June 8, 2013 § 2 Comments
If I wasn’t still so utterly exhausted, I think I would be in a state of shock. Yesterday’s biochemistry semi-final was horrible! At one point I thought to myself, “You deserve to fail because you have no idea what you are doing“.
The exam was divided into two parts. The first included 10 structures (out of a possible 200 total structures), 1 calculation and 14 open questions. The second part consisted of 40 multiple choice questions. In order to pass, we needed 13 points from the first part and 21 from the second. What did I get? 13 and 24! Safe to say that I scraped by there…
The room was heavy with emotion when they released the results. Many of the students were taking this exam again for the second or third time and therefore had a little more riding on it this round. Some people screamed out of happiness, others were hugging, some were crying and some escaped defeated.
Afterwards, Skjalg and I went to an apartment showing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what we wanted. It was spacious and located on a beautiful street near the Basilica, but it would have required too much work to make it feel like a home. Plus, it was filthy. I couldn’t believe that they would show the apartment in that condition. The first thing we saw when we walked in the dusty front door was a toilet. They were replacing it with a new one and had left the old one immediately next to the front door. To make matters worse, the spot where the toilet had been was just a huge hole in the wall, surrounded by debris and broken tiles. Luckily, it’s a renters market down here. When we told him that we were interested in having a place from August, he told us that that would be fine as long as we paid a deposit beforehand. I’ve never come across an agent who is willing to lose two months rent like that! I’m bummed that it didn’t work out, but we still have plenty of time to find a new place.
Once we were done with the showing, we met up with Jannie to check out the flooding Danube. It’s been rising steadily over the past several days and newspapers are saying that it will the be highest flood wave of all time. I snapped some shots of the river, which was much less menacing in person than it’s being made out to be in the papers. It probably didn’t help that there were tons of people sitting out along the banks enjoying the sun. It’s hard to imagine what it looked like before the flood.
June 5, 2013 § 4 Comments
So, what happens when you’re locked up in your apartment for days at a time, looking at nothing but biochem notes and structures? You miss out on pertinent news – like the flood warning. For those of you that have been following the news, you might have heard/read about the flooding in Central Europe. It’s been really bad in Germany and Austria and has slowly been making its way to us. The Danube is the second largest river in the continent and runs through Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Ukraine and Moldova. Since Budapest is built right on the banks of the Danube and is almost completely flat, it is quite susceptible to flooding.
The peak of the flood is expected this weekend or Monday. I’m crossing my fingers that I will be able to get to my exam on Friday! Though I don’t think that will be a problem since we live about 1 km away from the river. But then I don’t know much about floods….Our school is located a little closer to the river than our apartment, hopefully that doesn’t present a problem.
Here are some pictures from The Budapest Times. These were taken either last night or early this morning, when the river was just beginning its rise over the bank. One website captioned a photo with “yearly flooding of the Danube” which I found amusing and therefore decided to use it as the title of this blog post. You can follow news of the flood on The Budapest Times website.
March 24, 2013 § 3 Comments
This morning, Charlotte confirmed something that I have been trying to ignore – the fact that I have been blagging (blog-lagging). I’ve taken a bunch of pictures over the past two weeks in hopes that I would have time to write a new post at one point, but the time never came. Now it is Easter break, which means we have an entire week off from school – amazing!
Since my last post, we have had 3 midterms, a snowstorm, a visit from Christian and from friends from Norway, toured the pediatrics department of the university, discovered that our cadaver in anatomy had lung cancer, and attended a first aid course.
Now, to catch up the past two weeks in photos…
Grabbing lunch at a popular soup place before our Medical Profession lecture. This place is packed everyday! For only 800 forint (about $4 or 20 NOK) you can get a cup of homemade soup and half of a sandwich. Felt a little bit like a local grabbing lunch there.
Our friends Else-Lill and Emilie (mother and daughter) came to visit us from Norway. Christian was set to come up on Thursday (his birthday) but Hungary was hit with a huge snowstorm and the trains ended up being shut down. When he arrived the following day, he was met with a little b-day surprise.
Else-lill and Emilie brought us some goodies from Norway (thank you, again!): peanut butter, instant rice pudding mix, brunost, makerel i tomat (mackerel fish in tomato sauce), kaviar (Norwegian creamed smoked cod roe paste – Skjalg eats it with hard boiled eggs on toast), and assorted Norwegian chocolate.
