Studying doesn’t get better than this

September 28, 2013 § 1 Comment

It’s a beautiful day and I’m in the perfect mood – good thing since I need to be on my A-game this weekend. I’ve been sitting in the sun for almost two hours, there is a cool breeze flowing through the apartment, and the park is bustling with Saturday family fun – there is even a sort of petting zoo! With Andrea Bocelli playing on my spotify, I can’t imagine a better study set-up 🙂

Study spot

In order to carry a positive action we must develop a positive vision

September 27, 2013 § 3 Comments

Quote by Dalai Lama

It’s a quiet Friday night and I am enjoying a calm period before the storm of next week hits. This “calm period” I’m referring to is more of a temporary state of mind – one that I am going to milk for as long as I can. It started about 10 minutes ago and I’m hoping that it last until after I’ve fallen asleep. Skjalg is out at the Norwegian’s first pub quiz and I’ve spent the night initiating my anatomy-cramming mode for next week’s brain and spinal cord midterm.

It’s only the end of week three and we are already on the brink of pure exhaustion. Today while studying in a café near school, Jannie asked a friend how she was doing and her friend replied with a laugh and said “Nem tudom” (“I don’t know” in Hungarian). Jannie turned to me after and said, “No one know how they are doing now.” It may sound strange, but that is exactly it – no one knows anything, not even how they are doing. Even simple greetings have become challenging endeavors. There is a good side however and that is that we are not alone. There are two hundred people going through the exact same thing and at times like this, that is the most comforting thought in the world.

Funny post shared in the group for 2nd year students. It's sad but true...and somehow uplifting at the same time.

Funny post shared in the group for 2nd year students. It’s sad but true…and somehow uplifting at the same time.

Skjalg and I have a little trick when times are stressful and we find ourselves being too negative. We set aside the worries and stresses for the night and instead list out the good things, no matter how small. There really is a lot of good this semester and I feel bad that it gets trumped by all the bad.

Since my last post was so heavy on the “bad” I thought I’d follow with one that is heavy on the good. Here are some things I’m feeling happy about and am thankful for:

  • Amazing new apartment in a perfect location
  • Saving countless hours at the grocery store by ordering groceries online
  • Not stressing about what to make and prepping food on the weekend for the whole week
  • Squeeze in quality gf-bf time – even if we have to cut the night short sometimes
  • Helpful professors this semester (for the most part)
  • Being generally less stressed than we were last semester, even though this semester is the worst so far
  • Studying at the kitchen table during the day on the weekends, with the windows open and the sun shining in
  • Being able to grab my books and be at a café overlooking the beautiful Basilica in only 2 minutes
  • Having two bathrooms! (Oh, simply joys)
  • Finding a super fresh toothpaste that rivals the one I stockpile from the states
  • Getting so many hand-me down books from the previous tenant. We haven’t had to buy any new books this semester, except for a neuroanatomy.
  • Having the option of sleeping 11 hours on Thursday nights. We start at 10:30 on Fridays and will never have Friday exams.
  • Great friends and an amazing man to experience this with

As stressful as it is, I know that 20 years from now I will look back on this time as being one of the best chapters of my life. We live in beautiful city, where we can afford to live normal lives (even as students), we get to interact with people from all over the world on a daily basis, and we don’t have to do anything but study! This may very well be the last period in our lives where we have complete control over how we spend our time – and that is definitely something to cherish!

With all these good thoughts in my head, and Skjalg home and snoozing away, I’m off to bed. Hopefully this good energy is enough to scare away the bad thoughts for a night 😉

Descent into Madness

September 23, 2013 § 4 Comments

Things are starting to get a little crazy. It’s to the point where almost everything is on fire and we just need to keep the flames as low as possible while we ride out the semester (and probably the year). Everything is so demanding that we don’t even know what to focus on anymore. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but no one really knows if  what they are doing it is right. Some people read everything on their own and don’t go to lectures, others only go to physio and maybe anatomy lectures, and some go to all the lectures. When it comes to what to focus on when studying at home – I don’t think anyone has a system yet. There is so much advice and so many tips floating around – from teachers, other students, and from people who have passed second year and from those retaking it. In the end, no two people study the same way and we just need to trust that we will make the right choice.

