Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors

October 29, 2013 § 2 Comments

Tensions are running high and there is no end in sight. We’ve just come over the climax of our exams in this two week period, but there are still two, or three…or four more. On Thursday we had our normal weekly lab quiz in physiology and later that night, at 19:00, we had our first biochemistry midterm, which covered bioenergetics and carbohydrate metabolism. Then it was back in the saddle to cram for Monday morning’s neuroanatomy midterm. It was our second midterm this semester and it covered microscopy of the central nervous system (neurons, how they are organized, what they do, etc).

Now it is Tuesday, and I buzzing with exhaustion. But can I rest? No, not really – we have two quizzes (as usual) in physiology on Thursday. This week’s seminar quiz in physio is on the venous circulation and cardiac biomechanics. After that, it just continues! I’ve probably lost you at this point….but I’ll still add that next week we have our Hungarian midterm and another two physiology quizzes and then it’s only a week or so before we have our next anatomy midterm and the week after that is our next biochem midterm! To sum it up, second year is pretty much 2 or more exams every week – so hold on to your seats, we’re in for a bumpy ride 🙂

Despite the high stress level, things are going well. I’ve finally come over my insomnia stage and no longer have to fight with myself to fall asleep. My scores for my exams aren’t really where I’d like them to be, but I’m passing and that makes me happy. I have to constantly remind myself – progress, not perfection! This past midterm in anatomy was a total killer for people. In Skjalg’s group, only 4 of 16 passed. No Gaussian distribution here…

Quite the sunny study spot I've got there! Such a treat B)

Quite the sunny study spot I’ve got there! Such a treat B)

Pretty fall colors behind the anatomy building at school

Pretty fall colors behind the anatomy building at school

Checking in with my mama ;) For some context, we are currently dissecting the dorsal regions of the cadaver (the back side) and are meant to find all the important nerves in these areas. We were assigned the regions when I was sick, and I got assigned to the gluteal region along with fellow Californian girl in our group this year.

Whatsapp fun with my mama 😉 For some context, we are currently dissecting the dorsal regions of the cadaver (the back side) and are meant to find all the important nerves in these areas. We were assigned the regions when I was sick, and I got assigned to the gluteal region along with fellow Californian girl in our group this year.

Cramming biochem while sitting outside at Starbucks. We had two days off last week because of Hungarian holidays, so we spent both days sitting outside and studying.

Cramming biochem while sitting outside at Starbucks. We had two days off last week because of Hungarian holidays, so we spent both days sitting outside and studying.

Med students drink a lot of coffee!

Med students drink a lot of coffee!

Beautiful sunset from our building. I have to get down to the river next time I see one like that!

Beautiful sunset from our building. I have to get down to the river next time I see one like that!

Feeling connected to other med students in the world through instagram. If you filter out all the selfies and food shots, there is a lot of amazing stuff to see ;)

Feeling connected to other med students in the world through instagram. If you filter out all the selfies and food shots, there is a lot of amazing stuff to see 😉

Sunday morning! Daylight savings gave us another hour - so I started my studying at 7:30. Oi vey!

Sunday morning! Daylight savings gave us another hour – so I started my studying at 7:30. Oi vey!

Jannie wrote me a little message on a fallen leaf ;)

Jannie wrote me a little message on a fallen leaf 😉

Necessary study tangent. I was struggling with finding a way to explain "throw some d's on it". It's the main line in one of her favorite songs and they apparently don't have a similar term in Swedish ;)

Necessary study tangent. I was struggling with finding a way to explain “throw some d’s on it”. It’s the main line in one of her favorite songs and they apparently don’t have a similar term in Swedish 😉

Biochem cramming: check! Let's do this!

Biochem cramming: check! Let’s do this!

Doom and darkness before the biochemistry midterm, which took place in the NET building for groups 9-16. I have no idea why they could't keep the lights on....wasn't the most uplifting way to stat the exam.

Doom and darkness before the biochemistry midterm, which took place in the NET building for groups 9-16. I have no idea why they could’t keep the lights on….wasn’t the most uplifting way to start the exam.

Med students of the 21st century. I still use pen and paper but Skjalg and his "lecture crew" are strictly gadgets only.

Med students of the 21st century. I still use pen and paper but Skjalg and his “lecture crew” are strictly gadgets only.

One of the interesting drawings we got to look at while studying for our anatomy midterm....

One of the interesting drawings we got to look at while studying for our anatomy midterm….

