Tuesday, July 3, 2012

First year is behind us! by July blogger of the month Seungjin Kim

Here we are lounging about in the Sports Center in the main campus, after our last exam on June 28th.  It was beautiful and so free.

To all the upcoming first years who might be reading this post: you chose well. Welcome to Beersheva. We're all very excited to meet you guys!!!!!! Ask Columbia for my email if you want to contact me about things you have questions about; I'll try to help you out with what I know. Or find me on Facebook - /seungjinkim.

Well.... first year is, behind us!!! At least for now. Hopefully behind me. Arrrgh I won't think about Endocrinology now. What's ahead of me is my summer break. I'll be in a happier tone in my next blog post - I still got to pack, do a final check of my apartment, get on El-Al, go to New Jersey, get on the Greyhound, reach California. About the Greyhound.. well you know, I figured I gotta do it at least once :) Hence the tense/pensive/anxious/exhausted tone.

 Also, I seem to praise my experience here too much, sugar-coating everything. Well... at this point in time, at the dawn of the summer break, everything looks amazing and worthwhile. All in all, it was good. Life here was real. At the same time I can't wait to be back home!

My goal in life before deciding to go to med school centered around just earning enough to live within means. I thought locally. Now, after seeing/experiencing the environment allowed by MSIH - I feel I think bigger, in larger scales - in terms of nations, health systems, cultures and the world. Because.. "Lama Loh!?" (=Why not?) Haha. I genuinely feel now that I can influence the world, given I put in the work.

For the past few days after our last exam, I was busy doing my share of our apartment cleaning, preparing it for our subletters - the upcoming first years. Now, it's 6:11 PM, I'm sitting in my room, listening to the Beersheva ambient noise of cars honking, kids laughing/talking, and wondering why there aren't any wedding happening today in the Leonardo Hotel. All in all, a quiet day.

Now for the main content. Since I am the July blogger, I will write about the past 11.5 months, how I've changed over the past year, roughly in three to four topics.

First topic is about the people I've met. I'll organize it into classmates, upper-classmates/professors and people that I've met out of school. Well.. now that I think about it, I'll move the non-MSIH experience entirely to another post. This post is nearly 1360 words. Is it long? If it is, my apologies, equally for the flow of it – I might go off on a tangent here and there.

Starting out, here is what makes my mixed culture. I've lived in the U.S. for nearly 15 years now, entirely in California, entirely focused in local Korean communities. Southern California has a huge Korean population, and if one is to live in the Koreatown of Los Angeles, you can basically live in the U.S. while not speaking a single word of English, and still live. I don't live there, but living in certain parts of the Orange County is nearly the same experience. At least until I've gotten into UCLA and lived in LA after graduation, I've had weeks where I consciously balanced speaking English and Korean. Why? Some things just unravel a certain way, heheh.

Most of my classmates already know this by now but I spent my middle school in Korea, and highschool in Brazil, where I hung out with fellow Korean families that came to Brazil for same reason as ours, along with my relatives who immigrated there in the 50's. I think I found a need to choose (at least up to what is allowed in one's life), and I allotted Korea a bit more into my identity. Yes, that choice had its upsides and downsides.

So, I'd never imagined that in my life, I'd be studying in Israel amongst many other students of diverse cultural backgrounds, representing/sharing what I can of my background, all in all building up a class body that is global. This year has been inspirational, humbling and eye-opening, quenching my thirst for something more, a start in balancing out what's been missing in my life. I guess it was my next step I needed to take.

Haha, as an aside.. I felt none of this during the summer session. Rather, I felt as if I was in a reality TV show that was all-location in Beersheva, putting random people together, sharing a common goal to survive med school. The night before the group flight in Newark, I slept in a two-bed room with a future classmate. I was too excited to sleep soundly. In the Emergency Medicine course, I had to hold arms, legs, heads of people I met only a few days ago, shouting at them, giving orders, immobilizing, tying them on backboards. Looking back, it was sort of an ice-breaker, and fun! This sounds awkward but I wanted to keep anything that reminded me of home. Did I know how to cook? Barely.. I lived in a co-op housing, eating cafeteria food. Hebrew? The daily four-hour ulpan Hebrew classes were exhausting! In hindsight, it was when my Hebrew learning really peaked. But it was daunting to do that with EM. Oh, how confused and cautiously relaxed were we at how easy med school was back then.

Almost everyone in our class has some experience living/traveling in some exotic parts of the world, with stories to tell, with generally a very heightened sense of respect for the other culture. They have the passion/desire/hope to see how their future might unravel, and how much they can accomplish in terms of influencing this world. All in all, they think big. Yes, I'm sugar-coating it a bit. But all in all I would like to thank the administration for picking practically a perfect set of classmates, heck the entire student body of MSIH, and allowing me to be a part of it.

Tell you a little secret – although I've gotten good at shifting cultures, it still comes unnatural to me to look at older people, the upper-class or professors straight in the eye, because it's rude in Korean culture. Equally is why I tend to naturally look at the upper-class both in awe and respect because upper class equals respect, no matter the age and what they do.  However, in this case, the respect was affirmed by their actions to help the first years out. They were so friendly and calm, gently leading the first years settle in, drenching us with tips to survive med school and Israel. Much thanks to them. I mean the fact that they survived medical school AND Beersheva for one, two, even three years was impressive. Throughout first year, I've been asking myself whether I can be as adaptive and goal-fulfilling as the current second/third years. Now that I've adapted more than 11 months ago, I think I understand how they did it, and I humbly assert it's possible for me too.

Professors - they really inspired me. They set in motion projects and studies that I've only read about in articles. They treat patients with diseases I've just begun to learn about. They influence the under-served community with their medical skills - often I've found a speck of the life I want to live while they shared their experience. Some would come to lecture us and then rush off to go participate in the WHO meeting for non-communicable diseases, or go up to Tel Aviv to help out with the refugee clinic inside the Central Bus Station. Some would guide us in our clinical interviews. Another professor is a friend of Dr. Rick Hodes. Oh yeah, and one certain visiting professor from Columbia for the Nutrition lectures built a medical school - our school - with one intention, to make doctors with the desire for the betterment of International health.

Medicine, for me, went from being an abstract to a possibly achievable goal. Not only for the present, but for the future. Really, some of the things the BGU professors (both affiliated and non-affiliated with MSIH) are researching are amazing - they show a glimpse of how we as physicians will practice medicine. Dr. Shahar of the BGU computer science department in particular was a huge impact for me, especially with his talk in the TEDxBGU, held this May. I think it's because I was a comp. sci. major, and I realized my background and medicine can overlap, because Dr. Shahar did so as well. As to how, I don't know. But it can be done, and that's what excites me, because there is proof, right where I live and study.

Next post will be when I'm in Irvine. Home. I haven't gone back since coming here. I really don't know what I'll feel. Will I feel happy? Exhausted? Crashing in my bed and never crawling out? Will I even have a bed? - blogger of the month  Seungjin Kim