Giorgi is a fourth-year medical student in the US MD Program of Tbilisi State Medical University in Georgia. He is currently preparing for Step 1.
What Was Your Life Like Before COVID-19?
Life before COVID was definitely different. One thing COVID has taught us is we can never be ready for the changes. Although everything is fine now, something might happen that turns your entire life around.
Before COVID, everything was pretty much normal. I was doing my preclinical subjects and going to the university all the time. I would usually wake up at 8 a.m., get ready for the day, go to the university, then go to the library. Later I would come back home around 10 p.m. and chill for an hour, then fall asleep.
One thing about being an International Medical Graduate (IMG) is that you mostly live with the family, so no separate flats. It can be difficult because you could live at the place where you have two siblings and parents. For me, my mother is also a professor at the university, so the rooms were like different offices. It was definitely stressful because I was out of the house for the entire day, then suddenly I was in the house for 24 hours. When the pandemic started, everything closed down. We could not go out after certain periods of time. If you were not wearing a mask, people would look at you. You could see the people taking on a high-level of responsibility as well as being afraid of each other.
It was really stressful for med students because you have to find some sort of rhythm and balance between your work life and personal life. If you work too hard, then you will be burnt out. If you don’t work too hard, you might not perform as well as your peers. For me, I was focused on how I could do better. I also wanted to improve my concentration, retention, and energy level. Although I tried to wake up at the same time and schedule workouts, eating, and studying, my schedule was not usually consistent.
What Happened When COVID Intensified in Georgia?
COVID didn’t become harder to deal with, at least for me personally, until later in the year. I thought it was great because I was just going to the university to attend class and now I could just attend a class from the comfort of my own home. Another challenge was universities adapting to this new system. Professors didn’t know how to hold online classes. Students were still getting to used to all the features of virtual learning platforms.
As COVID went on for a longer time, I found it increasingly difficult to work at home in my bedroom. I associated my house with my comfort zone, a place where I could just relax. Switching that place to a place where I did school and still keeping it as a chill-out area was quite difficult. I used to go to the library all the time, so not being able to do work there and having to do everything in one room was very difficult for me. It affected my academic performance and I believe my mental health too. COVID messed up my entire routine and I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t use as much energy during the day as I used to.
How Did You Work on Overcoming COVID-related Struggles?
I put a lot of effort into overcoming my COVID-related struggles once I noticed it affecting my academic performance. In searching for possible solutions, I started reading some research on how students were performing in different situations to figure out what type of techniques I could use. One that has helped with my studies is the Pomodoro Technique. I even started fasting for hours sometimes, because somewhere I read that fasting was increasing concentration. I did a lot of research.
Eventually, I went to Reddit and read the experiences of other students around the world. At a certain point in time, I thought it was just me going through this. Sometimes people don’t like showing their emotions to others because it might make them feel like that they’re weaker than others. Going to forums and reading that other students were going through the same things was very empowering for me. The forums were constant research of how I can do better, what can I change in my daily life that could improve my performance.
Seeing different students supporting each other and telling each other what to do really was important for me in overcoming my COVID-related struggles.
What Were Some of The Major Differences You Noticed In Your Academics As a Result of COVID?
My classmates and I were used to attending class on-site. We also have a course called “becoming a doctor,” which is impossible to do online. We learn techniques for physical exams on patients and how to take a patient’s history. This course going online was confusing even for the faculty because everything previously done in the course couldn’t be done the same way virtually. Other than that, I think my university did a great job in making things similar for the students. For certain classes, it was better online. COVID showed us that something could be done online.
What Impact Has COVID Had on Your Feeling of Being Prepared For Your Career After Medical School?
Adjusting my life to being at home all the time was a major challenge. I have a lot of friends who loved staying home because they were studying at home and having more time for USMLE® preparation. Personally, I couldn’t do all those things in only one space. I was planning to do the USMLE® Step 1 in June, but my struggle with studying meant I had to push it back. I will now take the exam in August. Even now, I can’t say I’ve gotten used to “the new normal.” We can now work outside of our houses. When everything was closed, I just couldn’t do anything pretty much.
Which Resources Were Most Helpful For You?
Without online resources, I don’t think anyone would survive this pandemic. For me, a helpful resource was Lecturio. A platform like Lecturio has everything in one space. I had video lectures and 3D anatomy models, practice questions, and Spaced Repetition. I even have this Bookmatcher. Even, the Medical School Survival Guide helped me to stay calmer and better organized.
It’s hard when you’re in a class or the lecture for an hour and a half to two hours. Although you have a five or ten-minute break, it’s not enough. You’re still tired and exhausted.
I’ve also realized having control over your education is really useful.
What Is Something You Will Take Away From Your Experience During COVID?
Something I will take away from studying medicine during the COVID pandemic is being able to work alone instead of always working around other people. My major problem was that I couldn’t motivate myself enough when I was not seeing my peers around me. It was weird being in a family environment. For instance, my parents still don’t understand how can I study all day. At one point in time, they didn’t even think I was smart enough. Learning to push myself regardless of the people around me and the environment will definitely be a takeaway from COVID for me.
How has COVID-19 changed your med school routine?
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