Last Day of Our First Semester

December 14, 2012 § 4 Comments

It’s finally here! And I don’t know whether to welcome it or to pretend that it’s not there. Regardless of how I choose to receive this day, the truth is that it is here. I can’t believe how fast time has flown by. I honestly feel as though I have only been in school for a month or so.

Today is my last long “hell” day. We’ll cover some last slides in histology, do some last tests in statistics, have a review session in physics and then our last midterm of the semester during chemistry lab.  For our midterm in chemistry today, we will pick a piece of paper from a pile containing the names of 18 labs done this semester. We then have 15 minutes to write out a summary of the lab, including any equations or diagrams pertaining to it. Last week’s chemistry exam went horribly, so I am a little nervous about this one. Our teacher has been saying “It’s very easy” in response to any question regarding the midterm, but that has little comfort coming from someone who has dedicated their life to the subject.

Tonight Skjalg and I are planning a long overdue date night. We have done nothing but study together for as long as I can remember – maybe squeezed in a movie or show on the couch here and there. Tomorrow we will be celebrating his birthday (he turned 30 on Tuesday) with a group of 20 or so friends. Exam season starts officially tomorrow, so come Monday, the real fun begins! My first midterm is Hungarian on Tuesday and then I have a whole 8 or 9 days until my Anatomy midterm. Simply writing that sentence make my stomach churn…

Here are links to some gifs from my new favorite site: It is just a bunch of clips with funny, oh-so-true captions. Nothing makes us feel better these days than knowing that we aren’t alone it this.

Struggling with all the testable material for the exam

When you open an exam and realize it isn’t going to end well

Every exam day

Just when I think I’m getting the hand of this med school thing

How the first exam week feels in M1 – yay….

The point in studying where you start looking forward to exam day

When it’s nice outside but I have to study


Stress, Perspective and Skjalg turns 30

December 12, 2012 § 6 Comments

I can’t imagine a time in my life that I ever felt as frustrated, stressed, and panicky as I do now. I am constantly, and I mean constantly, reassuring myself that everything is going to be ok and that I am going to be fine, that I have studied enough during the semester and that I will survive finals. No matter how many times I tell myself this, I don’t believe it when I say it.

If anything, I am more aware than ever of how big of a perfectionist I am. The amount of knowledge that I believe our professors expect us to have and what they actually expect are two completely different things. The worst part is that I don’t know where to stop. I don’t know how much detail is too much detail – and it is driving me crazy. If you don’t know the basics, you will fail. Our teacher even told us that when he examines people who don’t know a basic point, he fails them immediately. He told us that there is no point in examining a person any further when he/she doesn’t know the basics of the subject.

This is where I struggle. My brain won’t let me be satisfied with getting the basics down and then adding on when I have time. My books are my worst enemy because they go into much more detail than we are expected to know this semester and I can’t stop! It’s almost like I won’t be satisfied until I go down to the cellular level – which is totally unnecessary and requires a lot more education than I have at this point.

We just finished the last week of the semester. I can’t believe how fast time has flown by. I find myself constantly evaluating how I could have done this semester better – hindsight is 20/20, right? At the same time, isn’t it the challenge, evaluation, and subsequent evolution of self that matter most? Yes, I could have done the semester better, but I didn’t know that then. You never know it then. You always know it after. This way, the next time a similar experience rolls around, you know how to tackle it. I’m rambling, I know…let’s blame it on the coffee.

Charlotte wrote a great post introducing St. Steffan to the blogosphere. We met Steffan for the first time last week while studying at Costa Coffee. (He is a Norwegian student currently doing his 4th year in Rome, Italy, back in Budapest to take his pharmacology exam). In the span of an hour, he brought us out of our pre-final sorrows and relit the lights at the end of our tunnels. We ran into him a second time – Skjalg in tow – and he took time out of his day to enlighten us again. There is an unbelievable amount of negativity bombarding us each day about school, exams, our professors, and the city – pretty much everything. It makes it hard to keep a positive outlook when so many of your interactions throughout the day are far from positive. Without perspective, it is an almost impossible task to remain positive – and Steffan gave us just that: perspective.

