"I don’t regret choosing medicine as my profession. Although there are times when I feel like I should’ve pursued some light course but these thoughts are temporary and short lived. I am happy with my decision of choosing MBBS and I am ready to face all the challenges that will come my way."
Over the last few months, I talked to a lot of young students who are really not sure of what they want to do moving forward right out of high school, and what is the right choice for them. Even after their parents have agreed to them doing whatever they want, it's still a frenzy to them.
So, I got into the mind of a young second year MBBS student to get insights into what it was like in the last 2 years of high school and how he approached the test that got him into one of the most prestigious colleges in the state.
I talked to Umaid Altaf Pandit, a medical student in his sophomore year, studying in Government Medical College, Srinagar having completed his schooling from Tyndale Biscoe School.
Before we jump into post high school mindset, I asked Umaid what was it like in his last two years of high school, which subject he opt for and why and what eventually led him to GMC. To which he had a very straightforward answer
To be honest, it is something that is somewhere there in the back of your mind right from class 11th onwards, irrespective of the fact whether you are preparing for it or not. Everyone knows that they have to appear in some competitive exam after 12th, but very few show that dedication from the beginning. Talking about my experience, all I knew in 11th was that I have to appear in NEET after 12th but I had no knowledge about how to approach it. So all I wanted to acquire in my higher secondary school were good grades with no emphasis on NEET. But that did eventually help me during my preparation for NEET as I had already grasped most of the basics from all the topics. So I would say I was not particularly preparing for NEET in my 11th 12th, which of course was wrong as one should strive hard for it from 11th standard itself as the competition nowadays is very intense and MBBS seats are very limited. Also proper guidance from a teacher or any elder who has acquired good amount of knowledge in this sphere is important so that one would exert himself in the right direction. Coming back to the question, I chose science as I was unclear with what I had to do going ahead in my life. Also, my parents wanted me to choose science so I opted for it as it seemed to be a safer option, which would offer me multiple career options to pursue after 12th.
Then, we had a very detailed conversation about all that went into it which I have summed up in a Q/A format.
Q) Did you always have this belief that you will be able to crack the entrance test or you just let it go with the flow and had alternatives in mind?
No matter how good the preparation is, everyone has doubts in his mind as it comes down to one day. All the preparation one does for so many months or even years is tested by a mere 3 hour examination. So no one can confidently say if he can clear the exam. All he can do is believe in himself during his preparation, appear in multiple practice examinations which would help him to analyze his preparation and highlight the portions where more practice is required. I appeared in a number of tests during the course of my preparation which helped me a lot. Although I scored good in most of them, some tests didn’t go that well which made me work harder. Speaking of alternatives, I had mathematics as my additional subject which made me eligible for JEE Mains. I scored appreciable marks which spontaneously reduced my apprehensions to quite a good extent. I was mentally relaxed as I was eligible to join a good engineering college based on my performance in JEE Mains. I would have chosen NIT Srinagar in case I wouldn’t have got through NEET.
Q) Personal choice/Parental pressure?
My parents wanted me to pursue a career in medicine and personally I was content with their choice as I had no special interest in any other course as such. My parents never pressurized me to opt for it, I set it as my goal myself.
Q) What was the NEET preparation like?
-Best subject? (which you were good at)
-Did school play any role in your NEET prep?
-How much did you self study?
-how did your day look like, where did you go to tuition?
NEET preparation days were very challenging as all you have to do all day long is study. I had to restrict all my activities, had to spend a good span of time in tuition and the rest, I would devote to self study. I had my tuition classes from 8 in the morning till about 2 in the afternoon. After that I would study from 5 PM until the time I was tired. Self studying hours varied as my per my energy level but I would always wrap it up before mid-night and go to sleep. Initially it was very tough for me but eventually with time I got adapted to that lifestyle. It was a difficult period but one has to make such sacrifices in order to achieve their goals. To be consistent throughout the journey was not so easy as there were days when I didn’t feel like studying but I had to push myself. Among all the three subjects of NEET ,Chemistry was my favorite one and I was good at it. Talking about School, it didn’t really play a vital role in my preparation in NEET. Although I’ve learned a lot of things in school but it is not necessary to attend school in order to score good in NEET. I studied at Aakash Institute, Rajbagh and Kashmir Institute Of Excellence, Parraypora. Both of these institutes have a major contribution in my achievement.
Q) GMC Srinagar - Expectations v/s Reality? Does GMC Srinagar live up to its hype it has around Kashmir or is it only up to NEET?
Medical colleges are often recognized as institutions where there aren’t many activities to engage with other than studies and are often expected to be quite boring. I personally shared the same conviction before being a part of it myself. Though the extra-curricular activities are not present as such, one can enjoy his time being in the college depending on his own interests. To be honest, it is just like any other college except the fact that it predominantly prioritizes studies.
