Playing tag with spring…

March 27, 2013 § 4 Comments

….and winter is winning.

My first winter in Budapest was surprisingly easy to endure (granted we were holed up inside our apartment studying the whole time). There was little snow in the middle of the city and the most difficult thing we had to deal with was a brisk wind. For the past month or so, everyone has been telling us that “spring is coming!” or even a premature “spring is here!”. We were even graced with four rounds of this Hungarian folk song about the coming of spring, sung to us by our Hungarian teacher:

This week we found out: everyone is lying! We’ve had two separate arrivals of visitors that have been accompanied by equally separate instances of snowfall. The snow from last week’s snow storm melted within a couple of days and our winter jackets were replaced with our spring jackets once again. Then, suddenly, more snow. And a lot of it. It has been snowing non-stop for the past two or so days. So much for a “spring” break.



Skjalg’s mom, step-dad, and sister arrived on Monday. So far we have taken them to two of our favorite restaurants in Budapest (Spiler and Cactus Juice) and tonight the “kids” and Martha, a friend from my group, will be heading to the VIP theater. They have been so understanding of us needing to take time to study, which takes a lot of the pressure off of us. Yesterday and today we attended the histology consultations at school. I had originally thought that the consultations were on Monday and Tuesday this week, but it turned out they were Tuesday and Wednesday (which was lucky because we ended up staying home on Monday to get the apartment ready). Tomorrow is their last day in town so we will leave the day open to spend time with them and then close out the evening with dinner at Sir Lancelot.

In other news, my computer has died 😦 We will try to take it in to the apple retail store here and see if they can fix it, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I bought it used just last summer and was hoping that it would last me through school…I guess one and a half semesters will do. Luckily I have my iPad – though it will take some time to adjust (for example, me writing this blog post using the wordpress app and accidentally publishing it before I had finished it).

Getting familiar with using apps instead of my computer: Notability


Messaging with my mama before bed and noticed the “location” icon. Pressed it and could see just how far away my mama is!

Multi-tasking on Skjalg’s family’s first night here. His mom and step-dad hung out at the hotel, so we stayed in an ordered food from Thai Wok, sipped some bubbles, and watched The Other Guys. Since I’d seen it before, I used the time to catch up on some anatomy drawings.


Photo Redemption

March 24, 2013 § 3 Comments

This morning, Charlotte confirmed something that I have been trying to ignore – the fact that I have been blagging (blog-lagging). I’ve taken a bunch of pictures over the past two weeks in hopes that I would have time to write a new post at one point, but the time never came. Now it is Easter break, which means we have an entire week off from school – amazing!

Since my last post, we have had 3 midterms, a snowstorm, a visit from Christian and from friends from Norway, toured the pediatrics department of the university, discovered that our cadaver in anatomy had lung cancer, and attended a first aid course.

Now, to catch up the past two weeks in photos…

Grabbing lunch at a popular soup place before our Medical Profession lecture. This place is packed everyday! For only 800 forint (about $4 or 20 NOK) you can get a cup of homemade soup and half of a sandwich. Felt a little bit like a local grabbing lunch there.


Our friends Else-Lill and Emilie (mother and daughter) came to visit us from Norway. Christian was set to come up on Thursday (his birthday) but Hungary was hit with a huge snowstorm and the trains ended up being shut down. When he arrived the following day, he was met with a little b-day surprise.

snowstormchristian's b-day

We started off the visit with lunch at For Sale:forsale

Else-lill and Emilie brought us some goodies from Norway (thank you, again!): peanut butter, instant rice pudding mix, brunost, makerel i tomat (mackerel fish in tomato sauce), kaviar (Norwegian creamed smoked cod roe paste – Skjalg eats it with hard boiled eggs on toast), and assorted Norwegian chocolate.

goodies from norway

On Day 2, we splurged on a guided tour of the city. We chose River Ride and it was well worth it! The first part of the tour was of some of the major tourist attractions on the Pest side and the second was a ride down the Danube, past the parliament.