One of the most memorable things he said – something that I need to remind myself of in this very moment – was along the lines of the following:

The first two years are hell – the third year is too, but at least then you have the respect of the teachers. During the first two years you are being trained. You are being trained to absorb massive amounts of information, to think critically, and to survive a stressful environment. Just keep going. Once you’ve made it into the third year, things will be a lot different. You will not believe how much you have evolved at that point. The teachers will respond to you differently, you will have earned their respect through your persistence. Everything you are going through now, and will continue to go through these next two years, is worth it. So just keep on pushing through.

So, we just have to keep pushing through. We are changing every day, with each challenge we face and each task we complete. It is to be expected that we experience “pain” in this process. It’s more bearable to stomach the stress when you are told that it is all worth it, by someone who can say so from personal experience.

On a lighter note, Skjalg turned 30 yesterday!! I stayed up late Monday night to make him a cake. When I asked what kind he wanted he said “something fresh” so I made a lemon cake with lemon filling and coconut frosting. It is a tradition in my family for everyone in the house – humans and animals include – to wake the birthday person with cake, presents, balloons and music. This year it was just me, so it wasn’t AS exciting, but I think he was happy nonetheless. He got his present early – an iPad (a group present from his mom, dad, sister, grandparents, and I). For breakfast I made Norwegian pancakes. We will be celebrating in full on Saturday night when we go out to dinner with a group of our friends to Sir Lancelot (a medieval times themed restaurant).

cake 30

Lemon Cake


Snowy Night

December 5, 2012 § 4 Comments

Snow has finally hit Budapest and looks like it might be here to stay – on the roof tops at least. Until yesterday, I never thought I would find myself grateful for the freezing winters I endured in Oslo. Walking through the cold with my thick, knee-length winter jacket, I appreciated for the first time that this California girl has learned how to dress in the winter. I recall a time while living in Santa Monica where my friend Faye tried in earnest to explain to me the warming capacities of wool, as I sat there in my skirt, uggs and thin jacket. Faye grew up in New York, so she knew a thing or two about winter warmth. Although, I would argue that LA experiences nowhere near any sort of winter when compared to everywhere else I’ve lived. When we visited for Christmas two years ago, much of our time was spent laying out by the pool and soaking up the sun.

I tried to snap a picture of the snow. I’m sure I could get a better shot if I ventured somewhere other than the path of home-school and school-home. I realized the other day that I haven’t seen the river for almost 3 months – and we live only a 10 minute walk away from it. At this rate, I’ll leave Budapest with no other knowledge of it than how to get to school.

first snowfall

Snow in the courtyard!

If anything, I am happy that we are here and not in Oslo right now. I keep reading statuses from friends there about how bitter cold it is outside and saw this when I checked the weather last night. Real feel of -21 °C? No, thanks! I like my fingers just where they are thank you very much.

oslo weather

Ok, enough procrastinating. Actually…speaking of procrastinating, Skjalg was fighting with a tough bout of it last night. As I sat working on my physics lab report, I heard him start saying phrases in French and Italian. He spent a good 10 minutes showering me with various phrases and translations. It’s not the least productive form of procrastination possible, but definitely won’t help you write a lab report 😉

Annnnddddd now I need to go. Have to leave for anatomy lab in about an hour and still have 50 or so Latin words that need to burn themselves into my short-term memory. Sona si Latine loqueris!


December 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

My plan to take Latin early this morning instead of tomorrow afternoon didn’t work out quite as well as I thought it would. Even after 7 hours of knocked out sleep last night (I slept on my arm all night and am surprised it didn’t die from lack of blood flow while I was sleeping) I woke up exhausted. I pushed the snooze button until around 6:00 and then forced myself to roll out of bed so that I could cram several hundred Latin words into my head. A cup of coffee and a red bull had no effect and at 8:00 I had to admit to myself that there was no hope in me waking up enough to take the exam.

Skjalg can tell you that I am horrible at napping. Even if I’ve only had 2 hours of sleep I will force myself to stay awake until an acceptable med student bedtime. Trust me, I’ve tried napping. As soon as I lay my head down, my brain uses the inside of my eyelids as a canvas for its never-ending to-do list. With each lingering task, I grow more and more anxious and the adrenaline begins to course through my body. I usually manage 5 minutes before I am up and forcing my zombie-self to do something productive. It’s torture I tell ya!

