November 16, 2015 § 1 Comment

I love those moments where you come across a song, picture or video, or even have a conversation, that resonates so perfectly with the way you feel in that moment that you suddenly feel connected to the universe again. You’re no longer spiraling off into the abyss within your brain. You’re back and you’re normal.

I’ve spent a big chunk of today beating myself up. I’m used to it because its something I do before absolutely every exam I have. You’d think I’ve gotten better with time – and I have – just not better enough for it to be completely gone. Its immature and irrational and the only time I feel like I split into two versions of myself: I’m completely aware of how ridiculous it is and can do nothing about it. In the 24 hours before an exam, I bombard my conscious with all the thoughts of what I should have done differently, what I should have focused on, how there is no salvaging my chances with the little time I have left, how I’ll never learn to distinguish what is important from what isn’t important – the list could go on forever. As the hours pass by, the feelings and thoughts grow stronger. I feel like I’m getting nowhere and the material feels to grow exponentially before me.

I can fight these thoughts as much as I want, but it honestly only seems to make them come back stronger and smarter. I’ve tried many different techniques in the past, especially during exam period, to overcome this mindset. And this mindset is nothing new:

What I find the most powerful now is sitting down to analyze it head on. Where do these thoughts come from? Why do I think that I am having these thoughts and feelings? Am I feeling afraid? If so, why and where does this fear come from? When I do this, I usually find that I’ve dug my way to my “fear of failure” level. Hello again, old friend.

This is my favorite part, because it has an antidote that never, ever fails. Its antidote appeals to a quality of mine that makes up my core being: my desire to evolve and better myself.


If you haven’t seen the movie Inside Out – you should!

In a way, the fear of failure stems from this. Not in a constructive way, but as a sort of superficial, insecure extension of it: I want to improve and failure means I’ve failed at improving (hence the fear of failure).

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.”

“Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
― Thomas A. Edison

The antidote? Failure is good. It will make me better, it will make me stronger, it will make me smarter. In the end, that is what I want. I know I’m not perfect and there is no point getting by on this version of myself if there are improvements that can be made. I will give it everything I have until the very end, but I will be ok with whatever the outcome.

The video that reconnected me tonight:

Ok, enough self-analysis 😉 Back to pharmacology I go! These drugs aren’t going to memorize themselves.

Side note: I love music and I can’t study without it. I know there are studies saying it makes you less efficient and less able to memorize, but I need it. 8tracks is my go-to for discovering new songs. Here are some of the songs I’ve just discovered and have had on repeat during this 3-day cram session. And when I say, “on repeat”, I really mean it. I downloaded the Strange Entity remix last night and have listened to it 54 times since then! While writing this blog, I’ve had Antoine Malye’s Paris on repeat. Always nice to have somewhere to escape to…

Playing tag with spring…

March 27, 2013 § 4 Comments

….and winter is winning.

My first winter in Budapest was surprisingly easy to endure (granted we were holed up inside our apartment studying the whole time). There was little snow in the middle of the city and the most difficult thing we had to deal with was a brisk wind. For the past month or so, everyone has been telling us that “spring is coming!” or even a premature “spring is here!”. We were even graced with four rounds of this Hungarian folk song about the coming of spring, sung to us by our Hungarian teacher:

This week we found out: everyone is lying! We’ve had two separate arrivals of visitors that have been accompanied by equally separate instances of snowfall. The snow from last week’s snow storm melted within a couple of days and our winter jackets were replaced with our spring jackets once again. Then, suddenly, more snow. And a lot of it. It has been snowing non-stop for the past two or so days. So much for a “spring” break.



Skjalg’s mom, step-dad, and sister arrived on Monday. So far we have taken them to two of our favorite restaurants in Budapest (Spiler and Cactus Juice) and tonight the “kids” and Martha, a friend from my group, will be heading to the VIP theater. They have been so understanding of us needing to take time to study, which takes a lot of the pressure off of us. Yesterday and today we attended the histology consultations at school. I had originally thought that the consultations were on Monday and Tuesday this week, but it turned out they were Tuesday and Wednesday (which was lucky because we ended up staying home on Monday to get the apartment ready). Tomorrow is their last day in town so we will leave the day open to spend time with them and then close out the evening with dinner at Sir Lancelot.

