As human nature dictates, we don’t like to feel alone. It’s one of our greatest fears, and that will be tested as we stand in front of Allah SWT with nothing but our book of deeds in (hopefully, Allahuma ameen!) our right hands. For my fellow book lovers, Franz Kafka portrays the fear of alienation in Metamorphosis when Gregory is depressed and all alone. Whether you prefer an exclusive friend or two, or are the social butterfly who enjoys a wide group of diverse friends, we all need to have a fellow human being to talk to. Its the same deal while in med school, although you may have heard horror stories of anti-social medical students who only know how to speak to their textbooks, we actually do have time to socialize with our friends! However, a huge concern of most students is how to have friends within the classroom itself. Should I befriend all the Muslims in my class whether we are of the same personality or not? Is it wise to be open and talkative with everyone? Will people try to befriend me just for notes? I’ll try my best to address these issues and others in today’s post inshaAllah.
The average size of a first year entry med school class is approximately 150 students, and even smaller if you are in podiatric medicine like myself. After spending four years at a university with thousands of students, it is a huge culture shock to be able to know everyone’s name in your classroom. Not only that, but to spend the entire day from 8-5, five days a week with the same people in the same building is not what you were used to in college. So it goes without saying that you should avoid any animosity between your classmates. If you have any Muslims in your class, then you have already found someone who has something in common with you. However, you do not need to be the best of friends with them if you are complete polar opposites. Do try at first, as that will make a lot of things easier for you, but if it doesn’t work out that’s completely fine. Just make sure to give salam, have polite conversation when you speak, and to offer your help if needed.
During orientation and the first week of classes, everyone is trying to get to know each other, which is a great way to meet your classmates and upperclassmen. Talk to people at lunch and during lecture breaks, and get to know them. You may discover a potential study partner or a fellow Pride & Prejudice nerd that will help make your transition easier. I’m a super commuter, and met my good friend and fellow commuter during orientation, which made riding the train after a long day of studying much more bearable.
Although you should talk to as many people as possible, try not to get too comfortable with everyone at first. Unfortunately, there are some people who will attempt to use you for notes, especially if you are one of the top students in a subject. Although you should help out your classmates, its really depressing if you do everything to help out a “friend” and realize that they were just using you to get notes to share with others and pass them off as their own, or are not willing to help you out during your own time of need. Not only that, but the cruel reality is that there will be some people who will teach you wrong info. Why? Ranking. Everyone is attempting to be #1 in their class to have the best chance at getting a residency, and that sometimes goes to people’s heads and forces them to lose some of their moral integrity. As Muslims, we believe in naseeb and that Allah SWT has a plan for us, so we shouldn’t allow this to faze us. The best way to deal with this? Avoid those type of people, learn only from those you trust, and if you feel like there’s some fishy info being thrown about, look it up. Those type of people will be found out by the first month and when they realize they’re avoided by everyone, they’ll straighten themselves out.
At this point, it sounds pretty negative, but I promise there are some really amazing people out there! After switching my seat around a few times, I met a great group of people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, who share some of my interests and are eager to help each other out. We quiz each other, share notes, and discuss random topics unrelated to school. It may take awhile to find your best fit of friends, but it will be worth it. You can’t live alone, and these people will be your colleagues who you will refer your patients to. It’s a tough road, but great friends will make the ride smoother and more enjoyable.