Going Back to School
mark and Monica are young parents of two active kids, Melisa five-, and Mateo, who is four-years- old. Only 14 months apart, they actually introduce themselves as the almost-twins. Mark had a stable career as a university science instructor, which meant he had a very predictable schedule, set responsibilities, and a life that could be considered simple, but fulfilling. But that did not stop him from deciding to sacrifice this stability to pursue his dream. At the age of five, Mark discovered his passion for medicine when a team of medical professionals saved his life. Since then, he has worked hard to achieve all the academic and non-academic qualities needed to gain admission to medical school. In the midst of studying, working, and volunteering, many great things happened. Mark met Monica at the age of 24 and married not too long after, they started a family when Mark was still in school working on his Masters degree, and they managed to have a fun beginning based on a very simple lifestyle. While it would be considered logical by many for Mark to concentrate on his career and move forward with teaching, Mark agrees that it was his stubborn personality and passion that motivated him to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor despite the competitive process and a few setbacks along the way. “I believe raising a family involves not only being able to economically support the family, but, mostly, to teach children the importance of life and the way to live it. I feel by following your dream, whatever that dream may be, a parent can find meaning for themselves and will be able to share this fulfillment. The rest will fall into place! In fact, having a family motivated me even more!” His dream became a reality when in May of 2012, Mark got accepted into the Doctor of Medicine program at the University of British Columbia. After all the excitement from all the great news, reality set in and it was time to answer the big question: how to raise a family going back to school full-time? He agrees that the main three challenges involved in this change were: time management, financial planning, and family support. Spending time with his family has always been a priority. With a nine-to-five job this was easy to achieve. However, with over sixty hours a week dedicated to class and study time, this means that careful planning is needed to balance both family and studies. This has been one of the greatest challenges and is definitely different from his days as a single student. “The solution was to focus on quality time”, Mark said. Mark spent Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays almost entirely at school returning to regular hours on Thursdays and Fridays with weekends completely free from school. Energized by great weekends with his wife and his children, Mark was then ready for another challenging and fascinating week at school. One aspect of raising a family is financial support. This was another challenge Mark encountered when quitting his job to follow his dream. The obvious question was: how does one afford to quit a job to attend school and still raise a family? Mark is grateful for the financial support systems that exist for professional studies in Canada. He has been able to maintain the simple yet great lifestyle with the help of both Government and bank student loans as well as the amazing bursary program at UBC. Many local community programs support students by allowing them to enroll themselves and their families in art and sports programs. His children are now participating in swimming classes at the Robert Lee YMCA as well as art and dance classes at the Arts Umbrella, just to mention few. Mark also recognizes that his first year of medical school was possible not only by his good time management skills or the financial support provided to him, but in huge part to the family support he received along the way. “I feel everyone that is taking the challenge of raising a family while being a full-time student will need a support system behind them, I feel lucky to have that and for me, it is that support system that makes things fall into place!” Monica has supported her husband by becoming a stay-at-home mom during the week and pursuing her career on a part-time basis. Mark believed that no one should be discouraged from following a dream of going back to school due to personal circumstances and he encourages people to seek assistance if needed from their school’s student affairs department who are very able and eager to help people from all walks of life regardless of circumstances. “Our life is now better for the simple fact that our family is now stronger and we are a better team enjoying the present and working towards a better future”.