25 days out

October 30, 2017 § 2 Comments

I’ve told myself almost 100 times now that I can treat myself to writing a blog post when I reach my goals (for that day). Clearly, that hasn’t happened yet! So here I am, sneaking time away from studying even though I’m nowhere close to finishing today’s task list.

Studying for this exam is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m literally being tested on everything that I’ve learned, every single subject simultaneously, and there is absolutely no end to it all. I could probably study for this exam for years and years. Luckily, that isn’t what is required to pass this exam.

I am 25 days out from my exam and I am officially freaking out (while still being mildly functional). For at least the past month, I’ve lost my ability to communicate like a normal person. I can tell when I am having conversations with my friends that I’m just not making sense anymore. How do I know? Because even I don’t know what I am saying! I’ve also lost my ability to come up with metaphors that DON’T have something to do with medicine (e.g. “Haha, he’s just like a retinoic acid receptor!” or “You’re just like Class IB antiarrhythmics, both of you have a predilection for damaged tissue”). I wish I was kidding about that.  This sort of mania is something that I think only people who have studied for this exam before can understand. My friend Stephanie is the best example: she NEVER gets stressed or anxious for exams (or honestly about anything) and yet, even she had panic attacks while studying for this exam.

Luckily, teaching has been really helpful and I’ve enjoyed the break away from the books to spend time with my students. We are covering neuroanatomy this semester and preparing for the lessons has made me ace almost all my neuro questions. They’ve been amazing and are always so engaged. I share some of my Step 1 questions (the ones relevant to their material) in our facebook group and I love seeing how they process and discuss the possible answers. I’ve been so, so impressed with their knowledge and efforts!

So, what exactly is my life like right now? I wake up at 5:00 (sometimes 6:00 if I’ve had a rough night sleeping, which happens more often than not), throw random grains and nuts in the rice cooker (if I don’t have some leftover), do cardio while doing questions/watching Pathoma or Sketchy videos, shower, settle in for rounds of questions (UWORLD: I do a full block (40 questions), random (all subject and disciplines) and on timed mode every time. This is the best way to simulate the exam experience. The exam is as much about knowledge as it is about endurance.). Doing the rounds and their subsequent review can take the whole day (and it usually does). I study as late as I can and then I do flashcards in bed until I fall asleep. If I’m lucky, I’m asleep by 22:00. Obviously, there are various dips in energy and focus throughout the day. I haven’t been able to nap longer than 15 minutes for the past two months and now I’m even down to only 5-10 minutes before my brain starts going through uncontrollable UWORLD withdrawal. Now that I’m starting to get even more anxious, I’m going to start studying out of the apartment more. I need to dissociate my exam from my home if I am going to stay sane these next few weeks.

Everything in my life right now is 100%, absolutely full-force USMLE. I’ve tried to minimize all other obligations so that I can (a) have more time to study and (b) prevent spreading myself too thin and doing horribly in all areas of my life. I’ve pushed A LOT until after my exam. This includes my thesis and my gynecology final, as well as a huge chunk of my internal rotation (which I am doing now). My friends Marianne and Dushyant have offered to take some of my anatomy classes, which is extremely helpful. It is really important to me that my students have a good teacher and I’m so lucky to have strong, competent friends who are willing to step in when I can’t be that for them. Marianne is doing most of her rotations in Norway, but she is here for two months to do her pediatrics rotation and she’s been at my place studying almost every day.

Ok, the books are calling, so I’m going to leave you with some pictures that I’ve taken the past two months. Clearly, my life is little more than studying, cooking (I’ve been making literally all my meals in a rice cooker – those things are amazing!!), and going out for groceries or to walk Baloo. Luckily, I live in a really beautiful part of Budapest, so leaving my apartment is always a treat.

Music has been my saving grace through all of this. I listen to music from when I get up until I go to bed – and the selection is all over the place!

 

A picture is worth a thousand words

June 20, 2017 § 4 Comments

So much has happened in the past two months that I hardly even know how to write this post. It makes me sad to think that there are memories that are lost or that will fade because I didn’t have the time to write them down here. This blog has documented almost every step of this journey – from applying to medical school to now. Though this year has a bit less documented than the others, I plan to continue it until the end.

The weeks after we returned from our trip to Ukraine were a complete whirlwind. I honestly can’t even organize my mind enough to put those weeks into words, so I think my only option is to describe these past months in photos.

