Hello 2014!!

December 31, 2013 § 1 Comment

It’s almost midnight in Budapest and the city is going crazy! At around 15, the noisemakers and party buses began. Then as soon as darkness fell around 17, the fireworks started. Since then, there have been constant – and I mean constant – fireworks going off in the park outside our apartment. Add to that screaming people, whistles, celebration honking, singing – you name it. It’s nice when it’s only for a little while, but after 5 or 6 hours, it’s not so nice… Skjalg and I both had to move into the office to study. It’s on the inside of the apartment, so the sound isn’t as bad. At least until some of our neighbors started sending off fireworks in the middle of the apartment courtyard. Hopefully it will tone down after midnight!

In about half an hour, we are going to head down to the river to watch the “real” fireworks. It will be nice to get out of the apartment and experience the city in all its celebratory glory. Then it’s back home to study!

Here’s to wishing all of you a big “Happy New Year”!!

Fireworks Skjalg NYE

Curious about Buda-B in 2013? Check out this cool infographic. We all know how much I love statistics 😉

New-Years-Eve-Party-Budapest_1

Christmas past

December 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

Nearing the midpoint of cramming for my anatomy semi-final on the 7th and I think the last time I left the apartment was…Christmas. And sadly, no plans of leaving it any time soon! We had groceries delivered on Friday, so I prepped chicken, veggies, protein bars and protein balls to keep us going for a few days. The couple of hours it takes to prep everything feels miserable in the moment, but it is so worth it to have to ready later.

I was hoping that I would have time to write more of a detailed post about how we spent our Christmas, but considering how exhausted I am, this will have to do!

We took the three days after our physio exam off from studying – and it was amazing! It wasn’t really on purpose, we were just too tired to do anything else and felt like Christmas was a good enough excuse to rest a little. On Christmas eve day, Jannie came over and we watched movies all day on the couch. We took a break to head to the market and get food for a dinner party we were going to later that night. The original plan was that everyone would bring a dish, but with our poor planning, we weren’t left with many options. Every single shop in the neighborhood was closed, everything except…the Christmas market! So, we decided on a ham and cheese platter and plenty of wine. Everyone we met that day was so friendly and helpful that it really put me in the Christmas spirit. Once we got home, we found out that we didn’t need to bring our goodies to the dinner, so into the fridge it went!

Market Meatman SJMarket Skjalg

Christmas dinner was held by Victoria and Eline, two girls in our class. They did such an amazing job! The apartment was done up in full Christmas glamour and the girls were busy cooking a full Christmas meal in the kitchen. Being Norwegian, they prepared a traditional Christmas dinner: pinnekjøtt med kålrabistappe. Despite the Christmases we spent in Norway while I was growing up, this was my first time trying it. My thoughts: fantastic! I am so, so grateful that we were able to have a real Christmas experience in the midst of all this exam chaos. (Tusen, tusen takk Victoria og Eline!) By the way, I only managed one shot of the dinner before the first toast…and Skjalg decided his forearm should be in the picture too. Try to imagine it without 😉

Christmas dinner...and Skjalgs forearm Xmas dinner 2 Xmas dinner

And finally a group pic, courtesy of facebook:

Christmas dinner

Physiology: Check!

December 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Monday boasted what was quite honestly one of the most difficult exams I have ever had. The hours leading up to it were brutal. There is a certain sort of panic that sets in as an exam approaches. It is characteristic in that it handles only on a pressure you set on yourself. This pressure is to cover that one topic or read that one question that will make all the difference. There is always a possibility that you will just make it and the thought that you will learn or cover that topic that will make all the difference in the hours before the exam breeds enough stress to drive you crazy. This panic makes your stomach churn and your heart pound heavily in your chest. It becomes so consuming at times, that you aren’t even able to read sentences anymore. Instead, you stare blankly out the window and image all the terrible things that are about to happen. Seems over-dramatic, I know, but trust me, it’s even more amplified in that moment. The idea that one small, seemingly insignificant right choice can make the difference between success and failure is maddening.

This type of panic arrived much earlier than expected this time around. As the days dwindled, my panic grew. I had a successful study session on Friday, and was feeling really good about my progress, but then Saturday came and blindsided me. I was able to complete the tasks I had set out for myself, but quickly began to doubt that I was doing the right thing. Skjalg was studying at California Coffee Company all day, so I was left home alone with my study demons. My lowest point hit in the evening. I was staring out the window into the darkness flooding the park, when I received a message from Skjalg on facebook. The message said nothing, but included the link to this video. Trust me, it is more than worth the watch.