On Day 2, we splurged on a guided tour of the city. We chose River Ride and it was well worth it! The first part of the tour was of some of the major tourist attractions on the Pest side and the second was a ride down the Danube, past the parliament.
Skjalg won a prize for knowing how many exits were on the bus 😉
The following photo is view from the river of the Shoes on the Danube Promenade. Here is an except from wikipedia:
The Shoes on the Danube Promenade is a memorial created by Gyula Pauer and Can Togay on the bank of the Danube River in Budapest. It honors the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.
Café Gerbaud for coffee and cake:
On Wednesday, we had our first Medical Profession practical. For this course, the semester is divided into two parts. For the first 6 weeks of the semester, we had lectures in which we were introduced to various specialties within medicine, for example: neurology, surgery and psychiatry. During the second part of the course, we will visit each of the departments that were introduced to us during lectures. My group and Skjalg’s group have been paired for the visits, so we will be touring the same departments each week. This week’s department was pediatrics. It was honestly one of the first times that I felt like I looked like a med student, like the ones in movies.
We were first led up to a large lecture hall where we were told to leave our things and handed sheer, green scrub covers. We were then led through some of the hospital’s different wards: rheumatology, pulmonary and oncology. In the rheumatology department we met a teenage boy suffering from coxitis (inflammation of the hip joint). We looked on as the doctor spoke with the patient, examined him, and relayed his symptoms to us in English. In the pulmonary department we met a baby girl, maybe about 5 or 6 months old, with di George syndrome. She was so beautiful and sweet and looked so healthy, yet… she wasn’t. She had a scar on her chest from heart surgery and was quite pale in her face. The doctor showing us around the hospital explained how to examine a baby and how to involve the mother in the process. The oncology department was more difficult than the first two. The doctor took time to prepare us and reminded us to smile at the patients , to remember that they are still children. When we entered the ward it was so surreal that I felt like I was in a movie. All the children had shaved heads and pale skin. They were hooked up to IVs and laying in bed watching cartoons. But they were still children. We met a beautiful young girl who, though shy, showed no sign of insecurity as she lifted her shirt to show us her central line. She was nibbling on candies from a pez dispenser and was more concerned with the single candy stuck at the bottom of the dispenser than the 15 foreign medical students standing at the foot of her bed. It is such a surreal and amazing experience to meet real patients and get a taste of what lies ahead.
Here is a picture of us putting our scrub covers on in the lecture hall. The second photo is of Jannie and Martha after the tour.
So many people showed up for this past Thursday’s biochem lecture….Easter break fever hit early!
Friday was our last day before our week break. We started out the day with back to back anatomy lectures and then headed over to Hungarian. Our Hungarian teacher didn’t want to hold class (she used the excuse that many of us had gone home for the holiday – even though we were all there). We got our midterms back and I was happy to see that my studying had paid off. After our tour of the pediatrics department, I am more aware than ever of how much I want (and need) to learn Hungarian. After looking over our midterms, we were free to go.
I spent my free period in the library and then headed over to the anatomy building for my 12:00 lab. Our teacher began the lab period by continuing to open the thoracic cage of the cadaver. Normally he gives us a sort of lecture as he dissects, asking a couple questions every now and then. This time was a little different – possibly because we had some visitors (Jannie’s two sisters from Sweden and Christian’s – groupmate and not my brother – girlfriend, Ingrid, a first year vet student at Szent Istvan). Our professor began asking us a series of detailed questions about the digestive tract. I don’t know if we were all just tired from a long week or if it was pre-break laziness settling in, but none of us were able to answer the questions. He looked around at us over the top of his glasses, searching our faces several times before resting his eyes on me.
“Bianca, please draw the celiac trunk and its branches.”
I had drawn it earlier that week, but I hadn’t committed it to memory – and now the pressure was on. As I approached the board with 20 sets of eyes on me, I asked if I could use my notes as reference. He said no, told me I could only use Martha and Christian for help, and then relayed this experiment to us.
I was able to complete maybe 30-40% on my own. My groupmates were nice enough to help me while our professor continued his dissection. At one point, I had to step aside so that my professor could plug in the bone saw. “Are you going to cut open my head?” I joked, as it passed by me. He smiled and joked in return, “no, but I’ll cut off a finger for each wrong answer.” Gulp.
When I was finished with the drawing, I presented it to the group. My professor made it tougher by asking me which organ each branch supplied. I tried to mask my insecurity with false confidence and I think it worked because I got a “good” and a nod from my professor. I’ll be ready for him next time!
