First off, you all should know that at my medical school, the summer between MS1 and MS2 is the last "free" summer of my working life. I am writing this about a month before starting my second year, which then begins the long and arduous road towards Step 1 and the wards. It is hard to believe that soon June, July, and August may never have such a sweet connotation to me. Being a student and having my summers off is the only thing I know! However, I am not bitter (or at least not too bitter). This summer has been productive, amazing, preparatory, and relaxing. There is no consensus about how to spend the summer after the first year of medical school, but I think I did it right.
I think I want to do my residency in Emergency Medicine, but I'm not 100% sure. What if I fall in love with orthopedics or dermatology while on my rotations? I wanted to add to my CV, and get my name on a publication or two this summer, if possible. I already have experience at the "bench" doing basic research, so I wanted to switch it up and go to the "bedside" and do clinical research. Oh yeah, and it is worth noting that getting a publication in laboratory research can take years, but a clinical research project can be completed in a matter of months.
I talked to friends in the class above me and got hooked up with a great mentor. She is a great teacher, very patient, lets me make my own schedule, and wants to publish early and often. I work hard doing chart reviews, data entry, literature reviews, and some abstract/manuscript writing, but it is hardly a back-breaking job. Importantly, it also pays the bills, as student loans aren't dispensed over the summer.
Next month I am going to Las Vegas with my little brother for his 21st birthday. I have been saving some money, so I won't feel bad if I use (lose?) it all during my 3-night trip. I can't imagine my "last" summer without a vacation attached to it. A bit of gambling, drinking, sitting around a pool, and laughing with my best friend qualifies as an escape from all things school and medicine. On a side-note, I didn't want to pay thousands of dollars to go on a medical mission trip (aka: the best Facebook-photo-taking opportunity of all time). At this stage in my career I feel like I have very little to offer the people of a third world country, but tons of my classmates disagreed.
As mentioned, I could apply to any number of different residencies in a couple of years. My USMLE Step 1 score will dictate which realistic options I have open to me. However, I couldn't make myself study this summer. The first year of medical school is tough, and I heard that second year is even more of a grind. I want to avoid future burnout. This being said, I didn't just do mindless tasks.
First off, I read various blogs and the Student Doctor Network to see how exactly successful students prepared for Step 1. I researched different prep materials and websites, and developed my own plan for second year. I prepared myself for what is to come. As Sun Tzu famously wrote, "know thy enemy." I also took time to read some novels for pleasure, which I was unable to do during MS1. You forget how nice reading can be, when you used to looking at PowerPoint notes all day long.