May 24, 2014 § 6 Comments
This past Wednesday was our final in Physiology, covering everything we’ve learned this year. It was the earliest I’ve ever taken an exam, with only 4 full days to study after the last day of school. The days leading up to it were a bit stressful, but we were able to stay positive and optimistic. I never got to review as much as I would have liked and instead chose to focus on those topics that I felt were my weakest: respiratory, gastrointestinal and renal physiology. Those topics alone took me about 3 full days, which didn’t leave much time for anything else.
The day of, I was actually in quite a good mood. I’d only slept 3 or 4 hours, but was feeling positive and excited to test out my knowledge. I’d mentally prepared myself for all possible outcomes and that removed quite a bit of the fear and anxiety normally associated with exams. Our theme for the days prior was, “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors”. We would either pass the exam and move on to the next one victorious or rise to challenge a patch of rough waters and grow stronger because of it.
The exam “began”at 13:00. We weren’t seated until around 14:00, which was expected since there were 85 or so of us taking the exam. The exam was split into 3 parts, 30 questions each, and we had 3 hours to complete it. If you failed any one part, you failed the exam. Normally, I answer multiple choice quite quickly (going off of instinct and not always reading the entire question – bad habit!). While doing practice tests the day before, I made several stupid mistakes and decided that on the exam, I would have to make sure I took more time to process the entire question. For the semi-final last year, I think I was done in the first 1 hour and 45 minutes. This time? Just 4 minutes short of the 3 hour mark.
Here is an example of the multiple-choice questions put out by the department. They were nice enough to actually reuse several of these on the exam! If you want to see more of them, click here.
Instead of waiting for the results, Jannie and I headed home for dinner, beer and bubbles. We grabbed carpaccio and pasta from Vapiano and set up a little picnic on the balcony off our bedroom. We congratulated ourselves on the mere feat of completing a 3-hour exam on a year’s worth of physiology and reveled on the pure bliss one feels in the aftermath of a great challenge.
Much browser refreshing was done between 19:00 and 19:30 when someone uploaded a photo of the exam results onto our year’s facebook group. That is when the panic hit.
After a hectic minute of searching for our codes, Jannie and I came across our scores – and we’d both passed! Skjalg emerged from his study cave soon after our vocal delight filled the apartment. I ended up getting a 4, for which I am very proud (even though it would have been nice to get a 5 😉 ). Here is how the results ended up:
After that, it was over. We sat there in a state of mixed exhaustion/happiness/apathy not quite knowing what to do with ourselves. Skjalg went back to his anatomy cave and Jannie and I started watching Bridesmaids, calling it a night mid-movie.
The following morning I allowed myself to sleep in and then Jannie and I rode our bikes to Culinaris to pick up some black rice. We had originally planned to take a whole day off, but with anatomy up next, we decided it would be wise to get a head start. To make the day a little more special, we picked up some picnic items for lunch and stopped off in front of Parliament to enjoy the post-exam bliss, pre-exam anxiety and 30-degree day.
Then it was home to start embryo! Our anatomy exam is in 12 days (from today) and even that is not enough time. Every hour, I have to bat away a nervous feeling that creeps up into my chest. We’re trying to hold on to the positivity we fostered for physio, but with a topic list that is 14-pages long, it’s proving to be a bit more of a challenge. It’s possible though! Just need to put one foot in front of the other…
To cheer ourselves up yesterday, we took our giant to-do list for the last few weeks of school:
and crossed out alllllll of the tasks! Sometimes it’s nice to remind yourself how far you’ve come and what you’ve gone through to get to where you are 😉
April 29, 2014 § 2 Comments
I’m surfacing from what has been a crazy past two weeks. After my last post, we still had a few days of Easter break left and in the week that followed, we’ve had 5 exams (well, two quizzes, 1 competition and two midterms).
My friend Stian and his boyfriend Kim and a couple of friends were here in Budapest towards the tail end of the break. Stian and I met in Oslo some years back through our mutual friend Marie and have been friends ever since. They arrived on Thursday, a day on which I was having a very hard time getting anything done studying, so I was very happy when I received a surprise text saying they were outside our apartment. We shared a bottle of wine and then headed out for a little tour of the neighborhood and then over to Gozdu court to find a place for dinner.
