This summer I began medical school and started, once again, a search for friends and a community. I’ve moved three times in the last three years – from college in Rhode Island to an exploratory year in Chicago to a post-bac in Southern California. Each move has included an awkward dance of getting to know strangers and making friends. I do have good friends scattered across the country, however each year has meant starting from scratch in someplace new.
Like the many times before, this was the case when I first arrived at Michigan. UMMS has emphasized its commitment to community all the way back to interview day. Our orientation is called “Launch”: an homage to the enthusiastic community-building that occurs during that first week on the medical campus. While a community is built, the process still resembled something of an awkward dance. Hours might be spent repeating our respective undergrad universities, whether or not we came “straight through,” and fun facts sprinkled in here and there. I’m not sure if it was my excitement at being in med school or my fear of making no friends that propelled me forward.
Launch week was as fun as it was exhausting. Free food was plentiful. We had several opportunities to wear our white coats, which feels simultaneously cool and very much like dress-up. (I quickly got peanut butter all over one of the sleeves, making me feel decidedly the latter and not the former).
Our responsibilities were few: One afternoon I spent four hours floating down the Huron River with about fifty of my new classmates. People drank beer, ate fresh Michigan cherries, and snoozed (it’s a very slow river).
School has started in full force and friendships have accelerated, have been pushed forward by the “we’re all in this together” attitude that pervades the library after a certain hour. We share our experiences in the hospital, the VA, or other clinics we shadow in.
True to Dean Gay’s promise, the Michigan community is strong and inclusive. This Saturday is Michigan’s first home game and friends are scrambling to quiz by Friday to enjoy the game. I’ll often visit the slounge (the student lounge) to interrupt other students camped out in order to socialize.
This latest move has offered me another opportunity to not only make new friends, but also continue to ask myself where I find meaning in life. Community is certainly one answer, and I am thrilled to have found such a vital one here in such a short amount of time.