Most medical students will tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the first year of medical school. However, Julia Carter, a second-year NJMS student, disagrees. But then, she had a pre-med school experience that was invaluable: She was on the television series Survivor.
The show places a group of strangers on an isolated island, where they must provide food, fire, and shelter for themselves. They compete in physical challenges for rewards and immunity from elimination. As the game goes on, contestants are voted off the island by their fellow players. The sole survivor wins $1 million.
“I wanted to push myself—to find out if I could do it,” she says. “So, one day I just sat down and applied.”
The timing couldn’t have been better. Carter had earned a Master of Public Health degree and was working in that field until she entered NJMS in August 2018. “It was a once in a lifetime experience.” The taping was done on the Republic of Fiji, a tiny island in the South Pacific.
Besides trying to win, Carter also looked for ways the experience would translate into her life at home. Beyond the physical and environmental challenges, Carter found the experience to be emotionally and mentally demanding. “I not only learned a lot about myself and my personality, but I also learned how I work with different personality types,” she says. “That is so valuable when working with patients.”
Many of the contestants, she says, saw the experience as simply a game, and tried to win at other people’s expense. “I don’t fault people for that, but I just couldn’t see it that way,” she says. “Everyone is a human being with feelings that should be respected.”
While Carter didn’t win the grand prize, she has no regrets. “It was a huge item I crossed off my bucket list,” she says. “How many people get to do that? And being on the show truly opened my mind and my heart. That’s much more valuable than a million dollars.”