Our anatomy midterm on the brain and spinal cord is next Wednesday and at the level I am at now, I am a sure-fired fail – and I’m not alone. With our weekly double-exam in physio this Thursday, it makes it hard to know what to focus on until then. I decided that I would a little anatomy each day – even if just one topic – just to keep it on my mind. In the first week of school, I’d tried to calculate how many hours should be delegated to each class. When Skjalg saw my “calculation” he told me that I was crazy if I thought I would be able to get in 48 hours of study time in addition to lectures/practicals.

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The result of my trying to figure out how many hours I could study and how to allocate those hours…

I’m a bit on the delusional side when it comes to what I get done and how fast I can do it, so I found an app that will give me a better idea of what I am spending my time on. It is called TimeSheet and it is amazing! I’ve set up my classes as “projects” and can use the app to track how much time I spend studying for each class. I’m a big fan of numbers, at least when it comes to assigning numerical values to things in my life, so this is perfect for me. I’m hoping that it will help me get a better idea of how I spend my time, which tasks I spend the most time on, and most importantly, how long it actually takes to get a task done.

Since I started off this post with a bit of a stressful tone, I’ll close with two great quotes from today. The first was something that Noa, a girl in my group, told me after our anatomy practical this morning. She said that when she was thinking about applying to Semmelweis, she’d asked a girl who’d graduated what she thought about it. The girl told her, “they will do everything they can to break you, but in the end, it is so worth it.” Somehow acknowledging the immensity of the challenge weakened its effect.

The second was something Skjalg shared with me this morning that he’d heard in a movie: stress is only anxiety about the past or fear about the future, it has no meaning in the present.

I also thought I’d share the results of food prep – which ended up being pushed to Sunday – as well as some pictures of what we are studying. Someone out there may appreciate the little glimpse into our student lives and I know I will enjoy looking back at them a few months from now. 😉

Here are some of my anatomy notes – color is my key for keeping myself entertained!

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Posterior blood supply of the brain

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Trying to visualize the subarachnoid cisterns…

Practicing the subarachnoid cisterns with Jannie - great way to spend a Sunday night!

Practicing the subarachnoid cisterns with Jannie – great way to spend a Sunday night!

Trying to visualize the dural venous sinuses

Trying to visualize the dural venous sinuses

Biochem is the neglected child of the three big classes we have this semester. I have been keeping up by preparing for each of the lectures – which is working out really well! The lectures however, are starting to get a bit…heavy.

Furiously written notes from Friday's extra biochem lecture. I had to keep switching pens to keep my notes straight!

Furiously written notes from Friday’s extra biochem lecture. I had to keep switching pens to keep my notes straight!

A little humor to lighten the mood in biochem lecture :)

A little humor to lighten the mood in biochem lecture 🙂

And last, but definitely not least, the big mother – physiology.

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Prepping for this week’s lab on nerve conduction

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Reviewing one of last week’s lectures – on intercellular signalling – for this week’s exam.

Post Two Hundred

September 21, 2013 § 6 Comments

Early morning Saturday and I’m going to tackle a sort of self-imposed/self-constructed challenge – my 200th post. There’s really nothing different about the number of the post, but society tends to assign value to more round numbers and I have definitely been feeling the pressure with this one. I was going to save the post for some very exciting event, but then realized that I might miss documenting some experiences in that waiting period. So here it is, in all it’s glory, or in no glory at all…

It’s the end of the second week and things are taking off at lightening speed. We closed out Friday with an extra biochemistry lecture on the citrate cycle until 19:00.

Break during physio lecture. Attendance was high for the 15:30-17:20 lecture and then dropped to about half for the extra biochem lecture from 17:30-18:40.

Break during physio lecture. Attendance was high for the 15:30-17:20 lecture and then dropped to about half for the extra biochem lecture from 17:30-18:40.

