5 Advantages of having an Undergraduate Degree before starting Medical School

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” --Nelson Mandela

The start of a new year brought with it another semester. For some this is their last, for others just another rung on the academic ladder.  I recently was asked to be featured on a blog for medical students and the questions made me reflect on my journey to medical school and allowed me to ask myself if there is anything about my journey I would change?

After some reflection and as I observe my younger classmates, I can say that I truly appreciate the fact that I followed the tradition of college after high school as a booster for my medical career.

There are some advantages and disadvantages of receiving a first degree before pursuing a Medical Degree and I have outlined a few of the advantages below.

This post will serve as a preamble to a few feature posts so stay tuned for those.


1. An undergraduate degree grants you exposure to different cultures

I pursued my Biology degree in Texas. As the song states "the stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas" this was something I had to get accustomed to along with everything else Texas offered as I came from The Bahamas, an archipelago of islands off in the Atlantic Ocean.

Everything was really bigger in Texas for example; the trucks, the roads and the land mass. During my first semester, I met students from more than 10 countries in the world, something I would not have had the opportunity of doing if I had attended the UWI after high school. I may have been exposed to students from Caribbean countries however, but not on a large scale as I did in Texas. 

2. By pursuing an undergraduate degree you are taught certain skills

As a Biology major, it was required as a fulfillment of my course requirements to take computer courses, physical education courses, a certain number of mathematics courses, Psychology courses and English courses. By doing this, I was exposed to other disciplines and learnt the importance of balance. That being a holistic balance (spiritual, emotional, academic, psychological and physical).

The computer courses taught me the basic skills such as creating an excel spreadsheet, creating a webpage using nothing but HTML, the ins and outs of Word and PowerPoint amongst other things. The physical education courses taught me lessons in endurance, the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle and it introduced me to long distance running. I never thought in my life I would be running side by side with people from Kenya and Angola and getting the inside scoop on breathing techniques for endurance races; to this day I use what I learnt.

Overall I got the opportunity to learn and improve my time management skills, my public speaking skills, an introduction to conflict and ways by which one can manage conflicts as well and I became comfortable with asking questions and active learning. 

3. Dorm life. 

The dynamics of living on campus and in campus housing is nothing like living at home. I am beyond grateful for the friendships I made during my stay at Lamson Hall and for the opportunity to be involved through my position as Resident and Dean's Assistant. Living in a dorm allowed me to develop leadership skills, organizational skills and allowed me to use my creativity in order to make the dorm a warm welcoming place for the residents by organizing various activities such as Christmas in June, decorative name tags, brunches and also teaching me how to listen attentively.

Living in a dorm can be a nightmare, especially if you are an only child and use to having your own space. I had a really great roommate and so for me it wasn't a total nightmare. After the first few weeks and once I got settled with my timetable and the layout of the land, it was home.

During my vacation or breaks I looked forward to going back to school and seeing all of my friends and fellow Resident Assistants. It truly is what you make it. 

4. Opportunities are available if you want to study abroad

Unfortunately I never went abroad to study, but the opportunity was available at my school in the event one would ever want a change of scenery for the academic year. Now that I'm in medical school, this luxury isn't available. Although you have the opportunity of completing an elective abroad, it's not quite the same thing.

This is something I personally feel young adults can benefit from. By being immersed in a culture for a year for the same cost of your regular tuition, one's character, worldviews and opinions can be broadened. This is vital especially in medicine. As globalization increases, we are now rubbing shoulders with persons of all walks of life and it pays to be able to understand a bit of their culture in order to examine, converse and treat them if ever they are your patient. 

5. An undergraduate degree gives you insight into your character

While college is a lot of hard work, no matter what Hollywood portrays it as, while there, you are guaranteed to learn a lot about yourself. It's not like high school where if you left your homework at home your mom can drop it off for you and everything will be alright.

College, is the place where your endurance, determination, values and drive will all be tested and possibly even at the same time. By facing these things in college, you learn the best ways to cope, overcome and move forward.

We all know medical school is no walk in the park, by knowing who you are as a person and what things you will and will not stand for, it will be easier to handle moments when you are overwhelmed by the coursework, or when a patient's story hit you to your core.

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