Ukraine Trip
April 26th

Helping out at the anatomy competition

April 30th

Even Baloo finds studying for exams exhausting

May 1st

Baloo brings everyone to the yard

May 3rd

Notes everywhere! I was trying to gather together all the hematology notes I’ve taken since 3rd year, since we were tested on it again in internal medicine this semester.

May 4th

Going through cranial CT scans in neurology

May 5th

Jannie’s 30th Birthday!

A quote I wrote in her birthday card

May 6th
May 7th

May 8th

That feeling when your puppy sleeps in the same room as you so that you’re not alone during your all-nighter

May 10th

Marianne signing her contract as a student doctor!

May 11th

Cram time!! 4 days out from Internal and Gyno

May 12th

Huge day – LAST LECTURE EVER!!

Last dinner with the gang

May 13th

Weekend of hell! I had 6 exams the following week and had already been cramming for weeks up until this point.

May 14th

An idea of what I was up to during the month of May

May 15th

May 16th

May 19th

Sword and Scale is my ultimate guilty pleasure podcast!

May 20th

It’s nice that some of us get to sleep in

May 21st

When your notes randomly pop up somewhere on the internet..

May 24th

Studying for my last exam with Marianne!

May 25th

DONE WITH MY LAST EXAM PERIOD EVER! Still can’t believe I survived 10 exams in 2 weeks.

May 26th
May 30th

Dedicated Step 1 studying time – here we go!

June 1st

Charlotte’s Birthday!!

I love this city!

June 2nd
June 3rd

Wandering the city and running errands while listening to a new favorite podcast

June 5th

Goodbye dinner with this one ūüėÄ

June 7th

Re-discovered my old, little notebook of quotes

What happened after all this? Well, a lot. After 8 years together, Skjalg and I split up. We love each other very, very much and will continue to be good friends. As he is off to Stavanger to complete his 6th year (and I am staying here), I’ve moved into a new studio apartment. The past two weeks have been a bit heavy, but now that the moving is complete and I am finally in my own space, I’m really happy. I whittled down all my belongings to the essentials, donated 3/4 of my clothes, gave away tons of my notes to one of my students. I tried to take only what I really needed. It is so utterly liberating to not be tied down by tons of things. With the recent changes in my life, my future is now a blank slate. I have no idea where I will end up after medical school, but I’m really excited for the year that lies ahead, for the challenges that await.

Here is my new place before I moved in:

And here it is “Biancified”:

Alright, back to studying I go!

The Transition

March 23, 2017 § 3 Comments

During a break on Tuesday, I mentioned to¬†an Erasmus student from Germany how brilliant¬†Budapest is when Spring really hits. I told her, “There will be one day where the temperature jumps and the parks fill with people – that is the day where everything starts.”. Wednesday was exactly that day. After class, I came home, opened up the doors to our small balcony and laid out a yoga mat. For two hours, I soaked up the first real taste of spring while listening to¬†a samba mix. It’s amazing how much a difference the sun makes!

I took the rest of that afternoon to work on my study schedule (the one I was supposed to do Monday). I’m always searching for ways to improve my studying and I stumbled across a USMLE blog presenting a technique that I am going to try. It’s really common when studying to designate¬†“days” for a subject. Whether it’s a certain day of the week, a certain number of days a month or a chunk of days for cramming before the exam, using “days” as the base study-time unit is extremely common. This new technique involves breaking up each day into sessions and studying different topics during those sessions. What I liked most about it is that it gives several opportunities to “restart” during the day rather than waiting until the next day to start fresh. If the 1st session doesn’t start on time or isn’t successful, the rest of the day can continue without that guilt and negativity trickling in to¬†the rest of the day’s tasks. I’m definitely one of those people who gets thrown off if things don’t work out like I planned, so something like this is perfect for me.

I’m going to put a little more emphasis on preparing for my finals (which will take place during the middle to end of¬†May). I want to get those out of the way as soon as possible so that I have more *pure* USMLE time. We have 8/9 exams, 4 of which are oral. During oral exams, we usually have to draw a certain number of topics from an assigned topic list and present each of these topics to the examiner. Thus, the best way to prepare for oral exams is to write out a plan for each topic that includes major points/info you should¬†mention. For forensics, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and internal medicine, I’ve divided up the topics over 6 weeks. If all goes to plan, I will be done preparing a week before exam period, which means that I won’t need as much time between exams during exam period.