But this morning was an exception. Even with coffee and Redbull filling my belly, my head hit the pillow and I was out – for three hours! When I finally woke up (from Skjalg dropping a plate in the living room) I stumbled out and stared at him sleepily. He wished me good morning and as I went to respond, my lips tore apart from each other to form the words. He laughed and told me that was one of the weirdest things he’s ever seen as I ran to find chapstick. It’s gotta be exhaustion when you can sleep on your arm all night and then your lips fuze together when you nap. #medschoolproblems

So here I am, trying to figure out the best way to attack these last days of school. I have two lab reports and one pre-lab to write for physics, a Latin midterm tomorrow, chemistry midterm on Friday (which I am NOWHERE near prepared for), embryology test on Wednesday next week and then a Chemistry lab exam next Friday. Somewhere in that time, I need to study for my Hungarian and Anatomy finals (on the 18th and 27th, respectively). Baby steps?


Hi! Bye!

December 3, 2012 § 2 Comments

Sparing a few minutes of the chaos of the day to do a quick check-in – and I mean quick!

We are 4 midterms down and I have two more this week. We’ve been joking around about how midterm doesn’t actually mean “mid-term” here, since we’ve had at least one exam every week since the 5th week of school.

Anatomy and physics last week went surprisingly well – way better than I ever could have expected. In the anatomy exam, I was asked several things that I knew quite well and for physics I was able to pull out some last-minute knowledge to answer the 25-point question. The hard-work has paid off, as I am now exempt from the practical/dissection portion of the anatomy exam as well as the written portion of the physics exam. I don’t feel any less stressed about finals though…which is a bummer.

I’m waiting on the results from the biostatistics and Hungarian midterms. I’m pretty sure biostatistics went well. As for Hungarian, I will be lucky if I pass. The exam was much harder than I expected and I didn’t give it enough study time – not at all! (Update [Dec. 10] – ended up getting a 4 shockingly enough. How I managed that, I have no clue! She didn’t take off a ton of points for accent mistakes, which saved me.)

I have medical Latin terminology on Wednesday but am hoping to take it tomorrow morning instead (along with Skjalg’s group). This will give me a little bit more time to prepare for our medical chemistry midterm on Friday.

Ok! Off to bed with a stack of Latin flashcards. Goodnight, blog world!

An update from the study cave…

November 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Anatomy midterm in 24 hours and I having been staving off a panic attack for the past week or so. There is so much to learn and so little time to learn it. I can only hope that it goes smoothly tomorrow, whether a failure or success. I only need to pass in order to be exempt from the practical part of the final exam, but that fact has yet to comfort me.

There is no structure to the days now. There is only studying and hopefully remembering to make food and do house chores. I can’t wait until tomorrow is over! I need this knot in my chest to go away. Once the anatomy test is done, it will be a quick turn around. On Friday we have our statistics and biophysics midterms and next week we have Hungarian, Latin and chemistry. Time is flying by!

Thanksgiving was a day spent studying and then out for a quick dinner with my fellow Americans, Rina and Charlotte. I can feel the homesickness increasing as we go deeper into the holiday season. Perils of being a medical student I guess..


Strained Eyes and Fear of Failure

November 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

Closing in on what might be 12, if not 13, hours of studying for today and I can feel it in every bone in my body (I can say this because I actually know every bone in my body). There are 4 weeks left of classes. This next week will be the last “normal” week, as we have no midterms. The week after that we have our anatomy, statistics and biophysics midterms and the week after that one, our Hungarian, Latin and medical chemistry midterms. Then it is one last week of classes, chemistry lab final, and embryology midterm. So many hurdles to survive just to make it to finals!

I’m definitely feeling the pressure now. I’m going to try to focus a little bit of my time this week on subjects other than anatomy (just to keep my head above water in them) but it is hard to do when I’m not even on top of anatomy. While on the phone with my mom today, I expressed my worries about the midterms and upcoming finals season. My mom juggled law school AND raising two kids, so she is the perfect person to seek out for advice. She told me that fear will only help me fail. She illustrated with the analogy of walking across a narrow board: when placed on the ground, you can walk across it without any problems, but the higher and higher it is raised from the ground, the more the fear builds up inside you and the more likely you are to fall. Instead of letting the fear of failure get the best of me, I should use it as fuel on the path to success.

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