Last week of school…

May 14, 2013 § 3 Comments

…and it sure feels like it!

It’s already 1:30 am and I need to be up in a few hours, so this is going to be very short! Since I last wrote, my days have been full of non-stop cramming for exams. Tomorrow we have our biochemistry lab exam and on Friday we have a midterm on the urogenital system. Skjalg and I did manage an amazing date night on Friday – dinner and wine outside the basilica. One thing I absolutely love about Budapest is that it is so easy to feel transported, like you are on a vacation. I don’t know when I’ll ever have a vacation…so it’s nice to pretend. Ok, Skjalg just came out and told me to come to bed and I should probably listen to him 😉 I’ll write more as soon as I can.

Here’s some pics from Skjalg and my date night on Friday and then some from studying for biochem lab exam with Jannie.



Countdown and Jannie’s Birthday

May 7, 2013 § 5 Comments

We are already in our second to last week of the semester and before we know it, we’ll be in exam season. I can’t believe that the first year of medical school is already coming to a close! Time really does fly by before your eyes and I am so happy that I have this blog to document it.

On Thursday morning last week, we had an anatomy competition, giving us a shot at getting an exemption from the final exam. I didn’t make it through to the second round (only 12 of 100 or so did) but I am really happy I did it and actually found it quite fun. There were 3 parts: morphology (anatomy), histology (microscope images) and embryology. We were shown images for a short amount of time (maybe 5-10) seconds and then had to fill out an answer sheet with the name of the structures indicated in the image. It was different for each section really, for example: 1 full minute for 8 structures on one image in anatomy and 8 seconds for 2 structures in histology. I wish I had studied more for it (over Easter break) because it ended up being a lot easier than I expected it to be. I had only studied for it on the day before, so I really wasn’t putting myself in the best position.

The competitions are such a great option, but you really need to prepare for it from earlier in the semester if it is going to be a true possibility. That said, I’m going for the biophysics competition tomorrow. A bit of a contradiction, I know. I haven’t been studying for the competition and will only have tomorrow to prepare for it. The exam is at 19:30, so I am going to spend the day going through the topics we have covered over the year. I’m not expecting to pass, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

Today we had our second biochemistry midterm of the semester. After the anatomy competition, I jumped right into biochemistry studying. My friend and group mate, Jannie, and I studied biochemistry together for the first midterm and after trying out studying together for our second physics midterm, we found that we study really well together. So, we’re going to keep the study train going as long as we can! (Skjalg and I have tried studying together before but we’re too different 😉 I think we know each other too well.) On Friday and Saturday we studied at our place and on Sunday, we were over at Jannie’s. Sunday was her birthday and I wasn’t going to let our biochem cramming get in the way! After she left on Saturday night, I stayed up and made chocolate peanut butter cupcakes. While we had been studying that day, Skjalg had been nice enough to pick up balloons, a card and a present on the way home from the gym. I wanted it all to be a surprise and couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to sneak out myself. Lucky me to have such an amazing boyfriend!

So, Sunday morning I jumped into a cab with my biochem materials, platter of cupcakes, Jannie’s present and balloons. Since it would have been too hard to blow up the balloons at home and travel with them to her place, I brought a large bag that I could use to carry them once I’d gotten to her place. If you were near the Basilica early on Sunday morning, you may have spotted me crouched next to the parked cars on the street, blowing up balloons. The shopkeepers and restaurant owners  found me quite intriguing, making sure I had an audience the whole time. It wasn’t that bad until a balloon exploded in my face and a sound like a gunshot bounced off the buildings. Once they were all blown up, I rang the bell and maneuvered the goodies up the stairs to Jannie’s place.

I hid everything in the hallway and then, after finding Jannie sitting in the sun in her doorway, escorted her to the couch where put a blanket over her head. With her busy giggling away under the blanket, I littered the apartment with balloons and then lit the candles and sang her happy birthday. Things weren’t totally perfect – e.g. balloon popping in my face, setting my hair on fire when lighting the candles, having to use band-aids to wrap the present because we didn’t have tape, and having to use candles saying “23” instead of “26”- but it was a success nonetheless.  For her present, we got her a new water boiler. Her’s leaks boiling water and earlier this week she burned the skin off her left thumb, so it seemed like a good present.

JanniePresent JanniePresent2

After present opening we headed down to a café next to the Basilica for coffee and to study some structures.


