Love, Life, and PA School

This is going to be a little mini-post in honor of my 2 year anniversary with one of the best things that has ever happened to me…my boyfriend Sam.

IMG_3057(Sam had just found out he had been accepted to his top med school on the day we took this pic…best Thanksgiving gift ever!)

To give you a little background, Sam was a year above me in high school and we were only acquaintances that occasionally crossed paths in the hallways. Fast forward to my junior year of college. While home for the holidays, we found ourselves at the same dive bar. After a few drinks, I found the courage to walk up to Sam and make small talk. By the end of the night, we had exchanged numbers (which I ended up accidentally giving him the wrong number…oops) and we agreed to try out the new hyped-up restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin where we both attended college. After many months of hanging out as friends (and me turning down 2 of his requests to move our relationship forward as more than friends…I was enjoying the freedom of singleness and was way too stubborn to see how sweet the guy in front of me was), I found out that we had a ton in common. Sam and I were both were pursuing a career in the medical world, loved sports, family, and dogs, and shared a ton of the same values and beliefs. Long story short, I realized that I would be missing out on not only one of the cutest guys I had ever laid eyes on, but also one of the best people I have ever met. Two years later here we are! Sam has easily become my best friend in the entire world. He is so easy going, has a hysterical sense of humor, is extremely intelligent, and is straight up just one of the most genuine people I have ever met…it truly would be hard not to love Sam!


But like any relationship, there is always highs and lows and an extreme amount of uncertainty in the future. One of the biggest concerns I had going into PA school was how it would affect my relationship. Like many people going to school, you worry if there’s enough time in your life to navigate both a successful relationship and a successful education. You worry that there will be a pull from such different directions in your life that the stress may end up breaking you. You ask questions like “will my SO understand that I need to commit sooo much of my time to studying…the precious time I usually spent on them in the past?” “Will they understand that I want to be with them at different events, but I simply can’t because I have the impending doom of another exam above me?” And “will I be able to handle the guilt of knowing I am spending so much time on school and not on my loved one?” Yes…these are all real questions I have had this past year…and have dealt with the emotions that accompany them. I’m not going to lie to you, it has been a struggle at times to find balance in this aspect of my life. 

But…guess what? Fast forward a year and Sam and I are still dating! We have successfully navigated our first full year of PA school, and I can even make the argument that we are stronger than ever!  It hasn’t always been easy…but I have come up with a few tips and tricks for you on how to hopefully avoid some of the road bumps and growing pains I had to go through!

IMG_2339.JPG (We went to Venice this past April…clearly, we were more excited about the Gondola ride than our captain was)


  1. Let me begin with the point that there is truly no “right” way to go about navigating the worlds of both school life and life outside the classroom. It involves a lot of trial and error. One tip that has done wonders for me is to chat with your SO about what your (and their) expectations are for the next 2-3 years. Be like a boyscout..and prepare them for what your life is going to be like for the duration of the program. Yes, there are going to be times you have to cancel plans or can’t go to different events, you will spend late nights studying away from them, and they may even question if you need to spend ALLLL that time studying (usually the answer to this is yes). I think the more prepared you are as a couple, the less stressful it will be for you both once school begins. It hasn’t always been easy and navigating a relationship in PA school has been a learning curve…but the more open and honest you are with your partner about your feelings and your schedule…the better off you two will be!
  2. My second biggest tip for anyone going into PA school is to block off time periods in your week for your significant other. This means committing one-on-one time to your SO with no books, not (too much) school talk, and just focusing on your loved one. This can entail something as simple as grabbing dinner together, going for a walk/workout, or watching a TV show together. Not only does setting this time aside strengthen your relationship, but it also gives you both something to look forward to in the week (which actually is amazing when you’ve been sitting in class all day or are just sick of studying).
  3. Another successful trick I’ve used is to try and bridge your two lives together as much as you can. I think it will make life less stressful and happier when you include your significant other in your PA world. This can include inviting them to class events, doing histories and physical exams on them (which may or may not be enjoyable haha), and inviting them along to the library with you! In addition, give them a tour of where you are every day and introduce them to your classmates! It’ll help give them faces and places of who you are talking about when you get home at night. In addition, many of Sam and my “date nights” have consisted of him quizzing me with flashcards and other study materials. Yes, it’s not ideal or the best date nights we have had…but I’m still spending quality time with him while also not feeling guilty about not studying.
  4. Also, say thank you so many times. I am so incredibly thankful for all of the sacrifices Sam has made this past year. He moved back to our hometown for me while I finish my didactic year which has alleviated a lot of my stress, has always sent me a “good luck” texts before my exams, and has heard the words “sorry, I can’t go to that/do that” more times than any boyfriend should. He has had so much patience and faith in me this past year…and it is really something I can’t give him enough thank you’s for. PA school is most definitely going to be challenging for you, but I think it is also important to remember that it can take a toll on your loved one too. Simply verbalizing your appreciation for them does wonders in your relationship because it validates that you recognize their sacrifice too.

Most days I feel like I hit the jackpot with Sam. He has been more than I deserve and extremely supportive since the start of PA school. He constantly offers words of encouragement when I am feeling stressed, is flexible and understanding, and truly I couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime during PA school. I can’t wait to return the favor for him when he starts medical school this summer!

Relationships are hard, regardless of PA school or not. So be patient with each other. It may take a while for your relationship to adjust to these new variables of school, studying, and stress. It will take some work on both ends…but I think it is so important to keep in mind that this is a short-term burden on your relationship. As with anything, if you want it to work…you will make it work 🙂

-J

IMG_9923.JPG (Our trip to LA, Cali this past October)

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