My tentative plan for next week

Today was my first attempt at this plan and it went really well – in spite of not actually going to plan! I slept an hour longer and took a 2-hour walk with Baloo, but still managed to get a chunk of topics done within different subjects. It felt really good to be able to look at my schedule for the start of the next session rather than waiting until the next day. No more entire-day sabotaging for me! It was also really nice to mix the subjects (5 years of medical school and I still haven’t figured out how to successfully study multiple subjects at once). I was tempted to repeat gyno for a session because I was really enjoying it, but now I’m happy I moved on because I really look forward my next session with it (and it feels good to have made progress in other subjects).


I’ve been a bit more reflective this week than usual. Fifth year is not what I thought it would be. It feels so much more final than I ever could have imagined. We still have one year left, but most people go back to their home countries to do their final rotations there. As such, most people are treating this as the last semester. I notice so many different ways of coping with this transition, of cutting ties with Budapest, of closing out this chapter. We’re going to be doctors soon. An overwhelming fact that weighs heavier with each passing day.¬†And with such an immense transition ahead, it’s hard to focus on the present. Every effort is placed on cushioning the inevitable blow that follows graduation.

In autopsy on Wednesday¬†(our current block is forensics), we had two young men, only 21 and 22 years old, who had been killed in a¬†car accident. One of them had just gotten a new haircut. The day before that, we had a 18-year old male that had died from complications associated with his almost decade-long history of drug use. The fact that I am almost 10 years older than them was not lost on me. It’s so important to savor the present, to soak it all in. The sights, the smells, the sounds. To just marinate in the moment. Life is too short to rush through a transition, even one as big as this.

Here I am, maximizing this moment ūüėČ

 

World, stop.

March 19, 2017 § 4 Comments

This weekend, I finally took some time to breathe. Since I last wrote, I’ve been busy studying for Step 1 of the USMLE (which I’ve been planning to take in June), studying¬†for my classes and enjoying some time with friends and family. Step 1 requires many, many months of dedicated studying and trying to manage that in addition to my normal “life” load has been really difficult – and exhausting! I’ve been waking up every morning at 5:00 am to complete a block in UWorld (the quintessential question bank). After that I work out from 6:00-7:00, go to class and then come¬†home to review my questions from that morning ands study. Each block is 40 questions and reviewing an entire block can take a really, really long time. Sometimes, I’ve even used up to 8 hours reviewing a single block! Each question comes with detailed theory pertaining to the correct answer, as well as information behind each wrong answer. In addition to doing my blocks each morning, I should be reviewing the various subjects. I had planned to cover at least one subject each week. Have I been able to do that? Nope!

In the beginning of March, we visited Krakow with a group of friends. I kept my studying up during that time, but it was not easy! Waking up at 5:00 while everyone was¬†still asleep for a least a couple more hours was…lonely and frustrating.

Outside of that, the trip was amazing! The city has so much history and it was such a unique experience to visit Auschwitz. It’s really something I will never forget.

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After we arrived back in Budapest on Sunday evening, I only had a couple of days before my mom and brother arrived (from the US and Oslo, respectively). We haven’t been together – the three of us – in 4 years, so this was an extremely special trip for me. In the beginning of their visit, I tried to balance studying with family time. By that Friday, I gave in. This past month has shown me that I’m not going to be ready for the exam in June. I’m not planning on going back to the states in the immediate future and you can only take the exam one time, so I would rather push the date and take it when I am more prepared. It felt good to check out of my study world for a little bit and fully enjoy time with my family. They mean the world to me.

Their visit was perfection. We tried out new restaurants in Budapest, including an AMAZING new one called Makery where you make your own dinner. You are supplied with prepared ingredients and a fully stocked workstation. Each person chooses their dishes (just like in a normal restaurant) and then follows step-by-step video instructions to make it. Such a cool concept! We also did some escape rooms, had a cocktail night with all of our friends and took a day and a half trip to Vienna.

