September 6, 2014 § 7 Comments
(Get comfy, you’re in for a long one!)
Yesterday I lived three days in one. Or at least it felt like it. I began the day selling my books at the school book fair. It was so much more hectic than I’d imagined it’d be. The book sale before our first year was on the ground floor and only a handful of students had tables, everyone else had to have their books on a blanket on the floor.
The suitcase I used to pack my books weighed in at what felt like 200 kilos. This made it so that it took me a full 10 minutes to just make it out of my apartment building. One cab ride, complete with an angry cab driver, and a half-dislocated shoulder later, I was at the Basic Medical Science building. This year’s book sale was upstairs. I’d been warned by a friend I’d met on the first floor that it would be hectic and yet that did not prepare me for the scene I was met with when the elevator doors opened. The entire floor was packed with tables and first year students already buying books. I pushed my way through the crowd, likely making a few people angry, as I searched furiously for my sale station.
Jannie had gotten there before me and luckily spotted me in the chaos. After setting up, time flew by. I met so many students who know me through this little blog right here and it was such a surprise (and so nice to meet you all)! After talking the ears off of pretty much every person who approached our table, I had to run downstairs to partake in an introductory “lecture” for the first year students. The acting director of the English Anatomy department holds a speech at the beginning of the year to introduce the students to anatomy, the biggest class of the first year. She’d asked the future TA’s of anatomy to join and since I was selling my books, I said I would be there. We didn’t do much other than stand there on the side, but maybe it was nice for the first years to see people who have made it through.
After an hour or so more of book selling (and talking) I rushed home to drop off my suitcase and change for a day trip to Szentendre. Szentendre is a beautiful little town with cobblestone streets a 40-minute train ride from the city. We’ve been told about it so many times before, but never gotten around to actually going. Our friend Amir, whom Jannie, her sisters and I had dinner with earlier this week, is an amazing planner and life enthusiast. He was telling us about all of his trips around Hungary and even of some of the adventures he’s had here in Budapest. One of those trips sounded too good to pass up, and that was wine-tasting in Szentendre.
On our way into the town, Amir told us of five things we were going to do. I’m a horrible travel planner myself, so I love being in the company of someone who knows exactly what to do and just decides that we are going to do it.
- Dinner and wine-tasting – of course!
- Walk down by the river
- Christmas store
- Marzipan Museum
After the train ride home, we headed for the famous ruin bar, Szimpla kert. I’ve lived here for two years and have never been there, which is shocking to most. Amir felt it was absolutely necessary that I make the leap. If you are planning a trip to Budapest or live here and haven’t been there yet, you must visit – it is amazing!
As for registration, well, that was one of the most stressful 10 minutes of my life. Our adrenaline rush didn’t subside for nearly two hours after.
We ended up with almost everything we wanted. I have about half my classes with Jannie and half with Skjalg – which is actually perfect!
Planning our classes went through several phases…and I think I spent way, way too much time on it all. It did work out in the end though, so who’s to say it wasn’t worth it.
Random crazy person sheets with scribbles and time slots…
Modern day technology user. I used the notes from phase 1 to make up these possible schedules here. These I sent to Skjalg and Jannie, so we could start narrowing the classes down.
Mapping! Jannie and I sat for several hours before registration and made up these little registration maps. We wanted to make sure we had back-up plans for everything. In the end, I think we must’ve had something like 50 potential schedules. Jannie ended up getting most of the green path (our first choice) whereas I ended up with the blue path.
Well, not really final. I have some scheduling conflicts to work out – i.e. find a Hungarian class I can sneak into! I will be meeting with the physiology tutor on Tuesday (I’ve been accepted as a TA in physiology as well, so will be TAing for both anatomy and physiology ). I hope everything works out smoothly….it’s a little bit of a mess to look at right now.
Otherwise, I’ve spent the entire day inside. I set up a grocery delivery from Tesco for 14:00-16:00, but by 17:00, I hadn’t heard anything. After waiting in the call que for 20 minutes, I found out they were experiencing major technical difficulties and that the delivery wouldn’t be made until between 18:00-22:00. Safe to say I’m not in the best mood. Ordering groceries online is amazing – when it works as planned! I’d planned to be boring and stay in anyway, but I don’t want to be forced to do so.
