Is it the end of a journey, or the beginning of the next exciting phase? Graduation brings with it a bunch of bittersweet memories. There is still one thing that each one of us has in common. We are proud of each other and ourselves.
I still remember the warm night in July when my phone rang unexpectedly at around 10:30 p.m. from an unknown caller. Little did I know that the call would make my dreams—along with the dreams of 39 other lucky dentists in the world—come true. We would be accepted into the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine’s Advanced Standing International Student Program (ISP). From that day on, what an incredible journey it has been! From introducing ourselves to each other on short two-minute videos to attending entire days of lectures on Zoom meetings, our “COVID class” has seen it all.
On December 9, 2019, Denver became our new home and CU, our new family. The warm welcome by the faculty and staff members filled our hearts with joy. One of our first classes was Occlusion, which had quizzes at 8 a.m. sharp. I recall the feeling—running through the snow. For many of us, we never lived with winter weather. We would have a cup of coffee in our hands just in time for the quiz. No one can forget the class when one of our professors brought a dinosaur-sized jaw to teach us the dynamics of how we bite. Just like that, quizzes became those few dreaded minutes to just another routine yet crucial event that we can now take, just like breathing.
The first semester is supposed to be the toughest of all, but we got an additional hint of spice with the entry of the COVID-19 pandemic. No one knew that we would be the unique ones to have the most extended spring break ever in our homes. We entered the new era of remote learning with not just classes on Zoom but also remote proctoring over it as well. I wish someone had advised me to invest in Zoom at that time; I could have prepaid my loans even before graduating. The school left no stone unturned to ensure that we did not miss out on our courses and learning. With their support and guidance, we are at this stage today, and we will always be grateful for that.
COVID did delay our entry into the labs and clinics, but our class was not going to be the one to give up so easily. With a daily dose of temperature check-ins and a few mnemonics, we sailed through lab sessions. We supported each other as we worked on our first clinical cases, excited and scared all at once. However, we learned to keep working towards our goal with each clinic session. I am sure each one of us must have thought of this at least once, I wish I had paid more attention to the dental seminars lecture or the RPD designing class. Some learned how to place their first implants and restore them, while some learned how to fabricate dentures and crowns digitally.
Slowly and steadily, we moved past each hurdle we more formally call a competency here. Were we worried? Did I wake up in the middle of the night to ponder over when I would get my next complete denture case? Did we party even after all that? The answer to all the questions is a hard yes. And maybe, in the end, that’s what dental school is all about, learning to make the best from the unexpected.
So here we are The Class of 2021 graduating on December 10, 2021. We are our best friends, our greatest support, our strongest motivation, our most genuine smile, and our best memories, thanks to CU SDM!