In the moment I watched it, I identified so strongly with his words that tears began to stream down my face – and this was only 20 seconds in! Soon, I was laughing through my tears and eventually, I was completely transfixed. After watching it two or three times, I found myself in a state of calm. I couldn’t come up with any of my own monsters in that moment, but I resumed my studying secure in the knowledge that I would be ready to tackle the next one to show its face.

It may seem silly, but boy did it work. What he describes in the first minute of the video is the most accurate description of how I feel pretty much all the time. By the end of the next day, I had come up with 20 or so little monsters. Every time I told Skjalg about one, he made me tell him what I did to make them go away. It made us laugh and that helped to dissipate the fear.

At 13:00 on Monday afternoon, we found ourselves in a cloud of nerves at the Basic Medical Science building. Imagine the tension in a room of 100 people waiting to take an exam – and not just any exam but one of the hardest exams (if not the hardest) of this semester. At around 13:10, one of the examiners stepped out and began informing us about how the exam was to take place. He then started calling in students by name one-by-one. We weren’t seated until almost 14:00, which didn’t ease the tension levels at all.

We had 3 hours to complete the exam, which consisted of three parts, each worth 30 points. We had to pass each section with 18 points, including our bonus points. So, for example, 3 bonus points means that you would need to have 15 correct in order to pass. I usually finish multiple-choice questions really quickly. I scan the question and then jump on an answer by almost pure instinct. I go through several rounds, one answering the questions I know, a second to narrow down answers to those I am unsure of, a third for those I have no idea about and then maybe 1 or 2 to double-check my answers. A lot of the time, I am so unfocused by the third round, that I don’t even read the questions anymore. This is where I get into trouble for having read a question incorrectly.

This is what the questions are like. These were taken from sample tests put out by the department, so imagine some of them being about…oh ten times harder. This semester, we covered physiology of cells, muscles, cardiovascular system, respiratory system and renal system (kidney).

PhysioExp PhysioExp2 PhysioExp3 PhysioExp4 PhysioExp5 PhysioExp6 PhysioExp7 PhysioExp8 PhysioExp9 PhysioExp10 PhysioExp11

I was able to go stretch the first part out over the first hour. Then I got to the second part – which was a heart-stopper! At one point, I felt like my eyes were going to pop out of my head. I knew I wouldn’t last another two hours, so I decided to mark my answers immediately and not worry about going through them several times. By the end of the second hour, I was done. I could have stayed there and read through the questions again, to help me out if there was going to be a next time, but I couldn’t stay in that room anymore.

The results were meant to be posted by 19:00, but were an hour late. To fill the time between, Jannie, Skjalg and I had dinner at Vapiano. After dinner, Skjalg headed off to CrossFit and Jannie and I went back to school to wait for the results. The waiting area was tense. Some people had been waiting for the results since the exam ended, which meant they had had plenty of time to reflect on the possible outcomes. The examiner had but a few seconds to pin the results to the board and escape before being run down by anxious med students. The next 15 or so minutes were chaos. An entire spectrum of emotions marked the faces of each and every person. Here are the results, just so you can get an idea of just how difficult it is to pass – and even more so to do well. Bell curves are quite deformed here, to say the least 😉

I got curious, so I made a graph with the results…just to get an idea of what kind of “bell-curve” we’re dealing with here.

PhysioCurve

When I first saw my result, I didn’t believe what I saw. I tried to look for a little longer, just to be sure, but there were too many people knocking me around for me to be sure. I stepped back and waited until the area had cleared a little bit so that I could check again. It turned out that I had been right the first time: 21/20/19 on the three sections, plus my 15 bonus points (5 bonus points added to each of the 3 sections) brought me in at 75 points and a 4 as my final grade. I still can’t believe it. I think I’ve checked my grade book at least 20 times since then, just to make sure it’s still there.

After getting the results, Jannie and I had to wait around for another half an hour for our grade books to be ready. Then it was home to our place for movies and wine 🙂

When time is tight, pick a plan and stick to it

December 21, 2013 § 2 Comments

Two days left and things have been going “horribly”. Skjalg usually guts my use of the term “horrible” by stating a rhetorical “you know what’s horrible?” and then following up with something that actually is horrible. Nothing helps a bad mood like a little perspective. If only it were easier to come by…

I have so many feelings and thoughts right now that I really don’t know where to start or what is worth putting down. Studying for this exam has not been going the way I would’ve liked it to go. The problem I had to face earlier today was that I have changed my study plan so many times, mainly because my study plans are almost always impossible to complete. Take study plan #5, for example:

900questionsThis plan was started on Tuesday night, after a day of realizing plan 4 wasn’t going to work. It is based on something my mama shared with me from when she prepared for the bar exam. She said there was one portion that included 200 multiple choice questions and in order to prepare for it, it was recommended to do 10 times the amount of questions – so, 2000 questions. I thought it seemed like a great idea when she told me and thought that now might be the time to try it out. The next day, I made it up to 45 questions. I then calculated the amount of time I had spent per question (about 6 minutes, to first guess, then look up and understand the question – and take notes of course). At that rate, I would need 86 hours to do 900 questions. Not possible. I then calculated how much time I would need if I cut it down to 2 minutes per question. The result? 9 hours a day until the exam (without breaks and with perfect efficiency). Let’s just say I had to make a quick, reluctant jump to plan 6….

