Coming to a new school in a new city is daunting for anyone. On top of studying, navigating around Los Angeles and figuring out a career path, many students are anxious about how to make friends in medical school.
The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA strives to make the school a comfortable place and has many programs and resources available to make students feel at home. The school's leadership, staff and students work hard to create a community environment.
Adam Peña, a self-described "loud-laughing, goofy-haired MS1," came to LA from Chicago without knowing anybody and found it much easier than expected to meet people. For him, the personal connection started at the interview process. He felt UCLA sought to get to know him before talking about medicine, which didn't happen in interviews with other schools.
The week before classes began, Peña attended the Prologue Program hosted by the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach. The program is geared toward incoming students, particularly those who have been out of academia. Attendees did team-building events, attended panels led by current med students, and just hung out.
"Prologue is where I started to meet my classmates in a casual environment," he said. "I recommend it to anyone who has a few nerves about starting medical school."
Once school begins, students can find groups for any interest, whether medical, educational or personal. Peña recommends the Wellness Office to find social events or checking out the student calendars.
"The Wellness Office is incredible in supporting medical school social events," Peña said. "They put on dinners, beach trips, yoga classes and others that have really helped our class come together."
With all the options, it can be tougher for students to figure out where to channel their energy. The best way to narrow down the clubs or activities is for students to think about their personalities and interests, then choose the appropriate clubs. Students can also benefit from picking a few interests outside their comfort zone.
Attendance doesn't always mean making connections. Peña offers some tips for how to make friends in medical school, starting with being confident and saying "hello."
"I had some trepidation on the first day; I had been out of school for a year and out of the country for a few months before moving to LA," he said. "The students here have so many fascinating experiences, outlooks and hobbies that if you listen around long enough, you'll find folks you get along with."
His best advice: listen, smile and ask people's names. And make sure to remember those names.
As school goes along, everyone finds their place and interests. The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and UCLA as a whole, truly offers something for everyone. Not to mention the vast array of entertainment and sightseeing to be done in Los Angeles.