The choices we make

For a long time, I wanted to be a surgeon. I’m good with my hands, love the intricacies of the human body, and enjoy figuring out where each puzzle piece belongs. In a recent group chat, my  best friends from high school (jokingly?) summed up my personality, “I’d just go for the one that’s most competitive, tbh.”

Whereas for some children having a parent in medicine is a huge deterrent, that was never the case for the Gu’s. We were, and still are, a family that finds satisfaction in our societal roles, and are passionate about our work. My dad is a family doctor, my mom is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. While I was never overtly pressured into becoming a lawyer/doctor/engineer, I always knew it would bring my parents immense satisfaction to have Dr. Gu “Junior” carry on the family tradition. But like, I already speak Chinese, played a million years of piano, and have a lightning tea pouring reflex – it also just made sense that I’d go into medicine (note: your girl is not good at math).

College was a somewhat grueling experience for me. I spent a lot of time exhausted, mentally and physically. I subsisted on 3-4 hours of sleep most nights, because I needed the other 20 hours to study, go to class, do research, be involved in my school, join a sorority, have a social life, be a good friend, take on internships in SF, maybe eat. Many of us pulled long hours in the libraries, putting every ounce of dedication into being in the top 10% (of hundreds of “premed” students) and getting that elusive “A.” I could only look on in awe of the lucky ones who were naturally brilliant. Most days, I hoped my 10 or 20 hours to their 1-hour of studying would be enough to get the grades I needed to get into medical school. Of course, it wasn’t just about academic success. To get into medical school, it was engrained in us that you also need leadership, volunteer hours, research, experience in the hospital, a “unique” activity, all while being “well-rounded” in a non-extracurricular way. Managing life was tough, and we all joked that “you could only choose 1 out of 3 things” – those 3 things being sleep, social life and academic success. Of course, being the (mostly internally) intense, type A person I am, I also needed to have a social life. So rather than sleep, I would go out on the weekends, come home at 2 or 3am, and continue studying for calculus, or whatever academic purgatory it was that night. What I learned from my first 2 years of university is that if you deal with your stress and anxiety by ignoring it, eventually you will break down. And so, it became a bit of a ritual, I would continue on like this for a few months, and then for a whole weekend, I would just PTFO and ignore everyone and everything for 48 hours. 2 days later, I would emerge into our living room, like a butterfly out of its cocoon, ready to take on another few months of that #berkeleylife.

Obviously things became easier as I progressed in university. I learned that sometimes it’s ok to say no, that I don’t have to go to every single event I’m invited to, and of course, I started taking upper division and graduate level classes that didn’t have the same ridiculous “only <10% get any kind of A”  curve. Those glorious classes of 20 people, sometimes spent outside on the glade in the spring, were a vast change from our packed 800-student lower-division chemistry courses. And of course, in senior year, once I got that first medical school acceptance in fall of 2014 (hallelujah), it was time to really live my life.

This is all to say, while maybe my experiences don’t shine a light to the 120 hours a junior surgical resident works in a week, and certainly the responsibility of getting an A in organic chemistry is nowhere near the responsibility of saving someone’s life, for a few years of my life, I experienced the toll of little sleep and a lot of stress. The stress however was well worth it for my original ultimate goal, to be a plastic surgeon.

So obviously that dream died a very early death in medical school. I realized early on it wasn’t the specialty for me, and went specialty shopping in my first couple years of medical school. From plastic surgery to ophthalmology to a brief dalliance with pediatric neurosurgery, to urology – you can probably spot the trend here. No matter what specialty it was, it always seemed to circle back to surgery.

I know I’m a very goal-oriented individual. I like having my schedule packed to the brim with activity, I like being involved in every extracurricular activity available, I like being good at what I’m doing (and being acknowledged for my work). What I liked about surgery wasn’t just the technical aspect, but the glory? of having to work 80+ hour weeks and still be a functional human. I liked the idea of being in an intense program where I wouldn’t necessarily have to sacrifice, but would learn to spend my free time “more wisely.” I loved the idea of “fixing people,” where someone could walk in with a problem and walk out with a solution.

In clerkship, something that’s hard to fathom is just how difficult residency truly is. Having done several surgical electives, I can attest to the fact that even though I always volunteered to stay late, even though I stayed overnight so I could do that closing suture, even though I came back in the middle of the night so I could be present for those moderately interesting cases and still worked a full clinic day the day after, I would never really know how challenging being in a surgical residency truly was. Because, at the end of the day, my stint was only a few months and I could look forward to easier rotations and a long vacation. Sure, I sacrificed some dinners, some birthdays and some family events, but the sacrifices you make in clerkship are temporary. You’ll always move on to an easier, 9am – 5pm kind of rotation, when you can catch up with friends and life.

I didn’t really question this life I was leading, or the path I was going down until I started my family medicine core rotation. What was this feeling? I had my weekends off? My day ended at 3 or 4pm? I had an hour off for lunch everyday? I think that feeling was…relief. I was rarely pimped, I worked with an interprofessional team, and I had an amazing work-life balance. I loved chatting with my patients, getting to know them over the 6-week period, and doing small procedures in the office. It was during this rotation that I questioned my intense fascination with surgery, and wondered if I really loved it as much as I thought I did. It’s so easy in medical school to get caught up in the vortex of “I should do this because I’ve done x hours of research, published x papers, done x electives, schmoozed with x faculty and everyone knows I want to match to this specialty so people will judge me if I don’t.” I’m not a fan of this aspect of my personality, the part where I care a lot about what others think of me. I care deeply about the image and persona I portray – maybe to the detriment of my own happiness.

Even with these questions, going into CaRMS – the Canadian residency matching process – I still wanted to match to “a very competitive specialty” because who was I if not the person who “goes for the most competitive option, tbh.”

Obviously today, I’m in family medicine, the field that for a long time, was outside of my radar. Today, I am so, so grateful for this alternative path. Almost 7-months into residency, I can honestly barely remember why I ever wanted a surgical specialty. I love the whole-person approach to medicine, I love getting to know my patients, I love the variety in my days in patient population, procedures and organ systems, and I love that I have time to take on leadership, medical education, research and volunteer roles, in addition to spending time with friends and family and having time for self-care. There are dozens of sub-specialization options, from obstetrics to emergency medicine to anesthesia to palliative care, so really, there’s something for almost everyone if general practice isn’t for you. Of course, it’s not all this peachy, and there are definitely things that leave me feeling disgruntled and unsettled, but for the most part I feel pretty free to voice my concerns, to advocate for my rights and to be a human being. Sure there are weeks I’ve worked 70-80 hours, days where I’ve worked 30+ hours, but at least for me, that’s not an everyday reality.

I’m down to work hard. I see the value in reading up on cases, in staying late to tidy up a patient’s work-up and admission, in teaching medical students, in following up on interesting cases, in putting off dinner plans to help a colleague. I don’t mind 12-hour work days and occasional 100-hour work weeks, as long as I have a sense of ownership and responsibility, I feel respected by my program, and I have the support of my staff. I have the fortune of working in a dynamic clinic with an amazing and kind preceptor, with a patient population that demands a lot, but provides significant personal and professional satisfaction. Being totally honest, this isn’t quite where I thought I would be halfway into my first year of residency, but everything happens for a reason. It’s all about perspective, and sometimes it seems like fate knows you better than you know yourself.

95% of the time, I’m happy to go work, and I wake up pretty content with my life. I feel supported by my staff and clinic, and I feel connected to the people who matter in my life. I truly believe that this is the way residency should be. It’s important to learn and grow, but it’s also important to sleep a certain amount of hours a night, and not live in fear of being scolded at 3am in the morning.

I recently read an article by @mindbodymiko, “the ugly side of becoming a surgeon,” where she talks about her experience as a surgical resident. It’s not fair that there are residents who work these completely crazy hours, are expected to work a full clinic day after being on 24-hour call, and feel like they cannot advocate for their physical and mental well being. And can I just say, hospital food is TERRIBLE. The cafeterias are loaded with unhealthy options (the pizza just calls out to you at 2am in the morning), and there are always baked goods and chocolate laying around. I admire the people who can say no to a delicious chocolate chip cookie on call – personally I have little to 0 will power after 24 hours without sleep.

Physicians are notoriously known to be “bad patients” but just like we explore why our patients don’t adhere to recommendations, perhaps we should explore why this is the case for doctors (who see firsthand the implications of non-compliance). It’s not fun to be exhausted, it’s not safe for patients to have wearied physicians operating on them and general exhaustion certainly does not decrease the number of preventable errors.

All this is to say, being in medicine isn’t always easy. It’s something we dedicate a large part of our lives to, it’s a degree that becomes a part of who we are, and a profession that gives us daily purpose. Medicine is a field where the perfect balance of compassion and disengagement leads to professional success. It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle, but this lifestyle leaves many residents feeling emotionally exhausted and burnt out. There are higher rates of depression, suicide and divorce among medical professionals, and it’s no mystery as to why this is. So yes, I love medicine, but maybe it’s time to re-evaluate medical culture and find more ways to support resident health. It’s easy for programs to say “let’s increase wellness activities” but much harder to engage residents in these initiatives.

We’re in the 21st century people, it’s time for medicine to catch up.



Residency: Adapting to change


It’s been about 3 weeks since I started residency, but I think the past few weeks have taught me more about myself than an entire summer of backpacking in Southeast Asia. They (who knows who they actually are) constantly quote “find yourself,” but in medicine, you have to constantly rediscover yourself. Because, as very type A personalities, every time we move, we have to figure out how we fit into this new system, and find new ways to succeed and exceed. So far, this has been a lot harder than you’d think.

For the last 3 weeks, and for the next 3 months ahead of me, I’ll be on my family medicine rotation. While there are many aspects of it that I love, such as being able to follow your own patients – I’ve already seen a few more than once! – counseling patients on preventative care, seeing your behavioural or pharmacological interventions manifesting in a positive way, and performing minor procedures in office, there are also aspects that I haven’t adapted as well to.

