The Big / Little Program

Michelle Izmaylov
February 13, 2017
Posted in Student Life

There will be days when you feel like summer sunlight, and there will be days when you feel like your future is an empty room with only closed doors. At Vanderbilt, all first-year medical students are paired with a second-year student for that very reason - regardless of your circumstances, there will always be someone who will celebrate your good days and guide you through the ones that hurt. The Big/Little program is for far more than providing a valuable academic resource. Yes, your Big will offer resources such as textbooks and study techniques. Yes, your Big will offer nuggets of wisdom as you begin each new course and point out the best review books. Yes, your Big will share stories from clinical experiences and advice on various professors' idiosyncrasies.

What drew me to Vanderbilt is the genuine caring and kindness of the people here, as much as the opportunities and curriculum. My Big was welcomingly warm and became one of my very dearest friends. 

‪Vanderbilt invests enormous effort into thoughtfully matching current students with incoming first-years on the basis of personalities, hobbies, interests, and similar background. Indeed, discovering I had so much in common with at least one person at Vanderbilt helped me quickly adjust to the overwhelming changes I experienced as I was transitioning into the new educational setting of medical school. She introduced me to her favorite places and joined me for new experiences around Nashville, such as lakeside walks in Centennial Park and warm ramen at GoGo Sushi. Sometimes I would check my Light Hall mailbox and find a random surprise - my favorite kind of candy, a fresh homemade cookie, an inspiring note. On days when it felt like there was only sand under my feet and no solid ground to stand on, my Big offered guidance and perspective and helped me weather every storm. It's difficult to overstate the role my Big has played in my medical experience as she weaves between mentoring and friendship. Being paired with my own Little has been an equally wonderful experience; I have passed along the mentorship, thoughtful gestures, and happily have formed another quite strong friendship. 

‪The thing you will learn about Vanderbilt people can best be exemplified by my Big: however strong I might be, sometimes my light will go out. It's okay. There is a strength of community here that will guide you no matter what the situation might be. The people here, they'll find where your light went. They'll give it back. She's always found a way to.