Took a break Friday night before bed to try out my make-up for Halloween. Needed something cheap and easy ;)

Took a break Friday night before bed to try out my make-up for Halloween. Needed something cheap and easy 😉

Great study tool shared with me by a girl in our grade. She ran around handing these to people before the weekend (cross-section drawings with labels blotted out). Was a great way to learn the structures!

Great study tool shared with me by a girl in our grade. She ran around handing these to people before the weekend (cross-section drawings with labels blotted out). Was a great way to learn the structures!

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Results of my insane anatomy weekend. Did literally nothing other than sit at the dining table and study. Actually, I did take a trip to the store on Saturday for some energy drinks…so healthy!

Thought this corner looked beautiful on my way to study at a nearby café last night

Thought this corner looked beautiful on my way to study at a nearby café last night

Shot from the beautiful park outside our apartment. Fall is in it's prime!

Shot from the beautiful park outside our apartment. Fall is in it’s prime!

 

These autumn leaves

October 19, 2013 § 4 Comments

I’m back! Alive and well, considering. I’ve been meaning to post something indicating my state of “alive-ness” after my last slightly mysterious post, but these past 11 or so days have been quite demanding. Immediately after publishing my last post, I found I was in fact too sick to go to school that day. Instead, I headed back to bed and battled the torment of being too awake to sleep but too sick to do anything else. I had hoped Wednesday would be different, but it ended up being one of the worst days of my flu. That morning, I woke up with an extreme case of nausea that lasted into the afternoon. At around 14:30, the nausea evolved into vomiting, which I proceeded to do 7 times in a row. It was a horrible climax to my incapacitation and pushed me into a slight state of self-pity. Skjalg took the rest of the day off from school to come home to care for me, stopping on the way for soup and water. Things improved later that evening and, though exhausted, I was able to bring myself out of the apartment for the first time in 5 days to study with Jannie at a nearby café. My first day back at school was a bit rough – beginning with an 8 a.m. biochem lecture and ending with two physiology quizzes and a long physiology lab. I’m still feeling effects of my flu – even after more than a week – but things have greatly improved.

Since getting so sick, I’ve been trying to take it a little bit easier. I constantly remind myself that it is quality not quantity that matters – so an hour or two more of sleep is worth it if I work more effectively. As a girl in my group says “this is a marathon, not a sprint“.

It’s Saturday night in Budapest and cold fall air is seeping in through the cracks in our old windows and doors. Skjalg and I started the morning with an hour long walk around the neighborhood and breakfast at Starbucks (the one where I’m known as “Nina”). There was an event being held at the Basilica, so most of the street was closed off and the entire square was packed with folding chairs. We’ve been trying to figure out what the event was about, but have been unable to find anything online.

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After our walk, it was home to begin studying for the chaos that awaits us. These next 9 days will be the most challenging of the semester. Why? MountFujiOn Thursday, we will have our weekly physiology quizzes – the first at 14:00 and the second at 16:00. Then we will have our lab until 18:00 (and this week’s lab is the worst one we’ve had yet!). To close out the night, we will have our first biochemistry midterm at 19:00 – covering all of the material covered so far this semester. As if that’s not bad enough, we then have only 3 days until our next anatomy midterm, which covers the neuronal organization of the central nervous system. The only saving grace is that there are national holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday, so we won’t be having any classes. Still, this is going to be crazy!

I’m not quite sure how I want to do everything quite yet. I really want to refrain from prioritizing one over the other two, so I think I might try to balance my time between all three. There is no chance in passing the anatomy midterm if I leave studying to next weekend, so I don’t really have a choice. One thing that I am majorly thankful for in this moment is that I have kept up – even if only slightly – with biochem. I find I am less nervous because I know that I have been exposed to all the material at some point. I wouldn’t be able to be tested on it now, but I know there is something in there somewhere. Hopefully it turns out ok!

My plan for today’s studying was to start out with preparing for our physiology lab. Our lab this week is the biggest we’ve had so far and there are a whopping 24 questions we may be quizzed on during Thursday’s lab exam. The way is works is that we are required to read the lab and be prepared to answer 10-20 questions based on the lab material. Then, before we even do the lab, we have to complete a quiz, which will include a selection from the questions in the lab manual. Here is a taste of the questions for this week’s lab:

  • 1. Briefly describe the types of adrenergic receptors, and their signal pathways!
  • 4. Describe the NO pathway in the vascular wall!
  • 10. What is the purpose of creating a precontraction before studying a vasorelaxant effect? Which is the appropriate substance for this?
  • 23. Which of the following substances is capable of causing relaxation, if the endothelium is impaired? Ach, SNP, nifedipine? Why?

