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I remember adjusting to undergraduate syllabus-based learning (and inevitably missing an assignment or two) while an undergraduate student at Michigan. Eventually being given a list of due dates and exams at the beginning of each class became the norm, and I developed into a more independent learner.

Considering my transition from Michigan undergrad to M1 year, I used the same strategy I always do during life’s transition periods – don’t think about it until it’s happening. So, I arrived at M1 year ready to reorganize my academic life to best serve med school-style learning, whatever that happened to be.

As for what I found: keep in mind that I can only speak for Michigan Medical School, which has a unique condensed/accelerated curriculum where we finish M1 in August and enter the wards for clinical rotations as soon as M2 year begins.

What I soon learned is that while med school has more material with a new syllabus every few weeks instead of every few months as in undergrad, there is also more flexibility in our M1 year to study as we please since we are considered adult-learners. Classmates of mine have newborn babies, new spouses or just a new pet. Whatever the reason, Michigan Medical School is wonderful at understanding that life happens. If we need a bit of time away from Ann Arbor for whatever reason, we have the flexibility to do so.

What has most amazed me about being a med student at Michigan is the collaborative environment of our class. We all share resources, and even have access to resources from classes of students who came before us.

There has been a major change in the learning environment now that didn’t exist as strongly in undergrad, which I love. This is the drive of my classmates. We could all sit in a classroom and be told we need to complete 0% of the work to pass, and most all of us would choose to do it all anyway and do it well, not to pass but to be the best doctors we possibly can one day soon. I have never been around more driven, passionate and dedicated individuals than I am while a student here.

This is a blessing, but can also be a curse if the actions of colleagues causes one to become overwhelmed or discouraged with his/her own path. I am motivated by the actions of others, but have learned that staying true to who you are and being able to express this is most important. Finding what makes you happy and what allows you to de-stress is key, and should be prioritized in medical school. For me, this includes a side bartending job, where I can bond with my community in a completely different way than I do in medical school.

Being a medical student is humbling and horrifying. The journey is incredible, and I am so honored to have such dedicated colleagues, mentors and academic faculty members here at the University of Michigan Medical School to further shape me and my classmates into the Leaders and Best. Go Blue!

Rebecca Goldberg is a first-year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School. She enjoys traveling, hiking, and spending time with family and friends.