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  • Jabir Kazi

How to Survive Dental School

Hello to all of Bethany's avid readers! Unfortunately, you won't be hearing from her today, I’m Dr Jabir Kazi, and I have just graduated from Newcastle University Dental School.

I’m currently on an extended holiday, in which I have travelled and begun socialising and connecting with other dentists from around the world!

Initially about a month after my finals I began the Instagram page @dentistsofinsta, where I feature dentists from across the world, learning a bit about their experiences and hopefully bringing people together. it’s amazing how many people have the strangest connections! You should all check out Bethany's feature, its one of the most informative we have had!

One thing has led to another and along with a business partner we started a website called, we sell some dental joke merchandise and are uploading all the features from Instagram onto the site, this is really interesting as we are beginning to add further content to each persons page, such as videos and longer content that cant fit on the Instagram platform (Check our Dr Sarah Naon's feature page, she is regularly updating us on her progress through her Orthodontics residency!).

What is also really exciting is that we are also beginning to build a base of information that can help inform and teach dentists dental students and prospective dentists alike, in a number of areas!

This article will explore the challenges people face when going to university and in particular dental school, and how to go about overcoming them, with real and actionable tips.

In my time at university, I was no stranger to a summer resit, so I hope to expose some of the reasons I found that landed me in resits, and how to avoid them.

1. New Environment

The real issue for me was adjusting to moving out of a home environment where my duties were relatively simple, work and go to school, sure I could cook but I never had to, sure we had some chores, but if I slacked, someone was there to pick up the slack.

This picture is in stark contrast to the beginnings of life at university, now everything is in your control, you have way more responsibilities in terms of looking after yourself, and managing your own time, there's no such thing as homework or progress tests to keep you in check. You have to work it out for yourself, and things can change quickly from being on top of your work to being massively behind!

That's something that I found it took time to adjust to, getting that correct balance is crucial! Work out ahead of time when you will be doing things like laundry or cooking, how long the food will last, know what state your fridge supplies are in, for example, you don't want to be constantly wasting time going to and from the shops when one well-planned shop will do!

2. Revision and Learning Methods

Learning methods and revision is a whole area where people tend to be really ineffective, especially if you aren't fully engaged with the material. So I would argue that what you do to revise, i.e reading, and writing notes isn't as important as finding a way of keeping yourself interested in the content

You will always find that things that interest you will stick really well. Take football fans, for example, they can reel off the most obscure statistics from memory and all kinds of weird and wonderful facts. Why? Its because they are immersed in the subject, it is a real passion for them. You need to find a way to become passionate about the subject you study. If you're enjoying the process then it is no longer a chore to you!

3. Social Calendar

I think one of the biggest ways that people end up in trouble is by trying to do too much socially, there are so many clubs and events at the university to get involved in, you really need to pick your battles and it can be easy to do too much, and overstretch yourself!

In my case I was pretty good in the first term, did really well in one of the initial exams and then slacked off massively, so even doing well can put you at risk!

The key to striking a healthy balance is to know when to say yes to people and when to say no to things in order to keep yourself up to date with work. If you're clever and organised this need never happen as you will devise a routine whereby you utilise time in dental school as though you were in a 9-5, which would allow you regular free time outside of dental school and its demands!

4. Physical and Mental Health

Looking after your body and mind is a crucial skill and something I was not very good at incorporating. I was the kind of guy who threw himself deep into a task and ignored others, you can see how this can be an unhealthy way to go about things! You can end up quite stressed if you are not organised as you will forget important things regularly. As of late, I use lists on my phone to ensure that i keep up to date with my tasks, and don't forget anything.

Work into your week regular exercise and relaxation so that your mind and body are fresh for the piles of work you have ahead! Places where you exercise can also be great places to socialise if you are an extroverted person or to plug in and get away from it all if you are more introverted.

The biggest thing that I learned about going to the gym for example is that there are a few people who have little groups and chat with each other when they see each other, but theres a large majority who keep themselves to themselves.

And if you're someone who is self conscious, the gym is one of the more welcoming and non judgemental places to go as there is a mutual respect from everyone, with a common understanding that it is a special thing to be actually going out of your comfort zone and working to better yourself!

Moving back to the overall point, according to the University of Edinburgh exercise leads to improved mental and physical health which can be linked to improved performance in exams!

In conclusion,

1. Plan for the new challenges you will face in terms of living away from home especially if you're used to having a lot done for you!

2. Keep yourself enthused with your subject as this will make learning easier, whatever your style

3. Plan your socialising to ensure you aren't getting behind on work, better still get ahead so you have leeway

4. Keep your self fit and healthy, and improve your performance in exams!

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