Dear Freshmen,

Congratulations: you made it this far. After enduring pre-med, the NMAT, and applications you have arrived here in St Luke’s College of Medicine. Already, you have met expectations — you are intelligent, talented, and capable of taking the challenges the next five years will throw your way.

You have entered a great school, and perhaps we are a bit biased for saying so. In SLCM, students are more than just academically intelligent. They are writers, artists, sportsmen, singers, dancers, spiritual warriors — it is humbling to be part of such a talented community.

Arriving, however, is but the first step on this long journey. The road to affixing MD to your name is not paved; its path is covered with stone and rubble. It is not straight and narrow; it winds and bends. It goes on and on. The tunnel is long, and it is hard for our eyes to see the end. Most days are filled with piles of transes and textbook pages to read, with sleepless nights, with worry and anxiety, with the nagging feeling of not knowing enough.

Med school has and always will be an immense commitment. It is a jealous lover, demanding much of you. Even then, you are not guaranteed success. You may take longer than others to understand lessons. You may feel flustered and shaken by the medical academic life. You might even lose your desire to move along.

Yes, there will be doubt: days when you question whether this path is worth it, whether you are capable of getting through—and pain—some days will leave you crying your eyes out on the bedroom floor, wondering how you’ll survive the next exam week—and sometimes there will be failure.

Most days feel as though you’ve stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Even when things go well, this demanding journey will certainly have its moments of crisis and unrest—and it will hardly look the same from student to student. As they say, however: a rock, when tested in flame, emerges a diamond. During these moments, remember why you started. Though their condition may be stunted by the harsh winds, always hold fast to the foundations of your ambitions. Why did you choose to embark on this path? Is this still worth working towards?

The question is not if you can avoid being burned, but rather if you are willing to endure it. Resilience is defined as the ability of an object to return to its original shape after pulling it apart. Challenges will threaten to break you—your books, transes, and lecture recordings for the next big block exam–and your mettle will be put under that fire.

The medical profession is a worthy undertaking, but ultimately, this worth is yours to define, and in your pursuit, you may question your persistence and ability. The road ahead need not always be linear. Failure, too, can be a prelude to your ultimate success. Your life’s sequence of events need not make sense—we were not built for cookie cutter perfection. We are humans: bound to make mistakes. We are humans: capable of getting back on our feet. After all, that humanity is the reason to transcend just the number on your grades or your scholarship status in unravelling the kind of doctor you would become.

The rigor of your academics may have an overwhelming speed, and you may feel like your own pace seems slower than your peers. It doesn’t matter. Give your legs time to rest. Give your mind time to recover. Go slowly if you must—give your lungs air to breathe. At the end of a long day, don’t feel guilty for taking the time to appreciate the rise and fall of your chest, the stretch and bend of your muscles with every step you take, the steady thumping of your heart – all the little things that make you up.

We can talk on and on about the challenges that lie in wait and throw in all the experiences, values, and tips, but the journey is yours to experience. Work hard, and strive to be kind. Be better. Become your best. This is it; a long immense journey is ahead of you but know that you are here. You are where you have chosen to be. Say your prayers. Prepare your coffee. Take a deep breath: here, your journey begins.