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This is my experience of applying to medical school. SPOILER ALERT... I made it to med school!
My journey was, let's just say, a hectic one. I came from a lower-income background. My mother is Polish, and my father is Palestinian, yes, it's not a common mix, but I love and embrace it.
I was born in Poland, lived there for six years, and then moved to Ireland as there were more job opportunities for my parents there. Six years later, we moved again to England. After completing my primary school in Ireland, I had to leave my childhood friends for a new country, with "more opportunities." I didn't understand what this meant, but as a child, I was excited about some change. Completing primary school is not an accurate statement. I left Ireland in August when I was supposed to start fifth class. In the UK, according to my age, I was supposed to be in year eight. This meant that I would have technically missed some academic years. Skip, to my first day in high school. I was walking down the corridor with my head teacher holding back nervous tears. I entered my first class and was greeted by my future bully. High school was not easy. I always felt different and was never accepted. I always changed my personality, looks, and behaviours so that I could fit in. One thing I've never changed, however, was my ambition to become a doctor.
Fast forward to receiving very average GCSEs, I started A-levels. I studied biology, chemistry, and psychology. I cannot begin to explain how difficult I found A-levels. To summarise, I worked hard, not smart. I didn't have the appropriate academic support around me and felt perpetually frustrated. My family couldn't help me, we couldn't afford tutors. Additionally, I had people doubt me. In year 12 I took on an EPQ assignment which was writing an essay that could help my university application. However, I felt too overwhelmed with my A-level subjects, so I decided to drop it. I vividly remember that day. I walked into my head of year's room and explained to her my worries. You'd think she'd show some empathy. No, she disregarded my stress and replied, "I don't think you should drop the EPQ, I doubt your academic ability." I left the room disappointed, ineffectual, and ready to disprove her.
Over the next few months, I worked hard, practised for potential interviews, and started drafting my personal statement. I also searched for widening participation programmes and even managed to get into one. In October 2019 I applied to four medical schools and one clinical science course (plan B, an alternative route to medicine). I received three offers!
After months of hard work and anticipating A levels, coronavirus hit the world. A-levels were cancelled. Waiting for a 'predicted' grade for five months I felt constant apprehension; just to receive a prediction of BCC. The injustice of the predicted grade system reduced my grades on the basis that I went to an underperforming school. I remember getting the rejection email from the university, I dreamt of attending, and just breaking down. Luckily, I wasn't facing this problem alone. The students in England united and soon, we received our initial grades.
Why was medicine for me you ask? Well, I grew up with a mother who was a nurse. I aspired to be like her. However, it was not only her nursing that inspired me. My mum has a rare neurological disease which meant that she would spend weeks at a time in the hospital. There were times when she was in the ICU, and I wouldn't see her for months. I remember seeing the doctors on the ward whenever I’d visits her and envisioning that one day, I’ll become one of them. I grew frustrated which stemmed from the question "What is her diagnosis?" which nobody could answer. Fast forward to covering the neurology block in med school, "I don't know either mum."
The takeaway from my brief story is that sometimes being stubborn is okay. When you fixate your mind on a goal which is well reasoned, people should not barricade that ambition. Seeking help was also a major difficulty I faced in the process. Coming from a background where academic independence was a must I felt ashamed to ask for help as I feared appearing 'dumb.' Help-seeking is good. It shows that you're willing to learn, ambitious, serious, and ultimately it makes your life a lot easier.