The reason behind the hype GMC Srinagar carries is that it is an established, reputed college with eight associated hospitals. So I would say as a medical college, it definitely lives up to its hype as it gives a lot of early clinical exposure to under-graduates and post-graduates. Also, it is a government college with limited number of seats and the competition makes it very difficult to get into. The fee structure there is very low when compared to Private Medical colleges which adds up to its hype.
When Umaid was talking to me regarding his journey, a thing that strike my mind was how supportive his parents were, like did they have a belief that he would be able to pull it off?
He said that, "My parents always believed in me. They were of the opinion that I was capable enough to clear this exam. So I had to work hard to live up to their expectations. Their support has played a vital role in keeping me motivated throughout the preparation."
A lot of us have this notion, "Arey ye tou wo bangladeshi doctor hai, iske paas kaun jaayega" or " isne tou ghar walun se zameen kanal bikwa kar mbbs kiya".
Since Umaid is a GMC Srinagar student and does not have to worry about things like these, I asked him that does he feel he is at a competitive advantage from his peers or friends who are doing mbbs in various countries like Bangladesh, Russia, Armenia?
Umaid had a fantastic answer to this question. He said,
"As per me, the only difference NEET makes is by giving admission in Government Colleges. Those who choose to pursue MBBS privately are on the same level once they enter the medical college. After that, the efforts they put in throughout the degree determine how good doctors they become. So it comes down to one’s hardwork post their MBBS admission, and not the Medical college they are in or the country they are pursing MBBS from."
Q) What is MBBS like? what would you say about the course to students looking to pursue MBBS?Best/Worst things about being a medical student.
MBBS is not an easy course. It is a very demanding course and a number of hardships and challenges would come and one must be aware of that. That doesn’t change the fact that MBBS is a very prestigious course and if anyone has an interest to pursue it, they should go ahead and fulfil their dreams. No one should opt for it if he is being forced to do so, he should choose the course his interest lies in. The best thing about being a medical student is the feeling of serving the afflicted. I have not experienced anything as such yet because I’m still a 2nd year medical student but I am looking forward to it.
Worst thing is of course the efforts that go into it. You have to spend maximum time with your books. The syllabus is tremendously vast and a lot has to be retained. Your social life gets restricted too.
Q) Do you think living at home and studying the course you want to is a privilege? Or do you think living in a hostel helps learning in a broader way?
Living in a hostel has its own benefits but I’m happy staying in the comfort of my home which I do personally consider a privilege. The fact that living in a hostel teaches a lot more is right but those are the things that everyone has to learn at some point of life. It is a lot more comfortable to be with your family than being on your own.
Q) What is Day in Life like for an MBBS student at GMC Srinagar?
The classes start at 9:00 am in the morning. The first class is of 1 hour, after which we have to go to the hospital for clinical postings where we are on rounds in wards with doctors and Post-graduates. These rounds help us thoroughly learn about the patients and their illness. The doctor accompanying educates us about different diseases and their symptoms as we encounter them. The posting is for 3 hours. After this we have 1 hour recesses. Then we have one more class for an hour followed by a 2 hour practical class. The day ends at about 5:00 PM. One has to devote a lot of time after college to self study as well. So overall, the day is a bit hectic but immensely productive.
Q) How are teachers at GMC? Are they knowledgeable? Do they have a good hold on topics? Do they teach just course specific or give advice on career pathways ahead and competitive exams like USMLE?
The teachers are knowledgeable and have a good hold on topics, but some topics are not well understood in class due to some factors like lack of time , lack of interest at times. Those topics are cleared by self study. Also, the teaching pattern is not based on USMLE or any competitive exam as such. Students who target such exams have to put in extra effort and study some extra competitive exam related stuff along with their college syllabus.
Q) Now after being in the second year of MBBS, do you think you made the right choice by pursuing MBBS or should have gone by a different route like Tech or management?
When the result of NEET was declared, it was a very proud moment for me and my family. In fact the proudest moment in my life so far. Everyone was very happy for me. I was relieved and satisfied as clearing NEET was all I wanted that time. The happiness I felt that time can not be put down into words. I don’t regret choosing medicine as my profession. Although there are times when I feel like I should’ve pursued some light course but these thoughts are temporary and short lived. I am happy with my decision of choosing MBBS and I am ready to face all the challenges that will come my way.
Hope you enjoyed reading the blog and are motivated to work your way too. I know it's a lengthy one, but I didn't want to cut it down, since Umaid and I had a very detailed conversation.
If you have any questions for Umaid, he is generous enough for any sort of help and he can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thankyou Umaid for doing it.