September 19, 2012 § 1 Comment
My second entrance exam back in June was quite brutal, to say the least. While scouring the university webpages for lecture slides and other helpful info, I came across the profile of the head of the anatomy department. “He looks oddly familiar..,” I thought to myself. “He was probably one of the people we were introduced to on Freshman Day or another one of the school functions.” Fast-forward to our anatomy lecture today. There we were, sitting in the middle front row and prepping for our lecture on the cranium. A buzzer rang to signal the beginning of class and we all rose to greet the lecturer – Dr. Csillag András himself. “That’s the head of the anatomy department!” I whispered to Skjalg.
He was probably the best lecturer we have had so far. He wrote most of the difficult words up on the board, spoke slowly and clearly, and engaged us with fun side stories and connecting points (rather than inaudibly present 50 packed slides in a 45 minute lecture). Though I was enjoying the lecture, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had met him before. I told Skjalg that I was almost 100% sure that he had been my interviewer at my second entrance exam. I then sat and debated with myself for the remainder of the lecture. Unable to let it go, I jumped up after our applause and raced to the front to find out if I was right.
“Excuse me, professor?”
“Hi. I was wondering if you were perhaps in Oslo, Norway for the entrance exams in June?”
“Yes,” he smiled, “I was there.”
“I thought so. It’s nice to meet you again,” I extended my hand to him, “My name is Bianca. You were my interviewer.”
He hesitated and motioned that he wanted to shake my hand but that it was dirty from the bones handled during the lecture. I said it was fine and shook his hand anyway.
“I just wanted to say hello and thank you for the lecture and for putting in a good word on my behalf. I’m here now!” I smiled.
“You are welcome. I hope that, if we meet again in the exam room, that we have the same outcome that we had last time.”
If I do get him as my examiner, it will be interesting to compare his examination techniques. I still can’t believe that my entrance exam interview was with the head of anatomy for the university…talk about pressure!
Our lecture on the cranium included an intro of the skull and its different parts and then a closer look at the sphenoid and ethmoid bones (there are 29 total bones in the skull). This was covered within a 45 minute lecture.
June 20, 2012 § 15 Comments
I received my admission letter today! Even though I already know that I got in, I haven’t been able to stop myself from checking the mailbox several times a day. After picking up the letter from the post office together with Skjalg, we settled in at a cafe down the street. I sat out in the sun while Skjalg went in to get coffee. My nerves increased as I began opening the envelope. “What if it says that I DIDN’T get in?” I thought to myself. “What if she made a mistake when she wrote the email?” But there it was, that beautiful white piece of paper that makes or breaks all students – past, present, and future – and it was telling me that I did it!
Skjalg was held up inside for a while, so I began scanning through the attached pages, which held information regarding registration, housing, payments etc. I was blissful, simply soaking in all the information and entertaining the promise of this new chapter in my life when all of a sudden, I saw the following line:
Please pay your tuition fee (according to the instructions in Appendix 1) and send the enclosed Declaration Form back no later than June 25, 2012.
What!? I panicked. When was this sent?? I checked the date. The 8th?? It’s taken 12 days to get here! It was 15:00 on Wednesday the 20th. Banks in Norway close at 15:30, if not 15:00, and are closed on the weekends. I would have but two days to pay the school, fax in my declaration form, and confirm my acceptance – meaning that I had to make a decision NOW. When we got our first round of admission letters in March, we were given about 5 weeks to confirm our acceptance. I understood that we wouldn’t have the same length of time this round, but I didn’t think that it would be so soon!
When Skjalg came out with our coffees, I looked at him nervously and motioned for him to read that part of the letter. “Wow…” he said. “Well, that’s not a lot of time.” It’s been stressful enough with all this back and forth about Skjalg’s situation with school. He hadn’t even gotten his translated transcripts back yet! Yet here we were, at yet another hurdle. I knew I had to make a big decision, one that concerned only myself, since there was no way of knowing what the outcome would be for Skjalg. I stared off into the blank whiteness of the page. “Accept. It’s the best thing for you and you know that that is where you want to go,” he reassured me. “You’re going to Semmelweis baby.” I felt relieved. It’s an amazing feeling to be in a relationship with someone who knows you as well as, if not better than, you know yourself. I realized suddenly that I had made up my mind a long time before, possibly when I began studying for the second admission exam. It was always the case that if I got into Semmelweis, that is where I would go.