(Enjoy the use of punctuation? I still don’t like being yelled at by the school-issued manuals – even in the 3rd semester.) When I started, I had no idea what I was in for. Last week’s lab required maybe an hour of preparation – and that was enough to land me full points on my lab exam. Today, I spent nearly 6 hours reading through this week’s lab and answering the questions – and that’s still not enough to secure me a passing grade! I’m going to have to go through the questions again at least 2 more times. Unfortunate that we get landed with the most difficult lab on the same day that we have our biochem midterm. Luckily, Skjalg did the same lab with his group two weeks ago, so I’ve arranged a brain-picking session with him for tomorrow 😉

Skjalg and I went for another long walk before dinner. Budapest is so beautiful in the fall! I appreciate it even more now that Budapest is tied for the #2 spot on the Top 25 Cities of the World list, by this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards by CNN. I feel so lucky that we get to spend this chapter of our lives in such a city. This article has a few more photography shots of the city. Our apartment building even makes a cameo appearance in one of the photos!

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In other news, Skjalg and I celebrated our 4-year anniversary yesterday. I can’t believe how fast time has flown by! It is such an amazing experience to go through this chapter together and I appreciate him and our relationship more and more everyday 🙂

4yearcollageSkjalg and I are taking the rest of the night off to enjoy each other’s company and tackle a long overdue task of our’s: watching Lawrence of Arabia, Skjalg’s favorite movie. After 4 years, we’ve never gotten around to watching it – always too tired, to little time, etc. Tonight, we’re finally going to do it!

Here are some photos from the last week and a half, to catch you up on a little of what I’ve been up to since I last posted. And here’s my favorite fall song to listen to while you browse:

Plenty of action can be seen from our apartment. Some of the marathons pass right below.

Plenty of action can be seen from our apartment. Some of the marathons pass right below.

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Some welcome HONY wisdom

Nina strikes again! My alias at the local Starbucks. The same girl is working there everytime I go. She's never asked my name, I've just been Nina since day one :)

Nina strikes again! My alias at the local Starbucks. The same girl is working there everytime I go. She’s never asked my name, I’ve just been Nina since day one 🙂

Chocolate flight from last Friday's date night. Picked up some specialty chocolates from the local chocolatier. Sour apple, coconut marzipan, strawberry and chili, violet and a last one that I can't remember.

Chocolate flight from last Friday’s date night. Picked up some specialty chocolates from the local chocolatier. Sour apple, coconut marzipan, strawberry and chili, violet and a last one that I can’t remember.

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“Nina” spent last Saturday morning sitting outside at Starbucks, watching passing tourists and preparing for her biochemistry presentation 😉

First sign of fall on October 13th

First sign of fall on October 13th

Skjalg on one of our neighborhood walks

Skjalg on one of our neighborhood walks

The beautiful October 6th utca, named in honor of The 13 Martyrs of Arad, executed on the same day in 1849

The beautiful October 6th utca, named in honor of The 13 Martyrs of Arad, executed on the same day in 1849

On one of our walks, Skjalg and I stumbled upon an English bookshop. Now I have three paperback books to add to the 11 half-read books on my iPad ;)

On one of our walks, Skjalg and I stumbled across an English bookshop. The kind bookkeeper informed us that he can order any books we ever need – even ones that are out of print. I picked up three paperback books to add to the 11 half-read books on my iPad 😉

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Fall colors spotted after anatomy class

An extremely inspiring and inspirational HONY post

An extremely inspiring and inspirational HONY post

Sushi dinner for our anniversary celebration. We enjoyed a quiet night in with some shows and sushi :)

Sushi dinner for our anniversary celebration. We enjoyed a quiet night in with some shows and sushi 🙂

Lastly, some shots from today’s walks

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Ready to get back in the game?

October 8, 2013 § 2 Comments

Four days, 60 hours of sleep, and some bottles of cold/flu medication later, I am more or less back on my feet. I’ve allowed myself to sleep in today (“sleep in” being until only 8:15) and am missing Hungarian. It feels horrible missing any classes at all, but this is not something I can drag with me. I have no idea what I caught, but think it was a common cold or flu coupled with exhaustion. I have never in my life slept so much in such a short amount of time. It’s honestly pretty surreal to think about. My only symptoms now are a headache, stuffy nose and heavy “cold-breathing” (you know when you are sick and breathing feels heavier? that). I’m hoping that, with some nose spray and ibuprofen, I will be able to make it through the day.

