COVID-19 diaries with Aavan Matharu: The Unspoken Silver Lining

Next COVID-19 diary is with Aavan Matharu, a third year dental student at Trinity College Dublin...

Aavan, a third year dental student from Canada studying at Trinity College Dublin

Let's rewind to the time we all received an email, after a long day in PBL sessions, labs and lectures, announcing the sudden and immediate closure of all universities and schools. Being a 3rd year international student from Canada at Trinity College Dublin, this news sent shock waves up my spine. As I was preparing for my RPD competency and my first OSCEs, I couldn't help but wonder what would come of the rest of third year. 

Packing up and leaving Dublin within a week to be with my family back in Ottawa was a bittersweet feeling. Going home after completing exams for the summer and Christmas break always felt rewarding but leaving amidst the school year left an uneasy feeling within. I remember thinking to myself on the plane how this was going to be the longest time I have seen my family in the past three years since I've moved to Dublin. 

When reflecting on that thought, three months down the line, I can't help but acknowledge the unspoken revelations COVID-19 has presented. You see, as dental students we live in this bubble within the hospital where our friends become our family, our seniors become our role models and our schoolwork becomes our full-time job. We became so engrossed in our exams, patient management etc. that we sometimes forget about who we are and the world revolving around us. 

The emergence of the pandemic was a huge reality check for me in that regard. Coming back to Ottawa made me appreciate the accessibility of my family and friends, alternative learning opportunities and encouraged me to exercise a work-life balance. It become a new outlook on life outside of dental school and allowed me to be surrounded by mindsets different from mine. 

Most individuals during lock down emphasised the importance of productivity, whether it be terms of a career or learning something new. As important as that is, experiencing COVID-19 as an international student taught me a lot more than that. As dental students, we are all productive in some way, shape or form. We had yet to finish our academic year and we all had an array of work laid out for us. However, if we look at what we did otherwise, we have to realise that those aspects/experiences/hobbies define us and make us relate to the world around us, not only dentistry.

In hindsight, COVID-19 has given me more than it has taken away from me. It has given me the opportunity to spend time with my loved ones for more than a few weeks in the year but more importantly, it has enabled me to grow as an individual. My appreciation for a work-life balance, and interests outside of dentistry such as cooking, working out, drawing and astronomy have taken precedence during my time in Ottawa. It is important for every student, dental or not, to take this opportunity to spend time with their families and value the circumstances they have to grow as a person outside of their career. We are all going to pick up a drill or do an endo in due time but honing in on skills, past times and engaging in the simplicity of life during this difficult time will make us more robust, grateful and essentially better future clinicians.  

So, engage in our career, learn new things but take the time to be YOU. There is no better opportunity to grow as a person outside our career, and we should all be grateful that despite the odds of the pandemic, there is a silver lining shining within. 

Do you want to write a COVID-19 diary? Please get in touch! Whether you're a dental student, foundation dentist, dental core trainee, associate, dental nurse, therapist I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

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