boat bus tour

christian c and else-lillbuilding budapest
basilicaopera houseszechenyi bathsheros squares and b

Skjalg won a prize for knowing how many exits were on the bus 😉

skjalg prizeparliamentchain bridge and palacebudapest bank 4budapest bank 3

The following photo is view from the river of the Shoes on the Danube Promenade. Here is an except from wikipedia:

The Shoes on the Danube Promenade is a memorial created by Gyula Pauer and Can Togay on the bank of the Danube River in Budapest. It honors the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.

bronze shoes danube

Café Gerbaud for coffee and cake:


Dinner at Cactus Juice on the last night:cactusjuice

On Wednesday, we had our first Medical Profession practical. For this course, the semester is divided into two parts. For the first 6 weeks of the semester, we had lectures in which we were introduced to various specialties within medicine, for example: neurology, surgery and psychiatry. During the second part of the course, we will visit each of the departments that were introduced to us during lectures. My group and Skjalg’s group have been paired for the visits, so we will be touring the same departments each week. This week’s department was pediatrics. It was honestly one of the first times that I felt like I looked like a med student, like the ones in movies.

We were first led up to a large lecture hall where we were told to leave our things and handed sheer, green scrub covers. We were then led through some of the hospital’s different wards: rheumatology, pulmonary and oncology. In the rheumatology department we met a teenage boy suffering from coxitis (inflammation of the hip joint). We looked on as the doctor spoke with the patient, examined him, and relayed his symptoms to us in English. In the pulmonary department we met a baby girl, maybe about 5 or 6 months old, with di George syndrome. She was so beautiful and sweet and looked so healthy, yet… she wasn’t. She had a scar on her chest from heart surgery and was quite pale in her face. The doctor showing us around the hospital explained how to examine a baby and how to involve the mother in the process. The oncology department was more difficult than the first two. The doctor took time to prepare us and reminded us to smile at the patients , to remember that they are still children. When we entered the ward it was so surreal that I felt like I was in a movie. All the children had shaved heads and pale skin. They were hooked up to IVs and laying in bed watching cartoons. But they were still children. We met a beautiful young girl who, though shy, showed no sign of insecurity as she lifted her shirt to show us her central line. She was nibbling on candies from a pez dispenser and was more concerned with the single candy stuck at the bottom of the dispenser than the 15 foreign medical students standing at the foot of her bed. It is such a surreal and amazing experience to meet real patients and get a taste of what lies ahead.

Here is a picture of us putting our scrub covers on in the lecture hall. The second photo is of Jannie and Martha after the tour.

jannieandmarthe1 jannieandmarthe2

So many people showed up for this past Thursday’s biochem lecture….Easter break fever hit early!


Friday was our last day before our week break. We started out the day with back to back anatomy lectures and then headed over to Hungarian. Our Hungarian teacher didn’t want to hold class (she used the excuse that many of us had gone home for the holiday – even though we were all there). We got our midterms back and I was happy to see that my studying had paid off. After our tour of the pediatrics department, I am more aware than ever of how much I want (and need) to learn Hungarian. After looking over our midterms, we were free to go.

I spent my free period in the library and then headed over to the anatomy building for my 12:00 lab. Our teacher began the lab period by continuing to open the thoracic cage of the cadaver. Normally he gives us a sort of lecture as he dissects, asking a couple questions every now and then. This time was a little different – possibly because we had some visitors (Jannie’s two sisters from Sweden and Christian’s – groupmate and not my brother – girlfriend, Ingrid, a first year vet student at Szent Istvan). Our professor began asking us a series of detailed questions about the digestive tract. I don’t know if we were all just tired from a long week or if it was pre-break laziness settling in, but none of us were able to answer the questions. He looked around at us over the top of his glasses, searching our faces several times before resting his eyes on me.