“Want to head home?” Skjalg asked. We’d only been at the cafe for maybe 10 minutes, but both of us were too unruly to enjoy it. I had a lot to do and little time to do it. Once we were home, I immediately made a list of things I needed to get done:
I was happy that I was able to complete my application for Lånekassen (student aid) today. It helped me feel like I was making a little progress. Now it’s time to sit down and relax, if that’s even possible 🙂
June 12, 2012 § 5 Comments
Yesterday I received an email from our contact at Bjørknes that notified all applicants that the results had been sent out by email. It stated that both Pécs and Semmelweis had sent out email alerts and that we should check our spam/trash if we had not yet received an email in our inbox. Skjalg and I spent about 20 minutes trying to find the “spam” folder in my gmail account. We finally decided that I had not received my email and I instead sent an email to College International (essentially the umbrella organization of the schools in Hungary). I expected that the original email from Bjørknes was wrong about Semmelweis sending out emails, since they didn’t do this during the first round.
This morning I checked my email account, not expecting to see anything other than my daily spam. But there it was – a response from College International about the results of my admission. I had to read the first line a second, third and fourth time, just to ensure that the incorrect english wasn’t misleading 😉
This past week, I have been imagining how I would react when I found out the results. I remember how, during my 15-hour study days prior to the exam, I used to picture myself crying with joy at the results. All the hours I spent studying and preparing for the exam will pay off, I told myself. One of my earliest memories is of my mom’s reaction when she found out that she had passed the BAR exam. I remember sitting with her and waiting for the computer to load and how, as soon as her results flashed onto the screen, she broke into tears – tears of happiness, joy, and relief. I wanted to have a similar reaction. But I didn’t. I was excited, I ran in to the bedroom to wake-up Skjalg, I did the mandatory Facebook status update – but it didn’t go any deeper than that. I felt almost a little numb to it, as though it were just another normal, uninteresting step in a long series of steps.
There are a number of different factors that could have contributed to my “light” emotional response. I had just woken up after a night of not sleeping so well, I was in a hurry to get to a doctor’s appointment – honestly, any number of reasons for why one is grumpy in the morning could fit in here. But, after thinking about it more, I realize that it is because there is still no resolve about the future. Skjalg is still waiting on his transcripts to be translated so that he can confirm his acceptance to Semmelweis – and this is what everything is riding on now. I have a foot in each school – everything else is out of my hands. Before this disruption with Skjalg’s admitted status, everything was riding on me and my ability to get into Semmelweis. I didn’t even really notice how all of that “pressure” has shifted to poor Skjalg.
So now I’m just a bundle of mixed emotions. I am excited that I got into Semmelweis and so happy that I still have a reserved spot at Pécs, should I need it. But what I really want, is to know which university I am going to! It’s hard being so happy and so frustrated at the same time.
Skjalg was told that the translation would take 1-2 weeks, which means he should have them no later than next Thursday. After that, I think he is going to need to possibly go over the transcripts with Wanja at Bjørknes, and then contact the school and inquire about his status.
I keep telling myself that this is out of my hands, that this too shall pass, that stressing won’t help anything and that I have done all I can do… I just wish I could actually convince myself of all that 😉
June 7, 2012 § 2 Comments
Things are getting a little stressful here in the Remme/Slotfeldt household. We’re finalizing some of the logistics of our move to Hungary and meeting some complications. Lånekassen is finally open for applications for student aid for the fall. I haven’t submitted my application yet, since I don’t know which school I will be attending. I’m a little worried (and this is a totally unjustified fear) that for some reason I won’t be eligible for student loans. Christian was able to get a student loan for his year at folkehøyskole in 2009, so I really shouldn’t be worried – but I can’t shake the fear just yet. I’m going to contact them tomorrow, just make sure that everything is in order.
