A Day in the Life of an Acupuncture Student

Acupuncture class


There’s no way around it, the typical day for a graduate student is busy. My particular program, the Master of Science in Acupuncture with a Specialization in Chinese Herbal Medicine, is three years long with minimal breaks in between.

First Year

As a third-year student now, I will say that I believe the first year is the most difficult. Most students are still trying to finish up their science-based pre-requisites (like chemistry, biology, anatomy, physiology, and physics), all while trying to grasp the concepts of a completely new language, culture, and system of medicine. It’s a lot to ask of the students, but we persevere. 

Second Year

The second year felt much calmer. I felt like I was starting to get a grasp on all that we were learning, things weren’t *as* foreign, and I acclimated to the workflow. I found study strategies that worked for me, began to recognize patterns in what I was studying, and felt I was better able to take care of myself mentally and physically. These first two years, you will spend most of your time in the classroom learning the fundamentals on the Kenmore campus, with the occasional observation shift at the clinic. 

Third Year

Fast forward to third year, the present day me. I’m rarely on campus now and spend most of my time in the clinic, whether in classes or on clinic rotations. A typical day for me is waking up between 6:30-6:45am, as most of my days start at 8am. I always make sure to eat breakfast and prepare my lunch before heading out for the day. My days are spent in herbal classes in the morning, followed by an acupuncture class in the late morning and a clinic shift after. On average, my days are about 9 hours long, with 1 day a week ending at noon and a Friday elective class. From my experience, Bastyr is generally pretty good about giving us at least one shorter day a week. 

I typically take the shorter days and weekends to catch up on homework and studying. When the weather is nice, I tend to scrap the homework idea and allow myself to enjoy my favorite outdoor activities like backpacking, kayaking, and hammocking. Generally, the summer quarter is less intense and allows for a lot of this!

About 4-5 days a week, I work out after class. When I’m feeling really motivated, I’ll do it before leaving in the morning (I’ll be honest, that doesn’t happen often). I believe it’s important to create space for physical wellbeing as that greatly contributes to stable mental health and the ability to cope with stress.

What You Make of it 

The most important aspect of being in a graduate program is finding your flow in school and life. I think that’s what makes the first year so challenging. So be kind to yourself if you are struggling to create space for self-care and stress management, it’ll come. When you do find the time, be sure to utilize it in meaningful ways, it’ll make the process of showing up in school and clinic much easier.

About the Author

Ivy Garrett is a Bastyr student in the Acupuncture and East Asian Medicine program. She loves all things creative: writing, photography, painting, and movement in addition to herbal and energetic medicine. She has a particular interest in Women's Health and looks forward to pursuing this field more after graduation.