After coffee, we picked up salads from Vapiano (an amazing Italian place in Deak tér) and headed back to Jannie’s. By 17:00, we were completely drained. With only 12 hours of sleep between Friday and Sunday, we were running on empty – easy to do this late in the semester. Jannie was laying on the floor and I was laying with my legs up on the couch, when she turned to me and said “what if we didn’t study any more today”. Dangerous, tempting words! So what happened?


Our wine night ended up being the best decision ever. Mental sanity is hard to come by at this point and we need to do whatever we can to retain what we have left.

Now it’s bedtime! Up early for biophysics cramming. I’ll be missing anatomy to study for it (which I’m not feeling good about) but I need those hours. Wish me luck!

No computer + no internet = no blog posts

April 11, 2013 § 3 Comments

Right now I am hooked up to the internet using Skjalg’s phone – and my time is limited. These busy med students forgot to pay their internet bill (-_-) and as a consequence they shut off our internet and cancelled our subscription. A bit harsh of a reaction, considering we have never been late before and have a contract with them…but what can you do? Rather than simply turning our internet back on, we have been told that they “no longer offer that service” and we have to install their new system and pay a higher fee. So, we are without internet for another week or so.

We took my computer in to get fixed and found out it will be around 100,000 HUF (about 2700 nok or $500). I freaked out a little bit when I found out, but Skjalg reassured me that that is much cheaper than we would have had to pay in Norway (about 6 times cheaper) and that it is cheaper than buying a new computer. I’m hoping I will get it back soon!

Other than that it has been study, study, study! We had our histology midterm this past Monday. I didn’t do as well as I would have liked, but I trust my knowledge. We have 40 seconds to look at a slide and either identify what organ it is from or what structure the pointer is pointing at. There were only 20 slides, so it didn’t leave a lot of room for error. My mistakes were silly, for example, “white pulp” instead of “PALS” (a structure of white pulp in the spleen) and interlobular duct instead of striated duct (a sort of intralobular duct). Almost everyone else got that last one wrong, which seemed a little unfair because the duct was surrounded by a great deal of connective tissue, thereby making it a tricky guess for only 40 seconds. It looked almost the same as the interlobular duct marked in the photo below.

ducthisto spleenhisto

I’ve taken some not-so-very-exciting pictures over the week that I will post when I get the chance. Now it’s off to bed! Tomorrow morning we have back to back lectures on the trachea, lung and development of the respiratory system. After that it is Hungarian and then anatomy lab, followed by (hopefully) a wonderful Friday afternoon and night in the library.

Biophysics Midterm: Check!

March 11, 2013 § 6 Comments

I can feel myself evolving as we progress further into the semester. My expectations of myself have become more realistic (though not completely realistic just yet) and I am learning to accept the amount and quality of work I am able to produce. I still get frustrated when I don’t finish my over-enthusiastic to-do lists, but the frustration is less consuming.

This morning we had our midterm in biophysics. Before heading in, I jokingly asked the professor, “Are you looking forward to torturing our brains?” to which he replied, “Yes, yes I am.” We have a new professor this semester and he is amazing. He explains the theory well, is willing to help us if we need anything, and is quite funny (though, as Charlotte pointed out, his humor is often lost on people because he always jokes with a straight face). Last week, he was nice enough to hold a consultation for our group. I was the only one unable to attend, as it was the same time as Chemotaxis (an elective I am taking this semester). I had given my questions to Charlotte so that she could ask them in my sted and rather than relay the answers through her, the professor offered to meet me on Friday to discuss them.

The exam itself was difficult but fair. As always, I went into the exam thinking that I was going to fail it. The difference this time was that I wasn’t afraid of failing. No, failing is not a good thing, but you wouldn’t believe how common it is here. So much so, that there are 3 chances to pass each exam – even midterms (in all courses except anatomy). One group-mate was joking that our standards have completely changed over the months, from “I really hope I get a 5” to “I really hope I pass”. It may very well be possible to get 5’s on everything, but I have yet to meet someone who has accomplished such a feat. Passing is what’s in right now…

With a little under 2 hours of sleep, I was quite the delirious little nugget this morning. I found a playlist with songs that I could sing along to and sat in the guest room, singing and redoing calculations over and over again. The calculations we get on the exam are similar to, if not the same as, the ones we are assigned as homework, so it is a huge benefit to do each calculation several times. About half an hour before we were supposed to leave, I began my pre-midterm ritual of listening to my favorite motivational video. I’ve listened to it so many times that I almost have all the words down. Nothing gets me as pumped up and motivated as this. (I’ve probably shared it already, but it’s awesome, so here it is again).