In other news, my computer has died 😦 We will try to take it in to the apple retail store here and see if they can fix it, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I bought it used just last summer and was hoping that it would last me through school…I guess one and a half semesters will do. Luckily I have my iPad – though it will take some time to adjust (for example, me writing this blog post using the wordpress app and accidentally publishing it before I had finished it).

Getting familiar with using apps instead of my computer: Notability


Messaging with my mama before bed and noticed the “location” icon. Pressed it and could see just how far away my mama is!

Multi-tasking on Skjalg’s family’s first night here. His mom and step-dad hung out at the hotel, so we stayed in an ordered food from Thai Wok, sipped some bubbles, and watched The Other Guys. Since I’d seen it before, I used the time to catch up on some anatomy drawings.


The Eve of a New Semester

February 3, 2013 § 5 Comments

Tomorrow it starts all over again. Though I’ve been fighting some serious nerves over the past few days, I am excited to meet the challenge of this semester with my newly acquired study skills.

This week has been precisely what I wanted it to be: productive with a little bit of relaxation. We fixed our immigration status, did the necessary steps to get our student cards, began the process of applying for our nursing rotations this summer, and registered for classes.

Registration: complete!

Registration: complete!

The rest of the week was spent studying. As Skjalg said, I broke through the “winter-break study barrier” – and I took off running. I reviewed the first chapter of biochemistry, read the section of the biophysics book pertaining to the first lecture, spent an entire day on the heart, and prepped a bit for our histology lab tomorrow. Surprisingly enough, I really enjoyed myself. One thing I learned during exam season – or really that I was just reminded of – was that I actually like the subjects we’re learning. With the pressure of an upcoming exam looming overhead, it’s hard to enjoy anything. But when there is no time pressure, this stuff is, dare I say it, fun. I spent one day watching a bunch of movies and redrawing some of the anatomy drawings from this past semester. Here is one I did on the muscles of facial expression:

Facial Muscles


I’ve decided that I am going to make a section for anatomy drawings. I enjoy drawing them (so I get something out of it) and I like the idea that they may help some random medical student who happens across my blog in the future. I’ll make sure to post the other ones I’ve done as soon as they are labeled.

Tomorrow is a relatively easy school day – biophysics lab followed by histology lab. One of my new proposed study tactics is to cover the lecture material before the lectures (some may feel that this is obvious, but trust me, it was impossible last semester). Since I have already started reviewing, all I have to do is maintain my headstart – much easier than playing catch-up if you ask me. So, though tomorrow is a relatively easy school day, there is a lot to do to prepare for Tuesday. Once I am done with my histology lab I plan on: writing thorough summaries about the slides covered during lab (redraw and label them if needed), write my biophysics lab report, write my pre-lab for next week’s physics lab, review “signal processing” for Tuesday’s biophysics lecture, and study amino acids and carbohydrates for Tuesday’s biochemistry lecture and lab. If I have enough time and energy after all that, I will continue studying the heart for anatomy (our midterm on the heart is only 3 weeks away…and we haven’t even started school yet!).

One thing that makes this new, more aggressive approach more bearable is that I have company – Charlotte and Skjalg. Charlotte and I were pretty much in tandem with our studies this weekend, and Skjalg began reviewing today. Over the break, Charlotte and I met up and began making weekly study plans based on the topic lists of the exams. One big tip we got from St. Steffan* (an inspiring 4th year student we were lucky to meet at a café last semester) was to study from the topic list, not the lecture plan. He explained that many of the topics are not covered in the lectures and there is nothing worse than sitting down to study for a final exam and finding that you only know half the topics. *(Meet St. Steffan: my post and Charlotte’s post)

Though it may seem that I am coming on to this semester a little strong, I know that it is the best thing for me. I emerged this exam season unscathed, but I never want to go through such an experience again. Feeling as unprepared as I did for 5 long weeks was almost unbearable. It’s not that I think that any exam period from here on out will be easy, just that I will be a better version of myself the next time we meet. I may never be as prepared as I want/expect to be, but I will do my best to meet that goal.

Alright blog world, this med student is off to bed.