We even got to celebrate Christian’s 27th birthday on the day! Our friend Amir brought over a bunch of fresh goods from his favorite bakery, which we served alongside a collection of cakes we’d brought back with us from Aida in Vienna. Then we watched Chef (one of my favorite movies, which Christian had never seen before). After that it was shopping on Vaci utca, two escape rooms, drinks at a roof top bar close to the basilica and dinner at Iguana with Dushyant and Amir (including the dogs! My mom’s dog Romeo and our dog Baloo).

My mom and Christian left on Thursday and I spent the rest of the day reviewing for Friday’s anatomy exams. Since I have my own group, I’m a main examiner during midterms. This means that I may be in charge of examining an entire group (other than my own). I like to vary my questions as much as possible, so I try to do a thorough review of all the topics before the exams.

In addition to exam day, Friday was the day of Baloo’s surgeries – yes, surgeries! Technically, there was only one surgery with three parts, but when your dog weighs less than¬†1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) you worry a bit more! On top of being neutered, he had two baby teeth taken out¬†(some of them have been a bit stubborn) and a suspicious lump on his head removed. Luckily, the lump turned out to be nothing more than a hair follicle that had grown inward! If¬†any of you follow Dr. Pimple Popper, then you’ve seen these before. If you’re curious, check out this compilation video.

I was so thankful for the distraction of examining students for the anatomy midterm during Baloo’s surgery. I was so nervous that something would go wrong! When Skjalg picked him up at 14:00, the vet told him him that everything went smoothy and there were no complications at all! Afterwards, he was a bit loopy, but by Saturday he was almost back to normal and even playing fetch!

‚ÄčThe only problem now is dealing with his cone. Because he is so small, the cone they had that fits him is really hard and narrow. He absolutely hates it. While it’s on he will stand in place for 10 minutes then get tired and try to lay down somewhere (but never really get comfortable). I slept on the floor with him the first night, since he can’t navigate the stairs leading up to the bed in the dark. Last night, we tried putting his jacket/harness thing on instead. He was able to sleep through the night, so hopefully that is enough of a “blocker” for any licking or scratching he might try.

Otherwise, week 8 (already!!) of the semester starts tomorrow. I’m starting with new material for my students, which I will prepare tomorrow morning before my class at 12:00. We are in the middle of our forensics block, so I might start with preparing my notes for our final at the end of the semester. I’m considering October for Step 1, so I will start studying more for my current course load (I’ve ONLY been studying USMLE so far this semester). I’m going to have to sit down tomorrow and make a study plan for the rest of the semester.

 

 

What a difference a day makes

January 11, 2017 § 2 Comments

This morning I woke up to find a message from one of my friends asking me if a certain picture she’d seen on Instagram was mine. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal so far, but it ended up being a picture of my notes posted¬†by an amazing board review source I use and love (and have mentioned many times before): SketchyMedical. The kicker? They’d re-posted the picture from someone else who was taking credit for it. To be honest, it’s not a huge deal – especially because the picture and notes are mainly from SketchyMedical (and therefore not entirely my material). But, the fact that someone found the image on google and then took credit for it (in comments that have since been deleted) made me a mix of angry and sad. This person even thanked SketchyMedical for admiring/acknowledging his/her work!

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-22-56-38

Fast forward 10 or so hours. The sun has risen on the west coast, awaking SketchyMedical employees. Suddenly, my picture is shared on their Facebook page and I’m credited in their instagram post. At this point, I’m just honored. It’s really cool that my notes have found their way from the dark corner of the internet where this blog lives to the social media pages of the source I used! Then, while finishing up an application for a residency position, I get a notification that I’ve received an email from “Dorothy from¬†SketchyMedical”. To be honest, I thought it was spam. At least that is what I prepared myself for. Keep your expectations low and you’ll always be happy, right?

In the email she complemented my notes and asked if I would be interested in being a SketchyMedical brand ambassador. As one, I will write for their blog as a guest blogger, share on social media, get a free subscription and get a discount code for my followers! I was so, so happy when I read this! Especially because USMLE cramming has begun and I was just considering renewing my SketchyMedical subscription. So, a sort of bad start to the day but an amazing, surprising end! You really never know what the day will bring.

