A letter retro in tempore

Tassia here: my first guest post ever! The first of many, maybe? Perhaps a certain Master Jiniuz could write one if this humble blog is worthy enough (woah woah woah shout out).

Very much honoured to have it written by my dear friend C (has it only been 2+ years since we met?! Feels much longer). Thought I might do a little introduction before her post! C is a 2nd year medic in Sheffield (I’ve mentioned her before) who I met when we were both doing our A levels in London. She has been a wonderful friend, (we still FaceTime for 2 hours every 2 weeks!) and was nothing short of inspiring in encouraging me to pursue God in the midst of medicine and life. C brought me to church, and was my shepherd, which essentially meant she took care of me spiritually, mentored me and fed me! The views expressed below are her’s and may not necessarily be the same as mine 😉

I’ll be back to the hot, humid, sunny Singapore soon, and then either eating so hard or studying so hard that there will most definitely not be a post till next year, so have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas, and an amazing new year!

So… I survived my first year of medical school! And now that I’ve been invited to contribute as a guest blogger thought I’d do a little post about how my first year as a medic went in Sheffield. For all you people out there who haven’t heard of Sheffield (I admit I didn’t hear of Sheffield until 2 years ago either, ahem), it’s basically a city in the Midlands (middle) of the UK, about 2 hours north of London via train. A big countryside city (that sounds like an oxymoron, but never mind) that’s just about half an hour from the Peak District, (aka the best countryside experience everrrrr). Despite Shef being a countryside town, needless to say the rigour of medicine still exists. Not to mention the challenges of being an international student just about 13 hours away from home hmm.

I read an article on the British Medical Journal (BMJ) monthly magazine (Sept 2013 issue, page 9 – go check it out for yourself, it’s (Y)!) which was about 6 final year med students sending a letter back in time to their fresher selves, and so thought I’d just do my very own letter to myself too, heh.

Dear C,

You’ve now crossed the seemingly insurmountable hurdles of A levels, UCAS personal statement, UKCAT, interviews and hurray you’re in med school!! And whilst you wanted really badly to study in London, what you really need is to stay in Sheffield – God has a purpose in bringing you here, at this place at this point in time; though you may not see it immediately. He is moving, so just trust Him that He knows what He is doing. And as you were Promised – your journey in college was just the beginning, and many wonderful experiences and lessons await you in this place God has placed you in… don’t stop believing. There’s hope in Sheffield 😉

As you enter your first year in uni as a med fresher, here’re some juicy tips/reminders for yourself:

1) Know your identity

– Whilst you’ve now added the word “medic” to part of your identity, it’s not your primary identity. At your core, you’re more than just a medic! You are a daughter, a sister, a best friend, a student, a member of a church, and so much more… but most importantly, a beloved daughter of God. So don’t freak out for your studies and think it’s your everything.

– It’s not easy transiting from being a big fish in a small pond, to a small fish in a big pond; but know that how you perform in your (medical) studies – be it through weekly tests, or mid term exams or Finals or whatever – doesn’t determine your value/worth. Seriously, it’s okay not to be the cream of the crop, it’s okay to be average.

– Don’t overstress in thinking that you have to be this, or have to be that; because honestly – you don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations of you. There will be pressure from family/friends/peers to perform well, but ultimately as long as you do your best & don’t be lazy you will know that at the very least, you have tried your best and that’s all that matters.

– There will be people who try to intimidate you by showing off, but that’s just the“pufferfish” syndrome – they do that because they themselves are afraid – so don’t judge them too quickly!

2) Don’t be afraid to explore and try new things, new ideas

– Honestly, first year in uni is the best time to find out more about everything you ever wanted to learn about, or try out new things. In second year everyone doesn’t live in halls anymore, and people tend to become segregated in little clumps all over the city.

You don’t get the opportunities / fresher notifications (about this event and that event) anymore in future years!

– Remember that at the end of uni you want to look back and not just think, “oh I now have a medical degree!”, cos there’s so much more out there that uni offers! Uni’s an excellent place to meet new people, people not just of the same race/nationality as you, but from all over the world; people of different ages and maturities. You don’t just want to look around, at the end, and regret not stepping out of your comfort zone, missing those possibly amazing friendships because you were too shy.