The first and foremost being: TIME. In university, then in medical school, time was such a precious commodity. In pre-clerkship, between going to classes, shadowing at the hospital, running interest groups, volunteering and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, I felt like I barely had time to breath. Then in clerkship, real life duties hit you like a brick wall, and especially on rotations like general surgery or internal medicine, dinners and outings with friends became a “I’ll see you in 4 weeks” thing. What may sound totally crazy then, is the amount of free time I have right now. Yep, you heard me – a crazy amount of free time.

Now that I don’t have research deadlines, student group demands, social obligations, an insane call schedule or CaRMS applications looming over my head, in all honesty, I feel a little lost. That part of my identity, the one that needs 27 hours in a 24 hour day is still craving that intense pressure. Maybe I speak for myself, but maybe in medicine we’re gluttons for punishment, we’re junkies that need to feel important, to feel needed, to achieve things, whatever those things may be. They say medicine is a lonely career, but do we inflict that on ourselves? These days, when I spend 30 min making my dinner, then 30 min eating it, I wonder if our lives could be so much easier, if we just let it be. Yet even as I’m writing this I have 10 tabs open on possible research topics, baking recipes, volunteer opportunities, my QI modules and Groupon (because I have this sudden strong desire to go on a helicopter ride around Toronto).

There are so many changes that happen when you transition from medical school to residency. Some people move, you leave your cozy nest of friends, you start in a new “doctor” role that once seemed so elusive, and you have to figure out how to fill your free time all over again. It’s not always easy to adapt to change, even when it’s positive. As my roommate can tell you, I cycle through feelings of doubt, of apathy, of hypomanic joy, of loneliness, of blissful happiness. Whether you’re moving a minute, an hour, or a day away, change is change. As someone who moved from Vancouver to Berkeley to Hamilton and now to London, I’ve realized I’m really not the best at adapting to change. Then again, when you’re an adult, you realize no one really is.

I think my friends who are on other rotations (read OBGYN, internal medicine, surgery) may disagree, one of the hardest parts of residency for me has been adapting to all these life changes. The me I’ve become familiar with for almost a decade of my life is screaming at me to stop watching Netflix and do something productive, but I’m learning that not every single moment of every single day has to be filled with something. As my days get busier (which they undoubtedly will), I’ll probably look back on this post and wish I was back here, in this moment. Then again, this is life. We’re creatures that are somehow unsatisfied, even when the universe has done what it can to make us happy. It is of course important to remember to be grateful. And despite this long tirade, I am so grateful for life, for love, and for all of the things to come ahead.

Finally, as promised, I’ll be hosting an insta-live session this week! Please comment on this post or my insta page with questions you’d like me to cover!


Halifax – overall 11/10, just don’t get the seafood chowder

Wow realized I saved this nugget in drafts. Now that we’re all flying off to our “vacations” (read 2-weeks of ++ trying to impress preceptors) and I’m currently stuck in the airport due to a flight cancellation, thought it might be nice to finally finish this.

Because you know, never start what you can’t finish.

Anyways, Halifax.

This blog post goes all the way back to a trip I took in December 2016. Originally, I had inadvertently signed myself up for a urology rotation at Valley Regional Hospital, Kentville, which is about 2 hours away from Halifax. I really didn’t realize what a remote location this was until my first day, when every single doctor I met asked me “how on earth did you find your way here.” Needing to meet some of the movers and shakers of Nova Scotian Urology – to ultimately fulfill my dream of inserting foley catheters and estimating prostate size – this was obviously not the brightest choice. The administrative staff at Dalhousie was a dream, and I was able to transfer over to the big city with little to no issue. So for those of you doing a urology rotation at Dalhousie, be grateful for all the planning that goes on for you behind the scenes.

Here’s a short guide of do’s and don’t’s while you’re on your Halifax rotation, including where not to get seafood chowder.


So I was pretty lucky in that two of my medical school friends *Chad and *Rudy took me in. Considering the pretty pricey short-term rent around the hospitals, I was really really grateful and bought them some hipster, small batch coffee-flavoured vodka as a thank you gift. *Chad was not a fan. In fact, I think *Chad almost threw up from this experience. We stayed in a pretty beautiful 2 storey house right across from the Halifax Infirmary (HI), which is where many of the surgical clinics and the emergency department are. This house had 3 bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms and a large open kitchen. They found this place on Airbnb, so highly recommend this app if you’re looking for a place to stay. Another option would be to go on the medical student Facebook page. Overall, I would say aim for between $250-350/week for a shared accommodation, and closer to $600-800 for a single, of course it’s always cheaper to stay with other people.

Something to note, there are several hospitals within a 10-15 minute walk of one another, the HI being on Robie St., and the other two, Victoria General and IWK (also where the Children’s Hospital is) on South St. Regardless, if you live somewhere close to one of the hospitals, you’ll be close to them all.


There’s no uber here so it’s either walk everywhere or take taxis. Taxis are actually pretty convenient, they’re fast and there’re quite a few companies. For a 10 minute ride it’s about $6-7. The only issue is that they charge you extra if you have more than one person, and it’ll bring the cost up to around $9. The week we were here it was freezing so YOLOCO, basically took cabs every time we went out. I guess there’re buses here, but I try and avoid buses in winter because of all sick people (would rather not have people coughing and sneezing on me before I get to the hospital).

Touristy things (from things to skip to things you should go to):

  1. Halifax Public Gardens – I would skip this. Everything’s dead in the winter. I guess if it’s snowing it’s nice, but then again, if it’s snowing here it’s probably snowing everywhere.
  2. Halifax Central Library – it’s really nice from the outside and I’ve head the coffee shop on the inside is quite nice. Great for studying if that’s what you’re into.
  3. Maritime Museum of the Atlantic – ok honestly, I spent most of my free time eating, checking out the bars and following this tourist map *Chad and *Rudy got from the tourism centre. If you’re not like me and you enjoy going to museums and being cultured, it was ranked #6 out of 132 things to do in Halifax.
  4. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 – see above
  5. St. Mary’s Basilica – did not actually go inside but it’s nice from the outside.
  6. Alexander Keith’s Brewery – we actually wanted to go to this. You don’t have to make a reservation, and they’re open on weekdays and weekends. Tours are about 1-2 hours so this would be a nice weekend activity before going out for dinner.
  7. Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market – this was interesting, I love farmer’s markets so I spent about an hour here. They have everything from baked goods to fruits and vegetables to artisan small-batch liquors (where I got that coffee-flavoured vodka from). Would recommend checking it out, it was created in 1750, a year after the founding of Halifax. One note, it was a lot smaller than I expected, so you could start your day here like I did and move uptown.

Food and Drink

Probably my favourite section. Halifax is actually known for having the most bars per capita. So here’s a list of some great bars and restaurants (totally not exhaustive, please go on Yelp, my #bae on electives or Dr. Google to find more gems):


  1. Noble – we actually came here twice! It’s a really neat Speakeasy that requires a secret password to get into. The front is called Middlespoon and is more of a dessert, casual drinks place. To get into Noble, you have to subscribe to this page by email, and they’ll send out the password every Thursday. The drinks were really delicious and fairly strong. They’re a bit more expensive, $12-15, but they’re definitely worth it!
  2. Stillwell – It’s super hipster, they have a million beers on tap and lots of different flavours and ciders to try. They’ll let you sample as well if you’re unsure of what you want. We came here on a Saturday night and it was packed. Would definitely recommend checking this place out if you’re into craft beers.
  3. Durty Nelly’s – this was on the tourist guide for lunch, but it’s an Irish pub with brews and food. I’ve heard it’s pretty popular so check it out, all the bars are relatively within the same area!
  4. 2 Doors Down – we all really loved this place. They had amazing food and they have an extensive drinks list as well. Great ambiance, service and reasonably prices. Would definitely recommend (also has 4.5 stars on Yelp so that was a pretty strong selling point for me)


  1. 2 Doors Down – see above
  2. Ardmore Tea House – supposedly Halifax’s best brekkie. They’ve been serving comfort food since 1956. In addition to your typical pancakes, eggs, bacon etc, they also serve interesting local features like Newfoundland steak and cod cakes. Location: 6499 Quinpool Rd, Halifax. Phone: (902) 423-7523
  3. Battery Park Beer Bar – this place has a lot of locally sourced food that pairs well with beer. It’s reasonably priced and a part of Taste Halifax Tours. Haven’t actually tried it, but their instagram is bomb so. Location: 62 Ochterloney St, Halifax.
  4. Brooklyn Warehouse – this restaurant reminds me of Berkeley. No seriously, they have their own vegetable garden and a strong commitment to local, fresh, seasonal cuisine. They have rotating specials on a chalkboard and have an extensive list of wines and craft beer from the region. Location: 2795 Windsor St, Halifax. Phone: (902) 446-8181
  5. Chives Canadian Bistro – a menu of “Canadian” cuisine (and here I thought Canadian cuisine was poutine and maple syrup), with innovative meals created by chef/owner Craig Flinn (author of many best-selling Canadian cookbooks). The decor tries to incorporate elements of Canada like rock, water, sand, trees and whatnot and uses seasonal, local ingredients. They have a moving menu, so in the words of Forrest Gump, “you never know what you’re going to get.” Location: 1537 Barrington St, Halifax. Phone: (902) 420-9626
  6. Five Fishermen Restaurant and Grill – disclaimer: have not tried this place, but heard about it from several staff and residents. It’s known for its Alberta Angus beef and great seafood selection. There’s a fine dining area upstairs, and a more casual grill downstairs. This restaurant has numerous awards from the Wine Spectator with an extensive wine list. The building dates back to 1817 and was originally an art school, and later was transformed into a mortuary for victims of the Halifax Explosion and the Titanic. Apparently there’s some supernatural stuff going on here so maybe you’ll get lucky and get one in your selfie? Location: 1740 Argyle St, Halifax. Phone: (902) 422-4421
  7. The Auction House – So this is a restaurant located in an auction house dating back to 1840, and auctions are still held daily here. It’s a taste of local culture and history, in the setting of upscale pub food and drinks. It’s one of the city’s oldest buildings (built in 1765). There’s also live music and it’s across from Parade Square. Location: 1726 Argyle Street, Halifax. Phone: (902) 431-1726
  8. The Bicycle Thief – we came here on recommendation (both from people and from Yelp reviews) for a nice dinner and it really was delicious! I ordered the Cioppino, which was huge, and came with an abundance of seafood as well as a side of garlic bread. I can’t really remember what my friends ordered, but I’m fairly confidence that they enjoyed their meals as well. In total, I spent about $40 after tax and tip. It’s a little on the pricey side, but isn’t that what our line of credit is for?
  9. The Old Apothecary Bakery & Cafe – I visited this cute little cafe on my traipse through the city. It has a cool old-age hipster vibe going for it and adorable cakes and pastries. Everything here is made from scratch and locally sourced as much as possible, and I can vouch for the fact that everything smells delicious. Amazing croissants (of various varieties) and eclairs. It’s also a great study space with big tables, and it’s fairly quiet. If you want a change from your typical Starbucks, check this place out (just make sure to stand once in a while, all those pastries can’t be good for your waistline). Location: 1549 Barrington St, Halifax. Phone: (902) 423-1500
  10. The Wooden Monkey – for all those vegan and food sensitive people, this is the spot for you BUT they also offer things like fish, bacon wrapped scallops and bacon cheeseburgers for all those people who die without meat at every meal (menu). They note all the gluten free options, as well as anything with dairy or nuts. They have a mix of different foods with everything from seitan sandwiches to chocolate tofu pie to lamb burgers. Location: 1707 Grafton St, Halifax.