September 3, 2014 § 5 Comments
During an unintentional philosophical discussion with my brother today (on Skype), he shared with me the following quote:
The topic of discussion was one of our favorites: the pursuit of greatness. We were raised to be the best possible versions of ourselves at all times. We were raised to seek out challenges and the dark corners of the unknown. We were taught to accept a constant state of change as a means of fulfilling all that of which we are capable. I remember one instance very well, which I’m sure my mom will love to see that I’ve shared here. I was about 8 or 9 years old and we had been given our very first report cards at school. I remember very clearly that we had no idea what any of it meant. We stared blankly at our own cards for a while and finally began comparing ours to each others in efforts of understanding what the letters meant. I soon learned that mine were what was considered “good” and couldn’t wait to go home and show them off. When I finally brought it to my mom, she saw my “B” and said, “That’s good, Bianca, but what did you do wrong?”.
I’m sure that garners an array of reactions, but for me, that is one of my favorite memories. Sure, it didn’t feel so great then. I didn’t really understand what she meant, much less what the grade itself meant. What I did learn was that I could do better and most importantly that I should strive to do better. I learned that I was capable of the best if I worked hard enough and smart enough. And it was later that I would learn that the act of even striving for the best made me stronger, regardless the outcome.
On Monday morning, we begin medicine. Yes, we are two years in. We started at the basic of the basic. We fought through classes we didn’t see the point of and survived exams that felt completely unrelated to our chosen career path. In those two years, we learned the entire healthy human body, in and out, and now, we will learn everything that can go wrong with it. As one of my TAs (teaching assistants) told me a couple of weeks ago, “Now, you start medical school.”.
It still feels a little scary. Sometimes I catch myself thinking things like “this is where they are going to find out I’m a fraud” or “This is where I’ll realize I’ll never be a doctor”. Scary, mean thoughts, I know, but they are there nonetheless. I used to be more affected by thoughts like that, more so by ones I had of myself than those others had of me. Over time I’ve come to realize that I find them motivational, in a twisted kind of way. Those thoughts arise when I need a little kick. Nothing motivates me more than telling me I can’t do something. (Example: Jannie moved this past weekend and Skjalg told me I couldn‘t carry the four large, packed IKEA bags I was eyeballing (he actually said “don’t” because he knows how I react to “you can’t”, but I heard it as the latter). What did I do? I loaded up! And I’ve got a strand of broken blood vessels on my shoulder to prove it.)
I’ve spent the majority of the past 24 hours putting together my schedule for this next semester. Spending so much time organizing classes I know so little about unleashed a flood gate of
negative motivating thoughts. There is a lot more pressure on us this year because we no longer have our schedules planned for us. There are schedule suggestions, but we no longer have to adhere to our oh-so-comforting group number. Bye, bye, Group 12! Hello, Change!
Throughout this planning marathon, I’ve been thinking about Baba Shiv’s TEDtalk “Sometimes it’s good to give up the driver’s seat”:
Oh, how I wish I could give up the driver’s seat for this semester schedule! But no, it’s time to step up and embrace the change once more.
At 18:00 tomorrow, 180 or so of us will furiously activate our semesters in the online registration system and go head-to-head in a battle for the classes of our choosing. Each of the subjects is divided into about 15 groups and each group has only 9-12 spots. We’ve gotten recommendations from students who have completed 3rd year about which professors to take and have built up potential schedules from those recommendations. Jannie, Skjalg and I are planning on taking as many classes together as possible, but have been warned that no one ever gets the schedule they want. I think it’s safe to say I’m a little stressed…
Otherwise, a lot has happened these past two weeks, including the end of nursing practice, the passing of my 27th birthday (which I spent alone *party*), Skjalg’s two-day stop off in Budapest before flying off to Thailand with his dad, and Jannie’s return to Budapest, complete with a move to a new apartment and visit from her two sisters.
Now I am off to bed, registration day awaits!
Cheers to this random guy, who kept photobombing this newscaster no matter how hard the cameraman tried to avoid him. Made me laugh hysterically – and out loud! – at the gym. I blame the endorphins. He even got his own sign-off!
