There seems to be a lot of pressure involved in deciding what to do for the summer between first and second year, almost to the point of being stressful. It was for me at least. Most advisors and professors urged us to get involved in research, but there are a few that dropped subtle hints; hints telling us that research may not be the only option. I clung to these drops. It’s not that I don’t enjoy research; I spent three summers in undergrad researching and enjoyed it all. It’s just that, well, I was restless. What gave me comfort in making my final decision was the support of one advisor who said we should do whatever will rejuvenate us for second year. With that encouragement, I bought a ticket to Guatemala.
The clinic I went to in Guatemala is in the Peten region near a little town called Machaquila. The Peten region is heavily Mayan and heavily jungle. So much jungle in fact that the first morning I walked out to the gardener standing over a recently-beheaded coral snake, and every night frogs and toads swarmed my room, only for me to find them dried out and stuck to the floors and walls in the morning.
There weren’t all that many patient visits each day. Some days there wouldn’t be any patients, which made for a long morning. I may have even resorted to reading Harrison’s at times to keep myself occupied at times. Other times the doctor would teach me various surgical knots, or other staff members would volunteer their arms for me to practice drawing blood from. The afternoons were full of manual labor; either yard work, construction, or weeding in the pineapple fields.
After a month at the clinic, a friend from Montana flew down to fill the position of being my traveling partner. We spent a week and a half seeing the Mayan ruins in Tikal, climbing Vulcan Tajumulco, the highest peak in Central America, and strolling the old colonial town of Antigua. After he flew out, I went on my own to El Salvador in search of pupusas, which turned out to be an excellent choice for both lunch and dinner the entire time I was there. It was from El Salvador that I flew back to Loma Linda, eager to return to start second year.
Now that I’m a month into my sophomore year, I’m glad I chose to go to Guatemala. Second year is difficult; there’s no time to be restless, and it definitely helps to be rejuvenated. The information is interesting, but the volume is overwhelming, making it difficult to keep up. Think back to elementary school when you’d play on the merry-go-round. Remember when you’d push it until it got going so fast that you weren’t really pushing it anymore, but it was pulling you? Second year kind of feels like that. Luckily the information we’re learning is heaps more interesting than first year, making it much more enjoyable and exciting to study. Well, studying isn’t exactly exciting, but what we’re learning is.
We just finished our first set of exams. Whew!