“Bianca, please draw the celiac trunk and its branches.”

I had drawn it earlier that week, but I hadn’t committed it to memory – and now the pressure was on. As I approached the board with 20 sets of eyes on me, I asked if I could use my notes as reference. He said no, told me I could only use Martha and Christian for help, and then relayed this experiment to us.

celiac trunk

I was able to complete maybe 30-40% on my own. My groupmates were nice enough to help me while our professor continued his dissection. At one point, I had to step aside so that my professor could plug in the bone saw. “Are you going to cut open my head?” I joked, as it passed by me. He smiled and joked in return, “no, but I’ll cut off a finger for each wrong answer.” Gulp.

When I was finished with the drawing, I presented it to the group. My professor made it tougher by asking me which organ each branch supplied. I tried to mask my insecurity with false confidence and I think it worked because I got a “good” and a nod from my professor. I’ll be ready for him next time!

After lab, Skjalg and I attended the histology consultation from 14:00-17:00. It felt good to stay after school on the day before a break. It’s so easy to check out when you know you have 9 whole days off ahead of you.


To close out the week, I attended a first aid course on Saturday. The course was normally scheduled for Thursdays, but we were given the option of taking the entire course in one day. It lasted about 8 hours and we learned how to identify and treat asthma attacks, burns, bleeding, strokes and heart attacks, as well as how to perform CPR and place a casualty in the recovery position. As a first responder, there really isn’t much you can do in terms of treatment, but we at least learned how to keep the casualty alive long enough for the proper help to arrive.


Now it’s off to bed for a couple of hours before getting up bright and early to snag a spot at the histology consultation. We have our histology midterm the week after we get back from break – and it is going to be a tough one! We will be there from 8-12 and then it’s back home to tidy up. Skjalg’s Mom and sister are visiting this week and his sister, Kaya, will be staying with us. I am so thankful that we have a place with a guest room!

Ponderings of a 22-year-old me

March 11, 2013 § 4 Comments

While writing my most recent post, I went in search of a quote I noted down some time ago (I apologize in advance to those of you who have subscribed to my blog via email and are subsequently receiving a double load of emails tonight).

Though I haven’t kept up with it recently, I have a habit of writing down quotes I like and things that make me laugh in a little notebook that I always carry with me. It’s a habit I have had for years. My friend Nicole even presented me with a printed book version of my first little notebook for my 21st birthday.

Quote books

I am a sucker for a good quote, a quality I adopted from my mama. I spent countless hours during my childhood flipping through her books on quotes. A quote can describe exactly what you feel in a more eloquent way than you ever could. As for the things that made me laugh, I wrote them down because I wanted those moments to exist forever.

So, while writing my last post, I was reminded of a quote by the Dalai Lama about perception and how only you control your perception of others actions. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it. However, I did find myself caught up in my past inspirations. Some of the things that once made me laugh are not so funny anymore, but their memory still holds meaning.

As I was finishing up my read-through of the first one, I stumbled across some thoughts I’d stuffed in on the last pages of the notebook. As I read them, I was transported to my first month living in Norway. It’s so easy to forget who we were before we became who we are.

Ponderings of a 22-year-old me

On learning Norwegian:

I feel an even deeper need to learn faster, fueled by the guilt I feel for how my lack of conversational skills hinders general conversations. Anyone in my presence will speak English out of respect, regardless of whether or not the conversation is directed towards me. I wonder about the awkwardness they feel talking to each other with their limited English vocabularies.

The language barrier is sometimes a test of my self-esteem. A lot of times I stop to wonder whether the person I’m speaking with simply finds me boring or if they have no idea what I am saying and are just nodding and smiling blatantly in response.

On seeing other Americans and wanting them to notice me:

I want so badly for something about me or on me to momentarily appear familiar so that the Americans will engage me in conversation. The man looks at me every now and then, possibly acknowledging my expression or recognition of a common language in my face. The girl however is fully engaged in her story and I find myself satisfied to simply witness her typical American phrases and slang.

