What I Learned about Life While in College

I have a lot of drafts I never published, so I decided now’s the time! This will be part of a series where I explore and reflect on life milestones and experiences that have helped me reach the position I am in now – a second year med student whose goal is to incorporate humanitarianism into the practice of medicine. I am also very passionate about passing on wisdom that I have learned, which is a large reason why I write. Hope you pick up some pearls along the way ❤

1. Be somebody that makes everybody feel like somebody. Ask questions that don’t elicit a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer by using prepositions like “what”, “how”, and “why?” (shoutout to Student Wellness Center Wellness Coaching). During college, I discovered that I love deep and vulnerable conversations that get to the core of what makes us human.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask someone to be your mentor if they are in a position where you want to be.

3. College is a really important identity-forming period. For most, this is the first time ever being away from family. You will experience peer pressure. Stay true to yourself. If you don’t want to drink alcohol, don’t. If you don’t want to go to the clubs, don’t. In the end, you don’t need to worry about what others are doing or what they think because this is YOUR life. You’re in full control of your decisions. Check in periodically and ask “if I’m a stranger looking back at me, would I be friends with myself?” Half way through my first year in medical school was when I felt 100% confident in who I am, what I stand for, and the values that I won’t compromise for anyone. This can be a lengthy process.

4. You are a reflection of your closest friends whom you spend the most time with. Are you proud of that? Choose these people carefully.

5. They say you’ll make lifelong friends with people that live in your dorm during freshmen year. This is not always the case and it’s okay. Some friendships are meant to be for a season and some are meant to be for a lifetime. Be a good person regardless and trust life.

6. Don’t be afraid to be very busy. Junior year was definitely the most busy if you’re on the pre-med route. You’ve got one foot in undergrad and another foot trying to figure out how to get accepted to medical school. On top of all of that, you might have leadership positions, research, volunteer commitments, and other organizations. I would be on campus from 8am-8pm running around to different functions. I think this helped transform me into a person who can successfully balance academics and extracurricular activities, while still maintaining a vibrant personal life.

7. Try to enjoy your senior year as much as you can. College is certainly a very unique time that you will not experience again. If you’re pre-med, you should be working hard freshmen, sophomore, and junior year. By the start of senior year, you will have already applied to medical schools if traditional and you’ll look forward to interviewing. Take classes you’re actually interested in, spend time with good friends, go to different events on campus, stay involved in organizations you’re passionate about, and celebrate when you graduate. Don’t worry too much. Life has a funny way of working things out. I know that’s easier said than done because I experienced all the feelings associated with realizing you’ll need to take a gap year. Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll share with you what I did during my gap year and why I sincerely recommend it for everyone!

~lntan

Let’s Get Personal | What’s Your Story?

I attended a Primary Care Progress Leadership Summit at my school yesterday. The purpose was to advocate for the benefits of team-based care in the primary care field and cultivate this team culture through intentional story-telling and coaching. The story-telling exercise was the most powerful part because it got to the root of: what’s your purpose? why are you here?

In my single-parent household, education was a prevailing value growing up. My mother didn’t want my life to be like hers. However, as a first-generation college student, she was not able to provide very much guidance, especially past high school. I really had no idea what the “real world” looked like. I just knew how to pass all my classes and that I had a particular interest in science – until the summer after my junior year in high school when I was gratefully accepted to attend a four-week MD Camp at OSU College of Medicine. We were treated like first-year medical students: meeting professors of medicine, shadowing an infectious disease doctor, experiencing the cadaver lab, taking a comprehensive test, and receiving a white coat. This opened my eyes to a career in medicine and lit a spark in me that I can do this. So this became my goal all throughout college as I pursued a degree in Neuroscience at The Ohio State University. It was a smooth journey until the MCAT, which made me question whether I was cut for the career or not. During the summer after my junior year when I was studying for the standardized exam, I spontaneously reconnected with an old friend from elementary school who was also on the medical path. That summer, we made a routine out of running together most summer afternoons – this was my solace from studying. I had no idea that our rekindled friendship would change my outlook on life forever. My friend was a true free spirit – he always said what was on his mind without caring what other people thought. That was the complete opposite of me. I have always been a reserved person and it took me a while before I can completely open up to others. His energy was so contagious that I caught it. I slowly fostered this free-spirited nature and that was the first time in my life I truly felt alive. I started thinking about the impermanence of life and how we should strive to feel more alive. This then made me ponder the meaning of life, which is partly why I started my blog. Among many nuances, the meaning of life for me is building authentic relationships and connecting with others on a deeper level. When we are on our death bed, I doubt we’d think about whether we could have made $50,000 more or if we should have bought a Lamborghini. We are going to think about people – regrets, shared experiences, joyous times. When I’m lying on my death bed, I hope I remember more good times than regrets, which is why I am making a more conscious awareness in my daily life to be more authentic with others to build a deeper connection. You never know the magic that can arise when you open yourself up to another human being. Fast forward to medical school. I had to overcome some hurdles with the MCAT, but in the end successfully completed the leg of the race and am now in my first year. People go into medicine for a variety of reasons ranging from: family influences, money, prestige, wanting to help people, research, service. Some of these reasons provide more lasting inspiration than others. My reason that I want to continually cultivate is building that deeper relationship with patients so that I can explore how their meaning in life affects disease and vice versa. Patients are more than just their disease state. We should seek to understand their robust life outside of the 15-minute office visit. This sense of shared humanity motivates me.

