Individual Pre-Health Stories, Atlantis
The 3 Best Tips for Future Atlantis Students
Rosemarie Majdalani is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Science, with an emphasis in Biology, at University of California, Davis. In Summer 2017, she spent four weeks on an Atlantis program in Lisbon, Portugal. In addition to shadowing, she also spent time volunteering at the Jesuit Refugee Service, a temporary shelter for refugees in Lisbon.
In this article, Atlantis Alumna, Rosie Majdalani, shares some of her best tips for future Atlantis students preparing to embark on the experience of their dreams.
Imagine having this opportunity of a lifetime…
You travel to a country of your choice to shadow healthcare professionals within different specialties, all while immersing yourself in a completely different culture. How do you truly make every week, day and minute worthwhile? This is a big task, but I hope you can learn from my experiences and make the most of your Atlantis program by implementing the three tips below.
Tip #1: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
For many of us, it is easiest to stick to what we know. Our environment, family, friends, and favorite meals embody comfort and safety. However, when you let your “comfort blanket” take over, you will suffer the consequences either directly or indirectly by missing out on amazing opportunities for excitement and growth.
Before I left for my four-week program to Lisbon, Portugal, I wrote a list of new experiences I wanted to have. For example, I was eager to learn Kizomba, a dance traditional to Portugal. I have always had a passion for dance, but I never learned this particular style, so I simply said to myself: “Rosie, you will go to Lisbon and take a Kizomba lesson.” And that is exactly what I did. In fact, the first day I arrived in Lisbon I looked up dance studios and found a lesson that fit my schedule.
Although I was in a completely different country, immersed in a culture and language I didn’t fully know, I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something new.
In addition to applying this attitude to my free time, I also applied it during my shadowing experience. During the Atlantis program, there is a high probability you will not know the language spoken in the country you select. Because of this, it can be a bit intimidating to approach a physician or a healthcare professional with questions. To be honest, it was easier to stay quietly in my comfort zone, but I decided to force myself out.
One day, after witnessing a critical mastectomy, I asked one of the OB-GYNs some questions regarding the surgery. It was by far one of the most educational conversations I’ve ever had regarding that particular surgery, healthcare abroad and medicine as a whole. I would never have experienced these opportunities for growth had I not branched out of my comfort zone. Try adopting this approach to your international experience and to life in general; I promise it will be worthwhile.
Tip #2: Be Proactive
Proactivity made my time abroad with Atlantis that much more fulfilling and differentiated my experience from many of the students in my cohort.
Atlantis offers an incredibly unique experience. The programs this organization offers are quite amazing in the sense that you are able to shadow physicians for 20+ hours a week, you can receive MCAT training and you have time off to explore your host country. There are even volunteer opportunities offered at some program sites!
These are incredible possibilities, but a lack of proactivity can make the experience fall flat. As an example, let’s say you’re shadowing and feel frustrated because you have not been able to see any of the surgeries or procedures you hoped to see.
There are two ways to go about amending this situation. One is to not say anything and continue to feel upset. The second is to kindly ask the physician you are shadowing if there are any interesting surgeries you might be able to observe during the week. More times than not, the physician will be very accommodating and will give you some choices.
Here’s another scenario. The physician you are shadowing has had a rather slow day. This can happen often because each day is different in the hospital. Instead of sitting quietly during this time, be proactive and ask the physician questions about his/her country, healthcare system, politics, or whatever interests you. Not only does this give you better insight into the culture, it allows you to build deeper connections.
This kind of proactive mindset proves extremely useful when applying to medical school. Curiosity and critical comparison of your host country’s culture/healthcare with your own country’s can strengthen your personal statement or interview for med school, while forming a meaningful relationship with the physician might get you a recommendation letter!
Being proactive is vital because it is the gateway to self-driven learning. That is what Atlantis programs are all about! If you take initiative on your program, it will add immensely to your experience.
Tip #3: Practice a Habit of Daily Journalling
This tip might not seem as important as the prior two, but it is incredibly valuable in the long run. During my Fellowship, I wrote in two journals. I used one journal specifically during my shadowing time in the hospital and the other to document my personal life. Of all the things I did in Lisbon, I am most grateful for my journals. Pictures are a great way to document your trip, but writing about each day allows you to relive that experience in the future.
I found it especially crucial to journal while shadowing physicians because as pre-health students we have a good idea of what is occurring, but we don’t know everything. I used my hospital journal to document all the cases I had witnessed and then when I went home I would look up each disease, symptom, surgery, etc. to gain more insight.
I continue to reap benefits from my habit of daily journaling because, almost a whole year after my program, I am able to recall the specific surgeries and cases I witnessed. This is incredibly useful for interviews or job applications.
Regardless of the program you choose or the country you visit, remember to always step out of your comfort zone, be proactive, and chronicle your way through your journey. I hope these three tips will allow you to gain the most out of your Atlantis experience. Enjoy every moment!
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