Here I am, stuck at a bus stop in the freezing cold, with a typical Norwegian girl, two Americans, a young boy dressed in true American emo style, and a crazy lady carrying a plastic bag full of everything, including what appears to be the better part of a vacuum.

In a reflective state:

How easily accessible your memories are when you are experiencing a transition in your life. As I stare at the snow, my mind almost immediately begins to play the movie reels of my memories, almost as though my brain is trying to fill in the black space of snow I stare at.

How fearful we can be of the unknown. Almost as if we feel we aren’t good enough or strong enough to rise to the occasion.

Biophysics Midterm: Check!

March 11, 2013 § 6 Comments

I can feel myself evolving as we progress further into the semester. My expectations of myself have become more realistic (though not completely realistic just yet) and I am learning to accept the amount and quality of work I am able to produce. I still get frustrated when I don’t finish my over-enthusiastic to-do lists, but the frustration is less consuming.

This morning we had our midterm in biophysics. Before heading in, I jokingly asked the professor, “Are you looking forward to torturing our brains?” to which he replied, “Yes, yes I am.” We have a new professor this semester and he is amazing. He explains the theory well, is willing to help us if we need anything, and is quite funny (though, as Charlotte pointed out, his humor is often lost on people because he always jokes with a straight face). Last week, he was nice enough to hold a consultation for our group. I was the only one unable to attend, as it was the same time as Chemotaxis (an elective I am taking this semester). I had given my questions to Charlotte so that she could ask them in my sted and rather than relay the answers through her, the professor offered to meet me on Friday to discuss them.

The exam itself was difficult but fair. As always, I went into the exam thinking that I was going to fail it. The difference this time was that I wasn’t afraid of failing. No, failing is not a good thing, but you wouldn’t believe how common it is here. So much so, that there are 3 chances to pass each exam – even midterms (in all courses except anatomy). One group-mate was joking that our standards have completely changed over the months, from “I really hope I get a 5” to “I really hope I pass”. It may very well be possible to get 5’s on everything, but I have yet to meet someone who has accomplished such a feat. Passing is what’s in right now…

With a little under 2 hours of sleep, I was quite the delirious little nugget this morning. I found a playlist with songs that I could sing along to and sat in the guest room, singing and redoing calculations over and over again. The calculations we get on the exam are similar to, if not the same as, the ones we are assigned as homework, so it is a huge benefit to do each calculation several times. About half an hour before we were supposed to leave, I began my pre-midterm ritual of listening to my favorite motivational video. I’ve listened to it so many times that I almost have all the words down. Nothing gets me as pumped up and motivated as this. (I’ve probably shared it already, but it’s awesome, so here it is again).

So after listening to this a couple times, I came to a conclusion, which I immediately shared with Skjalg:

“The test is simply an evaluation of how I have been studying so far. If I pass, that’s great. I can keep on doing what I am doing and possibly make some further improvements. If I fail, yes, it will suck. However, I will be forced then to review the material more thoroughly, to learn it better and really understand it. In all honestly, I benefit either way. One way is just a little more challenging.”

It’s amazing how much mental power you have over your perception of a situation. Accepting that failure was an option and thinking of the good that could come out of it, rather than focusing on the bad, put me in control. Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” applies, not only to other people, but to yourself as well.

Mindfulness: 1 ; Defeatism: 0.

Medical Communication: A Pleasant Surprise

March 7, 2013 § 2 Comments

I began writing this on September 7th, after our first lecture in Medical Communication. In a later post, I mentioned the draft and promised that I would post it as soon as I was finished writing it. As could have been predicted, I never found the time. Such is the case in med school. You never have time for the things you mean to do, only those that you need to do.

