Less than six months after graduating from medical school in Ukraine, I can’t help but think about how life in medical school passed. The initial years passed slowly but the last years flew by. Medical school in Ukraine came with lots of opportunities. Opportunities that if well harnessed will earn you more than a medical degree at the end of your six years training. These are few of the things you can do in medical school that will make you stand out after your degree program.

1. Study Hard: Study to get good grades (pyats) in class, it will eventually add up. Some say grades don’t matter but knowledge does but I will like to emphasize that both grades and knowledge matters. Grades matter because if you will be submitting applications to further your career no one’s going to call you to find out how much you know. All they are interested in seeing is, does he/she have good grades so far and they judge your academic ability based on that. Your knowledge also matters because what’s the essence of getting all round As and knowing little or nothing about medicine. If you intend to practice at the end of your career, a licensing exam of the country of your choice will be taken and the accumulation of the knowledge you have acquired in med school will be required. Study! Study! Study! See it as a matter of importance. Get as much basic and clinical knowledge as you can. Prepare for your classes, attend clinical workshops and prepare for your licensing exams especially if you intend to write USMLE. Make it a habit to read in a zone that is comfortable for reading, I mean don’t read on your bed when you are sure to doze off.

2. Academic research: It’s not so complicated to get an academic article published in a journal while in medical school. You can be an author of an academic article which eventually gets published in your school journal or any other school where you do the presentation. Simply walk up to a teacher and tell them about your interest in academic research or join an existing research group. While I was in the fourth year, I joined a pediatrics group which already existed in my school (V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University), my project was supervised by Dr. Tatyana Golovko and I later presented in Kharkiv National Medical University. I also did a publication in my sixth year in the Internal medicine department under the supervision of Dr. Tetiana Zolotorova. Reasons why you should do a research even if you don’t feel it’s important:

a) You profer a solution to an existing problem

b) You learn the methods of conducting a research

c) You can include it in your Curriculum Vitae

d) You are able to bond with your supervisors and they may be willing to write a recommendation for you if you need it.

Imagine my joy, when I typed my name on Google one day and a link to my article popped up.

3. Volunteering: Do something asides school work possibly volunteering. It’s not compulsory you create an organization for this purpose, you can join an existing one. A few of those organizations exist in my school (Karazin) already: ICMA, EMSA, AMSA. I was an active member of ICMA and EMSA, therefore I was able to serve and lead other medical students, had opportunities to go for conferences in other cities or nations, teach in tutorials as well as participate in Community outreaches.

4. Travel: Summer is usually that time of the year where almost everyone is busy doing nothing. You can decide to travel within or outside Ukraine simply as a tourist seeking to explore, for visit, for conferences, for electives in other countries. While planning for this, please make an informed decision. There are ways to get lots of information on how to go about any of your plans on the internet and also you can get people who have been through that path and let them guide you. Make sure to inform whoever will be sponsoring your trip early and if you will be saving up ensure you do that early.

5. Have fun and keep the memories: Ukraine is a beautiful country with many of its cities having centers of attraction. It’s easy and cheap to have fun. Information is key. Go to the cinema. Go to the park. Go to the circus. Go to the aquarium. Go to shopping malls even if it’s for the sake of sightseeing. Surround yourself with people who know how to have fun and please take lots of pictures. Pictures help you keep the memories and will put a smile on your face in years to come while you scroll through your gallery.

6. Make good use of the internet: Don’t take this internet thing for granted. Being in Nigeria these past few months, have made me appreciate the internet more. Make the best use of it. I miss streaming movies and YouTube videos for hours unending. I miss deciding I want to learn something and searching ways online until I get a means I’m most comfortable with. So while you have the time and resources, make the best use of it. Some of the things I did asides entertainment with internet was taking online courses. There are lots of MOOCs you can explore while you have an ‘almost free’ internet access. Some of them include Coursera, Udacity, Udemy. Streamline your search to your area of interest and you will be amazed at the number of opportunities you can explore. They can even award you certificates for this. For example, I learned to create websites through some online courses and YouTube and it became a source of income for me. Remember not to chew more than you can bite. Trying to do many things at the same time can be overwhelming and make you lose interest.

7. Decide what’s next: Medical school is a phase and for most people, Ukraine is a phase that will definitely pass. It’s not too early to start making plans. If you intend to write a licensing exam for another country or pursue a masters program, decide early and prepare towards it. The real question when you get to the sixth year is what’s next. You will have to ask yourself this question but even if you don’t people will ask you. For most people, the inability to provide an answer is not because you are trying to keep it a secret but simply because you don’t know. Will you be staying back? Will you be going home? Will you be traveling somewhere else? You will have options, sometimes plenty of them. Each with its pros and consequences. You will receive different advice, some totally contradicting one another. Some will tell you not to go back to your home country stating that things are bad, some will ask you why you intend to stay back in Ukraine and what are your possible options for career growth, while some will ask you why you want to go to another man’s land. Ultimately, you will make the final decision and take full responsibility for the final outcomes.

8. Make money: Oh yes. It’s possible to make money while studying in Ukraine. Let me quickly put a disclaimer. This option is not for everyone. If it will be difficult for you to create a balance between school and work, don’t even try to force it. There are many options you could explore from owning a business to working from home to working for a company. I know lots of people who owned businesses by meeting a specific need such as currency exchange, house rent, barbing of hair and styling of hair, agents, fashion designers, and many more. Some did not own businesses but were able to work from home or go to a place of work. You can find out more information on how to go about this if you are interested.

9. Follow Your Passion: What are you good at or what do you think you are good at? This is the perfect time to explore. So many people love one or more things asides from medicine. A majority even love it more than medicine. Those things that give you joy or make you feel overenergized, do them. If you want to be a model, a footballer, a dancer, a teacher, a volunteer, a business owner etc., look for ways to fit in those things into your timetable. It’s not likely you go wrong with this provided there’s a balance.

10. Have good friends: Don’t do life alone. You need good people around you. A large group is not necessary, just those ones who can fit into your inner circle. They are people who see your strengths and help you become even better. They will look you straight in the eye and tell you the truth while you go in the seemingly wrong direction. You will even share the same interests with some and sometimes be able to plan together. They will be there to celebrate you during your high moments and be there to encourage you during your low moments. Some will be there for just some period while some will stand the test of time.

11. Seek God: I am a Christian, so this is really important to me. PS..note that seeking God does not equate with going to church or being the most active member of your church. It doesn’t equate to financial commitment or many other things. For me, It simply means having God as my father, seeking Him through His word and striving to be a better child knowing that he loves me unconditionally and of course shining as a light wherever I am. You also can do the same. Don’t be so occupied that you forget what truly matters. Just like everything, life’s a phase.

Tomilayo Awofolaju (M. D.)