Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Welcome to London!

Long time no see!! 

Before I get to how I ended up in London, I’ll back track a bit and fill you guys in on what’s been happening over the last 4 months that I’ve dropped off the face of the (blogging) Earth.

Post Island Life
Once I got home from St. Maarten, it was all about STEP 1 Prep.  I was literally locked away in my office at home for 2 months.  Day in and day out.  I took off 2 days to celebrate my birthday but felt a bit guilty the entire time.  The office was nice and cozy…it was actually my dad’s newly remodeled man cave, retrofitted with a 6ft table, desk chair, and every electronic device you could think of with USMLE World, First Aid, and notes for days on the displays at all times.  He willingly turned it over to me for the entire time I was studying.  Bless his heart.

I can’t even lie: STEP 1 was tough.  The preparation was insane.  Classes for the last 20 months prepared us in a way, the Becker online review class I took helped, and all those hours of self learning/studying/reviewing coupled with hundreds upon hundreds of questions is what it took for me to pass! WooHoooooooo!!! That was the most relieved I’ve felt in a long time; to know that it’s time to move forward.

My parents and the rest of my village were so so supportive.  My dad cooked breakfast, lunch & dinner for me while my grandmom brought me lunch once a week to give my dad a break =).  My mom brought me snacks and drinks and offered encouraging words when she felt bad that I was still in "the room".  They celebrated with me just as much as I did when I finished and when I got my passing score back.

Over a Major Hurdle
Once THE exam was over, I was pretty much in a catatonic state for the next week.  I did nothing! Absolutely nothing! Nothing to the point of just laying in my bed staring at the ceiling or sleeping all day long.  My family thought something could be wrong with me.  I gradually came out of it and started to go out and visit my extended family and friends trying to salvage what I could of the summer.  I’ve only been back in "the room" one time to sit and relax on the couch.  I couldn't bring myself to go and enjoy it…maybe in a year or two. LOL.

There was also lots of paperwork and appointments to attend to get ready for the transition to Clinical Student.  There was a Criminal Background Check, Drug Screen, Physical, Immune Titers and Blood tests for communicable diseases you don’t want your patients to be exposed to (Hep B/Hep C/HIV/TB).  Note to future students: If your going to do rotations in the UK and don’t want to have your blood drawn again—make sure the lab DOCUMENTS on your results that your photo identification was verified at the time of the blood draw.  I tried to explain that in the US no one takes your blood with verifying who you are first, but guess who had to get stuck again…me =( 

Getting a UK visa was a whole different ordeal.  The school coordinators for UK students made the process as pain free as possible with respect to providing all the documentation we needed…but the time, energy, and EXPENSE was more than I expected.
If your staying in the UK more than 6 months you need a Visa.  I paid $1,179.00!
Here’s a breakdown of the costs:
A. Briggs Expeditor Fee-$175
Priority Rush Service Fee-$192
UK NHS Health Insurance Fee-$240
FedEx Mailing to NY-$25
Fed Ex Return Mailing-$32

AUC started a program to help ease the transition from Basic Sciences to Clinical Medicine.  An AUC Clinical Fellow (recent grad) meets with small groups of students to discuss a variety of patient cases and answer questions we have about life once we leave the island and enter the hospitals.  Ish is about to get real!!!

Transition to Clinical Medicine
All the expenses, blood draws, doctors appointments, & STEP Stress has lead to this….I’m now in LONDON!  For real.  Its a little surreal.  I left one warm sunny island to come to a wet rainy one.  However, even with the rain and lack of constant sunshine, it will be another amazing experience! 

I’ve moved into a house share with 5 other Britishers (I don’t even know if that’s proper)—er…Brits?   They all work in or around London and so far they have been so welcoming and hospitable to me.  My mom is relieved =)

I arrived exactly 1 week ago and in that time I’ve managed to: 
-Get settled and unpacked
-Have a visit from extended family 

-Link up with some new friends that my DST sisters have put me in touch with--looking forward to meeting them in person soon
-Explore the Romford area and figure out how to get to the two hospitals where I’ll be rotating via foot and bus (Queen’s and King Georges Hospitals—how English right?!?)
-Visit Ealing (West London) to hang out with some other AUCers & attended their Mess (a party hosted by the Junior Doctors at the hospital once a month when everyone gets paid)
-Do a little sightseeing in Central London and had my first English meal of meat pies—pretty tasty
-Have a "proper" welcome to Essex by two of my housemates=partying at Pubs & Clubs all night
-Go London’s Carnival—OH EM GEE!!! There must have been at least 700,000 people there!!!!!!! IT WAS CRAZZZYYYYY!!!!!! But a ton of fun.  Food, vendors, music trucks, lots of drinking in the streets, bands, DJ's, people in costumes, stilt walkers…you name it, it was at Carnival! 

Some pics from my travels this week: 
The Ealing crew, Central London and traditional English food, & Carnival


After all of that excitement, Clinical Rotations actually begin this week.  Luckily, there are a number of other AUC students at my site so it’s nice to see familiar faces and realize that I'm not the only one that has no clue what's about to go down.

Once I get into somewhat of a groove at work, I'll be sure to check in and let you guys know how it’s going!  
My roomies have already promised we’ll go for English Tea at some swanky place.  I’ll be here for the next 10 months, so if you're familiar with this part of the world let me know what you think I should see and/or do while over here!  

Until next time…

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