By Lisa Weber, CHC, Student in the Master’s Program at Emperor’s College
Four years ago an acupuncturist encouraged me to attend acupuncture school. He told me the first two years would be intense but not to worry about it; I’d get through it.
Two years ago I spoke with a successful acupuncturist in New York City. She told me acupuncture school would be challenging and recommended that I get together with other hard working students to study and review material, and I’d be fine.
And here I am, one year of acupuncture school at Emperor’s College under my belt, and the advice these two acupuncturists gave me still rings through my head on a daily basis. I hold onto their words of encouragement when stress and anxiety get the best of me. And when I hear first and second quarter students talk about their struggles now, I have my own advice to pass along to them.
1. One failed quiz or test doesn’t equal failure.
My second quarter was tough. I was memorizing a lot of information but not putting the pieces together. I felt frustrated because I didn’t “get the bigger picture”, and my grades were reflecting my frustrations. It wasn’t until mid-way through my third quarter thatsome of the memorization pieces started coming together (enough for this beginning stage, at least!).
Experiencing this stage of frustration and not living up to my own expectations taught me that not succeeding on one test doesn’t define me. One failed quiz would not impair my entire educational career and subsequent years as a practitioner. Frustrations still occur, but now I’m able see the bigger picture and put it all in perspective.
Learning the value of “failing” and being able to pick myself back up was essential, and also taught me the next lesson…
2. Flexibility is crucial.
Sometimes the instructors will deviate from the syllabi. Likewise, what I thought I knew about certain herbs often isn’t the way the Chinese view them. And guess what? The class schedule changes every quarter, and not every class is offered at the exact time that I want it offered. But that’s ok! It keeps me flexible and focused on staying in the flow.
3. Have fun. Make friends. Repeat often.
Group study? No thanks. Or so I thought months ago. While I still do the majority of my studying alone, regular study meetings with one to two other people have enhanced my educational experience and the way I absorb knowledge. I discovered that my classmates have different ways of seeing things. They have cool charts to share and funny memorization tricks! By sharing their insights and understanding of the material, they trigger my own critical thinking. My classmates are also my best cheerleaders.
4. Enjoy regular treatments.
Being a patient at Emperor’s College Acupuncture Clinic has provided numerous benefits; so many benefits in fact that I won’t be able to list them all here! I’ve learned facts about acupuncture points and channels that help me clarify information I’m learning in class. I’ve learned more about different needling styles.
For example, I have experienced the difference between a Japanese-style acupuncture treatment and a traditional Chinese acupuncture treatment. I’ve come to know which treatment style I like and don’t like, and I’m getting an idea of what kind of practitioner I want to be once I graduate. Being a patient in our teaching clinic has taught me more about herbal formulas and their applications. I’ve taken herbs during the cold & flu season, and I was prescribed other herbs to help me cope with stressful final exams. All of this real life experience as a patient has made my classroom learning on Chinese herbs come full circle.
5. Ask questions.
What is the best way to study for a meridians test? How do you pronounce (and remember) Xi Xin or Huai Niu Xi? And what is the best way to thrive (and not merely survive) as a student of Oriental medicine?
Learning from those who have gone through the master’s program of Oriental medicine before me opens my mind to new and different possibilities. Asking questions to third and fourth year students and learning from their experience provides support and reassurance as I discover and clarify my own goals and intentions for my next few quarters at Emperor’s College.
Bonus Tip: School, just like life, is all what you make of it.
This is the biggest secret of all. School, instructors, classes – it’s all what WE make of it. I noticed that what I focus on, I see more of.
Finding yourself frustrated? Ask yourself what you can do differently. Maybe it’s simply doing extra reading outside of class. Or try new ways to study. You might also want to go for a run or practice qi gong to release and refocus your energy.
It also helps me to spend some time on re-shaping my thoughts: Whatever you decide to think, that is what your reality is. As Dr. Wayne Dyer said “Change your thoughts. Change your life.”
For those that have been through the first few quarters of graduate school, what else would you add to this list? And for those who haven’t and are trying to make up their minds, what questions can I answer? Leave your comment below!