The Other Side of the Pond

Royal Blackburn Hospital

The time has come. In approximately 24 hours, I will be in Blackburn, England, jet-lagged, cold, and excited to start my Psychiatry rotation at the Royal Blackburn Hospital! It will be my first rotation ever, and I will be joining a small community of five other AUC students, two of whom I already know from my class on the island.

I’m definitely looking forward to Psychiatry, yet anxious at the same time. When I took Intro to Clinical Medicine (ICM) on the island, we practiced conducting interviews with patients with depression, dementia, and other mental disorders, but the patients we interviewed were all trained actors. Knowing that whatever I do or say now will affect a real person, will I have the same confidence? Will real patients act like the case patients in the textbooks? I will finally find out soon enough in a few days.

Once again, I am going to a new place, and the simultaneous feeling of excitement and anxiety I have now reminds me of how I felt going to St. Maarten two years ago, all over again. It will be my first time in England, and not to mention, my first time in Europe (European colonies in the Caribbean don’t count!). There’s no doubt that things are going to be different: people drive on the left, buy things with pounds (which I have been practicing the past few days to convert in my head to dollars), speak differently than what I’m used to, and use certain vernacular words or phrases that I may not understand (come again?). But having lived in a foreign country the past two years, I know from experience that coming to England and adapting to a new culture and system isn’t going to be too much of a problem for me. If i can survive “The Island,” I can survive this island.

Ribble Valley, near Blackburn

The greatest thing I will miss going to England for 6 weeks is being with my dear wife Irene. Living apart in two different countries the past two years when I was in St. Maarten while she was in Miami was not easy, but it has made us stronger and made our time together even more precious. She has been incredibly patient and I appreciate her so much. These past few months that I’ve been in Miami with her have been a dream. We legally got married, got a new apartment together, took walks at night together, cooked dinner and ate out on our 29th floor balcony together, raised a kitty as if we were parents already, and made friends together as a couple. She is my greatest friend, and I will miss her dearly.

Unlike in St. Maarten, there is a 5-hour time difference between Blackburn and Miami. When I get off my rotations around dinner time at 5pm, it will be noon (or lunch time) for Irene. Perhaps we can have Gung-Ho lunch-dinner dates over Skype! When I was in St. Maarten, time was never an issue as there was either a 1 hour time difference between us, or no time difference at all during daylight savings time. However this time, time seems like a more challenging factor than place in terms of maintaining a long-distance relationship. Nevertheless, I’m not worried about our relationship. We are stable and strong, and know that this short time apart is nothing compared to our lifetime together.

About Blackburn

So here’s a little bit about Blackburn…

Blackburn City Centre

The place I will call home for the next 6 weeks is Blackburn, located in Lancashire county in northern England. With a population of 105,000, Blackburn is about 25 miles north of Manchester, the UK’s third largest city, and 226 miles north of London. I will be flying into Manchester and taking a train to Blackburn.

Blackburn is right in the middle of some of England’s most gorgeous natural regions: The Lake District, Peak District, the Ribble Valley, The Pennines, and Yorkshire Dales (think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). Blackburn is also in close proximity to Scotland and Wales, and just across the water from Ireland and the Isle of Man, making these places very accessible to visit.

The Countryside surrounding Blackburn

The hospital I will be rotating at, the Royal Blackburn Hospital, is a 950-bed NHS hospital located outside of downtown Blackburn. The East Lancashire Hospital NHS Trust, of which Royal Blackburn Hospital is a part, sees 456,000 outpatients and 97,000 inpatients each year and employs over 6500 people. The Royal Blackburn Hospital has new facilities, mostly built in 2006. The Learning Centre on the hospital campus has classrooms, seminar rooms, and an auditorium where we attend Problem-Based Learning sessions, lectures, and skills sessions. As AUC Students, we can do any (or all) of the five core rotations here (Psych, Peds, IM, OB/GYN, Surgery).  The Royal Blackburn Hospital also offer electives in subspecialties in medicine, surgery, pediatrics, and OB/GYN.

Like my other fellow med student colleagues from AUC, I will be staying in the student/staff dorms on the Royal Blackburn Hospital campus, which is awesome because the hospital is just a few steps away, along with the classrooms, medical library, cafeteria, and gym.

So with my passport in hand, and First Aid Psychiatry to read on the 9-hour flight (Thanks Sameeksha for the book!), I’m ready to roll! See you on the other side of the pond!