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Five Things I’ve Learnt From My First Year of Medical School

Navigating your first year of medical school doesn’t have to be hard! Here are 5 things Radhika learnt as a first-year medical student.

Radhika Gupta, Medical Student

My story

Initially, I thought medical school would involve me spending hours in the library pouring over anatomy textbooks and learning complicated metabolic pathways, with very little time for other activities. However, my experience has been far from that! I thoroughly enjoyed my first year in Belfast and I’m sharing 5 things I learnt in my first year of medical school to help you maximise your time at Queen’s!

1. Study slowly, but steadily

You’re probably familiar with the saying ‘slow and steady wins the race’. As a first-year student, I struggled to find a study routine that worked for me. Whilst the content I was studying wasn’t too difficult, the real challenge was finding time to review the sheer volume of content covered. I realised the best way to study is to have a dedicated time each week to go over the previous week’s work. Doing it slowly means you’re taking in the information at a pace that suits you, and working steadily throughout the year helps prevent cramming closer to exams.

Students in McClay Library

The McClay Library is a great place to study

2. Take advantage of your half day

As a first-year medical student, you’ll have one timetabled half day per week. Many students use this time to attend society events, study in the library, or to exercise. How you choose to spend your half day is up to you, but make sure you use the time well! A typical half day for me consisted of lessons from 9am to 1pm, followed by studying in the library with friends. I preferred to get work done on my half day in the afternoon before attending society events and socialising in the evenings. Usually after our study session we’d take a walk down Botanic Avenue for food which always tasted good after our hard work. Then I’d spend the rest of my afternoon in the gym before attending casual chess events organised by QUB Chess society!

Queen's Physical Education Centre

Make the most of your half-day!

3. Experiment with how you study

It took me a while to figure out a study method that worked for me. I probably tried every platform recommended: Notion, Anki, Word…the list is endless! The best platform I’ve found is OneNote. With your Queen’s account, you’ll get access to OneNote for free, which is great. I like organising my lectures based on their module, then I create a page for each lecture. It’s a good idea to experiment with how you study early on in your first semester as it gives you time to switch to a different method if one doesn’t work.

OneNote sceenshot

Each module tab on my OneNote links to the lectures uploaded on Canvas

4. You need to make time for socialising

This is one of the best pieces of advice I was given before starting medical school. Many believe that university is just about studying, but it’s so much more than that! As a medical student, it can be hard to find time to socialise due to the intensity of the course. I find that socialising towards the end of the week (Thursday – Saturday) works better with my friend group than going out on Mondays or Tuesdays because there’s less pressure to wake up early the next day to attend lectures. Remember, socialising doesn’t have to be restricted to nights out! Simply meeting up for lunch before an afternoon tutorial or going for a walk can help you make time for your friends and leave you feeling refreshed!

BABBA Club Night

BABBA is one of Belfast's most popular club nights, held every week at Limelight!

5. There is always time for hobbies

If there’s one thing I wish I could tell my first-year self, it would be to engage in extra-curriculars. During my first year, I was so busy navigating university life and socialising with friends that I forgot to take time for myself to do things I enjoyed. I’m an avid reader, I enjoy photography and like playing sport, but I rarely engaged in my hobbies. My reasoning was that I would never have time in medical school to pursue these interests. Queen’s has a society for nearly everything you can imagine, there’s a handy list on the SU website. In my second semester, I decided I wanted to try something new as I found myself getting bored, so I signed up for Art society, and I loved it! I’d highly encourage every first-year student to join a couple of societies, my experience taught me that it’s important to make time for your hobbies, as doing so improves both physical and mental wellbeing.

Bob Ross art night

My friend and I went to a Bob Ross 'paint along' night hosted by Queen's Art Society!

Find out more

Study Medicine at Queen's

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Life at Queen's: Your Student Guide

Radhika Gupta

Medicine | Undergraduate Student | Derry, Northern Ireland

Hi! My name is Radhika, I’m 19 years old and originally from Derry. I’m currently a second-year medical student and so far, I’ve been loving my course and time in Belfast! I like to spend weekends exploring the city with my friends and trying to find good places to eat/drink. My hobbies include photography, reading and yoga!

This year I’m trying to become more involved in university activities, so you may see me around campus as I’m a student ambassador, plus I also love spending time in the Student Union with my friends in the evenings! I’m a member of various medical societies like SWOT and WOMED, and also recreational societies like Chess and Arts!

 Radhika Gupta