Huffington Post also has a great updated list and review of restaurants to visit

 Places outside of Halifax worth seeing if you’re there for 2 weeks:

  1. Wolfville – so I like food. And clearly the people of Wolfville like food too. However, disclaimer I have never been to this place. When I was in Kentville (small town with small population), apparently the place to go for a nice dinner was this town approximately 15min drive away. Would appreciate if someone could let me know if I’m talking out of my a**.
  2. Peggy’s Cove
  3. Blomidon Provincial Park
  4. Fisherman’s Cove

Honestly have never been to any of these places. Please see this blog for a much better explanation AND a guide to your weekend outside of Halifax.

Overall I had an awesome time in Halifax. It has a small town vibe but with tons of great bars, live music, yummy food, really really nice people and everything you need is mostly within walking distance. Especially if you live in or near downtown Halifax. Some final tips:

  1. Moksha here (like all Moksha’s) have a $40 for 30 days introductory pass. If you think this is your first and last time here, take advantage of all the introductory deals you can! I think I went to 5 or 6 yoga classes, but it was a great break from the freezing cold wind outside.
  2. Do not wear flats in winter. Because it will suck a lot and you might fall on your face like I did (it might’ve happened twice).
  3. I heard summer is really beautiful here. Honestly please enjoy the outdoors and the festivals and all that happy instagram stuff because we only get this “vacation” once.

Have fun! Feel free to message me or comment if you have any questions about Halifax, urology or surviving in the middle of nowhere.



Hoping for a better sense of self? Maybe applying to residency will help

Time is crazy in the sense that moments can pass in the blink of an eye, or seem to last a lifetime (ie. waiting for your apple update to load, Dovetale training, getting stuck behind slow moving people and cars).

While applying to the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) – what’s known as the NRMP in the US – felt like an intensely slow, arduous process, I simultaneously felt like I was stuck in a pressurized boiler. Maybe it’s because I went through almost daily quarter-life crises, but these introspective weeks left a strong impression. They forced me to think about who I am, what’s important to me, what skills I have, what skills I wish I had, and all the things that are critical for me to stay sane.

In these weeks, I particularly realized the importance of friends, of family, of running, of stress-relieving hobbies such as knitting and of doing things other than obsessing about applications. Just ruminating about myself and on how to turn my weaknesses into strengths probably would have driven me crazy. You can only read through your application a certain number of times before the words all blur together.

Applying to residency is like applying to medical school all over again, but this time, with the added pressure of determining who you’ll be and where you’ll end up in the not-so-distant future. Applying to residency is like applying to be an adult – you’re finally taking that step into the real world, where your line of credit is no longer an excuse to YOLO. Before medical school, you have a lot of choice. You may be accepted to one, to four, to twenty schools across the country or across continents. You can choose to be by the beach, suffer through bitter cold winters, or decide that your true calling is actually in business or fashion and skip medical school altogether. Regardless of your background in university, you have a crazy amount of choice throughout these formative years that can leave you dazed and confused, but also optimistic and determined.

When I applied to medical school, I knew that my seven-year-old dreams could withstand the test of time. I indulged in my other passions – business, healthcare technology, travel, research – but becoming a doctor was always the ultimate goal. Once you’re in medical school your interests become more focused. Where previously you engaged in global health as a primary interest, now you think about these skills and how you can apply them to your future practice. Where previously you did hobbies for fun, now you do them because they keep you grounded after long shifts at the hospital. Where before, you could take classes like philosophy, ocean sciences and negotiations because they sounded interesting, now you take courses on evidence-based medicine, medical education and pharmacology because you believe they will make you a better, more well-rounded provider. What I love about medical school is your ability to take all the passions you’ve accumulated over the years, and turn them into something productive for society. With this MD degree, you have the ability to leave a legacy – but what that legacy is is up to you.

While I love reading travel blogs like this one: I am Aileen, and occasionally wish I could run off for a life on the road, I’m pretty sure my school, the Canadian government, the bank and my parents would hunt me down pretty quickly. But through your experiences in medical school, you realize that being a medical student, and soon to be physician do not preclude you from also being yourself. Applying to residency, and all the steps leading up to application submission on November 21st, helped me learn more about myself, my achievements, my failures, and the challenges that have shaped my personality and my ambitions.

They say that you should know your CV intimately for interviews, but more importantly, your CV can help you understand what’s important to you. What electives did you do over the course of medical school, who were your most influential mentors, what extracurricular activities did you participate in, what hobbies did you keep despite time and resource limitations. Writing my personal statements was even more so a challenge in distilling everything I’ve done in my life, understanding the story I’ve woven, and highlighting the things that stand out. A question that has repeatedly popped up while going through this process is why? Why did I apply to the specialties I did, why do my experiences make me a good fit, and why do I think I’m qualified to be in these fields?

At the age of twenty-four, I’ve watched my friends go into a variety of fields – into consulting, investment banking, research, and marketing, as well as pursue MBAs, Masters and PhDs. If you ask most millenials where they’ll be in 10 years, the answer is usually uncertain. There’s usually a goal in mind but the journey there is far from set in stone. They have all of these choices, whether they want to make partner at their firm in 10 years, whether they want to make a lateral move into another field, or whether they want to move to Africa and work for a NGO.

While medicine is by no means a locked box, on match day, when that final decision comes out, you’re effectively committed to whatever is written in that email. Whether that is your top choice program, your tenth choice program or no match at all. For the first time in my life, I feel as if I’m taking a plunge into the deep end. The plunge into adulthood, where I will be responsible not only for myself, but for the lives of others. The decisions I make can and will impact the patients I serve, and my mistakes could, for the first time, be life threatening.

The idea of starting residency is like the open water scuba diving course I finished this weekend. They teach you all of these skills in the pool – how to put your gear together, how to share air and rescue other divers, how to fix problems that come up and how to be safe but have fun at the same time. After the weekend-long course, it was time to go into open water for four deep water dives (felt pretty blessed that these could be done anywhere in the world ie. Mexico and Panama, as opposed to the freezing waters of eastern Canada), to review all the skills we learned under the supervision of a trained instructor. I recently finished two of four dives in Mexico, but it won’t be until I finish the last two dives that I’ll be fully certified and deemed ready for deeper open water dives. In the ocean, everything is a lot bigger, mistakes are more dramatic, and things can truly go wrong. If you’re not prepared in the pool, you certainly will not be prepared in the ocean. Much like the path to becoming a doctor, where you first get eased in as a medical student, practice and hone your skills as a resident, and finally, prepare for independent practice as a staff physician, it’s important to learn the basics in a low-stakes environment before facing the reality of responsibility.

Two-and-a-half years in medical school, I still can’t believe I will carry a “Dr.” before my name from May onwards (hopefully). It’s a huge privilege but also a humbling responsibility. There will be people trusting my advice, and patients for whom I can make difference. I’m excited, I’m terrified, and I feel as if time has rushed by, constantly yelling back at me to catch up. I feel like just yesterday I was a first year medical student, who had yet to do my first history and physical exam, and had not experienced the thrill of the OR or the reward of seeing patients improve over time. Although CaRMS is far from over, and we have interviews coming up way too soon, this application process has been an incredible growing process, and has demanded introspection into everything that makes me, me.I mean what is medicine but a commitment to lifelong learning?

Of course, all of this being said and done, it’s important to stay sane while going through this process, take those holidays in Mexico, do that half-marathon, share a bottle of wine with friends.

Now that Part I is over, I guess I’m a little more ready to tackle Part II: the interviews. There will definitely be more ramblings to come.



#Westcoastbestcoast – highlights from the most beautiful (and expensive) city in the world [Vancouver]

I’ve always been a west coast girl at heart. Maybe it’s the proximity to the ocean, the ability to go skiing on a moment’s notice, beautiful 200 year old forests basically in my backyard or the struggle of deciding which world class restaurant to eat at. Even after living in California for four amazing years, and now Ontario, it’s still the place I call home.

Seriously, Vancouver is lit.