My first class of the day will be biochem lecture at 12:30. Then I will have 4 or so hours to study before our physio lecture from 17:20-19:05. 7 hours is a long enough day to spend at school on my first day back, so missing Hungarian to save myself from an 11 hour day is worth it.

Yesterday was the worst day for me because I was starting to feel better and have more energy, but was still too exhausted/sick to do anything. That left me bed-ridden, yet unable to sleep – torture! Skjalg ordered me over the phone to relax and watch movies, but after already missing 3 days of studying, I was too anxious to enjoy my time of “forced relaxation” (as my mom likes to call it).

In the afternoon, when I was feeling particularly bad for myself, Jannie called and said she was coming over with coffee and muffins. She stayed for a couple of hours, which was perfect to get me out of my funk. After she left, I had enough energy to sit and “study” for a little while. I say “study” because it was more of me looking at the paper and reminding myself that this is what I need to do when I get healthy. It might not have been the most effective use of my time, but lowered my anxiety a bit.

My blind-siding cold could not have come at a better time. Both Jannie and Skjalg have reassured me that no one they have talked to did anything this weekend. After a heavy week of both physio and anatomy exams, I think everyone was pretty much left for dead by the time the weekend came. First year was hard, but this is twice that – if not more. People walk around like zombies and no one seems to have any true grasp of the material we are covering.

Physio comes in first on the priority list for most people (which is natural since we have weekly quizzes) and anatomy takes a close second. Though, since the topics for this next anatomy midterm are quite obscure and really unlike anything we’ve studied before, I won’t be surprised if people start to draw away from anatomy more and more. Our first midterm was general macroscopic gross anatomy of the brain – surface features (what are all the bumps and grooves called) and internal structures (what’s that artery/dark spot/white band etc). Our next topic is “Neuronal Organization of the Central Nervous System”, which is pretty much how the neurons in our spinal cord and brain are organized and connected. We get to look at pictures like this all day:

As for the neglected child, biochem, I’m not sure much anyone is spending time on it. I’ve overheard people asking each other if they have studied anything for it and many saying that they haven’t even opened a biochem book yet this semester. It makes sense since it is definitely the least demanding of all our classes. Plus, our biochem professor is so relaxed that it makes it almost a given that it falls by the wayside.  The attendance at the lectures says it all. This was last Thursday’s lecture. I didn’t count, but there couldn’t have been more than 20 people (out of 220 registered for the subject).

Uh oh, not feeling as good as I thought I was…might be time for bed again.

Sleep Debt Collector

October 6, 2013 § 2 Comments

While following the news of the US’ approaching debt ceiling, I didn’t consider that my own debt ceiling was right in front of me. I’ve been struggling with sleep for the past 2 weeks, usually clocking in 5-6 each night – even on the weekends. It’s not that I don’t want to sleep, it’s just that I can’t get myself to stay in bed, no matter how tired I am.

I noticed that I was approaching a more dangerous level of exhaustion on Wednesday night, when I wrote my last post, and put aside studying for our weekly physiology exams to sleep. On Thursday, while at the library at school, I noticed that my throat was getting itchy. By the end of the day, after our two weekly exams, my whole throat felt swollen and it hurt whenever I swallowed. It’s pretty common for me to get sick immediately after a stressful day/event. I think I push myself so hard beforehand, that when I finally relax, whatever cold/virus I’ve caught takes over.

Even after sleeping 9 hours Thursday night, Friday morning found me completely demolished. I was feeling dizzy and foggy headed, with constant pain around my eyes and in my throat, and even still, I pushed myself to go to biochemistry lab. I sat through our teacher’s introduction to gene therapy, followed by a group mate’s presentation on the “suicide gene” technique for cancer therapy. Then, during the break, I admitted to myself that I could stay anymore and asked my teacher for permission to leave early.

Since then? I’ve been sleeping against my will (or so it feels). As soon as I got home at 13:00 on Friday afternoon, I slept for 3 hours. Then I slept 14 hours during the night, followed by a 3 hour nap and then a 2 hour nap, and finally slept another 12 hours last night. For the first 26 hours of the weekend, I didn’t even get out of bed except to use the restroom.

I’m still in disbelief that I’ve slept 34 hours in the same time period that I usually would have slept 14. The worst part is that I still don’t feel better. I’m at least well enough to get out of bed for a short while, but other than that, all I can do is sleep (which is not like me at all!). I’m having a hard time because there is so much I had planned to do this weekend. Skjalg keeps reassuring me that out of all the weekends, this is one of the best ones to take off. I’m still not entirely convinced, but I don’t have much of a choice.

