Editor’s Note: UMHS student Jasmine Rivas, a longtime contributor to the UMHS Endeavour, is busy finishing up board exams and getting ready for the 2018 Match. She took time from her hectic schedule to send us this guest post about her experiences studying at UMHS in St. Kitts.
By Jasmine Rivas
I visited my grandparents last weekend. Growing up I would visit them often. However, medical school changed that. When I told them I would be traveling to the West Indies to pursue my dream of becoming a physician, they were excited. Nevertheless, the excitement was accompanied by worry. Understandably, they worried that I would be living alone in a foreign country. We are a close-knit family and this would be a big change for all of us.
When I landed on the island of St. Kitts, I was overjoyed and yet overwhelmed. I had never felt so grateful; however, everything about my present reality was new. St. Kitts is a beautiful land, surrounded by the calming Caribbean Sea on one coast and the rocky waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the other; each is mesmerizing in their own way. Sure, everything inside me wanted to explore and make the most of this adventure. Nevertheless, my horse blinders were on and my goal was clear: learn medicine and get back home.
There are many aspects of my experience in St.Kitts that I will forever hold dear to my heart and use as tools to keep me grounded and focused. I always knew the importance of embracing cultures outside of one’s own and time on the rock provided the opportunity for this on a daily basis. Whether it was getting to know the grocers and taxi drivers by name and learning about their history, or realizing that goats on the main road and monkeys hanging out by the beach were the norm.
The UMHS School of Medicine also provided an opportunity to learn about other people right on campus. Our student body, faculty, and staff represented a multitude of races, ethnicities, and religions. Yet, despite our differences, there was one main unifying factor – our desire to learn about health and medicine. It seems to have been a wonderful experience, however, it is all about perspective. Do I hold any regrets about my experience? Sure!
See, a balanced approach to life is key. Life appears to continue to present me with that lesson time and time again. (I think I finally learned it!) We can strive to be the best in the field and bring our all to the table, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, sooner or later we won’t be able to help anyone. Preparing healthy meals, exercising and seeking avenues for personal growth are all essential to achieving peak performance. Reading books, meditating and exchanging ideas with friends and colleagues are a few ways of achieving personal growth.
The horse blinders I held so tightly during my time on the island might have helped me attain my goal, but they also kept me from being able to disconnect and make time for my own well-being. I believe that priorities are essential to success, however, balance is key. I am not sure if I will ever be able to “live the lesson,” but I can say that taking off the blinders and enjoying life outside of medicine has become easier. As my grandparents always say, “Ser feliz no es tener una vida perfecta. Ser feliz es reconocer que la vida vale la pena vivirla.”
Which translates to, “Being happy is not having a perfect life. Being happy is realizing that life is worth living, despite all of its difficulties.” There are always lessons to be learned, in the field of medicine and also in the field of life. We might not fit the mold of what we aspire to and our lives might not have the right balance. Nevertheless, life is still worth living and goals are still worth having.
Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individual student attention, maintaining small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. We call this unique approach, “personalized medical education,” and it’s what has led to our unprecedented 96% student retention rate, and outstanding residency placements across the US and Canada. UMHS is challenging everything you thought you knew about Caribbean medical schools.