After lab, Skjalg and I attended the histology consultation from 14:00-17:00. It felt good to stay after school on the day before a break. It’s so easy to check out when you know you have 9 whole days off ahead of you.
To close out the week, I attended a first aid course on Saturday. The course was normally scheduled for Thursdays, but we were given the option of taking the entire course in one day. It lasted about 8 hours and we learned how to identify and treat asthma attacks, burns, bleeding, strokes and heart attacks, as well as how to perform CPR and place a casualty in the recovery position. As a first responder, there really isn’t much you can do in terms of treatment, but we at least learned how to keep the casualty alive long enough for the proper help to arrive.
Now it’s off to bed for a couple of hours before getting up bright and early to snag a spot at the histology consultation. We have our histology midterm the week after we get back from break – and it is going to be a tough one! We will be there from 8-12 and then it’s back home to tidy up. Skjalg’s Mom and sister are visiting this week and his sister, Kaya, will be staying with us. I am so thankful that we have a place with a guest room!
September 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
Today we met up in our different groups to attend a lecture on the class/exam registration system utilized by Semmelweis: NEPTUN. The lecture was held by members of ISAS (International Student Association of Semmelweis). Each session was led by one main speaker and three or four student aids that ensured we completed the log in and registration processes correctly. I was happy to discover that the system is very easy to use and pretty straight forward. Any future registration process – whether it be for classes or exams – will occur through this education portal. Fall semester ends December 14th and after that, we have a 6-week exam period. As most of our exams are verbal, we can essentially make our own exam schedule. The lecturer informed us that on the day that the system opens for exam registration, there is a rush of students fighting for their desired exam spots. I prefer this to the alphabetical or accumulated credit points systems used at other schools. This way there is equal opportunity to sign up for your exams – granted the system doesn’t crash, of course.
After the lecture, I took the opportunity to ask a couple of the 4th and 5th year students there about any recommendations they have for incoming freshman. I got the following tips:
- Don’t stress about taking electives in your first year. You are required to have completed 300 credits by the end of the 5th year – which averages to 30 credits per semester – but you will have plenty of time to catch up on credits in later years. Most of the freshmen electives are also available to 4th and 5th year students and since they have registration before freshmen, the electives are usually full. It is better to focus on the mandatory course-load.
- The book list that is sent out by the school is not a list of books required for your classes but rather a recommendation list of books that you can buy. There are no assigned books for any of your courses. If there are any required texts or materials, you will be notified by your professor or even given a print-out in class.
- When it comes to choosing your books, make sure that you take the time to look through the different versions and chose one that you really like. Some anatomy books have detailed drawings instead of actual pictures and this can make it difficult for you when faced with the real thing.
- Buy your books at the book fair at Freshman Day. Try to figure out what you need beforehand so that you know what to get when you are there.
- Avoid buying books at the university bookstore – they are much more expensive there.
- Some books are available online. If you are the kind of person that prefers an online textbook, this is a good option for you.
- Don’t overload yourself with a large array of books. The more books you have, the more cluttered and confusing your study sessions will be. It is better to know one book well than have a scattered understanding of several books.
- The anatomy professors at Semmelweis are geniuses and will go deeper into the subject than your book does. Take good notes in your lectures because everything mentioned is fair game for the exam! If you want a detailed anatomy text – one akin to the knowledge level of your professors – try Gray’s Anatomy (but beware: the book is very extensive and may be more detrimental than beneficial).
- The Thieme pocket books are perfect for your first semester of anatomy (in addition to your main text and atlas). Volume 1 covers almost everything you need to know in that first semester and is much easier to digest than the larger texts.
- As brilliant as most of the professors are, they are not paid very much to teach us. It is important that you show them respect and don’t let yourself get offended if there is even the slightest negative regard towards your being an international student. If you show interest in the subject and are open to doing more (such as being a teaching or research assistant), they will greatly appreciate your efforts.
We headed home for an hour to relax before heading out to the dock where we would board the boats for the sightseeing trip. We met up with two other students: Rina, who is Japanese but grew up (mostly) in the US and has a degree in Neuroscience, and Frida, who is Turkish/Norwegian and has lived in Norway for the past 10 years.
We made our way onto the first boat and then through to the second, which was tied to the first by a series of ropes and connected by a platform so that people could cross between the two. With our complementary bubbles in hand, we headed up to the top to secure a spot on the deck. The front area was already full but we were lucky enough to find an empty spot against a railing. The students invited included all attending the pre-med program at McDaniel College, the veterinary students from Szent István, and finally all six faculties of Semmelweis (if I am not mistaken), including the Hungarian, German, and English medical programs, and the dentistry and pharmacology programs.
