How are you coping with the transition of undergraduate education to Medical School?
I definitely think it was easier than expected because Western has a great undergraduate program. A lot of their courses are tailored to a more medical and clinical aspect, therefore it made it easier to learn the material when I’m in medical school because I had already learned most of it. The way I learned was a little different too. I was one of those guys who took 3 weeks off, crammed all the lectures and just pumped out a solid mark on the day of the test. Now at the University of Toronto, you have to always be on the go. I can’t take a day off because I’ve got weekly quizzes and mandatory classes. I learned it the hard way, you definitely have to be on the ball at all times. My study habits changed as I now have to study everyday more than I used to everyday of the week. But I love doing it because I love the people in my class, I love seeing them every day. We all go to class together because we love seeing each other and it makes everything a lot easier to deal with.
How do you find yourself changing over the years?
I think I matured a little I’d say, just a little! I was a little bit of a loose-canon 18 year old. Even when I came here, I would say I was a little immature, but meeting good friends who always have your back, you’ll eventually learn how to be mature and professional. I learned not to be too reckless and to always watch what you do and I couldn’t have learned it from a better group of people, guess this comes from experience!
What was the worst part of applying to medical school and why did you hate it?
The University of Toronto sends out acceptances in batches. I was part of the last batch of acceptances, so I had to wait till March to get an interview. This was after all my friends had either been interviewed or rejected, so I was in a crazy limbo period where I didn’t know what to expect. Moreover, you always look at yourself in a negative light when you apply to things, that’s because you always say, “Oh this is not as good as my friend,” or, “My GPA is not as high”. It’s so hard to focus on the positives because you hear all these stories about people not getting in, and you always compare yourself to this magical standard. What people have to learn is that you really have to put in all your effort and apply to Medical School with the best of your ability. You have to be the best Austin you can ever be. That was the toughest part, and I had some days where I was self-deprecating, self-loathing, and faced some catastrophic moments in my life. But sometimes you just have to tell yourself, hey, I’m a pretty awesome person. It taught me who I was as a person, and I wouldn’t have change it at all.
What do you think help you most to think positively about yourself, and help you bring back your confidence?
My mom, and my sister have helped me so much. My mom raised me as a single parent, and my sister’s currently in medical school. They’re the best people I know. Both of them kept saying, Aus, you’re a great kid, keep it up. There were some days when I was so distraught calling home crying. The most important thing is to have that kind of a support system while you’re going through the whole process.
What are some things that are stressing you out?
Frankly, I don’t really stress too hard about school because I have good study habits. What stressed me sometimes was being seen as incompetent to my peers. I am very competitive, and I know I’m not incompetent, because I work very hard to be the best scholar I can be. I never want to take a day off or get a question wrong for people to say, “Austin doesn’t know what he’s doing” and that’s because I’m very competitive and I have that edge. You have to focus on your own postives, don’t care what anyone else thinks about you.
If you had to tell someone who’s going through the same process of medical school, what would you recommend to them to deal with their stress?
I was in bad shape when I stopped working out, it was a huge thing in my life. So if I were to give one piece of advice, don’t eat your words away and drink your life away because it will get worse. Keep working out and keep being positive. Of course it’s important in the context of your daily life, but it’s also important during the medical school application process. You will be so stressed during the whole thing that you will continue to think about what’s going to happen in the future. And frankly, after you apply, it's done, all over. So once that happens, keep working out, enjoy your third year, enjoy your fourth year. Be social, go out and treat yourself, because you'll learn that it's the last little bit of your real freedom. Next thing you know you’re going to be in medical school, then you’ll be in residency, and then you'll be working, and after that you’ll realize you lost your youth. It hits you like a brick. The stress is out of your control, so do what you are passionate about and maximize the time you have in your undergrad, it won’t take you long to realize that these years will be the best years of your life.