‘Your first year is just the beginning'

by Roland Rojie Pecson

Second-year medical student Roland Rojie Pecson shares his advice for new medical students at Northern Ireland’s graduate medical school at Ulster University

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Friday 18 November 2022
Roland Rojie Pecson

Wellbeing is very important when you are in first year.

Everyone in your year has come from different backgrounds and will have various ways of coping with stress and workload. Learn from them and most importantly support each other, since you’re all in the same boat for the next few years. Make sure to avail of wellbeing support put in place by the university and the BMA, both in-person and online. 

Creating study groups is also a great way to hold each other accountable and stay on track with your work. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, as well as areas and topics we are more comfortable with. For example, the graduate pharmacists in our year were incredibly helpful regarding any medication questions you may have, and the graduate physiotherapists were amazing at all things MSK!

Some university societies hold revision classes, such as the Ulster University GP Society and Surgical Society. They are a great way to learn more about a specialty, expand your knowledge and you could get a certificate of attendance. QUB societies often hold events that UU students can also attend.

Don’t forget to reach out to your studies adviser every few months if you are struggling to manage the workload or have any questions or concerns. They are there to guide and support you through studying and are super helpful. 

Spend some time exploring your other interests or topics you’ve never even heard of! Magee campus has so many new extra-curricular activities, societies, and sports outside of medicine which is a great way to meet new people and forget about university life for a few hours each week. 

Develop healthy habits now: Your first year is just the beginning, your introduction to a lifelong process of learning, growing and adapting to being a doctor. The habits you have now will stay with you and may even decide your career course, so use this year to work on yourself and develop those healthy habits, such as eating and sleeping well, planning ahead for deadlines and staying organised. But remember, take each day at a time.



PBL (problem-based learning) sessions are an opportunity to consolidate your knowledge on the specific topic for the week, so ask as many questions as possible in these sessions. Try to get involved in discussion and challenge your peers.

Where concepts are difficult, recommended reading for modules and reliable YouTube sources are all great to reinforce teaching. Even talking through a topic with one of your peers can really help with this. Also, make use of the whiteboards in PBL rooms when available!

Don’t be too overwhelmed with the amount of detail you need to know for Anatomy, especially for those without an anatomy background. Try to do the recommended reading before class, learn the important structures and you’ll gradually build your knowledge each week. Some helpful resources include Teachmeanatomy, The Noted Anatomist Netters, and Grays.

For SSCs (student selected components), choose subject areas in which you are actually interested. This reduces the workload associated with the module.

Prepare thoroughly during clinical skills teaching each week. Try and make good use of practicing examinations and history taking with your peers throughout the year. This will save time studying during your OSCE exams. 

There are so many different ways to approach studying so don’t be afraid to try new methods and see what works best for you. Active recall has been found useful in staying on top of lectures and content during your whole degree and I find using Anki or Quizlet helps with this. There are so many question banks such as PassMedicine (which is free for the first three years) and Quesmed.

YouTube can help summarise topics into a digestible and understandable way, especially when you’re struggling with a topic. We recommend first years watch Armando Hasudungan, Ninja Nerd, Geekymedics (for OSCEs), and Osmosis.


Roland Rojie Pecson is the Ulster University rep on the BMA medical students committee and is a member of the Northern Ireland MSC