The connections students form in the early days of medical school can last for a lifetime. Like-minded students, meeting during lectures and mixers, may one day find themselves working side by side on research projects or bumping into each other at conferences.
However, many incoming medical students feel daunted by the prospect of making friends and building networks on top of coming to a new school, navigating a new city, and choosing a specialty.
When Adam Peña moved from Chicago to Los Angeles to attend medical school at UCLA, he didn't know a soul, but by doing a few simple things, he found it surprisingly easy to build solid friendships.
Any new medical student can make connections by following Adam's lead.
After a few days at medical school, Adam learned not to overthink making friends. In fact, the self-described "loud-laughing, goofy-haired" MS1 found that simply smiling and saying "hello" made him plenty of connections. This friendly confidence serves students well at events, where engagement—and not just attendance—launches friendships, and sometimes a simple smile is all it takes to set conversations in motion.
Takeaway: Alex recommends listening, smiling, and asking for (and remembering) names. If you do this everywhere you go, even if you're nervous to meet new people, then you'll make friends in no time.
The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA strives to make the school a comfortable place by offering programs and resources to make students feel at home. Once school begins, students can find groups for any medical, educational, or personal interest. Adam found his niche by taking advantage of the diverse community environment cultivated by the school's leadership, staff, and students.
"The Well-Being 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."
The school provides options to support a diverse range of interests, but the choices can make it tough for students to figure out where to channel their energy. Make the most of the resources at your fingertips by picking some activities aligned with your established interests and some activities outside your comfort zone.
Finding a community—a place to fit in—takes time and effort, but persistent students always find the people, places, and activities that make medical school feel like home.
"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."
Takeaway: Keep participating in events, keep smiling and talking to people, and eventually, you will find your place in medical school. The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and UCLA as a whole, truly offers something for everyone.