My relationship with AUC medical school began in Oklahoma. After being wait-listed at the University of Oklahoma I began to look into Caribbean medical schools. I had heard about them through a fellow traveler in Mexico who was an AUC student at that time. I began to fall in love with thoughts of post-exam celebrations on the beach, of meeting students from all around the world, of island hopping and snorkeling on study breaks. The beginning of a love affair with an island, a school, a way of life. When I decided that AUC was the right decision for me I leaped headfirst. This is my personal story of my journey at AUC, but as a class, we share experiences that connect us all.
Dad was chatting with some locals who were rum manufacturers attempting to get patrons at Fat Tony’s to try their product. It was my first taste of Caribbean living and I was loving it. The talk of the town was a coming hurricane, but being Okies we weren’t sure how to interpret the news and gossip of Irma. However, the rum salespeople assured us it would be no big deal. We all know how that turned out. I spent 6 nights in building 2 making new friends, despite the food poisoning that kept me down the first night through the storm, only waking when my ears popped from the pressure difference that the storm created. Baxter, my dog, was recovering from hip surgery, so I spent most of my time with him during those days in the shelter. I don’t remember being scared, although my mom was certainly freaking out from Shawnee, OK.
In England, my schedule became completely flipped, class from 5-8 pm (since the UCLan students needed their campus during typical class hours), dinner, studying from 10 pm-4 am, waking up around noon, workouts at 2 pm then getting a little more studying in before class. A software crash just before a big exam, a trip to London, studying at pubs, and a lot of shawarma are the images that flash in my mind when I remember those days in Preston, England.
Then back to St. Maarten it was. I remember the night we got the email we would be returning. There were mixed feelings amongst the students, but my feelings were clear; complete and utter relief and excitement. Finally, the island life I was expecting! But then the unexpected happened: in January 2018 I met the handsome South African sailor whom I would marry just 11 months later. St. Maarten exceeded expectations, a community of locals who were so warm that my eyes tear up just remembering their smiles and kind words. My first failed exam on the island was a shock, doubt crept in but I had the support of an incredible life partner, loving friends, and family.
Finally the Bronx, New York, the most culturally shocking period of my multi-national medical school career. A hospital of doctors, nurses, and other providers from literally all over the world cared for patients suffering from poverty, homelessness, addiction, and HIV. The city of all cities during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Death, illness, hope, and recovery.
An unprecedented interview season ended with a match at St. Anthony Family Medicine program in Oklahoma City. I ended up back where I started, full circle, which was unexpected but extremely exciting. Our class will forever be bonded by this journey we’ve been on. Even as I watched faces of those I’ve never met flick past on our virtual commencement ceremony, I felt a certain camaraderie, that even if we never meet we have a shared past that changed us forever. Yes, our knowledge of medicine grew but so did our capacity to accept change and enjoy life regardless of the circumstances. We learned some lessons that no one else will experience the way we did. The takeaway from these 4 years for me has been that the universe laughs at our plans, so embrace every bump in the road and don’t let them prevent you from enjoying the ride