Applying to Medical School: Pt 3

Fin. French for the end, the close. Everything does sound better in French… and Arabic. Anyway. My application journey has finished and the results are in. I couldn’t have imagined being in the position I am currently, back in August 2019 when this all started. I read back my first installment in the series prior to writing this, and the person sitting behind the keyboard in part 1 is miles away from the one writing now. So much has happened in my personal life, but also in the world. In a wonderful way this series has documented my history, but also is a small narrative in a time of seismic shifting. The events of the world, at least in my eyes, have added extra dimension to what is a seemingly mundane process of university application.

I believe it would be best to get the destination out of the way- that is what most people come for and I wouldn’t want to hold those individuals longer than needed. I will be starting the undergraduate Medicine course at Cambridge University in October. Honestly this is still echoing in my mind at the moment. Coming back from my run this evening, viewing the same scenery I’ve become intimately acquainted with over the past 6 months, it dawned on my that in a few weeks I will be seeing different trees, building and parks. I’ll be charting, literally and metaphorically, unknown terrain.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, exams were cancelled in March. Thus the government had the job of doling out grades to pupils who hadn’t been tested. Yes, quite a task and one which they majorly botched first time round. Results day was on August 13th, where I rode into Central London whilst experiencing throwbacks to zombie travelling to and from college, frantically attempted to refresh UCAS track to no avail, got the result envelope read it… read it again… then again. My results were great, I thankfully had been spared the horror stories of my peers and countless students across the country who had become victim of , as it emerged later, a classist algorithm. However I had missed my offer by one grade. The rest of that morning was spent co-ordinating various emails and phone calls. I left school with my Kings College offer in hand and my Cambridge one pending- I had been placed in the summer pool.

I had geared up for the worst. The plan was that I would take what ever Medical offer I got and if I didn’t then the clearing app was downloaded on my phone and I knew I would be trying to get a place on a Paramedic Science course. I was very happy with Kings: I loved the uni and the course structure. Yet being honest with myself in retrospect, my heart was, in some intangible illogical way, still with Cambridge. I try to divest my personal value from my ‘on paper academics’ ie grades, universities, rankings ect. I think that is quite a reductive and dehumanizing way to exist and would like to value myself and others in a more holistic manner. Hence, I really didn’t feel gutted when Cambridge left me hanging. Yet when I received the email from the Admissions Tutor at my college at 19:48, I screamed so loudly my parents rushed up stairs flustered and shouting ‘kya hogaya’ (what’s happened in urdu).

Till that point Cambridge had seemed very abstract to me. Something that really shook me occurred back in July when I told my mentor than I wanted to apply, was when he told me I wasn’t ‘Cambridge material’ and I would be happier in a London Medical School. At the time, I took it to heart but over conversations with him I realised his perspective on it- that I had to be careful not to sacrifice my happiness and charm for… Cambridge. I had to keep my soul intact. I make no guarantees that I will get through the course. Yet I know I’ve self analysed again and again, and this is where the threads of my life are taking me. I anticipate a bumpy ride, yet this isn’t holding me back. New terrain, an opportunity to carve a new me. Isn’t it wonderful and daunting in the way our decisions make us.

the decisions that go into making a life-the choices people make, together and on their own, that combine to produce any single event. Grains of sand incalculable, pressing into sediment, then rock.

Tara Westover

I don’t think I will feel comfortable calling myself a Cambridge student for some time, perhaps I’ll grow into it. Maybe I won’t. But I don’t want to become soulless and lose my essence, my roots. It feels like I am cutting my umbilical cord by leaving home, yet I want my roots to surround me like a hazy cloud malleable yet constantly present.

Fin. This is anything but the end. It is the beginning of my life. Perhaps I might blog my experience at Cambridge. Create a personal historical document, a resource for people like me in the future to feel recognized and understood, a window into the life of a medical student at Cambridge between 2020-2026. Writing about things as they happen perhaps may not be the best way to produce something of quality. As according to Virginia Woolf:

The past is beautiful because one never realise an emotion at the time. It expands later, & thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.

Virginia Woolf

Yet I think there is something comforting in capturing a moment in its unformed state- as I have done in this series. Producing a historical document which holds value for me and any kindred spirits.

I would like to end this post by thanking everyone who has rooted for me along the way. If you are ever in Cambridge, get in contact. I often find a city takes on a new life when you know someone there:)

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