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Hats off and Breathe!

by Sep 21, 2018

Well it has been a good busy time spiral for the first few weeks of this third trimester. With 21 credits as a full-time track student, it’s a bit surreal! This is the trimester before starting as an associate intern where one can start seeing patients. Woohoo! Definitely exciting! People tend to say I am bubbly, full of energy, and that I say the most random things, but it eventually makes sense at the end.

Here goes: As I hear the word ‘trimester’ especially, third trimester, it’s as in relation to someone who has been incubating a baby. In the baby world, one will be preparing the baby’s room, birth plans and backup support. In the NUHS world, as AOM students, our classes are Monday thru Friday in time frames of 5 p.m. -10 p.m. Not only do we attend evening classes, but there are preparations to study for entrance exams, similar to comprehensive board exams to start clinic. On top of that, we need to be responsible adults and wear different hats outside of NUHS.


I work part-time as doctor’s assistant, as well as caregiver to my mother, who has been dependent on me for the past 15 years due to her severe arthritis. She is my support and rock since I started the MSOM program. It took her six months to agree to go into the clinic for treatment.  She at first refused, because she didn’t want to “burden” me and interrupt my studies and my work schedule. Upon communicating my schedule and trusting what acupuncture can do for her, she had finally agreed. This trimester, I am also president to one of our professional organizations at NUHS: Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Student Association (AOMSA).  I felt called to step into this role in helping me prepare and understand how to build relations as a good practitioner for my own future practice

Some students continue on their paths fresh from finishing their undergraduate studies. The majority are coming back as adult students who are juggling their family and jobs. No matter where they are in their academic chapters, it is challenging but manageable. During new student orientation, I believe one thing I said in my welcoming statement rings especially true, “We are all here not only to learn and grow ourselves, but support one another as future practitioners. There is so much support at NUHS, but you need to take responsibility to ask for help, and be willing to accept the help.” 

We tend to wear too many hats: parent, child, teacher, student, spouse, significant other, etc. But if you look at it, there’s always a pair-partnership, a relationship to work together. Parent-to- child, teacher-to-student or significant-other-to-significant-another. No matter how prepared one would think they could be for any circumstances, we eventually need to take the dominant hat off.

Making calendars for each part of our lives, blocking time for self, family and friends,  scheduling the correct appointments, driving from point A to point B with another potty break, arriving to school on time, hopefully having studied enough and maybe eating or sleeping somewhere along the course, there can always be surprises. The baby can come earlier than estimated, and the birth plan was not up to par, or perhaps you may be late for class/clinic because of a one-way traffic on Roosevelt Road going to campus. Whatever the event,  take a breath, focus on the moment, look around, and realize you are not alone in this, put your best attitude on and push through it!

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About the Author

Rina Sem

Rina Sem

Rina Sem is a student at the Lombard, Illinois campus studying in the Master of Science-Oriental Medicine program. Though working in the medical field for 10 years, she is keeping the promise she made to her father to complete her master’s degree. Rina is a first-generation American of Cambodian heritage, and passionate about her studies in the field of complementary and alternative medicine.


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