August 20, 2014 § 1 Comment
…we celebrated our first national holiday in Budapest! It was our third day living here and everything we did felt like an adventure. We made sure to see all of the events that happened that day: the air and water show, the food festival, Hungarian dancing and fireworks. It was an amazing induction into Hungarian culture and the beauty of Budapest. I documented nearly every second of that day in my blog post: Saint Stephen’s Day – Celebrating the Foundation of the Hungarian State. Worth a visit to relive those moments. Last year we were in Budapest, but instead of joining the crowds, we got take-out from a nearby restaurant and watched the fireworks from our kitchen island with some glasses of champagne.
Had we moved here this year, we would not have had anywhere near the same experience. The weather is poor, gloomy and wet. Miklós told me that they won’t do the fireworks if the weather is bad. Several years ago, there was a thunderstorm and people still flooded the bridges and streets encircling the Danube to watch the fireworks show. He said that a tree branch fell somewhere and ended up killing two people, and since then, they have decided to only carry out the show if the weather is good.
It’s my day off from work and I feel like my skull is shrinking. My sleeping pattern is so poor with this work schedule and I’m definitely feeling the consequences. My plan for today was to start off by going to the gym and then study the rest of the day, since the quiz for our Exercise Physiology class is due early Thursday morning. I haven’t been enjoying the class as much as I thought I would. The lectures aren’t very stimulating and my interest in the topic can only fuel my motivation so much. After talking a little bit to Skjalg, I decided to drop the class and instead give myself a break from studying until school starts up again in a couple of weeks. If I feel the urge to study, I can always watch a Dr. Najeeb video. Otherwise, I’d rather fill my time with some leisure reading. My brother Christian recommend a book called Not Entirely a Benign Procedure and I am really interested in it. He said it is a book of diary entries of a medical student during her four years of medical school in the US and that the author is very talented and witty. Skjalg told me that I have to finish one of the other 15 books I’m “reading” before I start a new one, but I’m going to sneak this one in anyway…
Work on Monday was terrible. We were there for 9 hours and all we did was make four beds and register three patients, so a total of 40 minutes of work. When we were in Neurology, they were good about letting us go if there wasn’t anything to do (though, it felt like there was more to do when we were there). The head nurse of the Gastroenterology department is oddly strict. We had a rush of patients between 9 and 11, and after that, there was nothing to do. There were four patients in the department, three nurses, three nurse interns and the three of us, and still, she said we weren’t allowed to leave until four. So, for the last three hours, we stood there, watching the nurses sit on their phones or quiz each other on dosages of medications. For one hour, I counted the paper butterflies on the walls according to their color scheme. We couldn’t help but get angry about it. It’s not that we were lazy and wanted to go home, just that we wanted to do something. Cleaning, organizing, any mundane task possible! As the hours ticked on without a task, I got frustrated at the thought of seconds of my life slipping away for no reason. I’m generally good at finding a reason to make any situation “worth it” but this was ridiculous.
We’d decided that, on Tuesday morning, we would talk to the head nurse of the hospital, the one organizing our practice. Another day like Monday would have driven us insane. (We wanted to do anything – anything! – other than just stand there. We’d change every bed in the hospital if we could.) I was alone when she emerged from her office that morning and approached me to say hello. When she asked how things were going I explained, in my best easy-to-understand English, “Yesterday, it was very slow. We only changed 4 beds and registered 3 patients. It was not very nice to only stand there.” She nodded in understanding, smiled and told me that we should probably take a half-day. She seems to care a lot about our experience here and has been really good about planning things for us to see and do, at least during the first two weeks.
After she left, the boys showed up and we headed towards the department. The head nurse of Gastroenterology, endearingly referred to as Big Red by us, raced up behind us, pressing on our heels and goading us to walk faster in Hungarian. At the entrance of the department, the head nurse of the hospital was waiting. The conversation that ensued was one that I really, really wish I had been able to understand. I picked up some words, but Miklós had to fill in the rest once we were alone and settled. Big Red had been told by the head nurse of the hospital that there was no point to keep us standing around, doing nothing, for hours on end and that we should be sent home if there is absolutely nothing for us to do. She was then criticized for something that didn’t have anything to do with us: there was only one patient staying in the department, only two schedule to come in for the entire day and she had three nurses working. Miklós said that she was told that the nurses shouldn’t be “in Hawaii” – a term for lounging around in Hungarian – and that she had to send someone home (which she never did).