I stayed home today, thinking that a change of location might help me out of my little rut. It is so frustrating spending your entire day studying and then feeling like you did nothing at the end of it. Last night, Skjalg gave me a little pep talk and told me I had to choose a plan and stick to it. I’ve deviated from my lecture notes and have been reading the textbooks and a board review book, so he told me to go back to my lectures notes – those are what got me this far anyway.

I got off to a good start this morning and made flashcards for all the parameters we need to memorize, things like electrolyte concentrations, pressure values in the heart and lungs, etc. Midday I fell into a big pit of self-pity. After an hour or so of failed self-coping, I turned to the internet. More specifically, videos to give me some perspective. This video tribute to 2013 did it for me. Some tears later, I was back in my place 😉

Since then, I’ve been glued to my “art gallery” as Skjalg calls it. I’ve collected all the lamps from the apartment and circled them around my study area in efforts to keep me focused. After my midday slump, I made a new – and final – study list. The best part about it: it’s realistic. I’ve finished my goals for today and it feels so good. Now I’m off to bed, so I’m ready to conquer tomorrow!

Studyspot

Last week of school: survived!

December 18, 2013 § 2 Comments

Exam season is in full swing and even though I took this past weekend off from studying to recuperate, I’m feeling pretty exhausted. A few weeks ago, Skjalg told me that he was going to take the first two days of exam period off. When he told me that, I immediately regarded it as a silly idea and told him that I couldn’t do that. It soon became evident that Skjalg knew better than me. This past week was a trudging waist-deep in mud, lighting and thunderstorms overhead, broken will, lack of sleep, heart beating heavily in your chest kind of week. By Friday night, I was over-exhausted in my entire body and I had a constant pain running around my eyes and across my forehead. Skjalg and I had planned to go out and celebrate his birthday, but he decided that watching a movie and cuddling on the couch was a better idea – and for that I was grateful!

Despite the huge challenge the exams of the past week held, I am happy to say that all the hard work paid off. I was prepared that one or two would go by the wayside, but it turned out that that mental preparation was unnecessary. In small news, I passed my Basics of Medical Chemistry final (an elective Skjalg and I were taking…for which we studied only two hours) and I got a 5 in Hungarian. As for the big ones, they went better than expected! I got a 5 on my Physiology lab exam (along with most of my group) and a 2/2 on my Biochemistry lab exam.

Then came the real kicker: the last physiology seminar exam. A couple weeks ago I discovered that, if I could pull off a 3 and a 4 on my last two seminar tests and get a 5 on the lab exam, I would be able to snag the elusive 5 bonus points. At that point, it felt like a shot in the dark. The last two weeks are the heaviest of the semester and it felt pretty optimistic to think that I could pull it off. But, that wasn’t going to stop me from trying! The first surprise came when I got a 4 on the first of the two – that meant I only needed a 3 on the last! That was possible, right? Problem was, the last was on the same day as the physio lab exam, which was worth 25% of our grade and therefore a much bigger priority…

By the time the day arrived, I felt that I had to make peace with the fact that it was not going to go as hoped.  I had spent one full day reviewing the material the weekend before, but that didn’t feel sufficient enough. Jannie was over at our place the morning of, since we studied for the lab exam together. As the potential time to study for that last seminar test slipped away, I started to feel horrible. I began to beat myself up, thinking that if I only I had done this differently and that differently, things would be better. It’s not a great mindspace to be in….So, I decided to remove the emotion and think about it reasonably. All I could do was review what I had managed to go over before and hope to do well on those questions that pertained to those topics. As for other questions, I would just have to remind myself that I don’t really deserve to get points on something I haven’t studied. The tests were an evaluation of our ability to cover and understand the material – and that’s it. Going into the seminar test I told myself, “This may not go well, but do your best on those questions that you can answer and learn from the ones that you can’t”.

The seminar test ended up being all open questions (normally there are at least 3 multiple-choice). Seeing that, as it was being passed out, made my stomach drop. However, once I had the page in front of me and looked at the questions, I had to do a double-take – I knew these! Most of the questions were based on the material that I had covered. Oh gosh, I thought to myself, as a glimmer of hope relit inside me, I might actually be able to do this.

