Written By
Sebastian Steven

As I start to move into my fourth year in the Bachelor of Health Sciences here at Carleton, I need to start thinking about what my next steps might be.

I say that like I haven’t thought about and taken some good steps already, I definitely have. But I think that in growing up we have to look ahead without overlooking the present. As a kid, I remember constantly asking people where we were going next, what’s happening tomorrow, and when we were going home. I would always get the same response from my parents who reminded me to disfrutalo, Sebi. That’s Spanish for “enjoy it” but I don’t think that translation really does it justice. When I hear disfrutalo, I connect that word with something more akin to “appreciating”, in that I should value what is around me in the moment rather than letting myself get caught up in what’s next.

I talk about this whole staying in the moment yet I’ve still given some thought to the future. Though by no means am I taking current opportunities for granted, I know I want to build a career in a clinical setting. There are many routes to such a career, the most obvious option right now being medicine. Applying to many medical schools in Canada requires writing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This 7 and a bit hour test involves reading passages and answering questions based on pre-studied knowledge and applied critical thinking to the topic discussed.

Though it’s a great task to take on, this summer I am balancing preparing for this exam along with my responsibilities here as a Health Sciences Research Intern and living away from home. This summer means I need to put my best effort into my contributions here in the lab, dedicate a solid amount of time to studying, and take care of myself both physically and mentally.

When asked to reflect on how I’m staying motivated to keep this balance, I go back to what I was constantly reminded of years ago, to disfrutalo. In order to balance and stay motivated in studying for this exam, fulfilling my tasks in lab, and taking care of myself, I’ve developed my own little refrain in disfrutalo. I have to remind myself that I can’t forget about the now when I’m starting to think about the future, because the now is setting me up for the future.

My position in the lab drives me to continue contributing to the populations we have identified as in need of further, locally-based, and unique support. I know I can make this contribution by applying to rural medicine programs, so that I can bring my knowledge and broaden it with the input of others in the clinical setting. But before I get to that stage, I need to stay stuck into the lab’s knowledge and contribute to the best of my ability all summer, so that I can grow those skills and learn new perspectives. Disfrutalo, Sebi.

I have to remind myself that I can’t forget about the now when I’m starting to think about the future, because the now is setting me up for the future.

We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well so I’ll be honest in saying that studying for the MCAT is discouraging and tough to fit in when I just want to relax instead. But I know that the exam means a lot, teaches me valuable skills, and will set me up for success if I put the effort into it. I should think of the skills I’m learning to succeed as widely applicable, even outside the exam. Disfrutalo, Sebi.

Lastly, it’s tough to make healthy choices and pull myself away from lab duties or studying when I know I need a new setting. I want to get stuff done and I want to build more knowledge. But I also need to remember I am living a privileged life in a very cool city with very supportive people around me that I need to see. Disfrutalo, Seb.

I think at the end of the day, achieving my balance is coming from the self-awareness of the fact that there’s a lot of good around me, even when things are feeling tough. I’m supported, encouraged, motivated and accepted. There’s a lot of people out there who may not feel like that and who knows which of those may change for me in the future. I know I need to fulfill all my responsibilities now to set up for my future. But those responsibilities really are my future, I just need to be reminded of that. Don’t forget to disfrutalo, Sebi, it’s what is around now that shapes the future.

About the author:

Born and raised in Vancouver, Sebastian is entering his 4th year of studies in the Bachelor of Health Sciences program. As a Health Sciences Research Intern in the Spatial Determinants of Health lab, his interests lie in translating laboratory knowledge through various medias. He is passionate about addressing current issues by making findings and recommendations accessible to any individual.