After the lecture, I walked with Charlotte to Corvin and then headed home to get ready for date night with Skjalg. It seems like it was easier to socialize during the first semester, a combination of our schedule and perceived lack of stress. Now we have to plan time to catch-up or else the chance will pass us by. After arriving home, I placed a grocery order with Tesco home delivery (sounds luxurious – which it is – but for a delivery charge of only 800 forint (about 20,- kroner or $3) it really can’t be beat!). Then it was out for dinner! We walked around the neighborhood around the Basilica for a while before settling down at Tokio by the water. It’s amazing how transported one can feel in this city! Every time we go out, I feel like I am on vacation. It’s perfect for those nights when you just want to step out of the hustle and bustle of your normal, daily life for a few hours. So Skjalg and I escaped into a retro, urban, electro-rap sushi restaurant and ate and drank the night away.

Beautiful walk home after dinner

Beautiful walk home after dinner

The days prior to last night’s festivities were packed with lectures, labs and cramming. On Thursday we had the dreaded physiology double-whammy – one seminar exam on the lecture material from the first week and a second lab exam – which we had to do BEFORE we even did the lab. Jannie and I were both feeling quite overwhelmed with the lecture material and on Wednesday night, we decided to switch from individual reading to group discussion. As we were at Skjalg and my apartment, Skjalg soon emerged from the office and decided to join us.

Though the exam is written (8 multiple choice and 2 “essay” questions) something about discussing the topics out-loud really helped us to grasp the topics and cement the details. I’ve heard before that you are supposed to study in the same form that the exam will be in – written, oral, multiple-choice, etc. I think that the benefit of discussing it with other people while studying is that you get to test your reasoning and understanding of the topics. When I am taking an exam, I always have a little discussion in my head when it comes to choosing the answer. I try to reason which choice is right and why it is right and try to convince myself of my choice when checking my answers a second time around. So, why not do that reasoning before and in the company of people who can correct/challenge your reasoning? Another technique that really helped me to prepare was to form possible exam questions while looking at each of the lecture slides – kind of like a “if I was the professor writing this exam, what could I ask about this slide?” technique.

My plan for today is to get cozy with either physio or anatomy. The groceries are being delivered in the afternoon and after that I will set aside a couple hours to prep our food for the week. Although it takes a few hours out of my precious weekend time, prepping food saves us so much time during the week and as Skjalg pointed out, so much stress. I’ve changed the menu for this week and am excited to try some new dishes. Before school started, I downloaded an app called Paprika where I can store/enter recipes. It has an amazing function where you can create a meal plan, or simply add recipes to a grocery list, and it will combine similar ingredients so that you know exactly what you need to buy. So after getting home from school last night, I browsed through the recipes, chose which ones I would make, scaled them to fit the number of servings I would need for Skjalg and I, and then added them to the grocery list. That combined with setting up a grocery order with Tesco home delivery turned a week’s worth of grocery shopping and food planning into a simple 30-minute task. I love technology! Of course, I have to put in a few hours of cooking on Saturday – but it is so worth it! Saves time and stress and keeps us healthy.

So, for this week we have:

  • Breakfast: Eggs, veggies and toast
  • Lunch: Mango-chili chicken with brown rice and veggies
  • Dinner: Chicken and veggies (this is usually a throw-together-in-the-moment meal, using food I’ve prepped already)
  • Mini-meals (for in between): No-bake protein balls, cinnamon swirl protein bread or chocolate protein bars – perfect for sneaking in the library or between classes

Sorry that there wasn’t anything more exciting to make this post worthy of it’s number! I guess just surviving the second week will have to do 😉

“This is what you are going to learn this semester.”

September 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Harmless words from today’s biochemistry lecturer…. He’d started by saying that we were going to love amino acid metabolism (mmhmm!) and then flashed this on the screen. This is what metabolism looks like – and we get to learn all of it…

metabolism

Seriously. This semester is going to test us like nothing else has ever tested us before!

Don’t make a mountain out of it

September 16, 2013 § 1 Comment

I’ve just finished studying for the night and am enjoying a small glass of red wine before bed. I don’t spend much – if any – of the day relaxing, so I need to squeeze in a little R&R where I can.

