Medical School - Preclinical

Impressions of a First Year Medical Student

The first semester of medical school is the toughest. First year medical student, Ariel Lee, describes what you can expect when you begin you journey.

I believe, as many of my peers would affirm, that the first semester of medical school is the toughest. It is hard for many reasons. For one, you are most likely in a new city, living in a new housing situation, with strangers (if you have roommates). This in and of itself can be taxing. Then, there is school. After you get past the excitement of being coated in your White Coat Ceremony and reciting the Hippocratic Oath, you are immediately introduced to the rigor of medical school.

Starting medical school can be likened to a parent plunging a child into a pool without first teaching him or her how to swim. The amount of information that you are expected to learn in the given amount of time can easily overwhelm you if you allow it to. While many lectures are not mandatory (as most of them are podcasted), it is still challenging to constantly keep up with watching lectures while balancing studying, social life, and simple housekeeping tasks. All the while, you may also battle feelings of self-doubt and the dreaded imposter syndrome because, for perhaps the first time in your life, you are no longer at the top of your class and may even fail a test or two.

As difficult as it sounds, it has also been one of the most, if not THE most, rewarding and life-changing seasons of my life. The indescribable feeling of pressing a scalpel into a cadaver and exploring the human body up-close in anatomy lab, the thrill of being in a simulation lab giving orders to treat a life-like ER patient manikin—these are priceless moments that have been extremely gratifying and surreal. The intensity and challenge of medical school also brings people together like no other unifier. Over the course of a few weeks, you would be surprised at how close you become with your classmates. Strangers become friends, who then become your close confidantes—people who uniquely understand and share your experience.

At the end of the day, I consider myself extremely privileged and fortunate to be in this position—to be able to learn the culmination of human exploration into our physiology and to be surrounded by an outstanding group of individuals who inspire me with their compassion for human suffering and passion for discovery and learning. Medical school is extremely difficult and not to be underestimated, but for those who are called to the career of medicine, it is a rite of passage—a battle that must be fought for the trust that your future patients will immediately place in you.

Ariel Lee

Ariel Lee is a graduate of Brandeis University in the class of 2018 with a B.S. in Biology and Anthropology. She is medical student in the class of 2023. Her areas of interest include: geriatrics, end-of-life care, and the intersection of spirituality and medicine. In addition to writing for Prospective Doctor, she runs a blog at, where she writes on her journey in the Christian faith and other personal reflections.

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