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The Daily Tar Heel

She survived med school and a UNC residency ... can she make it through 'Survivor?'

Alison Raybould on "Survivor." Photo courtesy of David M. Russell/CBS.
Alison Raybould on "Survivor." Photo courtesy of David M. Russell/CBS.

The 37th season of the CBS show "Survivor" premieres this Wednesday, Sept. 26, and Alison Raybould, chief resident at the UNC Department of Medicine, is one of the 20 castaways contending for the $1 million reward. The competition was filmed earlier this year in the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji. The Daily Tar Heel spoke with Raybould about her preparation for the show and the difficulties she experienced while competing on the island. 

The Daily Tar Heel: Can you talk a little bit about how you arrived at this opportunity?

Alison Raybould: It wasn’t until my third year of residency in the fall. I came home from a 30-hour shift, and rather than passing out and just going straight to bed, I stayed up and watched an old episode of "Survivor." In that moment, when I was sleep deprived and clearly not lucid, I said “I need to do this.”

DTH: Speaking of your medical experience, how do you think your life experiences and medical training prepared you for "Survivor?"

AR: I interact with people from all different walks of life, and I have to adapt to each situation and read what my patient needs from me and be able to deliver. And that’s exactly how it is on the island — you have to connect with people instantly and get them to trust you.

DTH: Do you have any secret strengths, talents or survival skills?

AR: It’s so funny that you mention that because I don’t. The moment I decided I was going to apply, I started treating it as my second job. I was studying the game; I was sort of trying to prepare for the survival aspect. I started practicing how to make fire with flint and sometimes a machete, but more often a striker. That was really what I focused on. Gutting a fish? Not into it. Killing a chicken if we win one? I don’t know how to do that. But I do know that I’m tough, and I can endure a lot.

DTH: Any weaknesses or fears?

AR: I think that my weakness is that I do like to — when called upon — I do like to lead. I’m the chief resident in the medicine department now, and I always like to be able to step up to the occasion and prove to myself that I can do something and to prove to others that I’m capable of whatever the task is. But in "Survivor," you don’t want to stand out in front.

DTH: What were you most excited about before going on the show? 

AR: I was most excited about the challenge, the adventure, and the possibility and potential of winning. I think there are all these cool things about Survivor: you get to meet Jeff Probst, you get to be a part of an enormous television production, but for me, it was much more. What is my internal growth? What am I going to discover about myself? I think I was most excited to unleash this other untapped aspect of who I am. 

DTH: Is there anything that terrified you about going on the show?

AR: Being a fan of the game, I know what it entails, and there are certain seasons that have really difficult weather. The heat I’m fine with. I can deal with heat and humidity... but I was afraid of the rain and being cold all of the time. And as it has been alluded to in the press so far, we had a difficult weather season.

DTH: Were you allowed to bring anything on the show? If so, what was it?

AR: You are given the clothes on your back.

DTH: You were removed from mainstream civilization, forced to scavenge for food and placed in unsanitary living conditions. That being said, what was the most difficult or most uncomfortable aspect of the show for you?

AR: Hands-down, being cold and wet all the time. There is just something about never being able to be warm and never knowing when the thunderstorm is going to pass.

DTH: The show premieres tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. How do you feel about being on national television?

AR: Being on television is the part I’m most uncomfortable with. I’m not seeking fame. I did this to discover something within myself.

DTH: Would you do the show again?

AR: I would 100 percent do the show again. As hard as it was … you also learn so much, there’s so much growth and development, and I mean, how badass?

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