If you say A, they will ask about B

January 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

Today, while grabbing a bit to eat during a study break, I looked confidently at Skjalg and said, “I’m stupid”. He has a habit of batting away such comments with humor, but this one he took seriously. He asked me why I thought that, and I began to explain to him that I feel like I am doing everything wrong, that I don’t know anything as well as I think I should, and that its takes me forever to learn something basic. “You are not stupid”, he reassured me, “this is hard and you are learning, so you’ll feel stupid at times, but you are by no means stupid”.

Exam season is the worst. I fight off a mild panic attack every time I look at the topic list for whatever subject I am studying. I am constantly criticizing my study habits of the past semester and thinking of how I should have done it differently. I still get anxious when I come across anything anatomy related – even though I am done with my exam already. I try my best to console myself with mantras, motivational quotes and wise words of family members, but sometimes things are just too overwhelming for them to sink in. I just want to make it through to the other side! To start a new semester and prove to myself that I can be more organized, more efficient, more… everything.

We resumed our studying, Skjalg focusing on reviewing for his anatomy exam (which is tomorrow) and me purging the 70 organic structures I need to know for my dreaded chemistry exam on Friday. After about half an hour had gone by, Skjalg took a moment to show me a little technique for remembering the structures for citric acid, cis-acontic acid and isocitric acid.

citric acid and friends

“This one is only different by a molecule of water”, he pointed out. “What is it called when two molecules are joined by the removal of the equivalent of a water molecule?” He was asking me something easy, to help boost my confidence.

“Condensation”, I mumbled.

“And the opposite?”

“Hydrolysis….but they aren’t exactly the opposite of each other because they are mediated by different enzymes,” I added sheepishly, recalling on something I’d learned from a Khan Academy video back in May.

“See! You know stuff,” he reassured me.

I then argued that it didn’t matter because everything that I was proud of knowing was not deep enough any more. I complained that it didn’t matter that I knew that there were two different enzymes – I needed to know their name and structure. Everything always goes one or two, if not more, degrees past what I know.

My wise boyfriend then consoled me with the words that inspired me to write this post in the midst of exam chaos:

“Their job is to see how much you know, Bianca. If you say A, they will ask about B. If you say A-F, they will ask about G. They are just going to follow the trail down until the point where you don’t know anything more. They know the whole path, so they will always be able to go further, to go deeper into the material, than you can.”

I realized in that moment that I have forgotten what it is like to be a student. It’s been over three years since I was last in school and I’ve allowed the confidence I gained in my “real-world” years to work against me. I’m here to learn, learning is hard, and it’s going to take me a long time to get to the point where I feel confident in what I know. So I better settle in and get used to not knowing anything – because that is why I am here!

I would love to close this post with some wise, witty ending, but I fear my creativity is on vacation and structures of organic acids reside in its place. Besides, Skjalg’s musings of the day were wise enough 🙂 Today, we reminded ourselves that we are students and that we aren’t supposed to know everything – at least not yet.

o chem notes

Structure scramblings of a crazed med student…

Our last week of freedom

August 31, 2012 § 7 Comments

I can feel the nerves beginning to build up inside me; my mind is like a minefield, full of excitement and panicky thoughts. If I allow myself to stay on one of the panic mines for too long, I find myself whisked away into the stresses of the future. Luckily, I have refrained from visiting this state of mind for too long. Instead, I remind myself that today is today and the challenges that are to come are not yet present. There is no use in concerning oneself with future worries – especially when one has yet to experience the context of these worries.

Skjalg and I have been thinking about how we would like to spend our weekends once school starts. We have no idea what to expect – other than that we are in for one REALLY stressful chapter in our lives. One thing we’ve been told time and time again is that success depends on balance. Too many students entertain the extremes: either studying day and night and never taking a break or taking the semester lightly and pushing things off until the end. We brainstormed what our ideal “productive yet balanced” weekend would be:

  • Saturday
    • Gym
    • Light brunch at the Fit Cafe at our gym
    • Study for a few hours at a café, library or at home
    • Date night: whatever we want to do as long as it includes spending quality time with each other
  • Sunday
    • Slow, easy morning with time to blog, send emails, etc.
    • Fresh food market for fresh veggies and meats
    • Prep “easy access” food for the week
    • Light cleaning of the apartment
    • Laundry
    • Study for a couple of hours at a café, library or at home

We are not expecting that every weekend will be exactly like this, but it helps to have an idea of what to strive for. Plus, if we are as tired as I expect we are going to be after 5 days of lectures and studying, we could use a “plan” to guide us through the weekend.