Alright, been up for half an hour now…that means back to bed for me 😦

Neuroanatomy Midterm: Check!

October 2, 2013 § 5 Comments

This morning we had our dreaded anatomy midterm on the brain and the spinal cord. These past few days have been really difficult and it feels so good to have this one off the docket. Though, the double weekly physiology quiz tomorrow makes the victory less savory. It’s only 21:30 and I could probably push myself to pump out another three hours if I wanted, but I can tell that my body can’t handle that tonight. I’m quite lacking in the sleep department and at this point, I would rather risk a poor grade on tomorrow’s quiz than my health. Besides, I have a 5-hour break between my early morning biochem lecture and physio, so I should be able to get a good amount of information covered – a feat that will be a lot easier with a good night’s sleep!

Since downloading the TimeSheet app last Monday (the 23rd) I’ve logged 69 hours and 35 minutes of study time. This is pure time spent studying, since I am good about pausing it and reducing the total time if I feel I wasn’t as effective. I’ve always known that we study a lot, but I don’t think I could have ever guessed just how much we study! This, in addition to our 26 hours spent in class during the week, makes for quite the heavy workload.

My examiner at this morning’s midterm was a woman I had never seen before. She was young and friendly and quite responsive. Although friendly, she was particular about the answers. I noticed that if I said something slightly wrong, I had to correct myself right away for her to ignore the mistake. What made the exam so nice for me was that she gave great positive feedback for every correct answer. It really made me relax and I was able to change from “super exam defense” mode to a more ” investigation of my knowledge” mode.

Unfortunately, I’m suffering a bit of post-exam amnesia (a term I learned from Charlotte 😉 ) so I don’t remember everything I was asked, but here is some of what I remember. I was asked questions using cross-sections of the brain, a section exposing the hippocampus, dorsal view of the brainstem, and a sagittal section of the head. In no specific order:

  • Corpus callosum, body
  • Corpus callosum, splenium
  • Septum pellucidum
  • Vein of the septum pellucidum
  • Thalamostriate vein
  • Body of the fornix
  • Thalamus
  • Caudate nuclus
  • Lentiform nucleus (plus identify its parts)
  • Name the constituents of the corpus striatum
  • Internal capsule
  • Parahippocampal gyrus
  • Anterior cerebral artery, branches
  • Middle cerebral artery, branches
  • Posterior cerebral artery
  • Describe the fornix, its parts and where it is located
  • Third ventricle
  • Cerebral aqueduct
  • Hippocampus
  • Dentate gyrus
  • Calcar avis
  • Collateral sulcus
  • Amygdala
  • Tail of the caudate nucleus
  • Optic tract
  • Lateral geniculate body
  • Tentorium cerebelli
  • Tentorial notch
  • Transverse sinus
  • Sigmoid sinus
  • Oculomotor N –  Identify it in the specimen and describe where it exits from the brain
  • Superior cerebellar peduncle
  • Middle cerebellar peduncle
  • Rhomboid fossa
  • Facial colliculus
  • Locus ceruleus
  • Sulcus limitans
  • Cistern of the great cerebral vein and contents

That is what I have for now! I’ll add anything else I remember. The exam couldn’t have taken more than five minutes, so it was pretty fast paced. Skjalg and I both had good exams and were so relieved for it!

Food prep this past weekend managed its way in on Sunday morning. With the stress of the upcoming week, I found myself wide awake at 7:30. What better to do that early on a Sunday morning than prep food? 😉 I was able to finish within two hours and watched some Dr. Najeeb lectures to keep me entertained (and effective). This week’s lunch was chipotle chicken and salad. Unfortunately, we haven’t been remembering to bring it, so there will be a lot to throw out at the end of the week. Things always get a little wacky when there is this much stress…

We got creative with our studying this weekend and decided to put our craft skills to work. Our task: the cranial nerves! There are 12 nerves that exit your brain and we needed to know where they exit the brain, enter/exit one of the connective tissue layers and finally where they exit the skull. With so much info,  it’s easy to see that this is a pretty dense topic to try and memorize:

So, we made a model using paper towels and plastic wrap for the brain,modeling clay for brain base/stem structures, string for nerves, baking paper for the dura mater, plus some tape and the skull model we have.

And here are some other random pictures from the week 🙂

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