Interview Season in Pictures

The best year of medical school is the year you are accepted. The second best year is 4th year. Or so I was told four years ago. =)

Somehow it is already Christmas Break of my 4th year of medical school and in less than 5 months people will start calling me “Doctor” and I’m actually going to know how to do stuff and know things. It’s pretty unbelievable that after so many years of wanting to go to medical school and going through the process of applying to medical school four times and thinking it would never happen for me…. I am actually almost done. It doesn’t quite feel real.

I am very happy to report that the nightmares I was having back over the summer, before the ERAS residency application opened, were completely unfounded. I have more interviews than I know what to do with and the odds are in my favor that I will actually Match in March and will have my first job as a physician come next June/July. It’s been an incredible experience, if not time-consuming, alienating, and exhausting, but a necessary evil in the long run. I have met so many incredible people in the field of Pediatrics, and I feel so lucky to be going into the best specialty! (I may be a bit biased 😉 and I’m sure all of my colleagues in other fields feel the same way about their specialty.) I can’t wait to get started on my career but at the same time, I wish this year would slow down.

Over the past several months, my Instagram feed (@PagingDrAllie) has been flooded with snapshots of the interview trail. Because what else am I supposed to do when I’m going to new states, new cities, new places all by myself for nearly three months?

I purposefully do not share where I am interviewing. Not only for anonymity (which really, in having this blog, I’m probably not doing a very good job about that anyway), but I feel that sharing and bragging about those sorts of things is just in bad taste. A program that I am not thrilled with may be a friend’s top choice and they may not have received an interview invitation…. and I’m not the type of person who relishes in others’ despair. Below I’ve gathered some of my Instagram shots from my travels, with captions. I hope you enjoy a small taste of my life living out of a rental car!

One of the unexpected bonuses of traveling so much in November/December: all of the hotels and hospitals are wonderfully decorated for Christmas (and Hanakkuh, and others), which delights my soul in a particularly special way. There’s just something about twinkle lights that makes me deliciously happy.

 

This has been my view for so long that anything else almost seems foreign. After awhile, all of the hotels just blur together. There have been a couple that have really wow’d me in terms of the bedding. As a mom of a two-year-old, having a full night’s sleep, alone, without interruptions (or being kicked in the face) is a luxury beyond belief. Even so….. I do miss my own bed at home. Once I’m actually working, maybe we can investigate investing in a bigger bed that is as comfortable as this one was!

 

The bad thing about racing home, while driving alone, is that when you’re driving into a beautiful sunset, there is no one to share the experience with. Which means you pull over onto a safe pullout/shoulder and snap a few quick shots before getting back behind the wheel and trying to make up for those minutes.

I spent a week and a half in a new state to interview at several programs, thinking that would be best for my rental car and time. What I didn’t anticipate when I scheduled those interviews was how much I’d already be missing home and my kiddo, even that early in the interview season. So the Handsome came up with a brilliant scheme: instead of coming all the way home, I’d meet him and the Ladybug at the halfway point between home and the next interview to spend a weekend doing things she’d love like swimming in a heated pool and an excursion to the Children’s Museum there. So after my last interview of the week on a Friday, I raced to our rendezvous as quickly as I could to surprise the little one and when I came into the room….. she was already asleep. Figures.

Again, racing home (or to the next interview city) and I was alone with a great sunset.

This one, though, was on my way home for a weekend. This shot doesn’t do it justice, because it was seriously one of the most gorgeous displays I’ve ever seen.

This year, I’m taking a course that explores the marriage of Art with Medicine and Wellness. One of the stipulations of the course is that we make time to visit museums, aquariums, etc to help boost our wellness. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the very, very few aquariums to house Whale Sharks, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit when I was in Atlanta. I really wish I would have had more time there!

One morning right before I left home for the majority of three weeks straight. Foggy yet golden, I couldn’t help but snap a shot to remind me of home.

Thank you notes are the bane of my existence. I was raised to express gratitude where it is due, so I’ve always been a fan of handwritten notes. I had no idea that I would be writing 4, 5, or 6 or more per program, though. Mentors have pressed upon me that for Pediatrics, thank you notes are pretty important, so I should make sure each one is personalized because all of them may wind up in my file, and if they are verbatim alike, it could be a mark against me so….. I spend a lot of time writing these things.