The second stressful thing has to do with Skjalg’s fulfillment of the general education requirement. He went to an engineering college at a young age and ended up satisfying his general education requirement through something that they call the “23+5” rule. When we first filed our applications in February, he was told that he may not be eligible for two of the schools because they are very unclear about whether or not they accept this rule. When he got into all three schools, we assumed that everything was ok. Skjalg called Semmelweis last week to confirm that his deposit payment had gone through and that his spot was reserved, since he had not yet received a confirmation letter. He was told that they do not send out confirmation letters but rather hand them directly to students during registration in the fall. Knowing that this would be too long to wait for a solid confirmation, Skjalg contacted Wanja at Bjørknes Høyskole (the school sponsoring our applications). She was unfortunately also uncertain about whether or not everything was confirmed. She explained that Semmelweis has been extremely unclear about where they stand on this rule. Now, I expect that there are going to be a lot of adjustments and challenges with this process; moving to a new country is never short of new experiences. I did not, however, expect that these challenges would begin so soon. Skjalg is currently at the translators office getting his transcripts and diploma translated. These are missing the line that Semmelweis tends to look for – the “fulfills all general education requirements” line. As a safety, Wanja is going to contact University of Pecs (the only one that accepts the “23+5” rule, and the one I have already gotten into) and inquire about the possibility that they can reopen a spot to him.
Before Skjalg left for the translators office, a bunch of “worst-case scenarios” popped through our heads. Semmelweis doesn’t accept students that are 30 or older, so this is the last year where he is eligible for acceptance there. If, by some horrible turn of events, he is denied admittance to Semmelweis for lacking their approved methods of fulfilling general education requirements, then he MUST be offered his spot back at Pecs. If this is not possible, then he will need to reapply next year – which means I will be heading to medical school a year ahead of him.
It is so overwhelming to have all of these possible future paths looming over you at the same time, all of which stem from the same source. If I get into Semmelweis, I leave for Budapest at the end of August. If I don’t, I leave for Pecs at the end of July. If Skjalg doesn’t get approved at Semmelweis, he has to get his spot back at Pecs – and if that doesn’t work, he must wait a year to apply again. My decision about which school I go to depends not only on my acceptance letter, but also heavily on Skjalg’s options.
It’s so easy to succumb to the panic; to wallow in the fear of the future. Instead of letting this happen, I am thinking about something my mom always told me when I was living in L.A., struggling to put myself through school while working full-time. She said to me, “this too shall pass”. Simple, and to the point. She explained that there will always be challenges. The things that challenge you now, in this moment, are different than those that will challenge you tomorrow, the day after that, the day after that, and the day after that. All you can do is meet the challenge that is most pressing in this moment, remind yourself that “this too shall pass”, and prepare yourself for the next round. I repeated these words to myself several times today. It’s amazing how four little words can elicit such a sense of calm. You can’t change the past or predict the future, all you can do is function accordingly in the present.
So our little household is currently operating under the, “this too shall pass” motto. Updates coming soon 🙂
Love you mama 😉
June 6, 2012 § 19 Comments
My interview in March and the one this past weekend were on completely different playing fields. In my first interview I was asked very basic questions and the interviewer fed me leading questions if I had any trouble. Any further questions I was asked went no more than one or two degrees past my original response. My June interview was simply brutal.
Before the interview I stood out in the hall, reviewing my notes and trying to calm my nerves. I had some small conversations with other students, some of which had already completed their interviews. Christian and I began speaking with a girl from Bergen. As she relayed her March interview to us, I got EXTREMELY nervous. Her interview in March had been nearly impossible. She said that there had been two interviewers, one of which didn’t return her handshake and simply sat in the room staring blankly at her the entire interview. Before she was able to introduce herself, she was asked by head interviewer to explain why tea gets bitter. I wouldn’t even know where to begin answering that question. She told us that she mentioned something about the water releasing some sort of chemical compound and something about 88 degrees. She was then asked to draw some organic structure – let’s say it was something like 2-butanol – and was then criticized for beginning her drawing in the wrong direction. Afterwards, she was asked what percent of the liver is designated for the production of insulin.
By the time she was finished describing her interview from hell, my chest was pounding, my legs shaking and my hands clammy. I thought to myself, “I have no chance. I am going to fail this for sure!” I tried to calm myself with this resolve, but it didn’t help. We agreed that she would try to catch a glimpse of the interviewer to see if he was the same one that she’d had in March. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to know.
