I was telling a woman about these programs, before she told me she was the aunt and not the mother, who wasn’t there, and would most likely have been more interested in hearing about them.

After I was done giving the information to the caregivers and having a conversation with them, I had to document my encounters on a pink form, putting down the patient’s name, the caregivers’ names, phone number, email (if preferred), as well as what points and programs or educational materials were distributed. For the sake of privacy and confidentiality, I will not include pictures of those encounters here. After about two weeks of submitting the encounters to my very committed, passionate supervisor, she would call them and ask them about whether they would be interested in hearing more about the programs I offered them, or what other programs they may be interested in that were not discussed initially. This way, the information I gave them in the clinic did not force them to make a decision at that point, and ensured that they had sufficient time to consider their schedules, as well as monitor the health of their kids. I told almost every family I spoke to that the table full of information about the WALLE program was there everyday, and that they had the option to check it out next time they came, in the event that they were not in the mood to open up about their needs at the time.

The whole staff there was very warm and welcoming, and at the end of the summer, I got the opportunity to shadow one of the doctors in the clinic! It was for a vaccination, since school was just starting, and I noticed that the way the doctor spoke and built rapport with the child was very similar to the way I spoke to and built rapport with the families in the waiting room. Prouder than ever I was at having put myself on the right career path.

Although I did get to explore Times Square, Central Park, the World Trade Center, and eat Subway sandwiches almost every day, what made my summer in New York most memorable was at NYP. Unfortunately, due to the new semester, I could not continue volunteering there this fall, but with this experience, I gained more motivation to work harder through the semester, my interpersonal communication skills have improved, and I am proud to announce that I know 4 languages well: Marathi (my first), English, Spanish, and Hindi (although that one is still in the works).

I graciously thank all the staff at New York Presbyterian and the clinic for this great opportunity, and making the experience all the more educational. Although I have not yet decided my specialty of medicine, I do now consider pediatrics as a possible option.

Fireworks at Home

The Fourth of July may have passed already, but there are personal moments from this particular celebration of the national holiday that I thought I should share on this hot July weekend. Trust me, whenever you don’t know what to do, I would advise writing something down, anything. Even a simple written statement as “I’m bored” can do wonders for your overall well-being.

This was the first time in over 5 years that I had actually managed to capture the view of fireworks up close. Every year, I was always away with family on trips out of the country that prevented us from appreciating the freedom our nation has worked so hard to obtain, but this time, I had the pleasure of looking up at the sky and listening to the loud deafening roars of American pride in the form of bright colors and beauty, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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Even if some of you may be too busy to celebrate, I would advise just looking at the sky even for a second on this special day, and if within earshot, to just take a moment to listen to the sounds that accompany it. In a world and in a nation where most of us are fortunate to have the civil liberties and opportunities to do what we put our mind to, we may tend to take those liberties for granted, and forget that two hundred years ago, the similar sounds of the fireworks we hear today instilled feelings of fear, not excitement. Although we no longer have to worry about being under British rule and fighting intensely for our freedom, the Fourth of July is a day we could just be happy to exist as fellow Americans, and only after seeing the fireworks up close for the first time in years did I finally come to realize the power of the human spirit to push forward even in the most difficult of times, leaving future generations to look back and appreciate all that has been done.

If this post comes off as excessively preachy and didactic, I do apologize. I simply intend to convey to my readers the astonishing moments that we may not realize we are missing sometimes, and that these small moments can be useful for days of low activity or motivation that the summer sometimes tends to bring upon us. After returning from a long vacation in Baltimore the previous week, it was nice to just sit down on the grass, amidst the mosquitoes and loud screaming children, and be part of a diverse crowd of various different races and ethnicities, all dedicated to one simple goal: to enjoy our freedoms on the birthday of the United States.

Now that I am done speaking about what Independence Day meant to me, here are some more pictures of the elusive fireworks I was fast enough to take. For you smartphone users (I have the iPhone 6s), a Noir and Process background really fits if you’re trying to capture the fireworks when it gets really dark after 9 pm.

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