Medical Communication has quickly become one of my favorite classes. Each week we have been presented with a new theme: Hypnosis and Suggestive Medicine, Somatisation and Hypochondriasis, Communication with Sick Children, and finally, today’s topic, Breaking Bad News and Aggressive Patients. I feel really lucky that such lectures are a part of the curriculum, even at such an early stage. We may not be doctors for another 5 or so years, but it’s not too early to start thinking like one.

That said, here is the entry I began writing on February 7th:

universe blackboard

There are times that I get a rush of true purpose through my body, like all the planetary forms of the galaxy contained inside of me are aligned – and I know that I am in the right place.

Those occasions are not very common, but they are not necessarily rare either. They may not happen during seminars on the biochemistry of carbohydrates or a biophysics lecture on electrical circuits, but they happen. I am interested in everything we are learning – though it could even be just the actual process of learning that I enjoy – however, my passions for these newly learned topics vary greatly.

This morning began with our first Medical Communication lecture at 8:00. I was running late, so Skjalg and I had to speed walk to the lecture hall located in the gynecology department of one of the university’s hospitals, conveniently located a 10-15 minute walk from our apartment. We arrived flushed and out of breath, to a half full hall and an old radio broadcast playing through the speakers. The department in charge of our schedules has been quite unclear about the logistics of most of our elective courses. For this specific class, we have received two emails this week offering contradictory information: the first saying that practicals would begin in April and that there were only lectures until then and the other saying (quite vaguely) that there would be no classes until April. The lack of clarity of their part and the improbability of medical students getting up to go to an 8:00 lecture that they may or may not need to go to are most likely the driving forces behind the fact that only about half of the 250 freshman students were there.

The lecture hall is a modernized anatomical theatre. Here are some shots I snuck during yesterday’s Medical Professionalism lecture. (Attendance was taken at this one, so I believe everyone was there.)

MP Lecture 2MP lecture

I didn’t know what to expect of the lecture. We are already taking a medical sociology class, so it couldn’t have been communication in the sociological sense. I kept an open mind though, reminding myself of an interview I read with a former-student stayed at Semmelweis after graduating to teach his own anatomy class. In the interview he said (and I am paraphrasing here), “You will hear many people complain about the classes, saying things like ‘we won’t even need this’ or ‘why do we even have to learn this’. Don’t pay them any attention. I think the school knows better than you, a first year student, which curriculum will best prepares the students for their futures as doctors”. I am so thankful I listened because the lecture this morning was one of the best lectures I have ever attended in my life.

Why? Mainly the lecturer. He was so passionate about medicine, life and human behavior and interactions. His presentation was organized and engaging, and even included clips from different movies, comic strips and jokes to illustrate his points. The part of his lecture that impacted me the most, was this clip from Patch Adams (the clip says it all):

Back to today. We had the same lecturer again this morning. He started by saying, “What a beautiful cloudy day in Budapest! But you know, behind the clouds, the sun in still shining!”

I don’t know the curriculum of medical schools in other countries, but if they include such courses, then I have to say that I am really happy that they do. Perspective and awareness are such important tools in medicine and they are often overlooked. It really is a testament to the quality of education that we are getting here that they acknowledge the importance of medical communication and begin exposing us to it at such an early point. Unfortunately, there were only about 50 out of the 250 first year English students who showed up this morning. I’m not sure how far the message is reaching in that case, but I’m sure it will return to us in practice.

Enough blogging for now! Skjalg and I are spending our 4 hour break between biochemistry lecture and chemotaxis lecture at Costa Coffee. After class we plan on hitting the gym for some head-defogging cardio and then home to squeeze in a couple of hours of studying before bedtime.

Midterms, cadavers and surgery – oh my!

March 6, 2013 § 4 Comments

Midterms have begun and the days have the added pressure of an upcoming examination. Yesterday was our midterm in biochemistry. Unfortunately, I did not feel prepared enough by Tuesday morning and decided to skip the lectures leading up to the midterm. Skipping lectures is really not something I want to make a habit of, so much so that I am just going to confirm right here and now that no habit will be made. Going to lectures keeps me on top of my game and forces me to review the topics.

