I can’t believe I’ve already been in class here for three weeks. Exactly one month ago Mom and I were driving through Tennessee and Virginia on my move north. As much of a change that it’s been, I’m quickly settling into the new normal of life in dental school and living in Philadelphia.
School is definitely picking up pace, and we’ve already had one big quiz and our first official exam in Intro to Oral Medicine (with appropriate celebrating afterwards of course). We are pretty much starting our one exam per week grind now with our next one being over Biological Systems next Monday – mostly embryology/development, with emphasis on the head and neck region. At first this class seemed overwhelming, but to me it’s so fascinating. The fact that the face starts forming as early as weeks four and five is unbelievable. Before a woman probably even knows she’s pregnant, that baby is already forming its unique tiny face and all of the major organs are developing. That is one reason I will never understand how so many scientists/biologists aren’t pro-life when they understand the intricate (and EARLY) details of human development. I really don’t want to start a side rant on that…
I had my first rotation in our advanced simulation lab this week where we practice using a handpiece (aka dental drill) through using a virtual/3D software – Penn is actually the first school in the country to utilize this specific cutting edge program, so that’s pretty cool. You’re basically drilling into thin air while looking through a 3D viewer, but it actually provides resistance that mimics (so the course director says, we wouldn’t know) the way hard enamel, softer infected tissue, and even the inner pulp or nerve feel if you unfortunately go too deep. There are different shapes and depths that we have to drill and the guidelines for grading are things like the percentage of the bad portion that we remove while minimizing the error (to the micron) of damaging the surrounding healthy portion. Long story short, it was actually really fun and reassuring that I was actually fairly good at it my first time, so maybe I have naturally good hand skills after all! I know it’s nothing like the real thing with a real live person and limited light, access, etc, but still, it was a nice small confidence boost that I’m hopefully actually cut out for this whole dentist thing. We also got a dental study model set of permanent and primary teeth in dental anatomy, so yeah, you could say things are getting real.
I’m slowly finding which friends that I seem to be drawing closer to, but I really have never liked how fast cliques can form in any smaller environment like this. I’m still in that “I want to be friends with everyone” stage, but I know it will be harder as time goes by and especially when we start things like lab and clinic rotation when we’ll be with the same smaller group for longer amounts of time. I am still hungry for smaller, authentic community, especially spiritually, though. Not having weekly LifeGroups and leading worship, us praying for each other, and just encouraging one another has been hard this first month, I’m not gonna lie. I know I’ll eventually find a new church home, but we’ve gone somewhere different each week so I obviously haven’t settled in anywhere yet to start attending a small group of some sorts.
That being said, I’m learning that my relationship with God could actually use some time away from the comforts of living in such a strong Christian community daily. It’s definitely harder to have the motivation to have my time with Jesus in the morning when I don’t have my best friends asking me about what He’s teaching me lately, but at the same time, I’m more desperate for it. The professional school grind is certainly draining, monotonous, and at times discouraging, so I know without setting aside time in the morning to rest in His presence and let Him strengthen and fill me, I would be simply wandering on my own, exhausted and longing for refreshment. I do need to play my guitar more though for sure, and I miss my times driving in my car (side note, it’s sold!!) singing at the top of my lungs to the latest Bethel worship jam.
As much as I love all my classmates here, I can’t help but miss my “home team” daily. Every now and then, I also wish so badly that I could just talk to Dad and tell him how everything’s going and what pub I’d want to take him to whenever he could come visit. He was so excited and proud of me for taking this big leap of faith. The sadness can come from nowhere and hit me all at once, but I’m still so amazed at how God is carrying me and my family through daily. Every so often I receive a letter in the mail from a friend, and honestly it does so much more for me than they’ll ever know. To stay truly connected to my friends from college was seriously one of my biggest priorities in this new stage, and I really hope that I will continue to invest in their lives and them in mine. It takes work, but I know it’s so worth it. In less than two short weeks, I’ll get to hug lots of their necks because I’m GOING TO TEXAS for a long weekend to go to a Baylor game! Sic ’em and praise the Lord. All thanks to the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia canceling an entire Friday of class at Penn. I knew I liked that guy. I’m just not Catholic, so I will definitely take advantage of our one precious three day weekend (other than Labor day).
I’m also discovering more local West Philly gems like Honest Tom’s Tacos and the Lil’ Pop Shop. As much as I crave a Common Grounds No Bull or Shorty’s Pizza on the daily, I’m learning to fall more in love with this place and its food culture every day.
Until next time, I’m exploring more off campus study spots, getting my butt to the gym more, dreaming of fall and all things pumpkin, and studying the beauties of palatal fusion and neural crest cell differentiation.