StudentSpeak is pleased to share this guest post by Julia Armendariz, MS2. Julia participated in OHSU’s student-led peer mentoring program for first-year and second-year students.
Medical school is exhausting. I doubt that is a shocker to anyone. There were times over the past year I wondered if it was actually survivable. When I have been asked to do something hard, I have looked to other people who went through it before me and had the good fortune to find great peer mentors throughout my education.
Here at OHSU, two med students from the class ahead of me took a special interest in helping me out. One of them was my Big Sib, Kim, and the other a friend-of-a-friend, Curtis. Over the course of the year I received encouraging notes in my mailbox, treats, e-mails with resources, study guides, textbooks, advice about picking a research project, even connection with my current PI and help with my research. I always knew if I had a question, or couldn’t figure something out on my own, I had someone to ask. Just knowing I had people to fall back on was comforting.
I signed up for the Big Sib program this year hoping to pass on some of the benefit I received. The first year students are going through a different curriculum than my class, so I don’t always feel like I have the same knowledge to pass on as my mentors did. But honestly, I think peer mentorship has more to do with encouragement, navigating the system and studying techniques than specifics about teachers and examinations.
My goal for the year is to be available to them like my mentors were available to me, and to be a cheerleader when things get discouraging. One of my little sibs asked me what advice I wish someone had given me at the beginning of school. I didn’t even have to think about it: “You are more than your performance. You are a valuable person no matter what your grades look like.” My friends and family tell me what I told her, but I constantly forget.
It is very easy to let medical school become a hole you climb into. We all need someone at the edge who will take the time to pull us up to get some fresh air every once in a while. I want to be a big sib so I can stand beside the holes my first year colleagues have dug themselves into and call down that everything is okay, and we can get through this together.