If I cast my mind back, I can just about remember arriving in this little town on a sunny September afternoon. Everyone I saw had their giant suitcase containing all the essentials necessary for life with their parents close by, telling nostalgic and cringeworthy stories of how their little angel had grown up so fast. Personally I completely ignored my parents, instead focusing on more pressing matters, like how to desperately act normal around new people. Surely I was not the only one who was texting my school friends and asking, ‘How long should I pretend to be normal for?’
As it happened though, my first problem was not actually making friends, but simply finding anyone at all. After telling my parents to get lost, I examined the room, unpacked, and opened my door with my handy doorstop, hoping that new friends would roll in almost immediately. Very soon, however, it became clear no-one was going to come sauntering in, so I had to leave the safety of my room and actually seek them out. Feeling seriously desperate by this point I ended up doing shuttle-runs from my room to the kitchen, pretending each time that it was the first time I had seen the kitchen. After a few hours, I was panicking that I had been put in an empty corridor, and in my misery decided to make a trip to Tesco for a weeks supply of ready- meals. It was as I left my room to go that I finally found someone and was able to start making friends. That was where it all began.
The next week was a blur.
On Saturday we had the joys of a foam party.
At first, there was a hesitance from people as they did not want to get too drunk and reveal some questionable habits with people they had just met, but this quite quickly subsided and descended into messy fun.
The next night was the Tribal Bop, and we all had the joy of being sworn and shouted at
by people in rival halls. Call me a killjoy, but I could not help but feel that I did not have very much allegiance to a hall that I had moved into the previous day, and I was not going to predispose everyone in another hall as an enemy just because of where they lived, I did still had friends to make, after all.
Later in the week we had a performance from Rob Da Bank, but I think this was hindered by the power-cut affecting half the town, and the fact that most people had no clue who he was. Some- thing I did enjoy was the hypnotist that came and made several hypnotized students in the audience look pretty silly. I should mention, though, that the University of Glasgow went even further and had a hypnotizing dog at their Freshers week! I do not want to go advertis- ing other universities, but come on – it’s a hypnotizing dog!
The worst thing about Freshers Week was not quite knowing who to say ‘hello’ to in the street. Did a five-minute conversation outside Empire at 2 a.m. about the merits of chips over pizza make someone your friend? Personally, I found that the limit to saying ‘hello’ to someone you completely dislike was three days. After this I would blank these people through either looking at your phone while you pass, or plain crossing the road to avoid them if extremely desperate. In a medical context, there was an additional awkward moment where you passed a fellow first year medic, thinking:
‘You’re a medical student. I’m a medical student. But we’ve never talked.’
The other thing that I found myself doing was nicknaming people that I see around the medical school or campus but did not know, such as the first year medic, Hugh Laurie? Anyone?
After Freshers’ week, the medical business truly began.
Medical School started off slowly, but is now in full swing. A first question that faced us all was, ‘How long should I leave it before I whip out the MacBook?’ Most people waited around a week, while others prefer frantically highlighting printed lecture notes.
This assumes, of course, that you are not sleeping during the lectures (we’re looking at you, Ben Griffin).
Very quickly a seating arrangement was accepted within the Lec- ture Theatre. By this I mean the unspoken law whereby you must sit in the same general area each lecture. I do admit that we have a few ‘floaters’ that pop up everywhere, but by and large, we know where we belong. I’m not, for example, just going to saunter over and plonk myself in the Front Row Crew. That would just be plain rude.
One of the most significant moments of my first few weeks in medical school was in the dissection room. We all knew what each other were thinking when we had our first DR session: first and foremost, do not faint, and secondly, where are all the fainters? I hope it was not only me who had this perverse desire to see a few people collapse to the floor. About half way through the session, I heard a thud and turned around, expecting to see a pale student sprawled across the ground…but it turned out someone had just dropped a lung. How disappointing. On a serious note though, the first dissection room session provided a humbling and rewarding experience, and we will remember forever, however cheesy it sounds.
Another important ‘first’ in our medical school lives was the first time practicing clinical skills, which entitled, as you will know, ‘learning how to wash your hands’. While it was not particularly taxing, it did provide excellent joke material for non-medic friends. But seriously guys, who really wants a dirty right dorsum?
Clinical skills moved on quickly– by the second week we were even helping people stand up. I understand that this is a priceless skill in a medical career when caring for older, fragile people, but it seemed slightly silly with these agile teenagers. Besides, we didn’t quite know each other well enough to be touching each other’s right hips. Overall, though, it was a very nice, hands-on icebreaker.
I think mid-semester exams crept up on us all (that dreaded week 8), but thankfully we
had a week off beforehand, which allowed for frantic memorizing and industrial quantities of highlighter pens. I think the most stressful part of everyone’s week was desperately trying to understand enzyme kinetics. Although it was not in the mid-semester assessment, it will almost certainly be there in the January assessment – but we all will have forgotten it by then and have to learn it from scratch.
And that just about brings us up to date, covering just some of the highlights of our first months here.
Of course there are always going to be some things that annoy us about St Andrews: walking into the Union before midnight can be like walking onto the set of I am Legend and what’s with the lights turning off mid-lecture, plunging us all into darkness and giving the opportunity for an impromptu nap? But at what other university do you see friends whenever you leave the front door, or have the choice of three beautiful beaches every day? And where else are those red jeans fashionable?