The forecast for that weekend was poor, so when I woke to sunny skies on Friday, I immediately messaged Stian to ask if they wanted to go on “the walk” (a certain route Jannie/Skjalg and I usually take). We made it into a little event by stopping at Culinaris on the return leg and then setting up a little picnic on the benches in front of Parliament. Culinaris is a fine foods shop that sells all kinds of amazing products, including American goodies (though not the healthiest) and things like lavender-infused olive oil, Madagascarian vanilla bean tea, and randoms like bacon jam (not for us of course!). Skjalg and I picked up guacamole, arugula pasta salad, quinoa salad and lemon-cilantro hummus from the deli, while Stian and Kim picked out quinoa salad, tropical fruit salad, spicy peanut butter, violet-infused strawberry jam and a selection of fresh, savory breads. For drinks we had coconut water, aloe vera water and diet A&W cream soda (which wasn’t as good as I remembered). To take home for later, I picked up my absolute favorite black rice, perfectly ripe avocados (hard to find in Budapest!) and some pumpkin to make pumpkin protein bars. Here are some pics from the walk/picnic taken by Kim:
On Friday night, we all headed out to Iguana for dinner and then to the amazing Cuban getaway La Bodeguita del Medio for drinks, talking and dancing (though beautiful Hanna did most of the dancing). That Saturday, Sunday and Monday were study days, which closed with a last goodbye dinner at Indigo. Tuesday morning, it was back to the grind!
This past Thursday, we had our physio seminar quiz on the autonomic nervous system (which I don’t think went so well, unfortunately), our lab quiz on electrooculography and at 18:30, the anatomy competition. At the end of the second semester of the year, one can participate in competitions within each of the subjects. The “prize” and conditions of the competition vary. For the anatomy competition during the first year, the winners were exempt from taking the semi-final exam. This year, since it is a final exam covering all the material of the two years, the winners will be exempt from the practical (specimen identification) portion and/or the histology portion. After this first round of the competition (the one we did on Thursday), 5 out of 75 will be going on to the next round, which will take place this week. I didn’t study for the competition (there was just too much, especially with physio on the same day) but I went anyway, just for the experience. The competition consisted of 150 identifications of structures within morphology, histology and embryology.
After making it through that crazy day, it was cram time! Or, continuation of cram time (welcome to second year!). On Monday (yesterday) we had a cleverly planned two midterms in one day (all the days of the week and all the weeks of the semester…and they need to be on the same day?). I thought it was going to be impossible. It wasn’t, but it wasn’t easy either. During Easter break, I managed to go through all the lectures and take notes to use during finals, but after that, I prioritized anatomy. There were many different ways people chose to handle the two-midterms-in-one-day thing. Since we only have to pass one anatomy midterm this semester to be accepted to the final, most of those who passed the first one decided to focus only on biochemistry. The score of your biochem midterm will be added as bonus points to your final exam score, so many people felt it was more beneficial to get those points. For me, anatomy is a much bigger foe…I can’t even begin to describe the anxiety I feel about it. So, instead of gunning it for the biochemistry bonus points, I decided to focus on anatomy and use it as an opportunity to prepare for the final exam. At the end of June, we’ll see whether I made the right choice or not 😉
My anatomy midterm was extremely smooth, except for the nerves that manifested as an extremely shaky right hand. I was examined by a teaching assistant of the same examiner I had for my last semi-final in anatomy. This midterm covered topography of the ventral regions of the limbs and thoracic and abdominal cavities. Most of the questions I was asked were possible for me to answer because of the studying I have done these past few weeks. That gave me all the confirmation I needed that I had prepared the right way – something that is gold to a med student, since we are almost always doubting our methods of preparation.
The hours after the anatomy midterm were quite brutal. I really thought that I would be able to get in 6 hours of effective review before the biochem midterm, but my post-anatomy brain just wasn’t in the game. I had to really force myself to sit there for hours and load up my short-term memory – and that is the least effective way to study. I was able to answer most of the open questions, but I think I might lose on the multiple choice, of which I had to completely guess on about 12 of 25 of them. It was a bit of a hard pill to swallow. Failing anything is never a good feeling, but I just have to suck it up and keep going. No use in feeling sorry for myself!
So, what am I up to now? Well, with the last anatomy and biochemistry midterms done, I can go hardcore physio. I’m not a big fan of putting all my eggs in one basket, but I have my sights set on the physio competition on the Thursday of the last week. The only other subject I will be required to focus on in that time will be biochem. At the end of each semester, we have a lab exam where we are given one lab from the semester and have to write a sort of report about the lab. This semester, since it is the last of biochem, our lab exam will include all the labs we have ever done. I honestly don’t understand why we have to do all of them, especially when we have already been tested on the previous semesters’ labs, but cést la vie.
The physio competition will include 40 open answer questions and two essay-type questions. From what I understand, only the top 3-5 students are chosen and will be exempted from the entire final exam. It’s a big goal, but there’s no harm in trying!
