Happy holidays, everyone! Christmas has arrived in Cambridge, and the streets are brightly lit with lights in the windows of shops and decorations all around the city. Some of my house mates and I traveled into London last weekend and experienced the Christmas preparations amid England’s Storm Arwen. Even in the face of the rain, we ice-skated at the Natural History Museum, and meandered through Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. At the end of the trip, we just managed to get on the last train back to Cambridge after quickly moving from Kings Cross to Liverpool Station when our original train was cancelled due to debris on the tracks. An exciting day!
Before arriving in Cambridge, I tried to do as much research as I could about the course work, about Jesus college, and about life in the UK. My personal, academic and professional expectations were exceeded beyond what I could have imagined. I knew it was going to be difficult trying to make new friends in a totally new country, but I was pleasantly surprised. All of my housemates are wonderful people, and we’ve become very close. The hardest personal obstacle I encountered was knowing where in the city I was, as I couldn’t rely on Google maps all the time. After spending time exploring and deliberately getting lost, I believe I can efficiently make my way home from most of the colleges in Cambridge. Now, in terms of academics, I knew that the course load would be very different to the US educational style; however, I hadn’t prepared myself for the sheer amount of information I’m required to absorb and synthesize. At times, it feels as if the lecturers are throwing information at us in a very organized manner, but I am slowly becoming accustomed to the method of teaching.
My academic expectations were high to begin with; however, I didn’t expect how difficult the transition would be for me. At the beginning, I thought I needed to know everything that was in the lecture handouts, and while some details are important, it’s better to get the general grasp of the concepts early on and come back to the details when revising for exams. Cambridge has exceeded my academic expectations. I am fascinated by all of the courses I’m taking, and I always look forward to the supervision discussions. My professional expectations were that I would get involved with a research lab and find a mentorship that way. I am still remotely continuing with my research at the McGowan Institute in Pittsburgh. Nonetheless, I’ve found mentorship in two of my three supervisors. One is a distinguished veterinarian, and the other is a 5th year medic. Discussions with both of them are always invigorating, and it’s fascinating to see the interplay of impressions about the medical community each of them hold.
I will hopefully have the opportunity to shadow various medical professionals within the UK healthcare system. I have shadowed many physicians from many professions in the US, so it will be interesting to reflect on the similarities and differences between the systems. I have already had the opportunity to experience the pre-hospital care, as there was a serious injury in one of the football matches the Cambridge women played. The ambulance was called early on in the first half and didn’t arrive until the match was completed. I understand that if the ambulance receives a higher priority call, they must attend that patient first; however, I didn’t expect triage to be a daily decision for the pre-hospital community. As an emergency medical technician, I was initially very surprised and even a little upset at how long the ambulance took to arrive, but I understand the decisions made.
I am currently at home in the US for the holiday season and will be returning to the UK in early January for second term. I am excited to get back to the UK to do some more exploring (and studying too).