After their little talk, Big Red ignored us for the rest of the day. She complained to the other nurses for a while and then disappeared to the back. We, of course, care about making a good impression and are doing our best to be respectful, but it had just reached a point where we needed to stand up for ourselves. Jun and I, as English students, are paying $350 for this practice. If there is nothing for us to do in one department, we will gladly go to another or honestly anywhere where we can do/learn something. But if they are just going to have us stand around and doing nothing for hours, well, then they are also making us pay with our time in addition to our money. Big Red is honestly the only person who has made that an issue and for what reason, we’ll probably never know.
The shift on Tuesday ended up being a little better. Some doctors stopped by for lactose intolerance testing and we were allowed by one of the nurses to complete the test. For the test, they are asked to swallow a solution containing lactose and then the hydrogen content of their breath is measured every 30 minutes for 3 hours. People who are intolerant of lactose (like me!) lack the enzyme that breaks down the sugar in the intestine. As a result, the lactose continues until it reaches the gut flora (bacteria) which do have the enzyme. When they break it down, they produce hydrogen and sometimes methane, which appear in the subjects breath. For people who are not lactose intolerant, we would expect their breath values to be 0, whereas those who are, can have really any value other than 0. So, every thirty minutes, we had them breathe into a plastic bag attached to a large syringe. When the bag was inflated, we opened the syringe, filled it with the air from the bag, and then closed it again. We then attached the syringe to a H2 reader, injected the air into it and waited for the result. The results were interesting: one patient had 0, 5, 0, 9, 0, 5, 0, whereas the other had 0, 0, 0, 0, 11, 38, 54.
At 11:00, the department entry was empty again and there were only two patients checked-in. The three of us and the three nurse interns sat in the waiting area, watching the nurses sit in the nursing station on their phones and chatting. Big Red had been marching back and forth in the hall on the phone, loudly remarking various things to the nurses. Miklós told me earlier that she some of the things she says are pretty rude. One of her phone calls was more intense and I asked Miklós to translate it. He said that she had been informed that they would be closing the department since there were only two patients and that the patients would be moved up to hematology until Thursday. She didn’t want to close the department, so she was calling around trying to find another patient to put in the department so that they wouldn’t have to close. With so little to do that they are being told to close the department and you’d think she’d let us go, right? Nope. She told us we couldn’t leave until 1:00 – exactly a half-shift. I’m sure there are more logical reasons for keeping the department open – i.e. making sure the nurses get paid – but when it came to keeping us, especially after her conversation with the head nurse, I just didn’t understand. At 12:45, she told us to go and change and then didn’t return our goodbyes when we left. I have such fond memories of the first two weeks that it is unfortunate that it may end on a more sour note. There are still three days, but two of those leave Jun and I without a translator! Tomorrow we’re planning on asking the head nurse of the hospital if there is another department we can visit. We’ll see how that goes…
On a lighter note, I tried overnight chia oats for the first time! Oats, chia seeds, banana protein powder, coconut flakes, light coconut milk and some splenda overnight in the fridge and then topped with some berries in the morning. Will be a quick and refreshing treat to have in the mornings once school starts.
July 13, 2014 § 2 Comments
It’s been almost a month since we passed our last exam and accomplished one of the toughest milestones of this chapter in our lives. We are now third year students and are ready to move deeper into medicine now that we have two years worth of pre-clinical knowledge behind us.
The time since then has gone by both really slowly and really quickly at the same time. I was almost completely burned out after our anatomy final on the 5th of June and that meant that every single day that followed was a struggle. I lacked almost all motivation and struggled greatly to absorb even the simplest of details. Still, I kept pushing forward, one foot in front of the other. I was nowhere near as effective as I usually am, but I had no choice but to continue. In those 48 hours before our exam, we were all going a little crazy. The apartment was a mess, we were eating almost nothing but take-out and were doing our best to keep the nearby shop out-of-stock of energy drinks. As we got closer to the exam, the only thing I could do to study was re-write the almost 100 chemical reactions we needed to know, over, and over, and over again.