Today was our “short” day of the week. We started at 8:00 with a physiology lecture followed by an anatomy lab and two anatomy lectures. Afterwards, Jannie and I headed to the library, where we sat at studied until 19:00. We continued our study session at 21:00 at our place, trying to fit in a couple more hours before bed.

I find myself constantly battling with how to handle this semester. The fact that we have fewer classes is actually making things more difficult for me. When there were more, it was easy to justify prioritizing some over others. Now it feels like each class is vying for that #1 spot. I had planned on focusing on anatomy over the weekend and then starting with physio from today, since our first two tests are this Thursday. But after today’s anatomy practical, I realized that I would need to spend more time with anatomy to properly prepare for Wednesday’s lab. We have our first anatomy midterm in 2 weeks (already!) so I need to stay on top of the material. So today went to anatomy (sorry physio! You’ll get me tomorrow!). To close out the night, I reviewed glycolysis for tomorrow’s biochemistry lecture. It’s starting to feel like reviewing for lectures beforehand is quickly going to become a luxury task, but I hope to keep it going as long as possible. I notice such a difference in my self-confidence sitting through a lecture I’ve reviewed for vs. sitting through one I haven’t. Let’s just say that I’m lucky to have Skjalg here to reassure me that I am doing “just fine”.

Alright, break over! I’ve got Hungarian class in a little over 8 hours and a long day of studying and lectures to follow.

Here are some articles with advice for new med students (and they apply to “old” ones as well 😉 ). There’s something about being reminded that I’m not alone that gives me the strength to push forward through another day.

First week of the Second Year

September 15, 2013 § 2 Comments

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and my body has decided that, even though I went to bed at 2 a.m., I should be wide-awake by 8:30 and seize the day! I’m still working on convincing myself that sleep is a priority, but it still happens that, as soon as my eyes open to the flicker of the morning sun – I’m up! Except on days where I have to be up… then it’s a different story.

This past week has been a bit of a whirlwind. I feel like we are always at school with our schedule this semester. One night Jannie and I were complaining about it until we looked at some of the other groups schedules. A little bit of perspective can really change your attitude! Pretty much all of the schedules are horrible and ours is actually one of the better ones.

I wish I could detail the events and my thoughts and feelings of the past several days, but I’m not sure I can remember them well enough. Some things that stand out to me now are: holding brains in anatomy, getting our first introduction to the mammoth class that is physiology, and the unexpected chillness level of our biochem professor.

After studying anatomy for a year and having practicals twice a week, we’ve gotten quite used to the specimens. The dissection room is now a normal part of my life, almost as uneventful as grocery shopping. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the experience, or forget to appreciate that these people donated their bodies to science, it’s that it has become so familiar that it is easy to overlook these concepts. At one point on Wednesday’s lab, I reminded myself of where I was and what I was doing – in fewer words, I became aware. We were 12 students crowded around 4 brains after surviving what was probably one of the most altering and challenging years of our lives. “I’m in a room with brains,” I thought, “just brains. And this is normal.”

Physiology took me for a bit of a joy-ride – and that was just our introductory lab period. I can totally understand now why people forget all their other classes and study only physiology. I’m going to actively work against that, but I understand the temptation. The start of the joy-ride began in the first 5 minutes of the lab. There are about 30 students who failed physiology last year and who are retaking it this year. From year 3, students are allowed to choose their professors and about 6 of these students had chosen to join our group. After everyone was seated in the lab room, the lab coordinator entered and said, “I have bad news. Seven of you will have to leave. I will give you one minute to decide amongst yourselves.” We were all so taken aback that none of us said what was on all our minds – that the people that weren’t actually in our group, the retakers, should go. What happened? They sat there in silence and not one of them volunteered. So, after a minute, the coordinator motioned to the back table and said, “You six. And you.” pointing at me. At that moment, our group was almost perfectly split into two. I had a little moment of immature panic on the way to our new lab. We had heard from so many people that our lab professor was one of the best there was and now we were being ripped away. A little dramatic, but that’s how it felt in the moment – unfair and completely out of our control. Luckily, our new professor was charismatic and competent enough to quell our fears. He is a PH.D. student (I get the impression this is his first time teaching) and he is eager to teach us and explains things thoroughly and slowly enough that we can learn and understand a new topic as he is explaining it. In addition to him, we have two teaching assistants. One is another Ph.D. student who is essentially taking the class with us so that she can teach it next year and the other is a 4th year medical student who was a teaching assistant in anatomy last year (he was even one of my examiners during one of the midterms).