Caveat to this idealistic approach of being more vulnerable, authentic, and honest (from feedback and personal experience): people might not reciprocate and value these same qualities. One of my friends expressed that he would rather not live life this way because you are handing people bits of information about yourself that they can use against you. You weaken your defenses if you show people how you think and who you are. From personal experience, I was taken advantage of because I was too honest. I knew this person for many years and we practically knew each other inside out (except for the things he hid from me this past year). Being honest and open is my way of showing that I deeply care for someone and their well-being. I’m still struggling with this concept because I don’t believe in playing games in life for it is impermanent – say how you feel and do what’s right. Don’t hurt others in the process. In conclusion, it’s wise to use your judicious decision on who you want to be vulnerable with and what parts of yourself you want to share. I’m not a big fan of superficial conversations and the proverbial “good” reply to “how are you?” and this is a way to overcome that.

Extra note on love and life: While thinking about the meaning of life, obviously love comes to my mind. I am a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. I get teary-eyed at least once in movies and books because the relationships between the characters always pull at my heart strings. I just dangerously subscribed to a YouTube channel that’s focused on creating professional wedding videos and sharing love stories – you can already guess I cry during every single video. Upon reflection, I should have had more independent time instead of stringing the other person along and being strung along. I encourage every early to mid 2o-year-old to spend at least a few months completely single – free of any kind of emotional or physical intimate relations. Society makes us believe that being alone should be one of our biggest fears, that being half-loved by someone is better than not having them at all. With the world at our fingertips now, dating apps make it that much easier to replace person after person without ever being lonely. I don’t think this is healthy. One of my friends argue that we all need to feel validated by someone and that you often can’t overcome heartbreak without seeking intimacy with another person. Yes, it’s a nice feeling to be cared for and it might be the easiest way to mask your hurt, but why can’t you validate yourself? Being truly single for a month now, I have learned to respect myself and give myself the time and space to self-improve. You shouldn’t invest yourself in someone who can only give you 99% or less of their heart. I’ve had a skewed image of what a loving relationship should feel and look like, but now I am awakened. It can be very painful to be patient, but I have faith that the wait is worth it and that there is someone out there who is ready to give you what you need and vice versa. Love is complicated. Relationships take lots of time and work. It’s a conscious effort – not just something that happens between two people who like each other. Don’t jump in if you’re not ready. That’s not fair for either of you. Being single means you have all the time in the world to use as you see fit – freedom at its purity. It’s important to have introspective time to realize who you are and what you want before trying to share with another complex being. People may have many definitions of what kind of relationships they want to have: casual, open, exclusive, inclusive, polyamorous. Don’t settle if that is not what you truly want. Establish your guidelines for love first and stick to it. If your potential lover has a completely different agenda that you don’t see for yourself, let them go. I’m taking this time to establish mental guidelines for accepting and giving love, to workout and improve physical fitness, to accomplish independent goals, to open myself to deeper friendships, to learn from missteps, to know my self-worth, to deepen knowledge, to live in my values, and embrace confidence in who I am and realize I don’t need to change for anybody. The person you’re meant to be with will want you just as you are and find your faults endearing. Only then will you be able to paint a collaborative art piece called love whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Story-telling always has a conflict. The good news: some sort of resolution always occurs. One of the most important take-aways from hardship is being able to relate to others through experiences and sharing what you learned. Key elements of intentional story-telling: story of self, conflict, choice, values, and the story of us (how it relates to your audience). Try it out: what’s your purpose for why you are where you are right now or where you hope to be?