It’s definitely changed a lot since I was a kid. There are more skyscrapers now, more expensive luxury apartments, more hustle and bustle, way more Mandarin (like there are Chinese people EVERYWHERE), but a few things haven’t changed. The food, the water, the mountains and the shopping (I mean, Vancouver gave us Oak + Fort, Aritzia, Lululemon etc etc) are still wholly unforgettable. It’s hard to not fall in love with a city that has everything, as long as you don’t mind a little rain.

Some fun facts when your preceptors ask you why you’re here:

  • Vancouver was recently ranked as the third most “livable place in the world” for its high standard of living and quality of life (caveat: if you can afford it) 
  • Vancouver has the 4th largest cruise ship terminal in the world (ummm ok, I guess that’s great for people in retirement) 
  • Home to Canada’s longest pool. Measuring 137.5 meters (451 feet), it is nearly the size of three Olympic pools.  This outdoor, saltwater pool is a major tourist attraction and is open year round
  • Vancouver has the highest real estate prices in Canada. In 2011, the average price of a detached home was a staggering $1,204,587. Some say this is close to rivaling New York City and London (See point 1, would 10/10 recommend becoming a billionaire first before moving here, a million bucks won’t get you very far)
  • Vancouver is the largest film production center in North America after Los Angeles and New York City (if anyone is a fan of Riverdale (ME) it was actually filmed at my high school, Point Grey – also, Twilight was filmed at Churchill, but RIVERDALE)
  • Stanley Park, an urban oasis, is 10% larger than New York City’s Central Park. It is a staggering 1001 acres (if you don’t have any friends, you should find one and go tandem biking here)
  • The Vancouver Aquarium ranks in the top 5 worldwide (Ok)
  • Vancouver has the mildest climate in Canada. Although, it receives on average, 1,589mm of rain per year (which is why Vancouverites had no idea what to do this year, 1 foot of snow in this city = apocalypse)
  • Greenpeace, one of the world’s oldest and most successful environmental groups was established in Vancouver

MAP OF VANCOUVER (very accurate)

Now that you know a little bit about this city, and are super impressed and want to do a post-CaRMS elective here, here’re some suggestions for things to do and see in this amazing city:

FOOD (note: list is limited to places I’ve tried or that come highly recommended)

Vancouver is literally a mecca for good food. From Japanese to Indian to dim sum, to brunch, there’s no shortage of great places to try. Also, Yelpers appear to be quite active here, so I recommend going on one of my favourite apps if you hate my list and want to listen to strangers instead.

Dim sum

  • Kirin Seafood Restaurant
  • Shanghai River
  • Shiang Garden Restaurant
  • Neptune Seafood Restaurant
  • Shanghai Morning Restaurant
  • Grand Crystal Seafood Restaurant


  • Miku
  • Tojo’s
  • Guu with Garlic
  • Westcoast Poke
  • Kingyo


Dinner (other than the categories listed above)

  • Hawksworth
  • Yew St. Restaurant (in the Four Seasons)
  • Cactus Club Cafe
  • Nuba Gastown
  • L’Abbatoir
  • Blue Water Cafe
  • La Belle Patate
  • Kessel&March
  • Rodney’s Oyster House


  • Fable
  • Jam Cafe on Beatty
  • Medina Cafe
  • Twisted Fork
  • Forage
  • Nomad
  • The Flying Pig
  • Breka Bakery & Cafe
  • The Acorn


  • Beta5 Chocolates
  • French Made Baking
  • Rain or Shine Ice Cream
  • PappaRoti
  • Thierry Chocolate Patisserie Cafe
  • Bakery State
  • Nero Belgian Waffle Bar
  • Cheesecake Etc
  • Trafiq Cafe & Bakery
  • Transylvanian Traditions Bakery (get their chimney cake on a cold day, SO yummy freshly made)
  • Breka Bakery & Cafe
  • Granville Island Public Market
  • Purebread
  • Beard Papa’s (they’re everywhere, but cream puffs, especially the matcha ice cream ones are 11/10)
  • Earnest Ice Cream
  • Mink – Chocolate Cafe
  • Cartems Donuterie
  • Mister

Also, you have to try bubble tea here (I guess some people call it boba). Can basically get any type of boba your heart desires, anywhere in the city.


  1. Stanley Park:
  2. Capilano Suspension Bridge:
  3. Granville Island
  4. Science World
  5. Vancouver Aquarium
  6. Cyprus, Grouse and Seymour
  7. Whistler
  8. Kitsilano Beach
  9. Gastown
  10. Canada Place
  11. Chinatown –
  12. English Bay
  13. Robson Street
  14. Richmond
  15. Yaletown
  16. Vancouver Art Gallery


Some people say Vancouver is kind of sleepy. Depending on the weekend, I may or may not agree with them. A lot of EDM big names come here, and there’re lots of concerts every week and festivals in the spring and summer (again, ABGs flock here). Also, can attest to the fact that raves are 10 times cheaper in Canada than the US (another reason to move here other than the obvious one, Drumpf).


  1. Alibi Room:
  2. Chill Winston’s
  3. Lamplighter
  4. Long Table Distillery
  5. Prohibition:
  6. Tuc Craft Kitchen
  7. The Refinery
  8. Brix & Mortar
  9. Salt Tasting Room
  10. Bin 941

Clubs (so fair warning, a lot of these are populated by the Vancouver underage population, but can still be fun if you want to dance for free – usually women are free before 11-12)

  1. Fortune Sound Club
  2. The Roxy
  3. Venue
  4. Celebrities
  5. XY
  6. Vinyl
  7. Republic
  8. The Bourbon
  9. Au Bar


So I recently discovered Car2Go (thanks C). Literally changed my life, not that I actually downloaded it because I’m trash and Uber exists where I go to school. It’s carsharing, but apparently there are now parking spots EVERYWHERE. Vancouver is notorious for scarce parking, especially around downtown and all the places you actually want to go. This is a great solution, since most destination spots will have places reserved for Car2Go’s, and you can just park your car there for the next person to rent out. The app also tells you where the nearest parking spots are and whether they’re occupied. All in all, a pretty 100 app.

Otherwise, the skytrain is also super easy to take and navigate. If you’re here for a while, would recommend getting a Compass card. It’s a reloadable fair card that gives you small discounts each time you swipe. Worth it for the $6 deposit if you’re going to be using public transport a lot. The skytrain goes everywhere and each line comes pretty frequently. There’re the Millenium, Expo and Canada lines, Millenium and Expo have similar routes, Canada line goes along Cambie from Richmond to downtown. Seriously though, probably my favourite train that actually travels in the sky.

Finally, there’re always buses and cabs. Cabs are outrageously expensive, but sometimes your only option if you’re out late at night. Not to fear though, if you really don’t want to spend the money on a cab, the streets are fairly safe at night as long as you stay away from East Hastings.


If you’re single and looking to mingle, here’s some verified info on the types of girls and boys that populate this city:


You may have also heard of this show about ultra rich Asian people, literally called “Ultra Rich Asian Girls.”Some fun brain-numbing reality TV, reminiscent of the Kardashians, but with smaller butts and more Louis Vuitton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VR9Xu878pkE

Finally, some parting tips:

  1. Go on Groupon for some great deals on food, cooking classes and other attractions! Eg. Dark Table, interesting experience but terrible food





It all started with a bag of apples…

So literally, as per the title, I’ll be talking about my late night apple escapade (less an escapade, more a desperate race to use 20 apples before 11:59pm on Sunday night) and some fun revelations I made while painting my kitchen with various sugary ingredients.

Fun revelation #1: when the recipe tells you to use 3/4 cups of flour for a dozen cookies, they’re lying. That’s way too much flour, and then you have to make up for its doughy consistency by mixing in a tub of peanut butter. On the bright side, now you have oatmeal, peanut butter, apple cookies (… ok ….).

Fun revelation #2: People really like when you bring baked goods to the hospital. But don’t bring sh*tty a** baked goods because people (like all the important people in your life – doctors, nurses, nurses, nurses, nurses) will judge you, and then hate you because they were expecting chewy yet lightly crispy desserts, with a hint of cinnamon (not pieces of dough flavoured with sugar). That being said, if you can fix said cookies with peanut butter, that demonstrates creative thinking. Right? RIGHT? No but in all seriousness, bring cookies and other baked goods to work – even if the staff just look at them in disdain, students are ALWAYS hungry.

Fun revelation #3: wow, I must really love urology, so excited to wake up at 5:30am tomorrow, just sitting here thinking about how excited I am, whoooo so excited. Seriously though (because all sarcasm should be taken with a grain of salt), I’m so grateful to have finally found a specialty I love. Since this is a premed/med blog at heart, I really should talk a little more about this (and I will). But I’m sleepy, a little delirious and a little hungry, which makes for prime rambling. Anywho, it’s true that when you like something, time goes by quickly. It’s just like sleep – I like it. It goes by quickly.

Fun revelation #4: I was reflecting on my life today, and I realized I’m happy. Like REALLY happy. Life can be stressful (like REALLY stressful), and people get into fights, and sometimes you feel sad when you’re studying at Starbucks and you see other people your age chilling with sangria on the patio…. BUT I think it really hit me today that these are all the things that make life interesting. Working hard makes having fun that much more fun, and sad times are necessary for good times. Life is all about balance – the PSL has single origin, artisanal single roast coffee, Mac has U of T (kidding), chocolate cake has peppers (ok maybe I’m biased, but peppers are probably the single type of vegetable I can’t bring myself to love).

Fun revelation #5: As I was swiping through Tinder today, it kind of hit me that there are a lot of single people. Like everywhere. How is it that (and considering Tinder tends to appeal to a 20-30’s crowd) there are just SO MANY people to swipe through? Like hundreds upon thousands of people to swipe through within a 20-mile radius. If no one’s ever thought about this, clearly you have better things to do with your time, but I kind of wish we could go back to the days when Tinder wasn’t a thing. You know, when people actually asked people out v. “hey, Netflix and chill?”

