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.
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!
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!