The exam was split into two parts. The first contained about 15 or so open questions worth something like 27 points. In order to pass that portion, we needed a minimum of 14. After that, we had a 10 minute break – enough time to go to the bathroom and gather ourselves. Then it was back in for the second and third sections, which were combined to form a total of 70 multiple-choice questions. I was feeling so hopeless about the exam that I had pretty much already accepted that I was going to fail (a feeling that is all-too familiar to me). Skjalg had advised me to just go with my gut and not second-guess myself. I have a tendency to speed through multiple-choice questions and answer purely on instinct, barely even reading the whole question. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. For the last few written exams, I’ve been forcing myself to stay longer and end up going through my exam even 3 or 4 times before handing it in. This time, I was just going to fly through it and only change an answer if I was 100% sure.
Afterwards, we were all in a bit of shock. The exam had felt impossible and there were all too many questions that I didn’t feel good about. Most of my answers were chosen out of pure instinct. I think there were only 15 or so that I knew I’d gotten correct. All of us were feeling pretty horrible, but we’ve learned to just go with it and wait until the results come out. Skjalg and I headed home, while Jannie and Andrea (a Canadian-Hungarian girl in our class) walked towards Kiraly. The entire way home, I was online on our school website constantly refreshing the exam results page to see if my grade had been uploaded. A little premature, yes, but you never know! We stopped in to grab a bite to eat at a nearby take-out place and while Skjalg was in line, the results were uploaded. I said his name three or four times, barely loud enough for even myself to hear, as I quadruple-checked the results. When he finally came over I said, “I passed! I got a 3!”. He didn’t really react that much and instead scrambled for his phone. Once he’d found out that he had passed, he let out a deep breath and the celebrating began!
There wasn’t too much in the way of celebrating that night. We had a bottle of champagne and some amazing Italian food from my favorite, Trattoria La Coppola. Then Jannie headed out for a night of fun, while Skjalg and I stayed in for a comfy date night on the couch – which was long, long overdo! I have no idea what we did in the days that followed. I was in such a zombie state, stressed with no reason to be and utterly exhausted. On the Friday after the exam, I started another juice fast to clear my body of the horrible things I did to it during exam period (too much caffeine and poor food choices). I did it for 10 days – nothing but 5 juices a day, no food, no coffee, no nothing! Needless to say, there wasn’t too much that happened during that time except for a few get-togethers with friends and lots and lots of sleeping. After the juice fast ended, I had one day and then I was off to Bodø!
I arrived in Bodø Tuesday night last week and since then have been filling my days with plenty of sleep and family time. We spent the first weekend at Skjalg’s family’s cabin in Halsa and will be heading back there next weekend. The first trip was with his grandparents and this next trip will be almost the whole gang – his grandparents plus his uncles, aunt and cousins. Skjalg’s sister left just today after a week in town. It’s too bad she won’t be able to be here for the trip to Halsa, but she will be coming to visit us in Budapest in September.
In addition to family time and sleeping, I’ve been going to the gym, helping paint the house and….taking a class!! I’ve had least 3 people tell me I’m crazy and that I should just take a break, but I miss the brain stimulation too much. I’m taking a course called Programmed Cell Death through Coursera. The site offers tons of courses within many different fields – for free! The courses are offered by many different universities all over the world, including Johns Hopkins, Standford and UCSD. The university offering my course is Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich – the same school that Skjalg’s grandfather attended for dentistry. It’s a small world!
Week 4 of the 6-week course starts tomorrow. There are 2 quizzes (each worth 30% of your grade) and a final exam (worth 40%). Each quiz allows 3 attempts and is worth a total of 25 points. I used all three attempts today trying to get a perfect score, but the best I got was 24.33/25. I guess I’ll just have to settle for 97% ;). The course itself is very interesting and goes quite deep into genetics and biochemistry. I’m hoping that it will come into good use when we start microbiology next semester. On the 24th, both Skjalg and I will be starting another course called Exercise Physiology. I’m really, really excited for that one!
I only have a couple more weeks here in Norway before I head back to Budapest for my nursing practice. I got a spot in the pediatrics department near school and am looking really forward to getting some practical experience. It will be really hard to be away from Skjalg for so long, especially because I’ll be spending my birthday alone down there, but we’ll handle it like champs – we’ve had enough practice with tough situations at this point!