Fun revelation #6: So I was talking to my high school friends today about general stuff you talk to your friends about, and my friend sent me a picture of really really cheap hard alcohol being sold in CVS (a convenience store chain in the US). Of course, this raised a lot of nostalgia and reminded me of the fact that I’m in Canada now, and the fact that if I stopped drinking for a year, I’d probably have enough saved up to buy a house in Vancouver. But my friend’s birthday is coming up, and as I calculated in my head how much it would cost to get her really really inebriated, I came up with the following calculation:

  • Canada: $35 bottle of tequila (whoo $1 off)  + 4 shots at the bar * $8 + buy a homeless man a meal on the way to the club * $15 (because late night meals aren’t cheap) + Uber * $17 because when you’re really drunk you tend to type in the wrong destination = a lot of money
  • United States: $5 bottle of local on-sale vodka from CVS, Trader Joe’s or Walgreens that’s only consumable if mixed in jungle juice + 4 shots at the bar* $0 because if we were celebrating in the US we’d be in Vegas, and for some reason it’s always easy to find free alcohol in Vegas + people don’t really stop for homeless people in the states so.. + Uber * something ridiculously cheap, like $3 for an hour (see my Chicago post for more fun Uber details) = why did I ever leave…

Fun revelation #7: Some people really hate on Buzzfeed. But I really love Buzzfeed because of profound articles like this one: 21 Things No One Tells You About Being A Human. It really speaks to me, #9, #19, omg #20.

Fun revelation #8: I think I found some inner peace this weekend when I realized I don’t have to go out every weekend. Yes, I’m in my early 20’s but it doesn’t mean I have anything to prove, and theoretically, I still have at least a couple good years of partying in me. Now that I know what it feels like to spend Saturday night at home slothing away in my bowl chair, I think I may need to buy some more onesies…

Fun revelation #9: You start to feel really old when a new class comes in. It doesn’t matter if it’s in high school, college or medical school. But when you’re no longer the wide eyed bambi, you feel like you’re supposed to have some wisdom and be able to give at least a few (albeit small, and often subjective) pieces of advice. And yet, the older I get, the more I realize I DON’T know. It’s like that super famous quote that everyone loves to quote:

There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.

Thanks Donald Rumsfeld. That really makes me feel so much better. As someone who’s expected to know everything, it can be really frustrating to know that there are more things we don’t know we don’t know than we’ll ever know we know. As someone who’s inclined to make life as easy as possible for herself, I’ll just accept the idea that if I don’t know what I don’t know, then either a) everyone else also doesn’t know I don’t know what I don’t know or b) they know what I don’t know and they’ll let me know. Either way, it’s all about perspective.

Fun revelation #10: Since I’m writing this at 11:32pm on a Sunday night and the title is literally about apples, I’m pretty sure no one is going to read this. That’s probably a good thing since I feel like my fun revelations were just fun for me, and everyone else probably thinks I need to sleep more.

THUS as I conclude my fun revelations, I’m actually looking forward to waking up tomorrow at 5:30am and deciding if my doughy cookies can pass as “healthy, vegan, gluten-free” cookies, which just happen to taste a little too hipster.




10 Reasons why my best friend is brilliant (and you should check out her new project)

I like to think that I’ve gained some wisdom in my 23 years on this planet. Not enough to tell you the meaning of life, or write a book, or start my own reality TV show, but enough to know that relationships are incredibly important. They (“they” being really smart scientists who have done RCTs on this) say that friendships are necessary for health, happiness and success, and I can honestly say, my best friend has been such a necessary inspiration, support and overall constant in my life for the last 18 years.

To think that we started in elementary school competing for “leadership” positions in traffic guard, to today, where the only thing we compete for is who can be the better friend, it’s been a long, sometimes bumpy, but overall amazing road.

Which brings me to my point.

My incredibly gifted, intelligent, funny and sassy friend, CJ McGillivray, has started the creative project –  Still Water: The Short Film, and is launching her funding campaign for the STORYHIVE Female Director’s Edition. Basically, her team is campaigning to be awared a $10,000 grant to make it happen. If you look at any of her past pieces, you’ll see the passion and dedication she puts into her work, and her love for what she does. We may have ended up on two completely different paths – medicine v. arts, but (as cheesy as it sounds), her artistic voice completes me in such an awesome way. This story is raw and personal, and delves into a variety of emotions – fear, excitement, happiness and grief, and is a “writing process that reflects her own struggles and understanding of sobriety.”

So please please please check out the page Still Water: The Short Film, and support her cause, or just check out all the amazing things she does. She inspires me everyday, and I hope she’ll inspire you too ❤

But I promised 10 reasons why my best friend is brilliant and here they are:

  1. She watches really really crap movies with me even though she’s an amazing director, playwright, actor and musician (think bad “horror” cheerleader movies)
  2. She really loves Japanese food (WE really love Japanese food)
  3. Her family is like my family
  4. She takes me to really cool festivals and shows because duh, who else would she take
  5. She’s already been featured in a bunch of festivals (2012 Vancouver Amnesty International Film Festival, 2016 Vancouver Fringe Festival) and won a bunch of competitions (IGNITE! Playwriting Competition, Arts Club Theatre Scholarship)
  6. She struggles, like everyone else, but she’s honest, open, brave and incredibly compassionate toward other people – she’s like a flame for all us moths
  7. She’ll always be there when I need her – even when she’s dead tired at 10pm at night, she’ll come halfway across the city because I spend very little time in Vancouver nowadays
  8. She wrote me a letter/poem once in high school that I still have tacked onto my wall, because she taught me the power of words
  9. She’s really really smart but she never makes other people feel dumb – she shares the accomplishments of her friends and families and encourages them to be the best they can be
  10. We already know we’re going to be each others’ Maid of Honours one day

I love you girl – I’m so proud of everything you’ve accomplished and I can’t wait to see your new film.



How to YOLO in Chicago

A couple of months ago, one of my high school best friends messaged me and asked if I wanted to go to Chicago for Labour Day long weekend. Well, if you know anything about me, if it involves “traveling” and “long weekend,” I’m in 95% of the time. As medical students, we’re often asked to sacrifice our time, our relationships, and sometimes our sanity on our road to becoming real, productive members of society.

We’re about 2 weeks into our second year, and I’ve found this to be true: if you don’t take advantage of weekends, medical school will take advantage of you; thus, I booked a pretty expensive flight to Chicago, ready to go on another whirlwind adventure.

So how long was I in Chicago exactly? 2.5 days – short, but 100% worth it.

Here are some fun facts my friend researched:

  1. Did you know that Picasso, Joan Miro and Marc Chagall all have contributed artwork to the streets of Chicago
  2. Jazz was invented here
  3. House music started here
  4. Improv comedy was invented at the University of Chicago – the original theatre is still running
  5. The world’s first skyscraper was built in Chicago

Here’s a basic map of what we did to maximize our time in the windy city. If you only have a couple days here, the things I starred I HIGHLY recommend you check out:

Friday (0.5 day):

Saturday (day 1.5):

Sunday (day 2.5):

If you’re still reading, here’s a more fleshed out version of our weekend in Chicago:

I left Toronto at 5:30pm on Friday (after being responsible all morning eg. actually going to class and attending meetings), and got there at 6:45pm. Once I got there, I discovered something brilliant, that would change my entire experience in Chicago. UBERPOOL. My drive from ORD to our AirBnB in Hyde Park was about an hour and 20 minutes, and cost me $20 USD (crazy I know). Once I got there, me and my friend were starving, so we of course called another Uberpool, and decided to go check out the bars and restaurants in Lincoln Square.

After driving for about an hour though, we quickly realized that the restaurant we were trying to go to didn’t seem to exist, and asked our driver if she had any recommendations on where we could go to eat and drink (it was now 10:40pm). She suggested we check out Division St., which is a long street that’s known to be pretty fun on weekends. After another 30 min (total drive time = 2 hours), we discovered Pub Royale, and decided to grab drinks and food here. In total, our UberPool cost about $24 USD, which is incredible considering we drove for 2 hours.

I really loved Pub Royale, an Indian style pub. I highly recommend you check this place out if you’re in that area, they have great Indian food and drinks. My friend ordered the Chicken Tiki Kati Roll, which she repeatedly told me was amazing, and I ordered the eggplant curry, which was delicious and just what I needed at 11pm at night. After talking, drinking and eating for 2 hours, we decided to head home to get some rest before a big day tomorrow.

On Saturday morning, we leisurely woke up at 10am, and headed downtown to check out the Art Institute, after grabbing some coffee at Bowtruss Coffee Roasters. I loved the art institute – they had an incredible collection of Impressionist Art, and I loved their special exhibits. The student price is $19 (adult is $25), and I have to say, you could really spend a whole day here (Open: 10:30am – 5:30pm most days, 8pm Thursdays). If you only have a couple hours though, here are my favourite exhibits/collections:

  • American after the fall: Painting in the 1930s
    • Edward Hopper
    • Grant Wood
  • The New Contemporary
    • Andy Warhol
  • European Painting and Sculptures
    • Monet
    • Renoir
    • Dali
    • Picasso
  • Photography
  • Thorne Miniature Rooms
  • Chagall Windows

The Bean of course is pretty iconic – but I recommend going when it looks like it’s going to rain. There are always so many tourists there when it’s sunny, spare yourself and go on a cloudy day.

Sooo skipping to that evening, I highly recommend trying the doughnuts at Glazed & Infused, they’re really delicious, fresh, free from preservatives and all natural (whatever that means). They have a lot of creative flavours, although my favourite by far was the red velvet. They have a 2 for 1 (or 2 for 2 depending on who the cashier is), so make sure you stop by during happy hour!

