Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Halftime Reflection

As fun as my time has been here so far, I am halfway through it and now it seems like a good time to reflect on thoughts I’ve had up to this point and some thoughts about what I could do with the rest of my time here. I’ve had quite the time in these past four weeks and I still have lots to try and do in the four I have left. I’ve learned how to buy groceries in what feels like an adult manner, so there is that.
Working in Wellington has been a starkly different experience than being a student at Maryville College. Heck, it’s a stark difference from being in the United States. I’m not just talking about the use of the metric system, calling cookies “biscuits”, chips vs crisps, or driving on the left-hand side of the road – though it’s not something I’m entirely used to – rather, the way that life seems to roll on around here. A lot of it I was expecting thanks to my incredibly thorough Study Abroad preparation class, but it was nonetheless interesting to see in person.

In general, people don’t seem to have a “gung-ho” way of doing things which seemed semi-normal back in the States, though I’m not sure that I would call this normal. New Zealanders aren’t lazy by any means, but there is a less rigid attitude toward establishing and maintaining a system of running like a machine at maximum effort. Rather, their approach is more “I’ll get to it when I get to it” and this is sort of confirmed by the number of native Wellington citizens I’ve talked to that haven’t embarked on a lot of the tourist outings available. The only things that they don’t seem to be nonplussed about are rugby, the finest weather Wellington has to offer, and road rules. Unlike what I’m used to, pedestrians usually do not have the right of way and you probably shouldn’t try to claim it. I may or may not have gotten honked at by a bus for thinking I could cross. Sometimes I think that I’ve finally gotten the hang of confidently crossing a street without waiting, but a honking vehicle that creeps up on the crosswalk will kindly remind me that I’m not a native or indestructible. Another thing that you don’t want to mess around with is Wellington weather. On the day that it came for me, I decided to test it and walk to work. It wasn’t raining too horribly, but I swear that the wind had it out for me. I had heard it the night before, howling and whistling like it wanted in my building. So that morning, some 72-km/h (44ish mph) winds decided to not-so-gently guide me to work and help me unofficially set a record for commuting. I later took the bus home and had no regrets whatsoever. However, I don’t really think that a bit of aggressive weather is going to keep me from coming back.

This entire experience has far exceeded my expectations which I think is also due to not having many rigid ones in place in the first place. Helping with a research project like this has been incredibly valuable not only in terms of practical experience gleaned from it but in a way that has made me feel less anxious about my not-so-distant future at Maryville College and beyond. I’m not quite at the level of “raring to go” on my senior thesis, but now I have begun building a less blind and scared-sh*tless approach to it. Being here has also made me even more thankful for the educational experiences MC has provided me with up to this point and I find myself often thinking of how I can use my learned experiences here to make the rest of my time at MC even better. Being away from something for so long makes it easier to see it differently and enable you to learn more about it.

For example, in one of the seminars organized by the department I’m in, I’ve learned about a few tools and programs that can be used in the name of making a research project and thesis less daunting, more organized, and much more accessible to a general audience. The speaker’s presentation was mostly about how to collect data more efficiently, but he took the time to provide overviews of programs that would be helpful for research Authorea and RStudio are ones that I found interesting, but have slightly different uses. Authorea is an online collaborative tool for documents and can be reformatted automatically for journal publication while RStudio is a collection of many programs that are used to present data and the accompanying analysis in a more “friendly” way. RStudio requires being able to code, but I was told that Coursera is an excellent online learning platform for learning this. It’s probably about time that I learned how to code anyway.

Another important conclusion that I am making from my internship is the kind of environment I want to work and thrive in. One of the SMART goals I set for this internship (and my SPE form) was to have a better idea of what kind of career I want to pursue in medicine. The day that I got to spend shadowing one of the surgeons is easily going to go down as my favorite day of my time here. Then my second favorite was the first Grand Round lecture I could attend because it was a presentation on conversion disorder (disorders with psychologicalàsomatic symptoms). These are both my favorites because they were places that I could see myself being in and want to see myself be in. I can’t wait to be one of the students observing (or even assisting with!!) a surgery and learning or a bit farther down the road, be the person who is presenting clinical cases to students and faculty. Honestly, I’ve been starting to fall into a bit of a rut as my college years are ending faster than I am prepared to deal with. I’ve been telling myself for over ten years now that I was going to become a doctor, but it feels much easier to climb to the top of that mountain now that I can see myself there.

For those who are considering an experience like this, just know that you get from it what you put into it. I firmly believe that the reason that I am enjoying my internship so much is that I always try to find something to be excited about each day and to find something that I can take away from each day. Getting to this internship was kind of a painful uphill battle but now that I’m here, I know that it is one that I would have no hesitation in doing again. I can't to tell everyone I know (who's interested, anyway) about my time here and hopefully inspire some people to go out into the world as well. 

Until next time,
Ginny

P.S.

I’m planning to go do some more scenic activities over the next few weekends, so look out for that 😊

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