by Marlu Mclean

When I started Med School in 2018, I was intrigued by the intercalated program they offer at UCT.  I immediately knew I wanted to do it and that it would require me to do well to continue with honours.  Going through the first three years of Medicine, I really enjoyed and gained so much from the interactive learning activities.  I would love to go to campus and spend my days from 8 to 5 running from the lecture theaters to Groote Schuur hospital and back to the anatomy labs.  Coming from a class with 250 students, I looked forward to the 10-student class to build connections, friendships and life-long relationships.  Little did I know how this year will turn out.

From an online open day to registration, introduction and techniques course, I only met the people in my class after 4 weeks of online teaching.  The first week together was amazing, I got to know the people a little bit and got to experience the “real-university life” for the first time this year.  But we soon returned to the “real-COVID-life” again with more online classes, tutorials and a handful of in-person lectures and presentations.  Instead of spending most of my time on campus and in the library, it was now spent in my bedroom, also known as my study and also known as my workout space.  It was just me and my laptop.  The space got smaller and smaller.  I escaped to run trails on the mountain.  I would come back and work without any motivation.  I would leave once a week to see patients in the hospital.  I tried figuring out how to do things in the lab with countless fails.  I got sick and was in bed doing lectures and studying because I didn’t want to fall behind.  It was scary, lonely and hard. 

It was different from what I expected.  Many days I wanted to give up, but through prayer, I was able to fight, learned how to step out of my comfort zone and most how to be resilient in ways I never thought I would have to be.  But today I am grateful for the hard times.  Grateful that I have this amazing opportunity to do something I wanted to do from the start.  I learned that if it wasn’t for the trail running, church, friends, family and their support I wouldn’t have been able to pull through.  I was able to believe God has a bigger plan with this year, even if I can’t see it yet.  I have slowly adjusted to this new “normal” and I am excited that the second semester is here, and I am able to focus on my research without running to class and studying for tests.  Let’s hope this will be the best one yet!

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