As students are undergoing tertiary education, life will no doubt pose a challenge to balance. Life of a medical student is even harder. We are on the go almost 24/7. We are constantly required to study, especially if we have an exam in two hours that we stayed up all night preparing for but can’t remember the content. At sometimes (more often than not), we have to prioritize our books over social life. Being an international student also poses its own challenges as we are away from family, friends, familiar culture, and even just the climate/weather. Especially in light of this ongoing pandemic, anxieties are bound to be triggered and at an all-time high.
Coming to Guyana was an experience I definitely anticipated. I was eager to continue my education at one of the top private universities in the Caribbean, Texila American University (Texila). I must admit that the school did help to ease the burden to transition from familiarity to adopt a new normal. Generally, as a medical student, there isn’t really much time for play or personal endeavors mostly because it is very likely we have a quiz next week (or tomorrow that you hoped was next week) or a class at 8 AM. Being a medical student here in Guyana somewhat creates an ambiance conducive to learning given the fact that we aren’t bombarded by as many distractions as opposed to other universities. It coupled with the idea that we are being trained to become physicians of the finest ilk, and we are held at a high standard and therefore are expected to conduct ourselves with decorum and class.
By the same token, it is a key point to note that “all work; no play” makes Jack a dull boy. Texila has made it their duty to include days within our timetable committed to sports, cultural integration, spiritual growth, and physical well-being by hosting events such as:
- Yoga Day where we are invited to participate in yoga sessions that are guided by an instructor, and
- Culture/Student/Christmas Mingle where all students are invited to share and educate others on their home culture through different means with the overall goal to improve morale, influence student integration, and create an atmosphere of unity.
Amid the ongoing crisis, there have undoubtedly been a few challenges as it relates to socialization and studies. The main one attributed to the fact is that there is a ban against large gatherings, which includes attending school. However, being committed to education and producing quality practitioners, Texila is fervent that the work must go on. We’ve now adapted to distance learning and are currently pursuing studies via different mediums and forums. These include:
- Zoom class sessions, which we use primarily for lectures and presentations;
- Skype calls for personal and class discussion with our lecturers to maximize on cementing the content being taught; and
- WhatsApp groups for interpersonal discussion amongst us students as well as for notices, content sharing, and even for our lecturers who are essential workers in combat with efforts to slow the progression and impact of COVID-19 on Guyana.
I must say that life as a student has changed dramatically since this viral outbreak. As a result, group assignments pose a challenge, as well as face-to-face interaction and lab sessions for core subjects that include practical (e.g., Clinical Skills, Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, etc.). This time has also affected persons who partake in group study or those who study with a particular group of persons and those students who do not have access to Wi-Fi services or live in an environment that is not conditioned for learning.
Staying motivated also poses another challenge. This includes waking up with the same drive for the class as well as to revise. Given that we now work from home, it requires additional effort to keep my mind conditioned to focus and get serious with studies, especially with incoming notices about COVID-19 and its progression. I stay motivated by listening to podcasts by Abraham Hicks, RushCam, Joel Osteen, etc. just by putting up post-it notes with inspirational quotes and affirmations in my room to keep myself grounded and reminded of my capabilities to push through my daily tasks. Most importantly, taking into account all that is happening around us, it is very important to be kind to ourselves and radiate positivity.
Conversely, though this change was unanticipated and drastic, there are indeed some highlights to this time away from the typical school environment that is worth mentioning. For example, some students (including myself at times) simply work better from their home, and there is no mental conditioning of being pressured to get things done ASAP or even just having to haul yourself from one floor to the next. Students who live in the dorms with their friends or classmates are offered an environment to partake in group study. It also allows for punctuality to classes since traveling and [by extension] traffic is eliminated as well as the cost for the same and lunch. It also promotes ease of access to lecturers and allows us to adapt and develop creative learning strategies that should be used even after convalescence. Distance learning provides us with an opportunity to hone in on and pay attention to self-care/awareness, which includes taking care of our mental health and recuperating mentally/physically. This period may even be useful for creativity [like myself] to practice and perfect their craft.
I am in support of distance learning, and I believe it can still be used for some courses even after the threat of this pandemic has been minimized. I must also note that I applaud Texila for their swift response and efforts in ‘Bringing Education to Life’ amid the crisis.