After histology lab on Monday, my friend Jannie and I headed to Costa Coffee for a study session. From noon until closing at 22:00, we worked through the calculations in our calculation book, reviewed some structures and discussed a bit of theory. When I got home afterwards, I found Skjalg practicing structures on the white board. His professor gives them weekly quizzes on the structures, so he knows them a lot better than I do. I need to be better about studying a couple of them every day, but it is so hard to prioritize it when you have all your other classes to worry about. Compared to last semester, the structures are complicated! For this exam, we needed to memorize the amino acids, amino acid derivatives, carbohydrates, and carbohydrate derivatives.

Here’s an idea of what we are dealing with when it comes to structures. You might think this seems like a lot – imagine 9 pages of these suckers. About 80-90 structures total -_-

Some amino acids….

amino acids sample

Some amino acid derivatives…

amino acid derivatives

Some carbohydrates….

carbohydrates sample

and finally, carbohydrate derivatives.

carbohydrate derivatives sample


This morning we had an anatomy lecture on the stomach, which was followed by anatomy lab. We are now working with a full cadaver. When they unveiled him last Friday, it was the first time I had ever seen an entire dead body. Up until now we have been working on separate limbs, thorax and organs. It is easy to put it out of your head and focus solely on the anatomy, but there are times when I look at his face and wonder about the life he lived up until he found himself on our dissection table. It is during those times that I am fully aware of just how surreal the experience is. The worst part about it is really the expression on his face. His head is twisted upwards and his face is contorted in a sort of pain/relief expression, his mouth open revealing toothless gums. Well, not completely toothless…but there are only two. The cadavers are prepped for a year before we dissect them. To prepare them, embalming fluid is circulated throughout the body through arteries, as well as injected into necessary areas. Then the body is sealed and stored until dissection time comes around.


To close out today’s classes, we had our medical professionalism lecture. We have a couple electives this semester that are easy to mix up and have us more confused than necessary – medical professionalism, medical communications and medical informatics. So far, medical professionalism has consisted of weekly lectures where each week introduces us to a new department/specialty: cardiology, general medicine, pediatrics, etc. Today was my favorite – surgery! And if that wasn’t cool enough, the lecturer was amazing! She was so passionate about being a surgeon and so personable that it made the entire lecture seem like it was only 5 minutes long. The room began to stir when she presented one of her surgical cases to us: a man with Fournier gangrene, a necrotizing bacterial infection of the genital area. He had had rectal cancer and became infected after undergoing a surgery in which 20 cm of his colon was removed. This was one of those lectures that all 1st year students attend together, so you can imagine that not all 250 or so students enjoyed watching the series of pictures depicting the infection and subsequent surgery flashing before their eyes. (In case you haven’t done it already, google at your own risk.)

To close out the lecture, she gave us a little taste of her life as a surgeon. She shared pictures of her time working in Italy, in England, in Venezuela, in Africa, and finally in Japan. I was so in awe of the experiences she has had and felt such a deep sense of inspiration. I’ve always been told that being a doctor opens up the doors to the world, but I’m only now realizing just how true that is.

We stayed after the lecture had ended, hoping to get a chance to talk to her – and we weren’t the only ones (shout out to Clare, Sofie and Avneesh 😉 ). She had mentioned during her lecture that we were welcome to visit her department, to “try ourselves”. When I brought this up to her, she lit up and leaned in as if we were sharing some secret. “You can come whenever you want! You can come tomorrow! Just send me an email and if I don’t answer just show up. I can take two or three at a time, not too many more because I can’t have so many of you with me in the operating room.” We will definitely be paying her a visit – and soon! We just need to find a time in the morning when we can do it, which will be difficult considering that we start at 8 pretty much every day of the week.

Now I am off to work on my biophysics study guide, since our midterm is bright and early Monday morning. Until next time!


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