I recently visited the medical school I’ll be attending in the fall with several of my soon-to-be classmates. We were all talking about what we do in our free time—fishing, hanging out with friends, camping, volunteering. There was quite a variety of hobbies represented among us, but when I asked if anyone’s hobby was reading, to my astonishment, not a single person said they read in their free time. Not that I would say this is bad, or that reading is a superior hobby to others. However, I was surprised by how many people in the group used to read for enjoyment before college, and abandoned it after the pre-med tidal waves began rolling into our lives.
Being pre-med is tough, we all know that. Often we study countless hours each week, and of course, a large part of that studying is, you guessed it, reading. We have hours of reading throughout the week, either Power Points, text books or notes. There is a lot to read. When one spends so much time reading for class, the desire to read more for fun may sound rather undesirable, or even absurd.
However, in college, instead of cutting back the amount I read for fun, I actually started to read more. I’ve been a reader most of my life, and I moved from fiction to non-fiction once college started. I’m convinced that reading is something that got me through undergrad more peacefully. I found it to be tremendously entertaining, often measurably reducing my stress, and it even helped with my concentration, both in my classes and my free time. It helped me keep school and free time separated, instead of a messy amalgam of stress and enjoyment. It allowed me to relax during my down time.
I typically study in increments of an hour, taking about a 10 or 15 minute break between each round. I found my study breaks to be excellent times to open up a book, kick back and relax for a bit with a cup of coffee. What I find so wonderful about reading is I get to choose what I read. And with that freedom, I can find many new and marvelous things to grasp my attention that’s so often solely devoted to school. It’s relieving to take control of what I read and allow my mind can escape. Choosing what I want to read makes reading entertaining instead of feeling like more work. It’s invigorating to read a book on the correlation of incentives among school teachers and sumo wrestlers after spending so much meditation on how exactly the Loop of Henle in the nephron concentrates urine so well.
I eventually realized that reading books of my choice for fun had a further twofold consequence: It helped reduce my stress and helped me sharpen my concentration. When I had a good book to read during study breaks, I looked forward to reading. And when I read, often I’d be so engulfed in the book, I would forgot the stresses of my upcoming tests or projects. Inside the pages of my books I found myself relegating my classes and all that comes with them only to my study time, not my free time. I found myself focusing more on my leisure time rather than letting my thoughts drift into worry about what I had due next—something I struggled with previously during most of college.
These are just a few of the perks of reading I realized throughout college. I plan on continuing this hobby during medical school. Hopefully it will be as helpful then, and perhaps you may even now have a desire to go pick up a book about something you’re interested in. Choose your book, escape in it and perhaps it will help you persevere through school as it helped me.
About Weston Eldridge
Weston Eldridge graduated from Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, in December 2016 with a BS in Chemistry Medical Sciences and Biomedical Sciences. He grew up in Flora, a small town in central Mississippi, and he plans to practice rural medicine one day. He is a Mississippi Rural Physician Scholar and will be attending the University of Mississippi Medical School in Jackson in the fall. While not studying for his classes, Weston enjoys spending time with his wife and writing for his blog, sundryreverie.com. He is an ardent reader, lover of fishing, and hopes to write for the rest of his life.