Our teacher sent us an email with the results on Monday night, but forgot the excel attachment – talk about nerve-wracking! When he sent it a second time yesterday morning, my heart jumped. Skjalg and I were in the library and I brushed his arm and pointed at the loading document on my phone. It flashed on the screen and I scrambled to locate the results. My average: a 4.6. But how?? (You need between 4.5-5.0 average to get 5 bonus points. I was at 4.4 and needed a 3 on the seminar test to bring me to a 4.5. So where did the extra 0.1 come from?) I soon found that, to my great surprise, I managed a 5 on last week’s seminar exam! It’s unbelievable the feeling you get when your hard work pays off – and even more so when it pays off better than you had hoped. The best part of all this – even better than the actual bonus points – is the confirmation that the way I am studying is working for me, and working well. We are always worried about whether or not we are studying the right thing or studying the right way. There are countless possible ways to study and I feel so happy that I have found one I can work with. There are still many improvements to be made, but I’m really happy with the progress.

Gotta run! Skjalg and I are off to the library for the day 🙂 Happy December 18th! 😉

A little bit of inspiration goes a long way

December 9, 2013 § 2 Comments

I came across a collection of inspirational quotes today – and they couldn’t have come at a better time. I spent my morning cramming for my dissection presentation in anatomy, my afternoon studying physio, my evening cramming chemistry and taking the Basic Medical Chemistry final, and the rest of my night has gone to cramming Hungarian (is that even possible?) for my midterm tomorrow morning. Two “exams” down and 4 to go!

The anatomy dissection presentation was really a joke compared to what I was prepared for. My dissection partner and I were asked 3 questions, one of which we got horribly wrong – because it wasn’t something we needed to cover this semester (but should have remembered from first). Here is how it went:

  • Me: We did the gluteal region. We’ve only transected the gluteus maximus and haven’t yet cleaned out the contents underneath.
  • Examiner: What is this muscle?
  • Me: Gluteus medius
  • Examiner: What is its action? (this was the first semester question – easy when you have time to think about it…)
  • My partner: Adduction
  • Examiner: What does it do?
  • Me: Adduction
  • Examiner: Adduction? Where are you from?
  • Me: The US
  • Examiner: Where?
  • Me: The US
  • Examiner: Do they call this action something different in the US? How silly is it to put a muscle on the lateral side that should do adduction then? It should be?
  • Me: Abduction (bow head in shame)
  • Examiner: Yes, ABduction. And where is the quadratus femoris?
  • Me: It should be here (I pointed at the muscle with my forceps, which was covered by layers of fat and fascia).
  • Examiner: You should never say “it should be somewhere“. It IS here.
  • Me: Yes, this is the quadratus femoris muscle.

And then it was over. The examiner we had was much nicer compared to how he is during real exams. I was in the same room as him during the dissection part of my semi-final last semester and the student he was examining ran out of the room in a cloud of tears and apologies.

As for the Basics of Medical Chemistry final, we’ll see how well that went….

Now for the inspiration 🙂

When the hours feel like minutes

December 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Snow storms rage in Northern Europe, but it has yet to reach the center of Budapest. I suspect there has been snowfall in the city outskirts, since several of the cars that pass below are covered by patches of snow. I’m excited to watch the snow fall from our living room windows. Now that the trees are almost completely bare, we have a view over the entire park. I can just imagine how beautiful it will be with a fresh blanket of snow.

These last days before school are flying by faster than we can comprehend. The end of this past week marked the completion of 31 exams so far this semester. This next week is all uphill:

Monday

Dissection presentation in anatomy
Final exam in Basics of Medical Chemistry (the elective Skjalg and I are taking…which is really for first year students…)

Tuesday

Hungarian written midterm (we had our oral midterm last week)

Wednesday

Skjalg’s (31st!!) birthday! Poor guy :/ Right in the middle of hell week, so we will celebrate it on Friday night

Thursday

Physiology seminar exam – covering the first lectures on kidney physiology
Physiology lab exam – on all the labs from this semester, accounts for 25% of our bonus points

Friday

Biochemistry lab exam – covering the labs from this semester

The lab exams are really the worst of it. It’s tough to go through a semester worth of labs. We’ve done them before at one point, but hardly remember anything. At this point, I’m just crossing my fingers that everything will go smoothly.

This weekend feels almost as though it never happened. I feel like I sat down to study on Friday night and all of a sudden it’s time to go to bed on Sunday night. I’m dreading this week. Let’s hope it goes by as quickly as this weekend did…

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