Ok, off to a long day of Hungarian, biochem and physio!
April 17, 2014 § 8 Comments
The weeks are speeding by and I’m really starting to wonder where the semester has gone. The end goal is the end of exam period and the only days we notice up until then are the ones where we have tests/midterms. There is such a clash of anxiety and security inside of me. I feel so, so insecure about how these next two and a half months are going to go, but at the same time, there is part of me that feels that I should be confident with the amount of time I spend studying. If studying is your number 1 priority, things are supposed to go your way, right? But it doesn’t feel like that. I feel like I could study 1000 more hours and still not feel any better than I do right now. Even if I perfectly memorized my notes and could repeat them verbatim, I would still probably find some reason to feel inadequate in my knowledge. I know that I just need to have faith in myself and believe that everything is going to be ok, but it’s not always so easy. Skjalg knows me so well, possibly even better than I know myself. Sometimes when I am studying, he’ll come up behind me, give me a hug and assure me that I am doing a good job, even if I don’t believe it myself. He has his anxious moments as well, but his aren’t as lasting as mine.
This week is Easter break, or as our teachers call it, Eastern break (???), so we have an amazing 10 days off from school. Well, off from classes to be more precise. Skjalg and I did manage to sneak away this past weekend. We haven’t really had much time together (some Friday night date nights were trumped by Monday morning exams), so we figured we could forego studying for a couple days (bad med students!). Where did we end up? VIENNA!
I don’t know that I would have ever taken the time to visit Vienna had I not made the life-changing decision to move to Norway. I’d never heard much about it and when visiting Europe from the US, I feel like there are more popular cities that would knock it out of the running. Boy am I so glad we went! Vienna is quite possibly one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. Almost every single corner, side street or hidden alley was picturesque and loaded with charm.
We arrived Friday night by train, with enough of the day left to check into the hotel and find a restaurant for dinner. The train ride from Budapest takes about 3 hours and runs through countryside for the majority of the trip. Skjalg picked a perfectly located hotel, the Mercure Wien Zentrum. My friend Amir was kind enough to send us a list of things we have to do/try while in Vienna. He is a seasoned Vienna-enthusiast and wanted to make sure we experienced a few key things that every visitor to Vienna should experience. On our way out of the subway, we spotted the first of his tips – Cafe-Konditorei Aida! Even though we were tired from the trip and ready to get to the hotel, we stopped in and picked up two small cakes to share after dinner.
For dinner, the concierge recommended Griechenbeisl for some authentic Austrian food. We expected that it would be a bit more on the expensive side (and that it was!) since it was recommended by the hotel, but we thought we would give it a shot. The restaurant is actually a converted historic Viennese Inn. We went for two of the specials – beef with asparagus risotto, skewered scallop and prawns and veal with mashed eggplant and something, something fancy – and they were two of the best dishes we’ve ever tasted. Totally worth having to eat cheaply for the rest of the trip. During dinner, I mused about my life that day: morning physiology lecture in Budapest and late night dinner at a 567 year-old inn in Vienna. Quite the life we live 🙂
Saturday was one of the most perfect days Skjalg and I have spent together. We didn’t make any official plans and just set out to explore the city. We walked down random streets and when we saw a beautiful building – even just the tips of its towers in the distance – we walked towards it.
We stumbled across the Spanish riding school, the set-up for the Vienna Marathon, numerous parks and sites of interest and best of all – the Steiermark Festival. We perused through the festival, tasting and drinking our way through the best Steiermark has to offer, with intermittent periods of sun-worshipping in the park.
After leaving the festival and exploring a little more, we stopped at the Mozart café across from the Albertine museum to have first coffee and an apple strudel…and then champagne and strawberries.
Loaded up on caffeine, sugar and bubbles, we headed down a street Skjalg just “felt” we had to go down. It led us around what turned out to be the Vienna State Opera and as we came around, we were met with a live showing of the opera going on inside. We sat down with the small crowd and enjoyed the amazing experience of watching an opera in the middle of the bustling city. At one point, a server with a food and drink cart appeared. His cart buckled and squealed as it made its way across the cobblestones toward us. Skjalg and I decided to indulge in the moment (the theme of the day was quite clearly indulgence) and split a mini bottle of champagne. After 45 minutes, the cold of the evening drew us out of our seats and in the direction of our hotel.