So after listening to this a couple times, I came to a conclusion, which I immediately shared with Skjalg:

“The test is simply an evaluation of how I have been studying so far. If I pass, that’s great. I can keep on doing what I am doing and possibly make some further improvements. If I fail, yes, it will suck. However, I will be forced then to review the material more thoroughly, to learn it better and really understand it. In all honestly, I benefit either way. One way is just a little more challenging.”

It’s amazing how much mental power you have over your perception of a situation. Accepting that failure was an option and thinking of the good that could come out of it, rather than focusing on the bad, put me in control. Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” applies, not only to other people, but to yourself as well.

Mindfulness: 1 ; Defeatism: 0.

Midterms, cadavers and surgery – oh my!

March 6, 2013 § 4 Comments

Midterms have begun and the days have the added pressure of an upcoming examination. Yesterday was our midterm in biochemistry. Unfortunately, I did not feel prepared enough by Tuesday morning and decided to skip the lectures leading up to the midterm. Skipping lectures is really not something I want to make a habit of, so much so that I am just going to confirm right here and now that no habit will be made. Going to lectures keeps me on top of my game and forces me to review the topics.

After histology lab on Monday, my friend Jannie and I headed to Costa Coffee for a study session. From noon until closing at 22:00, we worked through the calculations in our calculation book, reviewed some structures and discussed a bit of theory. When I got home afterwards, I found Skjalg practicing structures on the white board. His professor gives them weekly quizzes on the structures, so he knows them a lot better than I do. I need to be better about studying a couple of them every day, but it is so hard to prioritize it when you have all your other classes to worry about. Compared to last semester, the structures are complicated! For this exam, we needed to memorize the amino acids, amino acid derivatives, carbohydrates, and carbohydrate derivatives.

Here’s an idea of what we are dealing with when it comes to structures. You might think this seems like a lot – imagine 9 pages of these suckers. About 80-90 structures total -_-

Some amino acids….

amino acids sample

Some amino acid derivatives…

amino acid derivatives

Some carbohydrates….

carbohydrates sample

and finally, carbohydrate derivatives.

carbohydrate derivatives sample


This morning we had an anatomy lecture on the stomach, which was followed by anatomy lab. We are now working with a full cadaver. When they unveiled him last Friday, it was the first time I had ever seen an entire dead body. Up until now we have been working on separate limbs, thorax and organs. It is easy to put it out of your head and focus solely on the anatomy, but there are times when I look at his face and wonder about the life he lived up until he found himself on our dissection table. It is during those times that I am fully aware of just how surreal the experience is. The worst part about it is really the expression on his face. His head is twisted upwards and his face is contorted in a sort of pain/relief expression, his mouth open revealing toothless gums. Well, not completely toothless…but there are only two. The cadavers are prepped for a year before we dissect them. To prepare them, embalming fluid is circulated throughout the body through arteries, as well as injected into necessary areas. Then the body is sealed and stored until dissection time comes around.


To close out today’s classes, we had our medical professionalism lecture. We have a couple electives this semester that are easy to mix up and have us more confused than necessary – medical professionalism, medical communications and medical informatics. So far, medical professionalism has consisted of weekly lectures where each week introduces us to a new department/specialty: cardiology, general medicine, pediatrics, etc. Today was my favorite – surgery! And if that wasn’t cool enough, the lecturer was amazing! She was so passionate about being a surgeon and so personable that it made the entire lecture seem like it was only 5 minutes long. The room began to stir when she presented one of her surgical cases to us: a man with Fournier gangrene, a necrotizing bacterial infection of the genital area. He had had rectal cancer and became infected after undergoing a surgery in which 20 cm of his colon was removed. This was one of those lectures that all 1st year students attend together, so you can imagine that not all 250 or so students enjoyed watching the series of pictures depicting the infection and subsequent surgery flashing before their eyes. (In case you haven’t done it already, google at your own risk.)

To close out the lecture, she gave us a little taste of her life as a surgeon. She shared pictures of her time working in Italy, in England, in Venezuela, in Africa, and finally in Japan. I was so in awe of the experiences she has had and felt such a deep sense of inspiration. I’ve always been told that being a doctor opens up the doors to the world, but I’m only now realizing just how true that is.

