The ability to guide one's own learning is an essential skill for the health professional. The apprenticeship model of undergraduate education offers an opportunity to engage in self-regulated learning as students work to set goals, evaluate the available opportunities and seek out those with the greatest potential for learning. A close examination of how students navigate their clinical rotations could therefore foster greater understanding of how students learn to guide their own learning. The study presented here aimed to examine undergraduate medical students' day-to-day learning strategies in order to better understand the process of informal self-regulated learning in practice. As a secondary objective, we sought to provide a forum for students to share and critically reflect on their own self-regulated learning strategies. A series of focus groups were conducted with medical students on a surgical rotation. Participants were asked to discuss issues relating to the strategies and behaviours that they had implemented in order to maximize their educational experience. Three distinct approaches to informal self-regulated learning were identified: Participants articulated tendencies to acquiesce to a perceived lack of learning opportunities choose from available learning opportunities and create their own learning opportunities. The results are interpreted through the lens of self-regulated learning theory and implications for medical education are discussed.