We, regretfully, decided against bringing our camera on the boat trip. Luckily, Frida brought hers and was good about taking photos. I stole this one from her facebook page. The bottom left picture shows Skjalg, me, Rina, and Arthur, a Hungarian/American medical student whom we met on the boat trip.
Here are the two pictures I was able to take with my phone. Not the greatest quality, but you get the idea 😉
September 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
In hopes of adjusting to our upcoming schedule beforehand, we have set the alarm for 7:00 a.m. On Monday we abused the snooze button and rolled out of bed sometime around 8:30. Tuesday we improved by half an hour and Wednesday by another 50 minutes. It is tough now, in this last week before school starts, to drag ourselves out of bed so early but we figured it was better to get used to it this week than next.
I called in to the school’s financial office to check that they had received my payment. We went together on Monday to pick up our tuition payment receipts – which are required for registration – but my payment had not arrived yet. I’d called twice yesterday (much to the irritation of the woman I spoke with) and was hoping that I wouldn’t have to make a fourth call. She remembered my name this time and told me that they had finally received my payment.
We picked up my receipt at the financial office and then headed over to the school. It took us about 15/20 minutes, since the school is spread out over the city. Once we got to the stop for the “main campus” (most of our classes for the first year are in the same building) it was easy to find where we were supposed to go – just follow the students!
The building is beautiful: tall ceilings, plenty of light and colorful hanging banners. The best part of the building? Air-conditioning!
Registration was broken down into groups by last name. Skjalg’s registration was from 12-13 and mine from 13-14. We were about fifteen minutes early for his registration, but the guard (yes, there was a guard. In fact, there are guards everywhere in Budapest!) let us through without hesitation.
The registration process itself was seamless. I went up to one of the tables, handed the woman my passport, tuition receipt, and all but one of my signed declaration forms, and was handed school information pamphlets and the 2012/2013 Student Guide. I then went to a second table where I handed in my last declaration form and was handed a card with my group number and certification of my enrollment.
The freshman class is divided into 15 groups of 13-18 students, which share the same schedule. I am assigned to Group 12 and Skjalg to Group 11. We’d discussed a bit about schedules before registration and agreed that being in the same group would be the most ideal situation. This would make it easier for us to study together and help each other in class if one of us missed some information.
Skjalg asked if it was possible to switch groups and was told that it was no problem. In order to switch, however, one would need to find a student in the other group that would be willing to switch and both parties would need to send a “letter of acknowledgement” to the registrar. (For any students that are reading this and want to know where to send it, look up Ms. Adrienn Bácskai’s e-mail address on page 8 of your manual. All you have to do is include your name, group number, and the information of the student you are switching with).
So began the task of finding someone who would be willing to switch. We weren’t entirely sure about how to do this, but settled on asking people who were leaving the registration area. After harassing about 50 people within the next hour, we decided to call it a day. Many students had other groups they wanted to switch into to be with friends, others were skeptical about whether you were actually allowed to switch, and finally a handful were a bit… possessive. Even though it was uncomfortable approaching so many strangers, it did help us meet a couple of people. The school is more international than I ever imagined it would be. There are students from all over the world: Iran, Israel, Seychelles, Cyprus, Japan, Philippines, China, South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Italy, England, Canada, USA, Australia, France, Germany – and those are just the ones I know about so far. I am looking forward to going through this experience with such a diverse group of people.
At 15:00 we had a fire and safety lecture, which was anything but exciting. The speaker read directly from the slides – verbatim – and often had a hard time pronouncing the words. Skjalg and I glanced at each other several times during the lecture in a sort of “I really hope this isn’t the English level of all of our professors” panic. The good part about the lecture was finding out what the emergency numbers are. For English-speaking emergency operators, you can call (06-08) 630-800. For the main emergency line, call 112 (or 105 for Fire, 107 for Police, and 104 for Ambulance). I remember reading in a Norwegian student’s blog that she had tried calling 911 and was hung up on when she started speaking English.
Once we were home, we took a deeper look at our schedules. Out of 17 total classes, Skjalg and I share 11. It is actually perfect for us because we will be together during most of our lectures and then separate during the practicals, which will give us a chance to meet new people.