In one city, I came into town a bit early to catch up with an old friend from college at a local coffee shop before dinner with the residents. I wanted the chance to walk the city to get a good feel for it, and as I made my way to the coffee shot, I happened to notice the sky. This shot doesn’t really capture the cotton-candy sky, but I still liked the way it turned out anyway.

I left one program just in time to sit at a coffee shop in a different city for an hour or two before meeting the residents of another program for dinner, so I took that time to compose more thank you notes.

Niagara Falls at dusk! 🙂

Probably one of my favorite shots. It doesn’t quite look real, and this is #nofilter.

There was one interview that was really, really far away. Luckily, the Handsome could go with me and we made the executive decision to take the Ladybug with us and stop over at the halfway point, Niagara Falls. She LOVED it, and I am so glad that we weren’t deterred from bringing her with us. The first thing she said was “Whoa!” which was quickly followed by, “Mommy! BIG WATER!” All three of us marked off a couple new states and this little one got to add a new country to her passport as well!

I never knew the northeast was so pretty, even in late autumn! One thing I didn’t get to take a photo of: while driving through the mountains I saw where a semi took out the biggest black bear I’ve ever seen. So sad!

On the very first morning where I was supposed to be traveling to an interview, I went out to our deck for some meditation before beginning the long drive. It was so peaceful until the small flock of geese came by to interrupt me. Not a bad way to start out an interview season, I think.

I am almost done with my interview season. Some of the advice I got from last year’s graduating class were to wrap up the interview season before Christmas break, but that didn’t work out for me. I’ve been on a ton already, but I still have 5 more in January, and I am really excited for those programs. I’ve been keeping a running “rank list” and my top 5 are very clear in my mind already, programs that I loved to pieces. I’m hoping a few of my last interviews also make it into that category.

Day 4: Devils Tower Hiking

We took the Scenic Byway through Spearfish Canyon when we started to head toward Devil’s Tower in Wyoming (new state #3!). I love, love, love scenic routes and byways. We came across a beautiful little waterfall, and I tried to get some great audio/video of it for when I’m in med school and need a quick escape into my “happy place.” It was hard to get video of that though. Western South Dakota is much more beautiful than I had ever imagined, so pictures will have to suffice.

Devil’s Tower is quite the wonder. Forever ago, hot magma bubbled up under the earth’s crust, cooled and hardened, and then over the years the surrounding ground eroded away, revealing the hardened magma in this shape. This is the first national monument in the US.

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There are two hiking trails around Devil’s Tower. The short trail is about a mile long, and encircles the base of the Tower. We hiked this one first. It’s a well-maintained trail, and is actually paved. This makes it family-friendly and handicapped accessible. From this vantage point, looking directly up the lined face of the Tower, you can see a few tiny specks–those are actually rock climbers. We saw one register in the log book when we parked. I cannot even imagine climbing this thing!

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We then tried the longer trail, about 3 miles, that included the red clay along the valley. On the backside of the trail, there were no trees. We were totally exposed to full sunlight, and that’s when I could feel my sunscreen start to fail. This lead to my first real tan since the Bahamas in May 2011. Whoops.

Leaving Devil’s Tower, we traveled up into the mountains along Powder River Pass Creek. In the valley, it was 90 degrees; at the highest elevation (9666 feet), it was 56 degrees.

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That night, we did stay in a hotel. The shower was wonderful! We actually had internet service (just in time for me to get an email from school saying I had to register for a pre-orientation orientation via internet on a specified day… when I hadn’t had reliable service for days. Go figure.), but since we hadn’t watched TV since we left on our trip, we opted to leave the TV off. Being so disconnected has done wonders for my stress levels, and I don’t really miss having TV or internet.

Day 2: Badlands & Wildlife Encounters

We started off the day in Oacoma, in a little place called the Oasis Inn. This place didn’t look like much on the outside, but was actually pretty nice! After a very long day on the road, this comfortable bed was just what we both needed.

We drove quite a long distance in the night, passing over the Missouri River in the dark, unable to see anything. So once we checked out & grabbed breakfast, we backtracked to the visitors center/ overlook to snap a few pictures.