~lntan

I have no regrets, but I would do it over again

You may be thinking “Ellen, that doesn’t make sense. You have regrets if you would do it over again”, but let me explain.

I’m now a proud graduate of The Ohio State University with a BS in Neuroscience. As a first-generation student, I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams all of the unique experiences I’ve had these past four years. For that, I am forever grateful for all the people I have met and all the opportunities that were afforded to me.

DSCN5087But I’ve hit a serious roadblock to my vocational dream that developed the summer after my junior year of high school – to use medicine, science, leadership, and education to positively impact the future of healthcare and better the well-being of humankind.

At this point, I do not have sufficient credentials to attend medical school and I wish I could tell my freshman self what I know now. But I realize this is life. You live and you learn. It’s all a part of the journey.

If granted a wish, I would re-do my college experience over again to make sure I adequately show medical schools that I would make a great physician and achieve success the first time around. The medical school process is an arduous one, but I know this is my purpose if I still have the drive to find out what went wrong from professionals involved in admissions and to improve myself to re-apply again. Even if I say I would re-do my experience, I have no regrets. A lot of failures are blessings in disguise. I’m learning a lot about myself in this time of despair, feeling lost, but also of introspection. This failure has forced me to re-evaluate the question “why medicine?” and I feel that once I am at the moment where I can confidently say “I made it”, I will be more grateful for this unique life opportunity than if I had effortlessly gained admission the first time.

I’m currently applying for jobs to gain more experience working in a clinical setting and planning to re-take the MCAT. I am excited to continue on the journey, embracing the roadblocks and detours.

Stay tuned for some blog topics I would like to share in the coming months! 🙂

Sneak Peek
– What I learned about life while in college
– Medical School application tips I wish I knew
– Love & Vulnerability
– Book reviews
– Revisit of a blog post I previously wrote concerning social media

If you feel some of my post-grad sentiments, I’ll leave you with inspiration from Nicki Minaj’s new song (who knew Nicki could write some lyrics that would become my life anthem and also match the theme of my blog so well??)

“So make sure the stars is what you aim for.
Make mistakes though.

I never worry, life is a journey.
I just wanna enjoy the ride.
What is the hurry? It’s pretty early.
It’s okay, we’ll take our time.

The night is still young.
How dare we sit quietly.
And watch the world pass us by.”

And this quote:
CC_o_pWVEAAVotO.jpg large

#nevergiveup

Day 29 (Saturday, May 31): Until Next Time, India + Budget + Bucketlist

Woke up around 8:30am. I felt like sleeping in, but Lauren and I planned to get breakfast at 9am. I wore my red with green vines Fab India shirt. We walked down with Taniqua. I vlogged Taniqua signing her name in the book for the last time and then Lauren getting food. Breakfast: one toast, two pancakes, omelet, and tea. Alvian was there too. Lauren walked with me to vlog the library. Taniqua asked us to buy Orbit gum for her with 50 rupees. We peeked into the library café and at first glance thought they didn’t sell gum, but it was on the counter. I can faintly picture seeing gum in my memory of ordering food at the café, so I felt bad that we didn’t take the chance of going in. Drew inspired me to purchase a maroon-colored Kasturba Medical College t-shirt at the Manipal campus store. I had around 1000 rupees left. We said goodbye to the library by taking individual pictures with the Manipal sign.

IMG_1589Back at the hostel, I gave Taniqua her 50 rupees back. It was around 10:30am when I returned to my room and hardcore packed. I thought I wouldn’t finish on time. I gave Taniqua some Ziploc bags when she came over around 11am. I checked my room several times, took out the trash, and finished packing all my bags around 11:45am. We were supposed to be ready at 12:05pm, so I was cutting it close. Taniqua and I visited the small snack shop on the ground floor of our hostel to use more rupees. Lindsey and Ashley were already in the lobby with their luggage. I purchased a Tropicana Orange Juice and Lipton Iced Green Tea with Lemon and Mint. I brought my luggage downstairs, turned in the room key, and rolled the suitcase to the bus.

Taniqua and I sat in the very back. The tiny air-conditioned vent above made the ride more bearable. I updated this journal and listened to music on my iPod. I relished the Indian scenery for the last time. I was pretty productive, but started to get a headache towards the end of the drive.