– DO MORE CRAZY THINGS OUT OF LOVE. And I don’t mean confessing, or whatever… but life is seriously so short – do something crazy while you still can get off it for being ‘young’ 😛 Gather people to give out free hugs on the street. Give out more free chocolates to people. Sacrifice bits of your sleep to call and encourage people before their exams. Dare to pray for people to be healed, on the streets. Bless someone by singing over them. Invite those you love, and pray for, to church. Tell your loved ones that you love them. There are a gazillion ways out there to express love, so use your imagination and garner up your courage. It’s the time of your life now, man!

– Try that extra-curricular activity which caught your eye – it can be something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance to, or something that you just want to try on a whim, or something that you’re already doing. Just find something that you’re passionate about, even if that involves joining a few societies all at once to find out which is the one (or two) you wanna stay with and commit to! (must say I’m really satisfied with this point, because I got to try Sign Language, explore the artistic side of myself in ArtSoc, sing a little in Gospel Choir, dabble in Surgery Society and even take up French lessons! Whilst it was crazy juggling it all, it was immensely FUN and stuffs which I had wanted to do all my life but never really got the chance to)

– Explore different cultures / different traditions / different religions – of course know which core values you wanna stick to, but be open to everything else out there! Write down, and actively learn/clarify doubts about what you believe in, don’t just wait for someone to spoon-feed you all the info. You learn best when you plan/find for yourself!

3) Intentionally plan your rest

– One of the best tips ever – people from all over are going to each want a piece of you, and you must know that YOU CAN’T SATISFY EVERYONE. Know your limits and learn how to say NO!

– There will ALWAYS be invitations to more socials, more meetups, more events; if you’re not comfortable with a certain type of social/meetup/event, for various reasons (doesn’t necessarily have to be fatigue) it’s perfectly fine to say no.

– When planning your weeks, just like how you plan a day for Facetiming your parents /extra-curricular activity / etc etc, plan a day for rest, every week. Even if it’s not a full day, at least half a day every week. Can’t stress how important this is!!! It’s not easy juggling many commitments all at once (I would recommend being active in less than 3 societies, seriously) and you are not superman/superwoman.

– In the midst of having flat dinners/touring round UK with friends/juggling studies/church/hobbies/camps/meeting old friends… (of course these are all good), your sanity will be more likely to last for the long-term if you schedule breaks for yourself, so you won’t burn out that fast/easily!

– AFTER planning your day of rest, plan the rest of your week! And obviously don’t pile it up e.g. by meeting 3 different groups of people every single day, or something. You should be free enough to have dinner at home at least twice a week!

ALL THE BEST for your fresher year – it will be a wonderful year, if you are active about improving things and learning from different experiences and not passive about them!


C from a year later

just thought I’d add this wonderful bit from the BMJ article here too, written by a final year student:

Don’t let medicine kill your imagination:

“Medicine killed my imagination.” The response was a collective, cool nod in solemn, passive agreement. While nodding along, I noted a sharp, shrill shiver of alarm that has stayed with me. The acceptance and frequent self venerating acknowledgement of the way that medicine seeps into every aspect of our lives is a truth held up by the majority of clinicians. The small minority who persevere with their creative interests and hobbies and maintain the practice of medicine to the same extent as any other jobs have lifestyles that are coveted or scorned, usually in equal measure.

The sad truth is that if you’re passive about it all, chances are that work/studies (doesn’t have to be Medicine, though there is a tendency for medics to become workaholics) can eat you up – bits of your hobbies, then your relationships, and even your personality, if you allow it to. The sad truth is that, unless you actively pursue your other interests and hobbies, Medicine can rob your creativity from right under your nose; till you just become a walking dictionary of medical jargon, and all you talk about is just medicine. The sad truth is that, it’s a very easy thing to end up worshipping your work, revolving your entire life around it, and not realising that.

Not anything against medicine – I love being a medic, and it’s a great honour to be one.

Heck – it’s a great honour and privilege to be a student, and an international one at that. But. Quoting from a book compiled by a nurse: the 2nd out of the top 5 regrets of the dying was “I wish I didn’t work so hard – I wish I spent more time with my loved ones and just watched them move through different phases in life”.

Just sayin’ – at the end of the day, there’s definitely more to life than being a medic. Or whatever your job/course is about.

Signing off,


(Tassia’s note: How great was that? I loved it all, but especially the part about creativity – I’ve been writing waaaay more than I usually do, which I may or may not one day decide to share 😉 and of course, reading all the poetry I can get my hands on, which keeps me sane.

Here are some Harvard Medical Students who don’t seem to have lost their imagination at all hehehe gave me lotsa chuckles, and it’s interesting how much I relate to them despite only having been in medical school for 3 months)


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