The student who had his interview before me flew out of the room abruptly, taking time only to tell us, “He asks a lot of questions.” The girl from Bergen ran after him to investigate, but turned up empty only a few minutes later. Having the person before me run out of the interview did not help my nerves.
Then, it was my turn to go in…
I’m going to try to note down as much of the interview as possible. First, I’ll review my March interview. Then I’ll review my June interview, and try to include summaries of my answers.
It began with some basic questions about myself:
– You are from the US? Why did you move here?
-Have you done any community service?
-Do you like to travel?
-Have you studied biology and chemistry before?
Then the knowledge based questions:
-What is a polysaccharide? Where are they located in the body? What do they do?
-What is the difference between a eukaryotic cell and a prokaryotic cell? Give examples of each.
-What are antibodies? What type of cells produce antibodies?
-What is an atom?
-What are the organelles in a eukaryotic cell?
I had not done so well on my written exams. But he told me that I had proved myself with the responses to his questions and that he was going to “change his mind about me”. He explained that he could not promise anything and that it would be hard to overlook the scores on my written exams, but that he would do whatever he could to communicate that I knew a lot more than what was shown on paper. (I didn’t take this in a wrong way, especially because I had only found out about the exam 12 days prior.)
It began with some basic questions about myself:
– You are from America? Why did you move here?
I was born here and raised in California. I worked several years there to put myself through school when I realized, a little over halfway through my degree, that it was going to take a lot longer than I could handle on my own. I decided that it would be easier to move here to Norway, learn the language, and go to school here, where the government is able to give a lot more financial support.
– Ok. And why did you chose Hungary?
Do you mean why did I chose Hungary over other schools in Czech, Poland, and Slovakia?
Well, I spent a lot of time researching the different schools and found that the universities in Hungary seemed to match what I was looking for. I admire the culture and it is a beautiful country – Budapest is especially beautiful.
– Ok. Let’s begin with blood. Tell me what is blood.
(I didn’t really understand what he had said at first, I kept hearing “blued”, so I had to ask him to repeat himself twice… I finally got what he was saying and began my response.) Blood contains red blood cells. Red blood cells contain the protein hemoglobin which has four hem groups that are composed primarily of iron. Red blood cells collect oxygen in the lungs, by absorbing oxygen that has diffused through the membrane of the alveoli that are located at the end of the bronchioles. Red blood cells are especially interesting because, as they mature, they begin to destroy all their organelles and their nucleus – a process called apoptosis. This is so that they are more efficient at taking up oxygen. This feature allows them to absorb about 98.5% of the oxygen that we inhale.
-Ok. What else is in blood?
In addition to red blood cells, you have leukocytes, which are white blood cells. These play a role in your immune response. They include B-cells, or B-lymphocytes, phagocytes, and T-cells.
– Ok. What else?
(This is where I struggled. I felt so stupid for having studied so much of red blood cells, hemoglobin, the immune response and not having thought at all to actually consider what blood plasma was composed of. I fumbled around a bit for info, repeating what I had said already – which he didn’t like – when finally I remembered something I had learned back in high school biology.) You also have platelets.
– Ok. What are platelets?
Well, they play a role in healing. If you were to get a cut, your platelets are what form pus and the scab. (I was really reaching for this one. I had to recall info that I’d learned 10 years ago!)
– Ok. What else is in the blood plasma?
(Now I was really nervous – all that I really knew about was red blood cells and leukocytes. I tried to think, but my brain was going blank.) Um, let me think. Well, water, some ions, maybe some glucose, and maybe some proteins.
– What kind of proteins?
(AHHHH!) Maybe proteins that are destined for specific parts of the bodies? (I tried smiling, but that didn’t help.)
-No. No. Cells synthesize their own proteins. They do not need to get proteins from other parts of the body.
(I felt so embarrassed. I knew this. I felt myself failing this interview.) I know that cells synthesize their own proteins, but I was thinking, since there are some proteins that are secreted from the cell, that there may be a small amount floating freely in the plasma. (Smiled again, out of embarrassment.)
– No. Try again. What types of proteins are in the blood plasma?
(I was drawing blanks again, so I decided to verbally list the types of proteins I knew – not to trick him, but more to help me organize my thoughts.) Well, you have many different types of proteins. Structural, transport, enzymes, hormones…
– Ok. What of hormones?