Arrived at the Mangalore airport and our flight itinerary were checked twice by army-like men standing at the doors. Alvian suspected he was discriminated against when the guy only told him, “no smoking inside.” We went through the baggage scan and check-in. In line, Sesen pointed out a half Indian and half Caucasian family. The little girl was beyond beautiful. We parted ways with Dr. Raj, Paul, Ashley, and Rachel because they were on a separate flight. I shook Dr. Raj’s hand and thanked him for everything. Sesen teased him about emailing us his whereabouts (he’s going to Poland for a conference) and he said no one reads his emails anyways. I hugged Rachel and Ashley and waved goodbye to Paul. We went through the carry-on scan and body check. Sahanna and Sesen needed to empty their bags because of metal. The bathroom at the terminal was surprisingly really nice and could have been mistaken for one in the US equipped with modern toilets, toilet paper, soap, and hand dryers. Only when Lauren and I returned and raved about it, did the others go too. We boarded and I sat in seat 11B, one row away from first class. One of my personal goals on this trip was to engage in conversation with a stranger on the airplane. It didn’t quite work out on the way here, so I was hoping I would have a chance on the flights back home. I believe we have so much to learn from one another by just talking, and the prospect of learning new things from another person’s perspective excites me. The first flight was unsuccessful. For food, we got an Indian-styled chicken and pepper wrap that was surprisingly very good, a mini water bottle, and tea. I love the plane’s tea. I wonder what kind it is. People told me it’s just black tea. I napped for 15-minutes towards the end of the flight.

We had a 9-hour layover in Mumbai. Hopefully the time passes by fast. We had the opportunity to see the airport from the outside, and it is gorgeous: peacock design, uniquely shaped trees, water fountains, Indian flags, and white designed ceilings.

IMG_1597IMG_1600We went to a restaurant called The Square for food. Sahanna and I shared a vegetarian platter and lava cake.

IMG_1607IMG_1609As we were leaving to go through customs and immigration, we ran into Anna, Lauren, and Taniqua as they entered the restaurant. The interior of the airport could have been mistaken for a mall!

IMG_1611I bought a green silk scarf that came with bangles for my mom and a small wooden elephant keychain at a store called The Lotus. They accepted US dollars, so I paid with 530 rupees and 5 dollars. I think I have an obsession with buying elephant figurines. Sahanna played the first X-Men movie on her laptop to pass the time at the gate. Anna, Lauren, and Taniqua eventually came to our terminal and hung out. Anna wanted to take a couple pictures and was sent on a mission to buy soft drinks for Sahanna and Lindsey. I went with her because I was in the mood to walk around. We checked out a tea shop. Anna bought me Slice mango juice because I spent all of my rupees.

IMG_1624Slice was sold at the Italian fast food restaurant on the 2nd floor Manipal cafeteria, but I never had a chance to buy it. I was excited to finally try it and it was good! Everyone was right in that it tasted better than the Mazza brand. Lauren and Anna split a chocolate brownie with their last rupees. Back at the gate, I transferred Dr. Raj’s pictures to Alvian’s flashdrive for him and organized my pictures on the computer. We hugged and said goodbye to Lauren and Taniqua as they headed to their Amsterdam flight. Then, we found out our gate changed. We walked further down and parted with Anna when the paths forked.

IMG_5724We boarded the flight and I couldn’t sit next to Sahanna and Lindsey because the flight was full. I sat in the middle section of the aircraft in the third seat of a four seated row. I tried watching X-Men: Origins, but I fell asleep. The guy to my right at one point was almost leaning on my shoulder while he was sleeping. Vegetarian lunch: Indian food, watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya, tea, bread roll, and water. The woman to my left started a conversation by letting me know something is leaking from my backpack (water). We talked for a good half hour about India, studying, Mysore, medical school, education, her visits to the US, her son in New Jersey, the difference between taking care of elders in India and the US. The flight landed and she patted me on the shoulder saying she’s not sure if we’ll see each other on the next flight. I told her to have fun in New Jersey and she wished me good luck in my career. Aw, so nice. I started watching a movie called Serendipity when she started the conversation with me. Fun fact: that’s my favorite word and the actress in the movie said it was hers too, so I was intrigued to watch the movie. It’s about a woman that believes in fate and plays with a man’s heart by saying that they’ll part ways and if fate brings them together, it’s meant to be.

Landed in Brussels and went through a bag and body check. The workers ordered Sesen to unwrap her hair and she was reluctant at first, but complied in the end. We went shopping for Belgian Chocolate, but the price was exorbitant. We bought food from a café.

