By Dr. Khushboo Gala
When all my friends were graduating university and acquiring their first jobs, I was still midway through medical school, struggling through books and clinical rotations. I would listen to their stories of office friends and “work families” in awe – and wonder, when will I have this?
Fast forward through completing medical school, giving my steps, applying for residency, interview season… All those years erased the aforementioned questions from my mind. I was so focused on exams and landing a residency position in a foreign country, that I completely forgot about my yearning to be a working woman. On Match Day, though, having a job became a reality. In just a few months, I would be working for the first time in my life, in a distant place, in a hospital where I knew no one and no one knew me. Suddenly, residency went from being my dream to my fear.
I remember landing in USA, exhausted after my 25-hour flight from India and already nervous about the adventure ahead. My trepidation grew each day leading to the intern orientation. What would my co-interns be like? Would the senior residents be nice? What would my attendings be like? Would I make friends? These questions loomed heavy in my mind. For some reason, I thought I would be all alone in this scary new endeavor.
As it turns out, I wasn’t. The very first day of internship orientation when I nervously said hello to the people around me and realized they were as apprehensive as me, the first day of intern year, where I saw identical looks of puzzlement on my co-interns’ faces as they navigated through a new hospital – every day made me realize that I was not alone.
Working together in a hospital is so much more intense than working together in an office – you work 80 hours a week together, you save lives together and you agonize over the lives you didn’t save together. Before I knew it, I had a group of people around me who were my family in the truest sense. I found family in the friend who took me grocery shopping when I had no way to get to the store. I found family in the attending who convinced me that, despite my nervousness, I was doing a good job. I found family in the friend who dragged me to the stairs outside a party to listen to my romantic troubles. I found family in the senior who came and picked me up every morning before work. I found family in the friend who was always making plans to get ice cream and vent together. I found family in the friend who took me to my first ever basketball game. I found family in my mentor, who assuaged all my doubts every time I met him. I found family in the couple that helped me through my homesickness. I found family in every nurse who took the time to update me on events, and who kindly showed me the workings of the hospital. I found family in the cafeteria worker who shared his plans to run a marathon with me as I waited for a meal at midnight.
Wherever you are in your exchange visitor journey, I hope you find as much love and support in your workplace as I have in mine. Families are precious, and even though mine is 8,000 miles away, I have never felt alone after that first day here.