We have three 1,5-hour lectures and one 4-hour lab period a week for physiology. I’d heard that we would have weekly exams, but we had more of a surprise in store. Every Thursday, during our lab period, the three groups in our block will start by taking an exam covering the previous week’s lecture topics. After this, we will have a consultation period of about an hour to discuss the exam and clarify any misunderstandings. We then get a half hour break and head to our individual lab rooms. There we will complete a lab and then, to close out the day, we will have another exam, a lab exam, where we will be tested on our understanding of the theoretical and practical concepts of the lab we just completed. So we will have – not one – but two small exams every Thursday. Our teacher was kind enough to explain the grading system – oh my is it complicated! The gist is that we get bonus points for each exam and the averages of these are calculated (in a complicated string of calculations) into bonus points that are added onto our semi-final and final exams. If anyone is curious about how this works, feel free to check out the department’s Rules and Regulations page.

After our physiology lab, I began to worry that the biochemistry lab would be equally as strict. Our biochemistry professor last year was quite…let’s say laissez faire about pretty much everything and we had yet to meet our new instructor. All of those fears were set aside when he introduced himself during Friday’s lab and said, “I want this lab to be more of a collaboration than a lecture. I am here to help you when you need it but will not control every step of what you do.” He came across as maybe a little too relaxed, but I’m sure it will improve over the semester as we get into more serious labs.

Yesterday was my food-prep/study day. Skjalg and Jannie went to the Norwegian Rebusløp  (a sort of initiation pub-crawl for freshman students where they go to posts at different bars and are made to do a bunch of embarrassing/disgusting/fun tasks). I made plans to stay home but started to regret it in the late afternoon. Between Skjalg, Jannie and Christian (a friend in my group) sending me tempting messages on my phone, I was finding it hard to sit and study. They’d been going since 14:00 in the afternoon (some even from 10:00 in the morning) so I figured they were well on their way and that I should force myself to get some studying done. I ended up sitting with neuroanatomy until 1:00 when Skjalg came home. We spent the rest of the night sitting at the kitchen island and talking about the day’s events while he nibbled on pizza. Even though I got a lot done, I regret not going. It sounded like a lot of fun and it would have been nice to spend time with everyone outside of school – and not talking about school! Hopefully I can join next year.

I’ve taken a lot of pictures over the past two weeks. One thing I like about my “picture posts” is that I get to relive so many different moments from my recent past. Plus, it gives anyone reading this blog a little bit of a view into my daily life – more than what I write about at least.

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Been visiting the market about once a week. I want it to be my Saturday morning ritual to bike there and fill up on fruits and veggies for the week.

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My bounty from last week!

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Perfect route to the market! I can bike there and back in an hour (including shopping time).

I've been cooking a lot! Experimenting with healthy twists using fresh ingredients. This is a sweet potato crust pizza. I added a little tomato sauce, then tons of veggies and chicken and sprinkled with cheddar cheese. Skjalg approved ;)

I’ve been cooking a lot! Experimenting with healthy twists using fresh ingredients. This is a sweet potato crust pizza. I added a little tomato sauce, then tons of veggies and chicken and sprinkled with cheddar cheese. Skjalg approved 😉

Butternut squash fries that Jannie and I made together.

Butternut squash fries that Jannie and I made together.

 

Homemade chocolate protein bars. (Jamie Eason LiveFit recipe)

Homemade chocolate protein bars. (Jamie Eason LiveFit recipe)

I tried my hand at sweet potato gnocchi! I swapped out oat flour for regular flour and I think that kind of ruined the recipe...but they turned out ok!

