I need advice about my gap year

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Aug 8, 2023
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I need some advice about how to spend my gap year. I am currently finishing up my medical school secondaries, so I plan to (hopefully) matriculate into medical school in 2024. My original plans have been to spend this year teaching English at an elementary school in Spain. I am set to move out and start that position in mid-September. I really love teaching (I would like to have some involvement in academia as a physician) and I also hope to greatly improve my Spanish speaking abilities, ideally becoming fluent. The program I am going through only requires 12-16 hours of work each week, so I would potentially have lots of time to travel, something I will probably not have time for during my med student or residency years. I wouldn’t really have any money saved up for med school which is not exactly ideal. (I might even lose money from my savings)

However, I have also been offered a Research Assistant position in a lab at Johns Hopkins. It is very in line with my research interests, especially being clinical research in the field I am most passionate about. I plan to participate in research wherever I go to medical school, and I know I will learn so much from this experience. Obviously, this is an amazing opportunity and most people would probably think I'm a fool to even consider passing it up. The only thing is, they would ideally want me to stay for 2 years. This would either mean I defer my acceptance or just stop writing my secondaries and apply next year.

I am extremely grateful to have both of these opportunities but I just really don't know how to choose. I wouldn't say I'm a competitive applicant for Johns Hopkins med school so I doubt it would have any influence there, but it may help me with residency/building connections? I would also be making a lot more money if I take the RA job, but I can't help thinking about all the personal growth I would have living in a new country.

I have been so set on moving to Spain to improve my Spanish, immerse myself in new cultures, and travel, but now I am rethinking all of it. I would love to hear anyone's opinion on this

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I'd go to Spain without a second thought personally. I doubt being an RA during your gap year would have a huge impact on residency unless you get lucky and attached to a super productive lab and end up applying to a competitive residency. Imo, Spanish fluency is way more relevant for the average clinical doctor.
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It sounds like just from reading this you would rather go to Spain. You probably have a good enough research CV to get similar research opportunities while you're in school/residency if you were offered one at JH before you even matriculated. The way I see it is which one will you regret more a year or many years from now? Once you start med school, you can always be doing research. You're not gonna get another chance to live and teach in another country once you matriculate to med school unless you leave medicine altogether. Also, the money you'd be making as a RA is nothing compared to the debt you're gonna be in and the money you'll eventually make as an attending. So unless you're in a bind financially I wouldn't let money influence your decision either.

Good luck with your decision, sincerely, an M2 with many regrets
You would not be able to defer an acceptance for a year to hang onto a RA position (nor would you want to). If you go that route and want to put in the 2 years then yeah, you'd need to halt your current application cycle.

In other words, just go to Spain.
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