On Sunday morning, we headed out to the Schönbrunn Palace. It was a bit overcast so we didn’t really get to see it in its full glory, but that might have been a good thing, since its beauty was already too overwhelming. Before we made our way through the gardens, we stopped in the Easter Market for some hot wine and Easter treats. The property was huge and would have taken at least a day to explore. We walked through the main grounds and then spent an hour running through the playground and labyrinths before grabbing lunch at the restaurant next to the zoo.
After a weekend of wine, walking and wonder, we jumped on the 17:40 train back to Budapest. We’ll see you soon Vienna! You beautiful little city you!
On Tuesday I met with Amir to give him a little “thank you” surprise we picked up for him in Vienna – a box of cakes from Aida! Apparently, he can’t get a present without giving a present, so in return, we got two pieces of the most amazing Middle Eastern bread I’ve ever tried. His parents were visiting this past weekend and brought with them loads of the delicacy handmade by his grandmother. He told me that it was his childhood in food form, so I couldn’t wait to try it. I have no idea how to describe it or what it’s called, but it was amazing. I was instructed to heat it up and serve it with fresh vegetables and greek yogurt.
The days following have been filled with studying, chores and bipolar weather. Stian arrives today and I’m really hoping the weather clears up during his visit. Budapest just isn’t in its prime in the shadows!
March 30, 2014 § 4 Comments
It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and I am up and at ’em! Since my last post, things have been quite hectic. After the anatomy midterm on the 17th we jumped straight into cramming for our weekly physiology tests. That week in physiology we were tested on the adrenal gland and calcium metabolism. We’ve just finished up the endocrinology series and are now starting neurophysiology. By the that Thursday night, we were already exhausted – but we had to keep going! Monday the 24th was our biochemistry midterm covering the following topics:
- Na+,K+ ATP-ase I. The permeability of cell membranes, P-type ATP-ase. Structure of Na, K-ATP-ase
- Na+,K+ ATP-ase II. Na, K-ATP-ase isoforms. Regulation. Secondary active transports. Na-H exchange
- Chemical neurotransmission. Cholinergic neurotransmission. Biosynthesis of acetylcholine, receptors, acetylcholine esterase. Molecular mechanism of exocytosis
- Noradrenergic neurotransmission. Biosynthesis and metabolism of norepinephrine. Synaptic uptake
- Molecular mechanisms of adrenergic, dopaminergic and serotoninergic neurotransmission
- NO: Regulatory role of NO. Nitric oxide synthase. Guanylate cyclase. Molecular effects of nitric oxide
- Glutamatergic neurotransmission. Synthesis, transporters, receptors. Biochemistry of Parkinson disease
- GABAergic neurotransmission
- General properties of ion channels. Methods for studying ion channels.
- Structure of the K+ channels. Methods for studying ion channels. The molecular mechanism of gating and permeation.
- Biotransformation I
- Biotransformation I
Rest then? Nope! Luckily, the exam took place at 19:10 in the evening, so we didn’t have to feel guilty about taking the rest of the night off afterwards. The hours before the exam were spent at the library. We were bad and skipped anatomy so that we could be at the library from 9:00 in the morning until just before the exam. After the exam, we went for drinks and dinner at Tiki Bar. It was nice to sneak in a little break, even if we did have to cut it short so that we could get up early for school the next day.
From Tuesday we were on it for cramming for that week’s physio tests. Our seminar test covered the pancreas and whole body metabolism and the lab test covered the glucose tolerance test, which can be used to diagnose diabetes. Three students had to fast for the test and at the beginning of the lab consumed 75g of glucose dissolved in 250-300ml of water. We then measured their blood glucose level over the course of two hours.
By the end of Thursday night, I was completely beat. In addition to the exhaustion I felt after cramming for the recent exams, I somehow caught a cold. It full-on attacked me while we were studying Wednesday night (Skjalg too!). It was so hard to push through to Thursday night but somehow I did it. I took Friday off and Jannie came over and we watched Grey’s Anatomy and played playstation.
Yesterday was also a little bit of an easy day. I spent the morning organizing my study plan for the next month or so. Finals period is RACING towards us and I want to conquer the anxiety as much as I can before it settles in for good. My plan is ambitious, but I think that laying it out the way I did will help keep me accountable for what I am to do that day. So far I’ve worked in both lab exams, physio and biochem, the next anatomy and biochem midterms (which are going to be on the same day!) and a bit for physio. There is still a lot I am going to need to add….it will be interesting to see how it changes with time. I’m planning on doing the physio competition at the end of the semester. It is during the last week of school and covers all of the material we’ve learned in physio. If you pass it, you are exempt from the final exam – so it is well worth it!
And here is my plan for this weekend. I managed to do everything except the last two anatomy topics, so those will be moved to today.