This was the first place I’d ever seen “beware poisonous snakes” notices posted. Yikes!

From there, we continued over to Badlands after a long stretch of road. Expansive is the word that comes to mind. When I was a little girl, I remember thinking that there would never be a place for me to build a house because all the land would be taken by then.

Then, at long last, we arrived to park #1: Badlands National Park

It’s gorgeous. It’s amazing. After miles and miles of grassland, the plains drop off and these magnificent rock formations rise up to greet the day.The question I find myself asking over and over is, can you imagine being the first person to stumble across this? Walking across the grassland, and all of a sudden the earth gives way and you see this splendor?

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At Burns Basin overlook, a turnout not even marked on my map, we made a quick stop to watch the prairie dog community–the first animals we had seen on our trip. I love these little guys! They squeak, squeal, and bark at each other, jumping to show their white bellies. It’s so cute & comical, I couldn’t help but laugh at them.

Prairie Dog

The animals that really got me excited were the bison. They just seem to scream “wild west.” These guys are huge! We have some bison farms back home, but these guys are so much bigger. This is exactly what I came out here for, the ability to see things as they are, and not behind a bunch of fencing or glass like at a zoo. What a backdrop!

Sunset Buffalo

We left the park to grab dinner in the town of Wall, SD. We found a little place called The Red Rock Restaurant. Kinda pricey, but really, really good–highly recommended.

On our way back to the park, we went to take the side road to the more remote part of the park, but we met a bit of an obstruction:

big horn sheep in road

We went sunset hunting. It was fabulous, just magical.

Badlands Sunset

Way out in this part of the park is a hidden gem, a free campsite in the middle of a field. After driving around to find a great spot for a few sunset photos, we made our way back to the campground to set up our home-away-from-home. This place was quite serene, complete with hippies in a green bus that serenaded us as twilight turned to evening. I am already thoroughly enjoying this vacation! =)

Day 1: No Reservations

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My alarm was set for 4am.

Who was I kidding?

At 4am, I turned off my alarm, thinking, ummm… No! And went back to bed. Knowing that Day 1 was going to be one of our longest days of the whole trip, and knowing that we were both exhausted from doing so much running during the previous four days, I went back to sleep.

At 6:30, I woke up again, and this time we both got moving.

By 7:30, we were packed & ready to go, and stopped for breakfast at Long’s Bakery.

Let me tell you about this little gem. The first time I ever heard of Long’s, my friend K was helping me move my half of our stuff into the apartment before the wedding, and she had attended UofI when she mentioned that Long’s makes the best. Donuts. EVER! Since then, Long’s has been on my To Do list.

Two years later: Holy crap! How have we not tried these before now?! They were amazing. We had chocolate covered chocolate cake, glazed, and (my favorite) sugar cinnamon cake. Holy crap. Best donuts ever! So for less than $6, we had breakfast for two days. They are open 5:30am-8:00pm every day; and it’s a good thing they are not on my route to work.

Today being our long day, we had a lot of road to cover. In short:

Illinois: lots of construction cones, no workers
Iowa: lots of construction cones, workers present
Nebraska: not there long enough to have a summary (but, new state #1! Whoo-hoo!)
South Dakota: beautiful! I had no idea that SD was this pretty. I guess I had imagined it as being a lot like Illinois, Iowa, or even Kansas. Flat, corn, nothing to look at, that sort of thing. Kinda like home. I was pleasantly surprised–I love having my assumptions challenged. (New state #2!) Tall grasses rippled in the wind, making an ocean of waves. We did pass Laura Ingall Wilder’s home, which I thought was cool because I read all of her books a lifetime ago (being the dork that I am).

So far, what I loved about this part of the trip was that we had no set time or place to be anywhere. We could be as leisurely as we liked. The original goal was to make it to Omaha before calling it a day. We got there far too early to stop, so we pushed onward, hoping to make it to Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls also came too soon. We stopped at a lovely little Mexican restaurant where the food was delicious and a good price. We stretched our legs by walking around the Scheels nearby before heading back out on the road again.

SD really impressed. With the big sky unobstructed by buildings or hills, we had front-row seats to one of the prettiest sunsets I have ever seen. It was a spectacular end to Day 1 of our road trip.