After drowning our palates in sugar, we headed out to grab drinks before seeing the comedy show at Second City. I’ve always wanted to check out Three Dots and a Dash, a Hawaiian themed tiki bar, so we found our way to the alley and the unmarked door with glowing blue lights. It’s easy to miss this place before the crowd gets here, but basically look for the security guards standing outside of club-like venue in a shady alley. They have the most amazing decorations and drinks, and the bartenders are super talented. I highly recommend the Missionary’s Downfall ($14) and the Banana Daquiri ($13). The first is sweet and tart, while the second one just taste like sugar, fresh bananas and lots of rum. We spent a couple hours here, but it turns into a club around 10:30/11pm. When we left around 10pm, the lineup outside was down the block, so it’s probably a good idea to eat and drink here, then stay for the party after.

The show, #DateMe: An OkCupid Experiment, was next on our agenda.

LOVED it. We originally wanted to see the Second City improv but it was sold out, so we bought tickets for this instead ($39 after taxes). It was really hilarious, and the the improv bit was gold. It was witty, relatable and apt for our generation. We were super lucky since our Airbnb host was one of the production managers for the show, and reserved amazing seats for us with 25% off our orders. That being said, COME EARLY since there’s no reserved seating, and the theatre is pretty intimate. There were a ton of couples there – it would be perfect for date night.

Sunday was another perfect day. We started the day off at Obama’s favourite diner, Valois in Hyde Park (I recommend the veggie egg white omelette with a biscuit – $7). He’s from Hyde Park, so you see lots of shout outs throughout the neighbourhood. After, we took public transit to Bucktown/Wicker Park and wandered around for the next few hours. There are tons of stores, bars and restaurants here, and you could easily spend half an afternoon browsing, eating and drinking. Also, if you come around 4pm there are tons of happy hours to be enjoyed :). Skipping ahead to deep dish pizza, here’s my two cents:

  • Lou Malnati’s: I tried this the last time I was in Chicago. It was good, but it’s a chain restaurant and there’re definitely better deep dish places in the city. If you’re looking for truly amazing or iconic deep dish, I would skip this place. It also has a super long wait time once you sit down, but that’s because deep dish apparently takes a long time to make fresh
  • Giordano’s: another chain, you can actually get this at the entrance of Navy Pier. I’ve never tried it, but again, probably not the best or most iconic
  • Pizzeria Uno: we decided to eat here because it’s the birthing place of deep dish pizza. It’s pretty famous, the pizza was delicious, and the wait wasn’t too too bad (we got there at 6:30pm and were seated by 7pm). I recommend it!
  • Pizzeria Due: I think it’s owned by the same people as Pizzeria Uno. It’s right across the street and it’s the “second” deep dish pizza place. The wait is similar, about 30min-1 hour and I imagine the pizza is similar to Uno (the menu is the same)
  • Pequod’s Pizza: A local told us to try this place for deep dish pizza. Supposedly it’s really good but we never tried it. If you do, let me know!

I ended up busing home from Chicago, which took about 12.5 hours total ($89). It wasn’t too bad, but we did have to change buses 3 times, so don’t expect uninterrupted sleep if you’re taking the Greyhound. It also gets super cold on the bus, so wear pants and bring a sweater.

Overall, I had an AMAZING time in Chicago, and am so looking forward to the next time I get to visit again. If you have any questions about my trip or want any input on your own trip, feel free to contact me with comments and questions :).

In the mean time, can’t wait to bury my head in my books for the next couple months, stay tuned for my next exciting adventure: USMLE STEP 1 (Note: sarcasm – I’m literally terrified of getting my ass whooped)

Side note: I can’t believe I ran into one of my old Berkeley/PhiDE friends here (TWICE)! She was here for a wedding but we literally kept running into each other. When they say it’s a small world, I guess they really mean it :p



Geneva – Part I

Can I just say I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do the things I do, chase my childhood dream of becoming a doctor and meet truly incredible people along the way. Your early 20’s are years of uncertainty, challenge, excitement, new experiences and endless reflection. Sometimes, it’s easy to obsess over the things that go wrong, but the world is big and beautiful, people are kind and understanding, and – sorry, cliche – adventures await those who are ready. So here’s the first of a 2-part segment on Geneva. It’s going to be a pretty long post, but main headings are in capitals and bolded. Read further for more background on the exchange, daily living hacks and some reflections on my experience. The second part will cover weekend traveling, advice for people traveling to Geneva and the next phase of my 7-week summer electives!

4 amazing, magical and challenging weeks later, it’s time to say goodbye to this city. I’ve seen some truly spectacular sights, made some lifelong friends and gained knowledge in plastic surgery and surgical skills, as well as learned how to be a better clerk.

A little background: I came to Geneva with the IFMSA (international federation of medical students association) for their professional exchange that happens every summer. It’s open to medical students from all over the world. Some of the exchanges require students to speak only English, while others, like mine, require proficiency in a foreign language (French in this case; different Swiss cities have different working languages – eg. Geneva is French, Zurich is German etc). If you’re in medical school or are going to attend medical school, I highly highly recommend checking out or applying to this program: http://ifmsa.org/professional-exchanges/

If you want to learn more about this program, feel free to message me, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have!

GENEVA – background and interesting facts
This city, despite being well known all around the world, only has a population of about 200,000. It’s extremely multicultural, although most people speak English here. In fact, it’s so multicultural, it can be difficult to actually learn and practice French. Many offices in Geneva communicate in English, so if learning a new language (or practicing a rusty one) is one of your goals, there are lots of opportunities out there, including language exchanges that happen every week! There’s one hosted by the Geneva Interns Association every Tuesday. When I went, they met in front of the Reformation Wall in Les Parcs des Bastions, which is super close to vielle-ville (the older, more historic area), and close to the hospital (Hopitaux universitaires Geneve = HUG). I highly recommend joining their Facebook page, where people also post about upcoming intern events, hikes, housing etc. It’s great if you’re here alone and want to meet other young people, or if you just want to expand your network!

GIA link: https://www.facebook.com/GenevaInternsAssociation/

The GIA also published a super useful handbook that goes over basically everything you need to live in, get around and go out in Geneva: http://internsassociation.org/useful-information/welcome-package/#.

The other exchange I heard about was the Mundo Lingo Language Exchange. They also meet Tuesday nights at 7pm at Ethno Bar in Jonction: http://mundolingo.org/geneva

Interesting fact: just like we call our dollars “bucks,” I learned from a local that they call their Francs “balle.” For example, 2000 Francs would be “deux mille balle.”

Housing in Geneva can be incredibly expensive, but IFMSA provides accommodation for you with a host family. My host family was extremely welcoming and friendly, and made sure to make me feel comfortable. They lived in “Les Avanchets,” which is a stop on the 14/18 tram line. It was about 25-30 min away from the hospital, which is considered “far” in Geneva.

Some popular areas for students are:

  • Paquis/Nations – known as the “red light district” of Geneva, but still super safe, really convenient and near Gare Cornavin, the main station in the city. I would recommend checking out apartments in this area! A lot of students are interns at the UN, which makes living near the Palais very attractive.
  • Eaux-Vives – ok so Geneva is pretty small, and all the neighbourhoods I would say are relatively within walking distance to each other. This area is by the water and there’s a huge park as well. I really love this area, and I would’ve lived here if I had the option.
  • Plainpalais/Centre/Acacias – a lot of students live in these areas too! Really easy access to public transportation, close to la rue d’ecole medicine (more about this later), as well as museums, nightlife and grocery shopping.

For more info about these and other areas, here’s a link to a map! https://www.euruni.edu/blog/where-to-live-in-geneva/

Getting around Geneva really is ridiculously easy. The trams and buses go everywhere you need to get to, and since Geneva is so small, you could probably walk to most of your destinations anyways. If you’re staying here for any longer than a couple weeks, I HIGHLY recommend getting the monthly bus and tram pass that covers the entire Canton of Geneva. Remember though, to ask for the student/under 25 price when you’re buying your pass. It’s only 45 francs for the entire month, and we definitely used our passes A LOT. If you’re over 25, I think the pass is around 100 francs, but I would check to make sure! Regardless, each single ride is 3 Francs. Although tickets don’t get checked a lot, mine were checked twice in the span of a month. The fine is pretty hefty so it’s probably not a good idea to take chances.

If you’re traveling outside the city and you plan on visiting all the other beautiful cities in Switzerland, I also HIGHLY recommend getting the Swiss Pass Half Fare Card (http://www.swisstravelsystem.com/en/passes/swiss-half-fare-card.html). It’s something that me and the other exchange students regret not purchasing during our first week in Switzerland. You can visit the website for more info, but the gist of it is that 1) you get a 50% discount on most trains, buses and boats in Switzerland and 2) You get free entry to museums and discounts on a number of tourist attractions like the Gornergrat train in Zermatt. It’s worth it in my opinion if you’re traveling to more than 3 or 4 destinations outside of Geneva, since train tickets can get quite expensive.

Also, for cheaper tickets, check out the Super Saver tickets on the SBB website. These are cheaper tickets – up to 50% off the regular price) – that have set times for departure. The only downside to these tickets is that if you buy tickets at the normal rate, you can travel at any time in the day. With these ones, you just have to coordinate with your friends and make sure you don’t miss your train. One of my local medical school friends told me about the Super Saver option a week into my trip, and I saved a ton of money on traveling this way

Super Saver tickets: http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/tickets-for-switzerland/supersaver-tickets.html

FOOD & ALCOHOL (I promise, both can be very affordable if done right)

Food, I think we can all agree, is pretty important. Now, some people will tell you that it’s way cheaper to buy your groceries in France, but I’m a) really lazy and b) would rather spend my day visiting tourist attractions than trucking to France (ok, it’s really only about 20-30 min away from Geneva) and carrying my groceries all the way back home. Warning, most grocery stores are closed on Sunday, so you basically have to get your shopping done between Monday – Saturday. Stores also close earlier here, but if you really need to get some shopping done, I recommend going to Gare Cornavin (the central train station), where there’s a Migros open until 11pm, or the airport, where the Migros is open 7 days a week. Both are slightly pricier in my opinion than normal Migros and carry far smaller selections than regular stores.