(What!?) Hormones, hormones. Well, you’ve got insulin and glucagon that are secreted by the liver in order to control the levels of glucose in the body?
-Think of osmotic pressure.
(I had no idea at this point, so I just started spitting out something I knew that had to do with water diffusion under hormone control.) Well, there is ADH, anti-diuretic hormone. This affects the permeability of the collecting ducts in the kidneys that collect remaining blood plasma from the nephrons. When ADH is released, it increases the permeability of the membrane so that the remaining water is absorbed back into the body. Whatever fluid remains is now considered urea.
-Yes, but this is urea. Tell me of osmotic pressure.
(Osmotic pressure? I know this. I know osmosis, I know diffusion! I drew a diagram of osmosis for him, explaining that water diffuses through a membrane that is semi-permeable. I explained the concept of concentration gradient, hypotonic, hypertonic, etc.)
– Ok. And this measures osmotic pressure (then he smiled!). Ok. Now. You mentioned glucose. Draw this for me.
(Oh no! All my studying about photosynthesis and cellular respiration, and I had forgotten to review the formula for glucose!!) You want me to draw it? Ok…well, I know that it had 6 carbons and it splits into two 3-carbon pyruvates after glycolysis. I also know that carbohydrates are composed of only carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in the ratio Cn(H2O)m, since the word carbohydrate refers to the hydration of carbon atoms. Possible side groups containing carbon, oxygen and hydrogen are carbonyl (C=O), carboxyl (-COOH), and hydroxyl (-OH)….(meanwhile I am drawing all this out, beating myself up for not actually remember how to draw it).
– Ok. Now draw these groups that glucose has.
(I began drawing a bunch of hydroxide groups around the carbon atoms. I was so nervous that I just kept going with the hydroxide groups.)
-No, no. Not so many hydroxide groups.
Oh! Sorry! There are also carbons that are bonded to just hydrogen. Glucose is a monosaccharide and forms a disaccharide or polysaccharide through the process of condensation, where the equivalent of a water molecule is removed, which would mean that there must be some single hydrogen atoms here. (I drew a condensation reaction). This results in a alpha 1-4 glycosidic linkage, and the opposite of this is hydrolysis, though they are directed by different enzymes. (I looked at him questioningly at this point…I had no idea if I was giving him the answers he wanted.)
-Yes. Ok. You mentioned hydrogen. What is a hydrogen bond?
Well, first, let me draw a water molecule. Water molecules are polar covalent, which means that the electrons are not equally shared. Oxygen has a greater electronegativity, I believe it is 3.5, whereas hydrogen is just 2.1 (I was guessing these values, hoping they were right. He didn’t say anything.) Now, the differences in electronegativities has a lot to say about the polarity of the bond. If the difference is less than 0.4, it is a non.polar covalent bond. If it is between 0.4 and 1.7, it is polar covalent. And finally, if greater than 1.7, it is an ionic bond. The difference in electronegativity of oxygen and hydrogen creates two permanent dipole moments on each water molecule. There are regions of positive charge on each hydrogen and two on the oxygen (which I drew). Since these hydrogens have a positive charge, they form hydrogen bonds with electronegative atoms in other compounds, primarily oxygen, nitrogen, and fluorine. Hydrogen bonds are really what makes water such a great solvent. They are why we are able to maintain a stable internal temperature and why the oceans don’t freeze – since all the heat energy goes to breaking the hydrogen bonds.
-Ok. (Pause). I am going to give you a positive review. You have done…okay…on your exams. (I got 14/20 on both Biology and Chemistry). I will give you a positive review, but it will be the exams that help them to decide whether you are accepted or not.
Are you sure you don’t want to ask me about anything else? Maybe respiratory system, circulatory system, muscle contractions? (I was kind of desperate at this point. I felt that I hadn’t proved how much I really knew and that I had been asked things that I wasn’t really prepared to answer).
– No. That is unnecessary (he smiled again). I am going to give you a positive review. I can see you are enthusiastic about it and that you have learned fast.
Ok. Well, thank you for your time, and for the interview.
And then it was over! Phew. What a horrible experience. I’m shaking just writing about it.