Ferrari, Tesla, and Bentley, Oh My!

We needed a weekend getaway. There comes a time every year where all I want to do is take a short trip. Anything at all to get a bit of a reprieve from work–even though I’d just had a vacation for Christmas and New Year’s. And, I thought David needed a bit of a surprise, too.

My “brilliant” idea: The Detroit Auto show. Why? Because I knew David would love it, and we could both cross Michigan off our list of states, and most importantly, because it would be fun! I already had the trip booked when I got word of my med school interview in Ohio, so we wound up having an extra day for our little trip.

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Added bonus: Why not just go back into Canada, simply because we can? Because it’s right there, next to Detroit. We didn’t forget the passports this time. =)

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My future car! I love this. Ok, probably more like my future midlife crisis car. And not in white!
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A new concept by Toyota. Really cool car!
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Hard to see, but signed by Olympian Usain Bolt
This was the car everyone was talking about. It’s an American-made Falcon
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Probably my favorite car of the show. Gorgeous!

My goal for this trip was for David to have a good time. I love going on little trips with him, but lately all of our trips have been because of me… I need to go home for this or that, I have an interview, etc…. which just doesn’t seem fair. I knew this would be something he’d be excited to see, so I’m glad it worked out that we could go. The only little hiccup of the trip was that we didn’t get to go into Canada. There were a few parks I thought we could visit to hike in, but they were all closed for the season, and it was cold… so cold in fact that it snowed on our way home the next day, and the wind storm that night knocked out the power all over the area. Canada is proving to be elusive, but at least we were prepared this time, just in case. This was definitely a good time, and I would definitely go again. I’m not even that “into” cars, but this was fun!

This trip made me antsy for our upcoming road trip. First new state of the year: Michigan! More to come in a few more months! =)

Our Next Road Trip Adventure

Now that it’s officially March, our Rockies/Vegas/Grand Canyon road trip was almost a year ago. It hardly feels like it’s been that long. I am so ready for our next road trip adventure!

This winter has started taking its toll on me. Once the holidays are over, I’m pretty much done with the snow/blizzard/cold temps of winter and start itching for spring. Not to mention, this winter we’ve had several days in negative wind chill temps…not my style, Old Man Winter. I think the biggest eye-opener was this past Monday, when it was actually warm (almost 50 degrees!) and the sunshine was golden. David and I both took off work a bit early so we could walk in the park in the sunshine. I do not remember the last time I was that genuinely happy just to be, and I totally attribute my good mood to the sunshine (yay, Vitamin D!).  I need  more of that! It would be perfectly okay with me if every winter David and I got to go somewhere warm with lots of sunshine for at least a week to soak in some golden rays.

So here I sit, the last full week of February 2013. Daydreaming of a beach, listing to ocean waves on my phone while at work, while it flurries outside. And my good mood has dissipated.

This weekend, I’m hoping to work some more on our trip plans. It’s getting closer now, so it’s time to do some serious planning. I definitely want to see Devil’s Tower, Mt. Rushmore, Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring… I absolutely cannot wait!

(Goal to be achieved on this trip: Spending lots of quality time with David before med school. New Goal: Do NOT mention med school, moving, etc. during the entire trip.) In speaking of schools, one starts in mid-July and is jeopardizing our trip plans…. I do not like this at all, but I am determined to get our two week road trip no matter what, as my last bit of defiant freedom before school starts (I can’t even think about it without hearing “A storm is coming, Mr. Wayne,” from the last Batman movie…… or thinking about how this whole med school thing is like my own personal Smaug.)

I’m sure this will sound ridiculously silly, but I cannot wait to get out there to just breathe. When we stopped at the scenic views in Utah, it was so crisp, so quiet, so gorgeous… it bordered on a religious experience. Personally, I felt at peace and so close to God that it was amazing. I wish we would have had more time to enjoy the sights instead of rushing to our intended destination (Vegas). I am so ready to experience that again, and I’m hoping we don’t have to rush this trip this time. To just sit in awe of my surroundings and forget the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life in a flat, noisy, stinky, Midwestern city. The sheer size of these great outdoors was mind-blowing. I am definitely impatient for this summer!

As far as the eye can see...
As far as the eye can see…