So here’s my perspective on the grocery stores available and pricing, listed from cheapest to most expensive:

  1. Lidl

Pros: Honestly probably one of the cheapest grocery stores I’ve EVER been to. Considering I mostly lived on a diet of muesli, bread, cheese, smoked salmon and sauteed vegetables, I could buy a week’s worth of groceries here for about 40-50 Francs (1 Franc = 1.3 CDN, summer 2016).  Considering how expensive some things are in Ontario, I would argue that grocery shopping in Geneva was actually cheaper for me than back at home. They have a lot of sales, so make sure to look out for the reduced goods, which are marked by “Action.” They also carry the really famous Swiss chocolate brand “Cailler” which I absolutely love. Also is pretty cheap as well, eg. one 750ml bottle of vodka for 10-15 Francs or one 750ml bottle of wine starting at 3-4 Francs. Lidl’s are generally open Monday – Saturday, 8am – 8pm (take this with a grain of salt since grocery stores vary in opening hours). It’s like the Food Basics or Buy More for Less of Canada, but with better quality food.

You can buy most of your basics here: bread, cheese (pretty large selection, promise you’ll find one that you like here), smoked salmon and meats, yogurts, cereals and other breakfast foods, staple items like canned beans and other goods, chocolate, alcohol, limited selection of fruits and vegetables.

Cons:  So the only con I can really think of is that they have a pretty limited selection of fruits and vegetables. The selection they do have is generally pretty inexpensive though, so I like to come here for my staple goods, then stop at Migros for fresh produce.

2. Denner

Pros: There was a Denner really close to my place, at Balexert, the largest shopping mall in Geneva. I love Denner’s. It’s pretty similar to Lidl’s in pricing, but I would argue that they have a larger selection. They also sell alcohol here, for around the same pricing as Lidl, but with a larger selection of wines (YAY!). Since it was so convenient, I would generally either get my groceries here or Lidl, and it would come to about 50-60 Francs for a week’s worth of groceries. They have this amazing freshly baked bread with a criss-cross pull-apart pattern that’s a little bit sour, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Highly recommend it for making cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches!

Side note: they have this AMAZING Denner brand Gruyere sliced cheese. It’s pretty cheap, about 4 Francs for 200g, but it’s really delicious sandwiched between some of my favourite bread.

Con: Ummm, none? Really I love Denner’s, it’s probably my favourite grocery store chain in Geneva. They generally open Monday – Saturdays from around 8am to 6 – 8pm.

3. Manor Food: This is going to be a short description since I haven’t been here, but based on my friends’ reviews, they have pretty good, fairly inexpensive prepared foods. They also have a buffet like restaurant where you can choose what you want and pay for it at the front. It’s like Marche in Toronto for those of you from the area.

4. Migros

Pros: it probably has the largest selection out of all the grocery stores and is the most accessible. Like I mentioned earlier, they have a Migros at Gare Cornavin which is open until 11pm, as well as one at the airport that’s also open late. I would’ve shopped more here if I wasn’t trying to save money over the summer to travel and go out! It’s kind of like the Safeway or Fortino’s of Canada.

Cons: It’s a bit pricier than Denner and Lidl, which is why we eventually stopped shopping for groceries there, but it’s worth it if you want a larger selection and arguably fresher foods. You can also get prepared foods here that won’t break the bank. BUT THERE’S NO ALCOHOL HERE – SO IF YOU WANT TO PREGAME MAKE SURE YOU MAKE IT TO A LIDL, DENNER OR COOP BEFORE THEY CLOSE AND NOT ON A SUNDAY.

5. Coop

Pros: It’s really nice inside. Great selection and lots of organic options. Did not shop here at all though since it’s the most expensive out of the grocery store chains. That being said, it’s not THAT much more expensive, so check it out if you’re curious! They also sell alcohol here, and it’s about the same in pricing as Denner and Lidl.

Con: It’s expensive, and you can probably get similar quality food for way cheaper at Lidl, Denner or Migros. It also seemed like there were more of the other chains, but that could also be because I wasn’t looking too closely.

6. Globus: Also have never been in here BUT I hear they have a great selection of gourmet and artisan groceries. If you’re feeling swanky or are craving something that isn’t local, check this place out! There’s one on Rive.

For more info, I found this blog super helpful: https://livingingeneva.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/discovering-genevas-grocery-stores/

Overall though, here’s some advice I gathered from my 4 weeks in Geneva:

  • If you eat breakfast at home (generally I had muesli mixed with yogurt, half a banana, some added nuts and some honey or bread + some sort of topping), and bring a lunch to work, your food costs will be very low. I ate out with my friends about once every 2-3 days, which tended to be more expensive. A normal meal will generally run between 20-30 Francs, and a glass wine at dinner will cost between 4 to 10 Francs. But since you’re only in Switzerland once, it’s definitely worth it to check out fondue, raclette, and other local specialties before you leave. I personally love fondue, and I would recommend Cafe du Soleil if you’re here in the summer, since a lot of fondue places are only open during the winter or late at night (fondue starts at 9pm at Bains de Paquis).Otherwise, I heard Gruyere is really good, and there are 2 locations in Geneva.
  • If you’re working at the hospital (Hopitaux Universitaires de Geneve), they have a really great salad bar that’s extremely reasonable. I think the food there is subsidized for hospital employees.
  • Picnics are super fun! You can bring wine, bread, cheese, dried fruit and other goodies to Parcs de Eaux-Vives for a really nice lunch or dinner by the lake. There are a ton of events held there as well, including salsa and jazz nights, and UN events.
  • ALWAYS PREGAME IF YOU’RE GOING CLUBBING. As a student, this should be a hard and fast rule. Drinks are extremely expensive at most clubs (20-40+ Francs), and it’ll be hard to get a good buzz going if you go completely sober. Plus, pregaming is really fun and no one really goes out here until after 12am. Most clubs and some bars are open until 5-6am.
  • Be open to meeting new people. The people in Geneva are really friendly, and we made a lot of friends just by joining people at their tables and communicating in French and English.
  • Don’t dress like a slob when you go out. No one likes a slob.
  • Take Uber if you’re coming home after the trains stop. It’s a lot cheaper than taking a taxi, but way easier than walking home if you live far from where you’ve gone out. Honestly, Geneva is pretty safe, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.


It can sometimes feel like people never go out in Geneva, but that’s not entirely true. Me and my friends found some places that we really liked (and some places we really didn’t), but here’re some of my reflections on our nights out. If you want to learn about more bars or want more info, check out this post from Timeout Switzerland: http://www.timeout.com/switzerland/bars-and-pubs/best-geneva-bars


  1. Le Chat Noir – I would call this a bar/club. The night we went (Saturday), it had great pop/EDM music playing and lots of people. We had a ton of fun here, and would definitely recommend it! Drinks are ok, I think they’re around 15-20 Francs each, which is pretty standard for Geneva.
  2. L’Apothecaire – We went here on our first night in Geneva. It’s the younger sister of L’Atelier Cocktail Club in Eaux-Vives, this bar is easier to find, on the main road to Plainpalais. This place has great cocktails, and I would recommend asking the mixologists to make you something new! Drinks are generally around 20-25 Francs here.
  3. Rooftop 42 – loved this bar! The main reason to visit this bar is its rooftop. It’s above a commercial building on Geneva’s posh Rue du Rhône and has a beautiful outdoor terrace sports a fantastic view over the city, lake and jet d’eau. The drinks are somewhat pricey, around 25 Francs a pop for cocktails and 9 Francs for shots, but it’s worth it for the view and chic atmosphere. It’s also popular during weekdays if you want to go out but don’t know where!
  4. Cafe Jules Vernes – Went here on one of our last nights in Geneva. It’s really close to the hospital, and they also serve tapas if you’re hungry. I really like the Apersol Spritz, but I also liked the drink that the bartender made for us that was halfway between an Amaretto sour and sex on the beach. Drinks run for about 15-20 Francs here, and a cheese plate is 16 Francs (it’s huge though, so it was more than enough for 1.5 dinners).
  5. L’Atelier – One of the best places in the city for cocktails. Again, it’ll run you about 15-25 Francs a pop, but they have great mixologists and a creative drink menu. Great for a classy night out.
  6. Williams – so we found this hole in the wall bar that we really loved. They had shots for 4 Francs, and the bartender kept pouring us free shots of a homemade concoction (sounds sketchy I know, but it was kind of like jagger + whiskey + cinnamon). Great for watching the soccer games and pretty empty! This was in the Paquis area, but we couldn’t find it again when we tried to go back.
  7. Rue de l’Ecole de Medicine – Translates to “Medical school street.” There are a ton of reasonably priced bars on this street with nice patios in the summer. A glass of wine here is generally under 5 Francs, so a lot of students and interns come here. It’s in the Plainpalais area, so it’s super easy to get to as well. I would definitely check out the bars here and just walk around for a bit until you find one you like. It does get pretty crowded after work and on weekends, so if you have a big group, I recommend coming earlier.

Ok so this was a pretty long post about Geneva. I hope this has been helpful (or at least somewhat entertaining). Will follow Part I up with my weekend travels around Switzerland and anything else I think is important, that I think of between now and then. Ciao for now 🙂


My trip to Iceland 2016

Ok, so I guess this post is a little (maybe a lot) different from what I normally post. But after writing this up for a friend, I thought it might be helpful for other people who had questions about Iceland and wanted a firsthand perspective from someone’s who’s about to leave. Feel free to share this with anyone heading to Iceland soon, it has somehow ended being the hotspot of 2016, and after spending a week here, I can definitely see why!

For your reference, 1 CAD generally equals about 100kr so you can just take 2 zeros off the ticket price. Currently, 1 USD is about 125kr, so if you have some USD saved up, it’s probably better to use those here. 1 Euro is a little more than USD, about 140-150kr.

