The first week back

students listen to a lecture in Lecture Center A

Back to school!

On the way to your apartment I write for fear of silence / You carved a boat to sail my shadow, now I walk alone…

It always feels a little funny transitioning from a long break to back to school. I always find myself a little disconcerted at first, and it usually takes me a heaping amount of motivation to re-discipline myself. Usually there comes a point where I have to admit to myself that I’m being plain lazy or making excuses for myself instead of just kicking into high gear straight way to start off the semester running, getting everything I need to do done as efficiently as I can.

But it’s hard to leave behind the days of winter break — spending every day walking Charlie, the friendliest dog in the neighborhood; lounging about the house diving into one new book after the other; stuffing myself with all kinds of delicious sweets because it was holiday break so calories shouldn’t count…

But after one week back, it becomes quickly apparent that there’s no time for laziness. This semester my primary focuses are these: studying for the MCAT — the new one nonetheless, which debuts its monstrous seven-hour exam in March; I will be taking it in May after the semester ends — and doing well in all of my classes, which include BIOS 452 and BIOS 220 — Biochemistry I and Genetics respectively.

So as anticipated, most of my time consists of studying. I spent most of the long weekend in various crowded Starbucks as well as the strangely empty library on East Campus. It’s always a nerve-wracking first week of the semester for me, walking into lecture halls for the first time and meeting faces of friends and also strangers who have become familiar despite me never learning their names.

After a few years of taking so many science and pre-med requisites, you start recognizing the same pool of faces whether you intended to or not. It’s usually the same routine though — I find a seat toward the front row and either I find a friend or a friend finds me. We commiserate over our anxiety over the course and examine the room for other acquaintances while scrutinizing the professor, wondering if we’ll like the teaching style or not.

This sounds over-the-top for just taking a class, but it almost feels like a game to me at this point. Whenever I take one of these typical pre-med requisites, it almost feels like I’ve taken them before in some context, usually because many of these biology courses start out the same way with the very basics. And with so many of my friends in the same classes, I’ve heard much about the course content and the professor before I even walk into the room and have some idea of what to expect.

This is sometimes good, because I can prepare myself better for what’s to come; but it’s sometimes unfortunate as well because I could work my nerves up for no reason. I’m pulling out all of my best study habits for the semester because I need to get the grades I want.

But still. It is hard to completely leave the days of winter break behind. I’m getting back into my daily exercise routine at the rec, but I still have cheat days on the weekends. I’m cramming in MCAT prep every day with that full set of Kaplan books near my bed always, but I there’s a Jodi Picoult book tucked at the bottom of my backpack as well.

I trudge across the snowy, frigid campus from classroom to classroom, hiding my hands deep in my winter coat pockets to keep warm — and nobody would guess it, but my left hand is toying with one of Charlie’s dog treats that was accidentally left over in my pocket. My mind drifts to the long daily walks we took over break and how I used to have dozens of treats in my pocket to coax him along the route if he ever became too distracted. I pretend it’s a good luck charm for me now.

I hit the sidewalk and this is how it starts / ‘Cause sooner or later this is bound to stop / Come on, let’s savor what we’re falling for… ♪♫♪

(Apartment – Young the Giant)


Sarah Lee (F)


Sarah Lee is a junior studying neuroscience and Russian in the GPPA Medicine program at UIC. She’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do, but some of  life goals include running a marathon, exploring Eastern Europe and becoming fluent in Russian. In her free time, she loves running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. A Naperville native, Sarah is a peer mentor in the Courtyard residence hall.


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