Boarded next plane to Newark. I got an aisle seat – woohoo! I was in the middle section of the aircraft again in a four seated row. Two people are in my row, but no one sat immediately to my right. I finished the movie Serendipity, and watched Silver Linings Playbook and Love Actually. I let a guy in the left section borrow my pen to fill out customs forms. Snack: flakes made of peas. One meal: Indian-style wrap and chocolate ice cream bar.

IMG_5743I slept for brief periods. Listened to Bollywood songs and read the book, Quiet.

Landed in Newark. I kind of wish I had window seats for the transatlantic flights, but I guess that’s something to look forward to on my next international trip. Went through US customs and retrieved luggage from the belt. A police officer was walking around with a sniffing dog. I was so scared the dog would find my cashews and force me to throw them away, but everything went well. We re-checked the bags and took a shuttle bus to our terminal. Bought food at Starbucks: turkey and cheddar sandwich and strawberry and banana Naked juice. At the terminal, I talked with mom and Arif on the phone and updated journal. Sahanna’s extension cord started a conversation with a family of four. He asked us how India was. He said he’s really curious about the Pakistan dividing moment. We parted with Sesen because she’s headed to DC to surprise her mom. I told her I am so glad I met her on this trip.

Boarded plane. This plane was a little larger than the ones that typically fly into Columbus. It’s two seats on either side of the aisle, but normally it’s two on one side and one on the other. My seat was 11A and I asked the man in seat B, “can I get in there?” And he jokingly said “no.” That’s when I knew we’d have a good conversation. I let a couple minutes of silence pass, while I updated the journal on my iPhone. Then, I asked him “were you in Newark?” He said “yeah. You?” Me- “India.” He said “wow.” Told him I’m on this flight with three other students that studied abroad in India for one month. He asked how it’s different there. I said it was a humbling experience and reminds me to not take things for granted, like toilet paper. We talked about OSU, my future career plans, his home and family in Newark, job in Columbus, Chinese food, skiing, and his summer plans. He was very talkative, which was nice because I can cross off conversing with a stranger off my traveling bucket list. We talked the entire flight. I periodically would look out the window and he would bring me back to conversation. He flies back and forth between Newark and Columbus every two weeks or so and mentioned he needs to plan out his flights like two weeks in advance to avoid high prices. I asked him what city he preferred. He said Columbus, mainly because of the traffic. He said it takes him 15 minutes to drive to work whereas in New Jersey, it takes a little more than an hour and you need to use public transportation. I said “yeah that’s added stress to the day.” He said although Ohio has no mountains or bodies of water, it’s a nice break. He said “for example, at home, I need to mow the lawn, weed, install various things, and do housework. But in Columbus, I can eat dinner, drink a glass of wine, watch TV, and relax.” Haha. I asked if it’s difficult traveling back and forth. He didn’t really complain and enjoys the change in scenery. We talked about his daughter, who is a senior in high school and he expressed his concern about her choosing a college. I offered to help if she is interested in Ohio State. I gave him my BLF business card (haha quite possibly the first time I have ever legitimately gave one out) and he gave me his. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end this once-in-a-lifetime trip. So surreal and so blessed.

IMG_5746 IMG_5751Money Spent
Cost:
Program Fee         $1,800
Air Ticket               $1,400
Personal                   $400
_____________________
Total cost               $3,600
Profit:
Wolfe Scholarship $2,500
Personal left             $100
_____________________
Spent:
Out-of-Pocket        $1,000

Bucketlist for India

  1. Ride a rickshaw & capture it on video
  2. Ride a camel
  3. Ride an elephant
  4. Ride the citibus
  5. Buy kurtis/saris/salwaar kamis
  6. Go to the beach
  7. Experience a “discotech”
  8. Make a local friend
  9. Go to a temple, perferably on a mountain
  10. Keep a blog and/or diary
  11. Try vlogging!
  12. Watch a Bollywood movie
  13. Eat on a banana leaf
  14. Drink tea
  15. O-H-I-O pic anywhere and everywhere
  16. Selfies anywhere and everywhere
  17. Try all food
  18. Watch a religious ceremony
  19. Handwash clothes
  20. Take lots of pictures and videos
  21. Go to the circus
  22. Purchase a Manipal t-shirt
  23. Explore the Manipal Anatomy & Physiology Museum
  24. Cross a busy street as a large group
  25. Try some Indian pastries at a bakery
  26. Take a picture with a monkey
  27. Eat/drink something mango flavored (be careful of raw fruit)
  28. Take a bucket shower
  29. Listen to Bollywood songs
  30. Wander and maybe get a little lost around a familiar place in a large group