This weekend we have the Opening Ceremony, where we will be introduced to the faculty, listen to speeches and take our Freshman Oath. Next week includes registration and familiarizing ourselves with the campus. And finally, on Monday the 10th of September – we start medical school.

Back in Budapest!

August 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

I arrived back home last night after an amazing 4-day girls trip to London. For me it was a little bit of a last “hoo-rah” before school starts. Our lives have been full of stress and planning for almost all of 2012: from finding out that we could start med school this year in February to completing the move just last week. We don’t have much down time now before classes start and once that happens, there is no turning back. It felt so refreshing to take some time to simply relax with good friends. I feel primed and ready to go!

Yesterday I received an e-mail from school saying that they are missing the document proving that I don’t have dyslexia. It’s frustrating to simply think about how I am going to do that now that I am in Budapest. My doctor is all the way in Norway and I wouldn’t even know where to begin finding one here…

Now we are heading out to find suits for the Opening Ceremony this Sunday. We will taking our Freshman oaths and listening to some speeches – so we need to look good!

Boldog Születésnapot Kívánok!

August 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

The title means “I wish you a happy birthday!” in Hungarian – which is perfect, because it’s my birthday! It sounds something like – and you’ll have to excuse my horrible language teaching skills – BULL-dawg SUUE-la-tesh-na-pot KEE-vaah-gnoc. The stress of the word is placed on the first syllable rather than the accented letters (as it is in Spanish). To me, Hungarian sounds similar to Italian, sometimes to French, and with a little bit of Finnish and Russian mixed in. I find it to be a very beautiful language, a bit hard to hear and seemingly impossible to learn, but beautiful nonetheless.

Following birthday tradition in my family, Skjalg woke me this morning with a lit birthday cake, card and present. My mom started this tradition where the birthday person is always surprised first thing in the morning by all the occupants in the house – human and animal alike. When we were living together with my younger brother, Christian, Skjalg’s younger sister, Kaja and her two cats, our birthday morning surprises were very lively. It is such a wonderful way to start a birthday.

In my post yesterday, I wrote a little about the Fungarian class we booked. At around 10:30, we headed out to meet our “language professor” at Kamara Café – located across from the main Jewish Synagogue. The café was located in a really beautiful spot, which made the lesson just that much more enjoyable. Our teacher, Miklós, was very witty, informative and patient and taught us how to say basic phrases. I’m a little intimidated by the Hungarian language. It has 44 letters and the vowels are…plentiful:

Do you understand?

We learned how to say hello and thank you as well as how to order various things at restaurants and in grocery stores. Skjalg and I were totally energized by our lesson. We started practicing the phrases we’d learned and read aloud signs we saw on the way home. For lunch we stopped in at The Hummus Bar, where I greeted the host with “jó napot!” (which means good morning/good afternoon). When it came time to order, I asked that the server bear with me as I tried it in Hungarian:

Kérek egy…. chicken breast hummus plate.

I didn’t manage the whole thing…but he was amused enough to smile. Practice makes perfect, right?

After lunch, we headed home to relax and hide from the heat. We settled in on the couch with our feet soaking in buckets of cold water (which is SAVING me these days) to watch a couple of episodes of the utterly fantastic Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery series by BBC Four.

We celebrated my birthday dinner at Comme Chez Soi Étterem (highly recommended on TripAdvisor). It was a bit pricey – especially when compared to other restaurants in less touristy parts of Budapest – but it was definitely worth it. The servers were extremely accommodating and friendly and lit up when I ordered my water in Hungarian. At the end of the meal, they surprised us by turning off the lights in the restaurant and bringing out a tiramisu lit up with candles. After that it was a shot of homemade limoncello, apricot infused liquor, and plum infused liquor. As we were leaving, the server wished me a happy birthday and gave us a small bag of chocolates filled with dark cherry liquor. We will definitely be heading back there when celebrating a special occasion!

Now I’m off to try to fall asleep in this heat….

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