First Semester: Check!!

January 18, 2013 § 6 Comments

On Wednesday I had my last exam, in medical biophysics. I can’t recall a time that I have ever been so nervous and scared. For 3 nights before the exam, I was up until 3 or 4 a.m and then on the night before the exam, I only slept from 20:30-23:30. With so little quality sleep, so much Red Bull coursing through my system, and so much pressure riding on that last exam, I was feeling completely disconnected from my body. All I could think was that I never ever wanted to be in that position again and that the next time around, I would do it better.

I walked to school that morning, something I feel like I will do more of in the future. I did the same thing before my chemistry exam two weeks ago and it really cleared my head and calmed my nerves. I’ve been inspired to choose walking over public transportation after coming across an article describing journalist Paul Salopek’s new project Out of Eden – A Walk through Time. For the next 7 years, he will be retracing the steps our ancient ancestors traveled as they migrated across the world. I felt most inspired when watching a clip from an interview on the project’s home page, in which he explained his passion for this project:

The reason why I am doing this, the reason why I am excited by it, is that it is going to press the boundaries of communicating in a world where there is just too much information and not enough meaning. So I am going to swim upstream against the flow of information and try to slow people down, to have them absorb stories at a human pace – at about 3 miles an hour.

After watching that video, I began to consider the flow of information in my life. I am in a chapter that is characterized by an overwhelming amount of information and takes place in a country that challenges me every day, with every trip I make outside of my apartment. I am constantly running on max. It doesn’t help that I spend my days speeding between home, school and the library/café. I have acquired such tunnel vision that I can’t remember witnessing the seasons change. I remember summer, since that is when we moved here, and winter, since I am looking through the window at the snow, but nothing about fall. So it is understandable why his comment about “absorbing stories at a human pace” really struck a chord with me.

Anyway, back to the exam. We were called by groups into different rooms in the Basic Medical Science building. It seemed that it was done alphabetically because all the members of my group (the one I share all my semester classes with) were called into the same room. Those of us who were exempt from the written portion were asked to sit in the front row. The written exam was passed out to the other students and the tension in the front row began to increase exponentially. Martha, a friend and fellow group member, and I exchanged a couple glances during this time. We were both teetering on the edge of panic and were dreading what was ahead of us. Once the written exams were distributed, we were asked by the proctor to choose a yellow card with our lab topic and a pink card with our theory topics. Neither of us moved when he first asked. We just sat there staring at the cards, as if hoping that time would stop or even miraculously fast-forward so that we would find ourselves at the other end. I took a deep breath and reached forward to select my cards. “Right now you are determining whether you pass or fail,” I told myself. No pressure there, right?

When I reviewed my topics, I experienced a clash of relief and panic. They weren’t the topics that I really wanted, the ones I was really passionate about, but they were topics I could do. These are my topics and what I was expected to explain:


I felt (and honestly still feel) that my exam went horribly. I had used whatever energy I had to fill out 5 pages of notes after receiving my topics, that I wasn’t prepared for the extra questions she asked me. At one point she asked me what would happen if I were to disappear, and I just sat there staring at her before letting out a nervous laugh. (She had wanted me to relay the relation e=mcˆ2 to her.) When I was finished, she looked at my midterm scores (a 5 and a 4) and said, “Ok…you have, good midterm results, and good lab book, it is….a 3. But very weak, you must work harder.” I was so exhausted, embarrassed and just relieved that I just thanked her profusely and apologized (for what, I don’t really know…it’s a reflex).

The worst part of the exam is really that you have to do it in front of other students. We were sitting in a small classroom and I had my exam as other students were sitting there writing their notes for their topics. I don’t know why it makes me so nervous, they are in the same situation, but I can’t help getting that “stage-fright” feeling every time.

After leaving the room, I expected to feel a wash of relief at the realization that I was done, but it never came. Skjalg still has some exams and I really only know two other people who are done, so it doesn’t really feel real yet.

Yesterday was my first day of “freedom”. Skjalg had his anatomy exam and since I knew I would be a nervous wreck during that time, I met with Charlotte for coffee and a study planning session. It began to snow quite heavily and made for a really cozy ambiance in the window-walled café.

Mustard Smiley Faces

A victorious Skjalg joined us soon afterward. He stayed only for an espresso, eager to get home and get some rest. I came home later to a perfectly cleaned apartment (Skjalg, you are amazing 😉 ) and we headed out for trip to IKEA.

Tomorrow night my mom will be arriving from California and I can’t express just how happy and excited I am to see her. It’s been over a year since I last saw my family – the biggest downside of living abroad. With no more exams to burden me, I look forward to enjoying this quality time with my mama. A huge added bonus is the simultaneous visit of my amazing Aunt Aida from England! When I was younger my family all lived in the same area and I really took for granted the family dinners, birthdays and holidays. I feel so lucky to get a little of this family feeling in the midst of all this school chaos.

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§ 6 Responses to First Semester: Check!!

  • Charkie says:

    skjalg cleaned up after his exam?! seriously, amazing!
    were there candles involved in the ikea trip?
    lovely photos of the experience! and by “lovely”, i mean “interesting” 😛

    • Buda B says:

      He did! I came home and it suddenly didn’t look like a study den.

      Haha, thank you 😉 And yes, there were candles involved – but Skjalg restricted me. We also got a new study desk for the office and it is perfect!

  • Antonio Fiorentino says:

    I hear you passed all your exams! Fantastic – but I always knew it. I wish you felt the same confidence in your abilities that I and the rest of your family have. Refuse to be trapped in the scared little self you speak about. It is only cramping your potential. Trust in yourself – even the selves you are not yet conscious of. You have what it takes – and that mind of yours can reach across the galaxies if you only let it. We are all very proud of you. Lucky your mom and aunt Aida who get to congratulate you in person. Love: gpa Antonio

    • Buda B says:

      Thank you so much, Grandpa! I really appreciate how much you believe in me 🙂 I’ll work on the confidence…I’m sure it will build over time. I look really forward to their visit! Will be sure to take plenty of pictures. Love you.

  • LaVagabonde says:

    I can’t imagine the pressure that you’re under. Do you have a little time to breathe before your classes begin again?

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