Tomorrow is another meeting about how to use the school’s online system and afterwards there is a boat ride down the Danube river for all incoming freshman from all the different faculties. I still can’t believe this is all happening now. It’s the final stretch before school starts – and we are SO ready!
August 20, 2012 § 5 Comments
Before we began packing for the move to Budapest, I spent some time reading Budapest travel tips on Trip Advisor. One of the top “things to do” was to take a “Fungarian” class. The concept of the class was to meet a language teacher at a café and spend an hour learning a few key Hungarian phrases and words and learning a little bit about Hungarian culture. Skjalg agreed that this sounded like fun and we booked a 2-hour class for my birthday. In our confirmation, Miklós (our Fungarian teacher) wrote:
Actually, if you could arrive in Budapest a day earlier you could enjoy grandiose fireworks on August 20 in the evening since it’s a national holiday.
Last night while eating dinner at a café, Skjalg looked up the details of the fireworks show. He stumbled across a site that listed several more exciting events happening that day. We decided that, in addition to attending the fireworks show, we would wake up early to watch the air and water show and then possibly visit the Street of Hungarian Flavors.
The person whom the day is named for was Hungary’s first king, Stephen (István in Hungarian) who was born in 969 and died in 1038. He laid the foundation of the state by converting the nomad and pagan Magyar people (Hungarians) to Roman Catholicism.
Up until the end of the 10th century, the seven different tribes that made up Hungary often attacked and robbed Western European countries. In 955 they suffered a major defeat and the leaders decided that it was time that they give up their raids and focus instead on settling down. Stephen was the first to realize that the only way this could be accomplished was by linking the people through a common faith – Roman Catholicism. In 1000 A.D. he became Hungary’s first king when he was given a crown by Pope Sylvester II. The Holy Crown is Hungary’s most precious treasure and can be viewed in the Budapest Parliament.
During his reign, King Stephen built churches all over the country and invited Catholic priests to lay the foundation for Catholicism. He replaced pagan rules with new, strict legislations and organized the country through administrative measures. Through his efforts, Hungary became a strong state and played a major role in aiding Western Europe during the Medieval Ages.
King Stephen was canonized on August 20th, 1038. As part of the canonization process, his remains were exhumed and his right hand was discovered to be as fresh as the day he was buried. The hand was detached and can be viewed to this day in St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest.
The main celebration event of St. Stephen’s day is the procession of the Holy Right Hand around the Basilica. In addition to this event, there is a blessing of the new bread, raising of the Hungarian Flag, air and water show over the Danube river, various concerts and street carnival, Street of Hungarian flavors (where you can taste traditional Hungarian food and drinks), contest for Hungary’s Birthday Cake 2012, and finally a fireworks show to close out the day.
This part is quite picture-heavy, so it may take some time loading. I tried to narrow it down to those that I thought best illustrated the day.
First time using the Subway in Budapest
The show was to start at 10:00, but we wanted to make sure that we got good spots, so we were out the door at about 9:15. It was to be my first time riding the subway, and I was a bit nervous. We had to stand in line for about 10 minutes to get a ticket and then passed through the guard supervised ticket checkpoint onto the escalator. I assumed that the guards were only there because it was a national holiday, but Skjalg told me that they are there all the time. It felt weird to have my ticket checked several times throughout the trip. In Norway, you are really only checked if there is a ticket control. I knew a guy that went three years without ever buying a ticket before he was fined during a control. There’s really no point to skirting the ticket fee in Budapest – a regular month pass costs 260,- ($44) and a student pass 130,- ($22) versus a regular for 620,- ($103) and student for 380,- ($66) in Norway.
A couple things hit me about the subway stations in Budapest:
- They are huge! Many have small shops and food venders.
- The platforms remind me a lot of the tube in London.
- They smell like fresh baked goods. All. The. Time. Skjalg said that there are small bakeries in every station.
- The escalators are very long and much faster than normal. I experienced an odd sense of vertigo my first couple times on them.
- It gets VERY windy when a subway runs through – ladies, hold on to those dresses!
All in all, my first experience with the subway was pretty good. The stations smell like fresh pastries, the platforms are clean, spacious and well ventilated, people are quick but courteous, and the escalators are fun once you get used to them. The actual subway cars look like relics from WWII and it really does feel like you are speeding through darkness in a tin can, but I found it kind of exciting. We’ll see if that changes…
Air and Water Show
After leaving the subway station, we were picked up by the masses heading towards the Danube and eventually dropped off at the end of Margaret Bridge. We were lucky enough to find an open spot along the railing.