The Workload and Responsibility of Studying Medicine

Medicine. Is. Hard. Especially studying it in Italy. Although not for the reasons you may think.

It’s no secret that medicine is a lot of work. One of the hardest subjects to get into world-wide, with also one of the highest drop out rates. The work-load is immense. The subjects we study (at least in first year) aren’t hard, in fact they’re quite simple to grasp conceptually, but the biggest problem is that there is A LOT. We are constantly bombarded by new information, topics and subjects, in detail I could have never imagined the possibility of. I did not know that the level of cell biology we did to enter into medical school was not even 0.05% of the depth and intrinsic detail that we can study it to. So I’m sure you can imagine the sheer workload that comes from studying such a heavy subject, divided into many complex and intrinsic topics.

The reason why studying medicine in Italy is particularly difficult is because, well, they expect you to be a responsible adult. You are completely in charge of your own study. You have to take the initiative and responsibility. Homework is neither assigned, nor followed up. No pop-quizzes. No assignments to be graded. No group projects. No continuous assessment (other than esonori which is slightly different). It’s your job to keep on top of your studies, which is a stark contrast from medicine in many other countries.

For a lot of people (especially for me) this is a huge change from what I’m previously used to, and has been honestly so hard to adjust to. In high school I was used to teachers breathing down my neck, continuously assigning homework from what we’ve learnt that day, scrutionously following it up the next day with consequences. Continuous class tests to ensure periodic revision, with assignments, and projects to further delve into whatever it is we were studying. I’m not going to lie I hated this when I was in school, but now looking back on it, I can appreciate why our teachers were doing this. They wanted to ensure that we stayed on top of our school work, and not leave everything last-minute for the big exams, ensuring continuous learning.

As a notorious and chronic procrastinator I’ve been finding it a bit hard to flourish in this environment. It’s been a difficult adjustment to say the least, being expected to be a real adult with responsibilities and stuff. I mean in a way its great to teach dedication and commitment from so early on. At first I thought this system was great, but for all the wrong reasons. It allowed me to a build an amazing social life in Rome, making friends from all over Italy, learning the greatest destinations to eat and party, with no homework or assignments to ever weigh me down. However come exam time I was struggling with the amount of cramming I had to do. Stressed trying to review the immense coursework we had in the limited amount of time I had. If only I was a responsible adult and did a little bit of work through out the year, how much easier it would have been.

Honestly, if I had just studied for 30 minutes for each subject I had that day, I would have halved my work at the end of the year. There’s no need to study from morning till night, it’s a very manageable course if you’re efficient about it. Thankfully I learnt my lesson (even if it was the hard way) without having to finish first year with poor grades, however this was the most difficult thing I learnt in medical school so far.

Please hear my warning if you too are a chronic procrastinator. When you come to Italy you will be treated as an adult and be expected to keep on top of your own workload. The responsibility is massive, but doesn’t require you to give up your life; you just need to keep on top of your revision by sacrificing an hour or two a week. Being honest about my mistakes was difficult but I hope that at least one of you will not repeat my mistakes in your first year.

For those of you who will not struggle with this, I think you’re a massive nerd.