I tried my hand at sweet potato gnocchi! I swapped out oat flour for regular flour and I think that kind of ruined the recipe…but they turned out ok!

 

Sweet potato frittata - one of my food prep dishes. I've been prepping food for Skjalg and I to have throughout the week (so we can stay healthy and save time). This has a sweet potato "crust". I make a huge one and then cut it up into small pieces that I can grab in the morning before school.

Sweet potato frittata – one of my food prep dishes. I’ve been prepping food for Skjalg and I to have throughout the week (so we can stay healthy and save time). This has a sweet potato “crust”. I make a huge one and then cut it up into small pieces that I can grab in the morning before school.

Shots from Skjalg and my “Castle Day”. We rode our bikes around the city and then headed up to the castle – which we’ve never seen up close before!

Whatsapping with my beautiful, blind mama :) She sent me pics of her new glasses, her motivational dinosaurs and her work inbox - with 238 emails! She was at work on a Saturday and I was at home reviewing neuroanatomy before school started that Monday.

Whatsapping with my beautiful, blind mama 🙂 She sent me pics of her new glasses, her motivational dinosaurs and her work inbox – with 238 emails! She was at work on a Saturday and I was at home reviewing neuroanatomy before school started that Monday.

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One of the motivational pictures of the week

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and another one.

Beautiful morning walk from Corvin to school. I had to stock up on some pens - I love the friction ones but they run out in a week!

Beautiful morning walk from Corvin to school. I had to stock up on some pens – I love the friction ones but they run out in a week!

 

Physiology lecture to close out Friday. You can't tell here but this is the most packed lecture I've ever seen. There must be at least 200 people there for every one. Attendance at other lectures can drop to 10-15 students at the end of the semester...

Physiology lecture to close out Friday. You can’t tell here but this is the most packed lecture I’ve ever seen. There must be at least 200 people there for every one. Attendance at other lectures can drop to 10-15 students at the end of the semester…

 

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Some pretty murals/graffiti on the abandoned building next to school. At least they are medical themed ;)

Some pretty murals/graffiti on the abandoned building next to school. At least they are medical themed 😉

Jannie texted me pictures of the beautiful artwork at Instant, the ruin pub where their Rebusløp post was.

Jannie texted me pictures of the beautiful artwork at Instant, the ruin pub where their Rebusløp post was.

My lonely Saturday night...

My lonely Saturday night…

Charlotte at least reciprocated my awe of the arrangement of the dural sinuses ;)

Charlotte at least reciprocated my awe of the arrangement of the dural sinuses 😉

I've recently started using instagram. I wasn't really interested before, but then I saw that it was a way to keep connected to people like my cousins and little sister (since they are on it and use it regularly). I'm not expecting to post often, but I like the connection I get from it so far. I posted a pic of my study spot last night and tagged it with "neuroanatomy". When I checked to see what other posts were tagged with the same, I got up a bunch of posts by other med students studying neuroanatomy. It's so cool that you can see that other people across the world are  sharing the same experience as you :) Technology is amazing!

I’ve recently started using instagram. I wasn’t really interested before, but then I saw that it was a way to keep connected to people like my cousins and little sister (since they are on it and use it regularly). I’m not expecting to post often, but I like the connection I’ve gotten from it so far. I posted a pic of my study spot last night and tagged it with “neuroanatomy”. This morning, when I checked to see what other posts were tagged with the same, I got up a bunch of posts by other med students who were also studying neuroanatomy on a Saturday night. It was such a strange, yet amazing, feeling to connect with someone you will probably never meet who is doing the same thing as you. Technology is amazing!

On the docket for today is a little bit of housecleaning and some laundry, sandwiched in with more studying. I’m not sure what I’m going to focus on yet, but I’m thinking I might focus on anatomy and then save physio for tomorrow afternoon (the one early afternoon we have during the week). Physio is going to be so demanding that I feel I have to force in as much time with anatomy as I can while I’m still in control. Jannie is going to join after getting a little bit of her morning going. Otherwise, happy Sunday to all!

 

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