It has finally set in: as a medical student, my days of enjoying life (too harsh?) and traveling may be gone. At least for a little while.
I guess you could say I saw it coming. Last summer (my “last” summer), I took full advantage of my precious time off. I spent a month in Honduras learning medical Spanish and shadowing in a local public hospital. After a two-day return to the US, I hopped on a plane to France where I spent two weeks cycling around the Burgundy countryside. I followed that with a week of speaking French with an Italian family in the Swiss Alps (I’m such a typical over-achieving med student, “enjoying” my summer to the max).
Oh how those carefree days feel so far away! Now, I find myself under a pile of textbooks and study guides gearing up for the dreaded USMLE Step 1 Exam. With so much to learn and so little time to do it, life can get overwhelming. Things like traveling, or really any kind of fun, often get pushed aside in the name of academics. If I’m not careful, I can easily spend an entire weekend alone in my room studying; I’ve actually gone full days without any human contact (and I have two roommates).
To mix it up and avoid going insane, I go to coffee shops to study. In a way, it’s kind of like “micro-travel.” Although I remain relatively local, each coffee shop/study spot has something different to offer. Whether it’s the view, the people, or the ambience, each place provides its own experience.
My home base is Pain du Monde in Corona del Mar. It’s only a couple of blocks from my house and I know all of the people who work there. A walk to PDM is my standard study break (and often the only human interaction I’ll get all day). If I’m feeling particularly ahead of my study schedule (yes, this schedule exists – you don’t even want to see the Excel spreadsheet… it’s embarrassing), I’ll pick up a coffee and walk down to the beach for an extended breather.
If it’s a beautiful day (which, let’s be honest, happens a lot in Southern California), I might go to Pacific Whey Café. Sure, it can sometimes get overrun with snobby “OC” people and their kids, but its location, just off of Pacific Coast Highway, is unbeatable. Any place where I can study and enjoy views of Catalina Island qualifies as awesome (even/especially if I feel like I’m in an episode of The OC).
Kéan Coffee in Newport Beach is more of a “cultural” experience. Okay, maybe “cultural” is a stretch. Kéan is filled with emo hipsters (and the occasional Bible Study Group). I go there when I want to feel indy/cool or watch other people trying to be indy/cool. Plus, they roast their own coffee beans and it’s delicious.
When I really need a change of scenery, I venture up to Los Angeles for mini study “field trips.” Just last weekend, I discovered Yellow Vase in Palos Verdes. The café is nestled back in Malaga Cove Plaza and as I approached it, I felt as if I had been swept off to a French village. As I’m obsessed with all/most things French, I was instantly filled with joy at the sight of this place. Then, a group of cyclists walked in and I had flashbacks to my summers cycling in France and I couldn’t contain my glee. You guys, when you study all the time, you learn quickly to appreciate even the smallest chances at happiness. (Also, yes, I know. Malaga is in Spain. But this place felt so French.)
My absolute favorite place for studying/life is the Getty Center. In fact, I love it so much that I demand that if you ever find yourself in Los Angeles, you must go. On a clear day, you can see the ocean to your right and the rest of LA to your left. Plus, you’re surrounded by gardens, beautiful architecture, and ART! Visiting The Getty calms, inspires, and reenergizes me (all absolutely necessary for coping with the daunting schedule of a medical student).
Medical school is challenging and requires a lot of adjusting. It pains me to forego important things like socializing, showering, exercising, and traveling (and blogging!) to study. School consumes my life and it’s easy to get sucked in. By venturing out, even if it’s to my local coffee shop, I am reminded that while my world may seem limited to pathology and pharmacology, everyone else’s continues around me.
Jackie is a second year medical student living in Orange County, CA. She attended Bowdoin College with Tavel and is a redhead. Jackie loves yoga, coffee, and studying(?). Her favorite place to visit is Paris (in the summer). Read Jackie’s blog, www.lamelookatme.blogspot.com, or follow her on Twitter @sassyjax.