We stayed after the lecture had ended, hoping to get a chance to talk to her – and we weren’t the only ones (shout out to Clare, Sofie and Avneesh 😉 ). She had mentioned during her lecture that we were welcome to visit her department, to “try ourselves”. When I brought this up to her, she lit up and leaned in as if we were sharing some secret. “You can come whenever you want! You can come tomorrow! Just send me an email and if I don’t answer just show up. I can take two or three at a time, not too many more because I can’t have so many of you with me in the operating room.” We will definitely be paying her a visit – and soon! We just need to find a time in the morning when we can do it, which will be difficult considering that we start at 8 pretty much every day of the week.

Now I am off to work on my biophysics study guide, since our midterm is bright and early Monday morning. Until next time!


Heart Midterm: Check!

February 27, 2013 § 4 Comments

The first midterm of the second semester lies in our fresh tracks and I am still buzzing from adrenaline, lack of sleep and too much caffeine. I had planned on getting a good night’s sleep before this one, but I ended up staying up until 2:30 a.m. practicing drawings and flipping through flashcards about the development. Skjalg stayed up with me for most of the night and headed to bed an hour or so before me. Until then, we quizzed each other and practiced presenting the drawings on the giant whiteboard Skjalg got from his group for his birthday in December.



For the first part of my midterm, I was asked to draw the development of the interatrial septum, describe its function in the fetal stage and then what happens to it after the baby is born. I was asked questions about the mechanisms behind its closure (first breath – building pressure in the lungs – higher pressure in systemic circulation).  I was really, really happy that I was asked this drawing. It was a drawing that I understood well enough to draw in different ways/from different angles and would therefore be in a much better position to answer any questions they had. In my first anatomy midterm last semester, I was asked to draw the facial canal and he didn’t like the way I was drawing it, so I had to redraw it using a three-dimensional diagram that he sketched on the board. Its something that’s easy enough to do when you understand it, but horribly unnerving when you don’t.


After my drawing was approved, I moved on to the heart specimens. At this point, I switched from being examined by the TA (a third year student) to the head examiner. The examiner has a reputation for being really tough, but fair, so I was more or less neutral in my preconception of him. Using several different specimens (two loose hearts, two cross-sections and one specimen containing the entire organ system) I was asked to identify the following structures:

  • ascending aorta
  • coronary sulcus
  • right coronary artery
  • terminal sulcus
  • right atrium
  • right auricle
  • pectinate muscles
  • approximate location of the SA node and the landmark structures
  • crista terminalis
  • coronary sinus – including it’s development and which veins empty into it
  • anterior interventricular artery
  • great cardiac vein
  • diagonal branch of the anterior interventricular artery
  • identify a cross section as the fibrous ring of the heart
  • left and right fibrous trigones
  • ostium of the aorta
  • posterior, left and right cusps of the semilunar valve of the aorta
  • pulmonary trunk
  • anterior, left and right cusps of the semilunar valve of the pulmonary trunk
  • hiatus for the bundle of His
  • conus tendon

That’s all I can remember for now…All in all, my exam took – what felt like – less than 4 or 5 minutes. The most time-consuming portion was the drawing, though that wasn’t as bad because I asked if I could explain it as I drew it. When I was done, it was like I had no memory of the last 12 hours. There was so much stress leading up to that point and it was over in just a few minutes.

I was the last person to be examined, so I was left in the room with the examiners and one other group mate while everyone else was excused. Being the last person is possibly the most stressful (since you are sitting there for an hour watching everyone), but this time it was really nice. There is a lot less pressure when you don’t have your whole group witnessing your exam. I ended up with a 4/5 – so I am one satisfied girl. The exam was much easier than I anticipated, so the only thing I am a little bummed about is that I could have passed without staying up all night last night.

The next one up is biochemistry on Tuesday. I have been staying on top of my topic list for that class, but am behind on the structures – a total of 64 that we need to be able to duplicate on the exam. Our Medical Professionalism lecture today was cancelled, so we gained 2 hours. Time might be more precious than gold to medical students.

We all have our different “midterm day” rituals. Some went out for beer and cheesecake, others straight to the bar, some home to relax for the rest of the day and others either home to study or prepare for classes they have later today. While I would love to just check out and watch movies and sleep, I am going to force myself to be productive and maybe head to bed early.

I’ve been compiling a little list of tasks I need want to have completed by the end of the day. A little overambitious, but I guess that’s my vice. None of them really have to be done by tomorrow, but I know that getting them done today will make the coming days much easier to handle. If I learned anything from last semester, its that I need to keep a strong pace during the semester and not let anything fall by the wayside.


Now, for my favorite post-exam ritual: closing all the tabs, windows, files, etc that I no longer need open. Skjalg says I am a tab-hoarder (because I never close my tabs when I am studying).


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