That said, I’m back – I promise! I can’t tell you how disappointed I’ve been with myself for not posting more. I have so many drafts containing a few or so paragraphs that I’ve started and left to be forgotten. I was even planning on getting back into the groove with a “blogmas” – where I post one blog every day in December until Christmas. Leave aside the fact that I had two abstracts to turn in for February’s research conference and 3 exams BEFORE exam period even started. Then there was exam period. And¬†now? USMLE. Oh¬†and applying for rotations for 6th year and residency positions for after graduation. And I can’t¬†forget about that thesis! Oh and actually preparing my¬†presentations for the research conference. And helping at the anatomy exams every Tuesday and Thursday. And preparing my¬†curriculum for anatomy next semester. And sleeping. And working out. And reminding my¬†family and friends that I¬†still exist and love them, even if I¬†don’t talk to them for 3 months.

I wish I could remember all the big things that have happened since I last wrote and make a sort of summary…but I know I am going to forget something. I will probably bring random things up in future posts as they come along. I do know how I will close out this post though – cause I’m saving the best for last!

Our exams this semester were the following:

  • Pediatrics – we were lucky enough to be in the department that lets you take this exam at the end of your block (all the other exams have to be taken in exam period). As such, we were done with this one in October!
  • Neurology – we got to do this one in the week before exam period. That Friday was INSANE! I had my gyno semi-final at 8:00, neuro semi-final at 10:00, then I had to run to my last anatomy class and teach for 1.5 hours, then at 12:00 I had my forensics semi-final.
  • ObGyn
  • Forensics¬†– our year was split into two large groups for this exam. I took it in the first round, which, for some reason, was extremely difficult! I ended up getting a 2, which I was really bummed about. When I retook it a week later (to improve my grade), the examiner apologised for the exam and said that somehow, all of the difficult questions had ended up on our version and the easier ones on the second, rather than an equal mix between the two. I’m so, so happy with my decision to retake it!
  • Surgery¬†– For this one, I also ended up retaking it to improve my grade. Crazy girl! Unfortunately, I missed a 5 by 1 point… #stillbitter
  • Anaesthesiology and¬†Intensive Therapy¬†– this one almost drove me crazy! It’s written and they do whatever they can to trick you. Like changing a small detail in a possible answer. Somehow, I got away with this one.
  • Psychiatry – such a fun subject to study for!
  • Urology¬†– my last exam before Christmas. I was so exhausted by this exam that I was beginning to lose it. Luckily, it went well. Do I remember anything? Hematuria?
  • Internal Medicine: Gastroenterology – this was my last exam and it was amazing! It was my only exam after Christmas and I had 10 days – so I got to take some time off to celebrate Christmas and sleep! Studying for it was really, really nice. I genuinely enjoyed myself. At the exam, I was nervous – as always. It ended up being perfect. My friend Dushyant and I were the last two examined and the vibe in the room was amazing. We were told we got 5+ when we were handed our grades ;).

Other than exams, I submitted two abstracts for the International Student Research Conference in February. The first one I did alone with help from my advisor and the second is one I am doing together with Amir.

  • Department of Public Health:¬†Personal Health Practices of International Medical Students in Germany and Hungary: A Cross-Sectional Study
  • Department of Surgical Research and Techniques:¬†Can Serious Games like The Kheiron Training System Enhance Skill Acquisition from Traditional Box Trainers?

To be able to do these, I had to learn how to use a statistical database program called SPSS. I spent so many hours feeling so incomprehensibly stupid during this. I once spent 3 days doing nothing but reading articles and trying to figure out how to analyse our data – and I felt like I got nowhere. But, somehow, I was able to submit the abstracts before the deadline!

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It’s time for bed, so I’ll touch on other things (like my students!) in future posts. To close out this one, I’ll introduce you to: Baloo and Joseph!

I’ll start with Baloo: we’ve wanted a dog for years but it never felt like the right time. Then, when we were visiting my mom in October¬†we suddenly realised how possible it was (she has a teacup yorkie). So, we made the extremely impulsive and exciting decision to get one. We’ve had him for 3 months now and honestly could not be happier. There hasn’t been one negative consequence of our rash decision – thankfully! He comes with us almost everywhere and sits with us when we study – even when I get up for 3 a.m. cramming – and he’s so calm and quiet! Plus, he makes us laugh everyday. Because dogs are amazing.


And last, but definitely not least! Meet my nephew, Joseph!! It’s times like these that I hate living so far away from family. Still, I’m thankful that we are able to stay in touch with all these media forms today. I’m really hoping I can make a trip to the west coast soon.

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