Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Starting dental school can be a difficult transition, especially when living far from home. My move to Philadelphia was my first time being in a different state as my friends and family, and between the overwhelming amount of lecture material first semester of first year and getting to know 140 people and a new city, I was fleetingly overwhelmed. If any of this resonates with you, here are some of the things that helped me get through my first two years.
Schedule your time. If you’ve ever felt like you have so much work to do, but don’t know
where to start, it helps to make a list of things you need to go through, how long it’ll take you (with some buffer time), and knock them out one by one.
Be realistic when you are being productive and when you are not. When you are sitting in front of your computer all day and studying is going really slowly, you might as well take a break, get some fresh air, do whatever errands you need to get done, and then come back and study. When you allow yourself this time, you will be refreshed and actually productive, as opposed to spending a quarter of your study time looking at your phone or out the window, wishing you could elsewhere.
Get some fresh air. It’s difficult to sit in one spot for eight hours, let alone stay present for six lectures in a row. One of the things that made me feel a little less like a zombie is going for walks. While it isn’t a good idea to walk alone at night, if you live in a safe area and have a friend or two to walk with, moving gets blood pumping to your brain and the rest of your body. Not only is it good exercise, but it can help solidify information you have just studied. What I often did (and still do) is study on your own and then get together with a friend to walk and talk through the material. Meanwhile, you’re getting to know the city. Some of my favorite walks are to the art museum, down the Schuylkill River, and through Center City.
Make time for fun things. When you’re just starting dental school, it seems like everyone
goes out to get to know each other. But when that fizzles out and you don’t have time or realize that you can’t study after a night of drinking, try organizing other fun activities with friends. Whether it’s hosting a game night, going to a wine and paint night, pottery class, or taking a mini-trip to a different city, life outside of school is important and healthy. Dental school can be some of the hardest years of your life, but also the most fun - so take advantage of them.
Get creative in the kitchen. School is expensive and if you’re worried about loans piling up, cooking is a simple way to get more for your money. Not only that, but it’s usually much healthier and can be a lot of fun! Sometimes, cooking can seem like a chore, especially when you don’t have much time, but if you think of it as an investment, after getting the hang of a couple meals it doesn’t take that long. What’s even more fun is cooking with friends. Pick up whatever looks cool in the grocery store and find ways to make it! Eggplant Parmesan, spaghetti squash bowls, fajitas, sangria… the sky’s the limit!
Lastly, spend some time in Philly over break. After D1 year, I decided to spend half the summer in Philly and the other half back home. I had a whole month to explore and enjoy the city since most of my “adventures” during the year were to Trader Joe’s. Many people went home, but other classes stay, so I made friends to go out with and hung out with people that live nearby. At my leisure, I’d walk or run down the river, paint, browse the shops in Center City, bake, hit up the community swimming pool, have out-of-towners visit, actually read a book, etc.
All in all, grind, make time for yourself, stop comparing yourself to others, and be
healthy. These are some of the best four years of your life - ENJOY them.