New Home

Greetings everyone! After four and a half years of living apart, Irene and I are finally building our lives together, here in our new home in Miami!

New Home

6:15 am... the view we wake up to every morning.

The area we now live in is called Brickell, the financial district of Miami, just south of Downtown. Irene has just started her Psych rotations at the VA hospital, just a few Metrorail stops away from our apartment. As for me, I will be here for at least the next few months, as I prepare for the Step I of the medical licensing exam and start my third year of medical school at AUC’s affiliated teaching hospitals in the US and UK, one of which is here in Miami. So for now, I am finished with the little island paradise known as St. Maarten, and won’t be back until graduation two years from now.

Everything here in Brickell is new for both Irene and me. As a child growing up in suburban/borderline-rural Georgia, I had always dreamed of living in the big city. There’s just a certain appeal to it, with things being so wonderfully busy and close-by. Irene herself also comes from a small town in southern Georgia. Twenty plus years later, we both find ourselves building our lives in the hustle of bustle of Miami’s financial district of Brickell, with both the Metrorail and Metromover stations just right downstairs from our 29th floor apartments. Just across the street are restaurants, shops, public parks, and Publix (two of them actually!), and not to mention, the largest concentration of international banks in the United States. The malls and hospitals (including clinical sites for both Irene’s school and my school) are just a few Metrorail stops away. The Metromover, which costs nothing to ride, connects us with the rest of the Downtown/Brickell area. I may not be on the island anymore, but for me, this is an urban paradise.

Second Language

Everyone here speaks Spanish. Spanish is no longer just the language of the barrios, like it is in many major US cities. Here in Miami, Spanish is everywhere… in the malls, on the streets, in the business offices, in the courthouse, at the hospitals. It’s spoken among people from all backgrounds, all walks of life and socioeconomic levels. Miami is unique among the major cities in the United States in that the majority of its residents speak another language besides English at home. While most everyone can speak English, 67% also speak Spanish and 5% speak Haitian Creole (which to clarify, is not French). Only 25% of the residents of Miami speak only English as their first language. Because of this, it is not uncommon to see signs at public places translated into these three languages, and not uncommon for a total stranger to start speaking to you in Spanish, even if you look as non-Latino as Irene and me. Whatever my language abilities may be, I love the Spanish language, Latino culture, and of course, Cuban food, and I’m loving the melting pot here (and the Melting Pot too!).

For those of you considering coming down to Miami for clinical rotations, it may be a good idea to brush up on some Spanish. I found the Spanish workshops hosted by AUC’s chapter of Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) to be very helpful.

Other Side of Campus

Although I am not on the Basic Sciences campus in St. Maarten anymore, I still feel close to the school community here in Miami, with many AUC students here for clinical rotations as well as all the folks at the AUC administrative office (MEAS) just around the corner in Coral Gables. Each of AUC’s 20+ clinical sites is like a mini-campus of the greater AUC community. Whichever site you decide to go to, there will always be someone from your class or school you know or have met before. Depending on where you go, you can also see the mark that our school has made on the site. AUC has invested in the facility infrastructure and teaching programs at several of these hospital sites not only to improve the training of the students that rotate there but also to establish a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with the hospital to ensure AUC students continue getting the opportunity to train at the sites. For example, there is an AUC auditorium at one of AUC’s teaching hospitals in the states as well as an AUC simulation lab at another. It’s the other side of AUC’s campus you don’t really see until you leave the island to start on the next phase of the journey.

Five Weeks

Our workspace! We don't have cable. The TV's there to screen Kaplan videos.

As you noticed, I haven’t been posting on my blog as much lately. Abe, Nick, Eileen and I have a strict 5-week study schedule which we have been following faithfully. Every morning when Irene is on her clinical rotations, I am at home mainly self-studying and doing practice questions until 2pm, when my group gets together over video conferencing on Google Plus and review over the subjects scheduled for that day in First Aid. We would each do additional studying outside of First Aid using other sources when we are not together, and when we get together, we discuss not only the topics in First Aid but also additional information related to those topics that we found during our self-studies. Our study sessions last anywhere from three to five hours, and it has been very helpful. By the end of these five weeks, we will have gone through everything in First Aid and more.

This will be my third time going through the book, and even then I still feel like I’m learning something new every time I go through it. First Aid may seem like a small book that summarizes the hours and hours of material of the first two years of med school, but it is deceptively short. With my group studying over video conferencing, I’ve always had the concern that we’d just run off on tangents and chat about other things but with an exam as big as Step I imminent, we’ve been making serious progress.

For those of you who are starting first semester, if you start incorporating the use of First Aid into your studies, you would have already gone through the entire book before even starting your Comp studying… this would save you time and make Comp studying much easier.

Labor Day

I’m not sure why it’s called Labor Day, but this weekend for Irene and me, it was certainly anything but labor. This past holiday weekend, Irene and I drove up ten hours to visit our families in Georgia. It’s been over nine months since I have been back home. I got to see my brother Jimmy and his wife April and their beautiful family in Gainesville, my new family-in-law in Valdosta, including Irene’s sisters who have drive down from Atlanta and Statesboro that weekend, and my parents at the old homestead in Macon.  My aunt, uncle, cousin and her family from Atlanta and Conyers drove all the way down to Macon to greet us, and my parents held a welcome dinner at The Mandarin to welcome us home and welcome Irene into our family. There’s nothing better than a supportive family, and we now have two.


9 comments to New Home

  • Marisa Hsieh

    Hey Benji! You’re new home with Irene is absolutely amazing!!!! Ohhh I wish I have that view here, too!! I’ve never been to the east coast before except New York. Miami looks like a very modern yet relaxing (cos of the beach) city to me : P Definitely a city I’d love to visit someday. Hope you’ll have a great time there and keep it update!

  • Dave Jones

    Another great post. Enjoyed reading about the new setup in Miami.

  • ha, love the Gung Ho photo! good luck with step 1. im sure you and the group will ace it.

  • Benji

    Thanks everyone! Marisa, come down here to visit Irene and I some time!

  • Fahd Habeeb

    Hi Benji,

    The place you are living looks amazing. What is the name of it? My wife is planning
    to do most of her rotations in Miami as well. Do you recommend? Thanks!

    • Benji

      Hey Fahd,
      The place we’re living at is called “Axis” in Brickell. I’d highly recommend living in the Brickell district because it’s in a central location, equidistant from all the possible hospitals that your wife may do rotations. It’s also close to mass transit, which takes to several of the hospitals, and it is convenient because there are grocery stores, banks, restaurants, gym, and other amenities within walking distance. It’s also a very safe area, and there are things to do here. Most AUC students I know who live in Brickell live in Four Ambassadors, as they offer short-term leases.

      I’ve gathered some info about the Miami rotations here: http://caribbeanmedstudent.com/miami

      All the best!
      Benji

  • Fahd Habeeb

    Thanks Benji for all your advice. Good luck with your rotations

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