Normal meals are generally $20-30 USD, nice dinners can be more pricey, and cost you anywhere between $40-100 USD. Taxis are extremely expensive here, but popular when people are heading home after going out on weekends. Tours can be anywhere between $60ish all the way to +$400 for things like paragliding and helicopter rides to the glacier. Overall, you definitely have to budget extra for your trip, Iceland is expensive if you want the full experience and want to go on guided tours. For my week, I budgeted about $1200 (my flight was only $300 CAD, about $260 USD). I probably used about $800 overall. However, it’s worth it to not think about budget if you can! Do things that you want to do and explore this amazing country! Since you’re already here, you may as well have the adventure of a lifetime 🙂

1. How to get around:

If you’re just staying in Reykjavik, you can get around by foot. You can walk from one side of the city to the other in basically 30 min max, and everything that you’d want to visit is within walking distance including all the museums, the church, the restaurants, the harbor etc. If you want, you can also take a taxi, but they’re extremely expensive (think around 50 dollars for 10-15 min). Otherwise, you can rent a bike from Reykjavik bikes which is on the pier, nearby Elding Adventures, which is one of the biggest whale and puffin watching companies. I would say one day in the city is more than enough, since there’s not really that much to do there other than eat, visit museums and party.

2. Where to stay

I stayed at Loft Hostel my first 2 nights, which is literally right downtown. It probably has the most convenient location out of all the hostels since it’s extremely central, and close by all the bars and clubs. It’s also on their main street Laugevagur, and you can walk to either direction from the hostel to hit different sites. I would definitely recommend it, but it might be booked up for some of the dates since it’s really popular. I spent about $125 on 2 nights in a 8-person bedroom.

  • You could also stay at Kex. It’s a little bit out of the way (about 15 min to Laugevagur) but a lot of young people stay there and it’s supposedly the “party hostel.” We never visited, but you could check it out online!
  • Another option is Airbnb. I stayed in one for 3 nights once my friends got to Iceland it was really great! It was clean, close to city center (not as close as Loft though), and a lot cheaper – it was $90 for 4 nights for a 3-person bedroom.

3. Things to do Definitely do the tours if you don’t plan on renting a car! I HIGHLY recommend renting a car and doing the routes yourself because you can stop and hike and see different sites that aren’t on the tour rout. You also get more time to take pictures and go off road etc. If not, here are some must do tours:

  • 1. Golden Circle + Snorkeling (or scuba diving) in Silfra (whole day tour) This was AMAZING – we all agreed that this was an incredible day, and the snorkeling was so fun. You get to swim between 2 tectonic plates and the water is incredibly clear! This tour also includes Gullfoss waterfall, geysir (world famous geysers), Kerid (the giant crater filled with water in my profile picture), some of the best ice cream in Iceland and their national park: pingeveller park.
  1. 2. River rafting (whole day) I didn’t go on this because I’m going in Geneva as part of my program, but I heard it was really incredible. You get to see a ton of nature, and you get to jump off a cliff into the water. Heard really really great things about this tour.

    3. Southern Tour (whole day) I didn’t get a chance to do this because I left today, but my other 2 friends are doing this route. I’ve again heard really really good things about it, and it’s a must do if you have time.

    4. Blue Lagoon (a few hours) Ok, you actually have to do this. Me and my friends went on Sunday night at 10pm, and it was nice and quiet, but incredibly relaxing and beautiful. It was also really fun because we hung out with some new friends (try and go with friends, it makes it a lot more fun). I would recommend the standard ticket. You have to prebook your ticket to the Blue Lagoon though, but I would recommend going to the tourist center and having them book the ticket and the hotel transfer for you. They don’t charge commission since they’re government operated.

    5. Snaefellsnes Peninsula (the ae in Snaefellsnes is actually a letter in their alphabet so make sure to type it in right to your GPS)

    We also went North and Northeast/west on our first day driving. Highly recommend this, you get to see a lot of change in scenery and there are hiking routes along this route as well. I would take a tour if you don’t have a car. You could probably combine it with horseback riding along a volcano. HIGHLY recommend horse back riding on the Icelandic horse, they’re super unique and they actually have a different pace than other horses called the “tolt.” It’s like the trot but way more comfortable and the horses are extremely calm and used to tourists.

    6. Paragliding I actually booked this, but I wasn’t able to go because of weather. If you can spare around 300 dollars, this is definitely worth it. I’m planning on going the next time I’m in a Scandinavian country because you get to see EVERYTHING from high above. It’s also more active than a helicopter.

    7. Glacier walk Also by recommendation, I heard this is fantastic. We actually encountered the glacier on our drive, but we could climb it because a) it’s dangerous for cars to go up there and b) we didn’t have proper hiking gear.


    8. Whale watching We bumped into this woman who saw 16 whales on her tour, including Minke, gray and some other type. I’ve been whale watching a lot in Vancouver, so it’s not something that really appealed to me, but it’s definitely a huge  tourist attraction!

    4. Where to Eat OMG THE FOOD HERE IS AMAZING!! THE SEAFOOD IS SO GOOD. The food here can get pretty expensive if you eat out all the time though, so what I did was made my own breakfast and lunch, then bought a nice dinner the 2 nights I was here alone. When my friends got here, we did the same thing, but packed things we could take on the road.

    – there’s a really great bakery that’s covered by graffiti on the outside. It’s the best bakery in Reykjavik and it supplies a lot of the restaurants. They sell bread (you have to try the Icelandic rye bread), cinnamon buns, cookies and other baked goods. They often sell out though, so go in the morning or early afternoon if you want a good selection! It’s also not very expensive, so what I did was buy bread and some Icelandic butter (which is really really good because of all their cows) and bought some smoked salmon from the grocery store (go to Bonus, it’s the cheapest, smoked salmon was about $4 for 100g) and made my own breakfast and lunches.

    – Cafe Loki: they’re really well known for their rye bread ice cream. Definitely try it! I got the platter II, which was 2 pieces of rye with fish spread on top and bread ice cream. Loved it! It was about $20.

    – Lobster soup: There’s this really small restaurant on the pier that sells really good lobster soup and fish/seafood skewers. The scallop skewer was probably one of the best and freshest I’ve ever had and it was less than $20 for like 6 huge ones.

    – Fish market: if you have spare budget, definitely go to this place! It’s pretty pricey, but it’s said to be the best restaurant in Reykjavik (probably Iceland?). Your dinner will be about $60-80, but delicious. You have to make a reservation though because it gets really really busy for dinner.

    – hot dogs: ok, I think this is overrated. I’m pescatarian but my friends got them and said they were meh for a lot of money

    – ice cream: Icelanders LOVE ice cream, there’s a really good organic, nitrogen made ice cream place called Valdis. It’s right downtown so you can go after dinner.

    – Fish and More: went here for dinner and got their fish stew. SO GOOD, and it was only like $20. Highly recommend as well!

    My only regret is not getting an actual lobster here. I heard they’re super delicious and fresh.

    If you want to be more social and meet people, you can also go to the hostels for lunch and eat their soup and bread. Loft has this, and it’s pretty cheap in comparison to other food options.

    5. GO OUT – the nightlife is definitely one of the highlights 🙂

    You have to go out in Reykjavik. It’s literally light out until the wee hours of the morning and then some, so basically you have light 24/7. It’s crazy, people party until 6/8am here. Unfortunately I’m not that crazy so I mostly stayed out until 5:30/6, but literally the sun never sets. Definitely pregame a lot though, because drinks are insanely expensive. On the flip side, there are 5 million happy hours with great deals, so download this app: Appy hour (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/reykjavik-appy-hour/id536126333?mt=8), and it’ll tell you what times, where and what deals each place has. Things close earlier on Weekdays though (1am, 2am max) so make sure you go out on Friday and Saturday!

    Overall, I LOVED this country. It’s so beautiful and amazing and fun, and the people are incredibly welcoming and friendly. We’ve gotten everything from free beers after the Eurocup game to free shrimp skewers, to having park rangers drive us to our destination because we were late and parked too far. You’re going to love this place, super excited for you!! But definitely plan out your trip beforehand because there’s a ton to do, as long as you’re prepared. Also, plan out your routes if you’re driving at all, because on certain routes there are literally no gas stops and no people.


    If you read this and have any questions or want more details about what we did on our trip, feel free to email me: ada.gu@medportal, and I’m happy to answer any questions!

    Here are some resources that we used, or might be helpful:
    1. Self driving tours (don’t waste money on buying “self-drive tours” – plan it yourself!)
    – Golden Circle: http://expertvagabond.com/golden-circle-iceland/
    – South Coast Adventure: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/2015/01/drive-it-yourself-a-south-coast-adventure/
    2. Guided Tours
    – Reykjavik Excursions (probably the largest company offering tours, they’ll have everything you’re looking for, but they might be more expensive so do your research first!): https://www.re.is/day-tours/?gclid=CMmW1tHVz80CFYTGGwodxagFUw
    – Extreme Iceland (have a lot of very active tours, similar to Reykjavik Excursions): https://www.extremeiceland.is/en/activity-tours-iceland
    – Iceland Travel (didn’t use them at all, might be good to check out prices though): https://www.icelandtravel.is/day-tours/#/?rows=15&q=&sort=sort_i%20desc
    – Grayline Tour (also a very big company in Iceland, compare prices): http://grayline.is/tours/
    3. Snorkeling (book ahead!)
    – Dive (wouldn’t recommend it because their tours are huge, >10 people, choose a smaller company where you’ll get a more intimate experience): https://www.dive.is/diving-snorkeling-tours/snorkeling-day-tours/silfra-snorkeling-day-tour/
    – Arctic Adventures (almost booked with them, about 3000kr more than the tour we ended up booking though, sometimes you get discounts if you book online): https://www.adventures.is/iceland/day-tours/snorkeling-and-diving/
    – Adventure Vikings (LOVED them, we booked with them, and our tour only had us 3 and 3 other people. By far the smallest group and also the cheapest at 48,100kr for 3 people): http://adventurebox.is/tours/snorkeling/
CJ McGillivray

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