Choosing a med school across the country is a tough decision. The Los Angeles lifestyle — and weather — appeals to a lot of people, but for most the choice boils down to academic reputation.
Antoinette Allen and Sarah Jensen, both second-year students at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, came to California from the East Coast. With Allen from Queens, NY, and Jensen from Boston, MA, the initial appeal came in the form of the sunshine and weather on top of the chance for a new experience. But both decided to apply in order to further their career interests beyond their home region.
Program reputation and responsiveness
When deciding on medical school, the quality of one's education is (and should be) priority one. Jensen was impressed with the faculty, whereas Allen was interested in research opportunities that offer the chance to work with underserved populations. Both students, however, said they were drawn to the responsiveness of the administration, which is willing to adapt and adjust program material based on feedback from the student body.
"Our curriculum is progressive and receptive to change," Jensen observes. "Our training as physicians and our well-being are clearly priorities to the administration."
Looking for new experiences and the LA lifestyle
Coming to LA from New York City is a cultural change in and of itself. Allen said she ultimately decided to go to med school across the country to expand her horizons.
The weather and the food are her favorite parts of living in the area, along with the diversity of its activities.
"It is pretty amazing that you can go skiing in the morning and be on the beach by afternoon," she says. "NYC also cannot hold a candle to LA in regard to fresh fish, Mexican food and avocados that aren't $4 a pop."
Jensen also loves the milder weather and slower pace of the daily bustle — especially when work in the lab or clinic is already on high. She chose UCLA primarily based on its reputation, along with having a brother nearby.
Challenges along with change
Moving across the country does present many challenges and changes. Some are exciting, but there's always a missing piece from home that can make it difficult to adapt. The heavy reliance on driving and the sheer density of traffic has been a challenge for both women. In New York, Allen had excellent public transportation, which presented no need to drive or own a car. Since coming to LA, she has taken the road test to get her license.
"My next challenge is learning to functionally drive in a city this crazy," she says. "The next hurdle is buying a car, which is tough on a student's budget."
Jensen also didn't need to drive in Boston and once found driving in LA to be a bit overwhelming. Nonetheless, her classmates have been extremely supportive and a big factor in helping her transition.
Of course everyone has their favorite shops or restaurants back home, not to mention family. Allen misses the independent bookstores of NYC, while Jensen gets a longing for Dunkin Donuts every now and then.
Going to med school across the country can be a bittersweet adjustment; it's common to find exciting new experiences coupled with a longing for the familiar aspects of home. In the end, however, the level of independence for which this fresh start allows makes it a simple matter of one's potential as a medical professional.
By Patricia Chaney