One midnight in December of 2016, my husband and I were huddled around our laptop, anxiously refreshing the Army match portal. Military residency match occurs in December, a few months ahead of the civilian match in March. Finally, the browser refresh brought up the list we had been waiting months for.
My husband matched to residency in Honolulu, Hawaii! We were ecstatic and—I admit—a little nervous. Honolulu was a ten-hour flight from our hometown in Georgia. Five months later, my husband, our 22-month-old daughter, and I (along with nine bags of checked luggage!) were on a long flight to the next three years of our life. The adventure had begun!
Our story might be an extreme example of the adventure of residency, but the reality is that most medical trainees move to a new place to start residency. You might not be making the leap to an island in the Pacific, but your transition to residency is an opportunity for adventure nonetheless.
Here are my tips to make the most of your residency adventure:
- Research your location. No matter how spontaneous you are, any good adventure requires at least a little planning. As you look to move to your new home, you should research places and activities that will help you plug in and build community. Here are some places to start:
- Places of worship (e.g., churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples)
- Community groups (e.g., Lions Club, Junior League, and Rotary Club)
- Residency/hospital-specific groups (e.g., spousal support groups, fundraising committees, and service organizations within the hospital)
- Military groups
- Parenting groups
- Social media supports (tip: If this doesn’t exist in your residency program, consider starting it!)
- Make a bucket list. What are your favorite things to do in your current city or town? Do those things exist in your new location? What suggestions do locals have for things to do? Money can be tight during residency, so definitely look into the following local activities, which are often free or low cost:
- Libraries. Many libraries have social or hobby-oriented activities at no cost to community members.
- Museums. Some museums are free or low cost, or have a day a month when they are open for free to locals.
- Colleges or universities. Schools often offer activities open to the community, such as senior recitals and art shows.
- Outdoor hobby activity groups. For example, hiking clubs are usually free to join.
- Restaurants. If you have kids, research what days and times kids eat free at restaurants close to you. Some restaurants will also post coupons and deals online.
- Take time for you. Don’t wait for your resident spouse or partner to join you in order to do fun things. You should make two bucket lists. List #1 is your “Couple List”—things that you absolutely want to do with your spouse. For instance, if you are both hiking fanatics, maybe you want to save the best hikes near you for day dates. List #2 is your “Me List”—things that you don’t need your spouse to be available for. This list should be at least as long as your “Couple List,” because in residency you will likely have plenty of free time to check off items from this list! Please remember, though, that some things, like hiking and water activities, should be done with a buddy for safety reasons. Inviting people to join you on a bucket list activity is a great way to make new friends.
I promise you that wherever you are—and wherever you are going—adventure is out there!
No matter where you end up for your residency or fellowship adventure, if you put a little effort into exploring the new location, you can be assured to have a great adventure. Just remember that attitude is everything; Your new home will be what you make it!