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…

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….

T-minus: 0

August 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

I slept horribly last night. I kept thinking about our move and all the possible things that could go wrong – definitely the right way to coax yourself into a cozy slumber. When I woke up at 8:30, I felt like this:

Skjalg arrived late last night, around 23:00. He picked me up on the corner so that I could join him in finding parking. He was exhausted, it was dark, and I have never driven in Oslo, so we were quite the team. We found a parking lot down the street from our apartment but when we went to pay, we saw that it would cost 900,- ($150) to park it for the 30 hours that it would need to be there. We’re trying to be as smart as we can with this move, so we decided that it would be better to look for free parking somewhere. It wasn’t easy, first finding a street that allowed free parking and then one of those streets that actually had a space big enough for us. When we finally found a spot about 10 minutes from our place, we were skeptical. We scoured for hidden parking signs and checked the dashboards of the other cars parked on the street. Once satisfied, we headed home.

I started this morning by heading to the grocery store to get food for our road trip. It’s so easy to eat unhealthy foods when traveling by car and can also be very, very expensive – especially when traveling through Scandinavia. We have several food coolers that we purchased in the states that will be perfect for the drive. I figure we could bring whole grain bread, meat, cheese, cucumber and tomato for sandwiches, as well as fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt and mager kesam (which we don’t have in the states, as far as I know…it is like a lower fat/higher protein yogurt). I have a cooler made by 6 pack bags that will keep our food cold for up to two days. If I have time today, I may even grill some of the chicken we have left. We’re only going to be driving for 2-3 days, so I don’t need to go too crazy, but it will be nice to have options on the road.

Now it’s just loading the truck and cleaning ahead of us. Several of our friends are stopping by throughout the day to say goodbye. I’ve said it many time before, but I have to say it again: I can’t believe this is happening!

Surprise Party!

August 11, 2012 § 3 Comments

After I finished writing my blog post yesterday, Skjalg and I spent the rest of the day packing up the apartment. We took a break around 13:00 to get some food with Kaja, Skjalg’s sister. Every single surface in our kitchen was covered and there were therefore not a lot of food options available at the time. We were also too tired to be creative.

Lunch was a nice change of pace. We rarely go out to eat in Oslo because it is so expensive and it felt nice to “treat”ourselves during the chaos of this move. We even got to see Adrian Grenier walk by the restaurant with his entourage. I smiled at the thought that I have seen more celebrities in Oslo than I did living in Los Angeles.

By the time 18:30 rolled around, we were exhausted. We had plans to meet our friends Roar and Karolina for dinner at their place at 20:00. I decided to start getting ready, while Skjalg continued organizing the living room. With our efficiency at an ultimate low, we ended up not leaving until about 20:30. On the way, Skjalg received a call from his grandfather. They began talking about the move and about his recent trip to Budapest and, since it was going to be a little bit of a longer call, Skjalg motioned for me to go inside while he stayed out on the balcony. I was met by a beaming Karolina, framed by a flash of bright colors. She and Roar greeted me, inquired about Skjalg’s whereabouts, and then proceeded to beckon him into the apartment. Skjalg didn’t understand what was going on and just continued to motion for me to go in without him. He eventually told his grandfather that he would call him back tomorrow and we headed into the apartment.

Karolina and Roar’s place was decorated with brightly colored paper ribbons, balloons and luau decorations. I began laughing and talking about how beautiful everything looked, when all of a sudden, friends started popping up from different parts and rooms of the apartment. I was completely shocked! I kept registering familiar faces and then battling with the concept that all these familiar faces were together in the same room. All of our friends in one place! I was so ecstatic and disoriented that I didn’t really know what to do with myself. Our friend Daniel – who is a nurse at a hospital here in Oslo – told us that we had to get dressed for the part. I looked down and saw that he was pointing at surgeon gear. Within a couple of minutes, Skjalg and I were dressed in white lab coats, gloves, surgical masks, and surgical caps.

We were supposed to pose like surgeons….Skjalg aced it, I failed.

Beautiful decorations in the background

Loved the blow-up palm tree on the balcony

We made an adjustment to my mask so that I could drink with the mask on

The night got better and better. Karolina is an amazing cook and had prepared homemade lasagne (the best lasagne I’ve ever had) and salad, brownies with chili, rice crispy treats (a whole new experience for the Norwegians there), and homemade hummus and pita bread. For the drinks she made a punch, which included chunks of strawberries, apples, mango, and other assorted fruits.

After we had finished eating and people had settled into conversation, we got yet another suprise. Stian came out with a bag and told us that they had all gotten together to get us something that would help us in medical school. First we were given a great guide to Budapest, from a line of travel books that Stian and Daniel use when they travel:

So far, I love it – and I haven’t even been to Budapest yet. Each page opens up to smaller sections of the city with recommendations for shops, museums, and restaurants and cafés. I think it will be much easier to navigate than one large map.

After looking through the guidebook, I was handed a small orange bag with something wrapped in green tissue paper inside. When I opened it, I found a Chinese coin bracelet that Karolina had made for me. Chinese coins are a symbol of prosperity and happiness. There is a square hole in the middle that represents the connection between heaven and earth. On the back of the bracelet, she included a small elephant with it’s trunk raised. This is an optimistic symbol for good luck and fortune. As she put it on I made a wish, which, when the bracelet falls off, will come true.

We were then handed a large card signed by everyone there and Skjalg and I took turns reading through the different notes. I was such a mix of happiness and sadness as we read through the card. Words can honestly not express how grateful I feel to have such magnificent friends. I’ve made such deep connections with them and it hurts to think that I am leaving. This is honestly the hardest part of moving to new chapter. I can only hope that they make the trek to Budapest and take advantage of our extra bedroom 😉

Once the card had been read, Stian drew two boxes from a bag. I knew what they were before I could read the box – STETHOSCOPES! We were both so excited and pulled them out to try them on each other. Hearing the beat of Skjalg’s heart – while dressed in full surgeon garb – made me feel, for the first time, the realness of this future.

Littmann Stethoscope

Thank you so much you guys!

Thank you so much, again, to our amazing friends. It was an amazing night and we are so thankful for everything. You are all such fantastic people 🙂

One last Blue Steel pose and these two are ready for med school!

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