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!
- Acre: random collection of my favorite more upbeat songs these past months (lots of Nigerian artists, my new obsession!)
- Blue Dream: random collection of my favorite more calm songs
- Block: This + Rainymood when I am doing my blocks!
- For the lonely hours or im closing my eyes: When I am reviewing my blocks or when it starts getting late (lately I’ve been adding Rainymood as well)
- Caffeine 300mg or 150mg: usually in the mornings and early afternoons
- They don’t know or Carrrrdddio: for my morning cardio!
September 2, 2017 § 8 Comments
I’m struggling to find the words to describe where I am at this point in my life. These past two and a half months have changed me. They’ve forced me to face parts of myself that I either never wanted to face or didn’t know even existed. I’ve had to evolve and grow all while embarking on some of the greatest challenges I have yet to encounter.
I’m in my final year of medical school and the idea that I will be a doctor this time next year is… paralyzing. It’s exciting, yes, but paralyzing at the same time. I’ve spent more than half of my life trying to get to this point and now that it’s finally here, I feel like I don’t know what to do with myself. Knowing that I am about to achieve THE goal leaves me feeling almost empty. Checking that box will mark the end of almost 20 years of doing everything I possibly could to make this happen. It makes me wonder, will anything ever even come close to that?
Since I last wrote, I’ve been re-familiarizing myself with… myself. All while studying for one of the biggest exams I’ll ever take. There have probably been more bad days than good days, but the bad days are becoming fewer and fewer as time passes.
We started sixth-year rotations in the middle of July. My first rotation is surgery, which lasts for about 8-9 weeks. I only have one week left now and will take my final exam on September 12th. I’ve really been struggling with how to balance everything on my plate. I’m planning on taking Step 1 at the end of November and that exam requires EVERYTHING from me. But I can’t give it everything. I have my final exams in surgery and obstetrics and gynecology (not to mention the rotations themselves). I have my thesis. I have teaching. I have applications for next year. It’s…suffocating.
So where am I now? What am I doing? What am I going to do? These are all questions I’ve asked myself almost daily since the beginning of June. If I’m going to be completely honest, this has not been an easy summer for me. Everything I thought I knew about myself, my life and my future changed. My foundation fell out from under me right when I needed it the most. I needed to be the best version of myself and I didn’t know how anymore. So, I slowly started picking up the pieces, forced myself to accept whatever I was able to produce – regardless of how small – and pushed forward.
I turned 30 almost two weeks ago. I really wish I could describe the feeling I had that day. I know that birthday means different things to different people, depending on where they are in their respective lives. For me, it meant everything. It meant saying goodbye to myself. It felt like starting over. Like stripping myself of everything I knew. Complete and absolute vulnerability and, oddly enough, strength. What made the experience even more “life-altering” was the fact that I celebrated it in the historic city of Acre, Israel with my best friend and his family.
In the days leading up to my birthday, I was in a constant state of reflection. With the way my life has developed, the multiple life paths I’ve entertained, the struggles I’ve endured to get here…it’s not uncommon for me to take a moment and think about where I am versus where I would have been. Whether sitting on the banks of the Danube with a bottle of wine, wandering through the crumbling barracks of Auschwitz, looking out over the fjords from Tåkeheimen, reading the names on the stone plaque beside a Sarajevo rose, or feeling the jasmine scented footprints of Muhammad at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, I always have the same thought: I wasn’t supposed to be here. In that moment, I think about all the points where the course of my life changed, all the decisions and challenges that brought me there and how rich and special my life is as a result. On the eve of my birthday, I stood alone on Amir’s parent’s balcony and watched the sun dip into the sea. As I sipped a glass of wine, I said goodbye to myself as I knew me in my 20’s and reflected on who I will become in my 30’s.
That trip changed everything. I had a moment in the car on the way to Jerusalem where everything clicked. Suddenly, I could see my future. I saw exactly where I want to be and what I need to do to get there. Every time my future has crossed my mind in the past two years, it’s been followed by absolute nothingness. It’s been a source of anxiety and fear and prevented me from enjoying the present. So when everything clicked, the feeling was indescribable.
Once I’ve worked out some details and made some progress with my plans, I will share them here – I promise.
Otherwise, things aren’t very exciting here. I pretty much only sleep and do practice questions. I’ve been sick since last week and my cough has been pretty extreme. Since I’ve been holed in my apartment studying, I didn’t even notice that I’d lost my voice until I went to the pharmacy to pick up an expectorant. When I opened my mouth to utter the first words I’d spoken aloud in three days, nothing came out. There were a few strange squeaks, followed by a long, intense cough. The pharmacist began to laugh. I laughed and coughed. Exciting stuff.
It’s off to bed for this one! To be continued 😉
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.
Jannie’s 30th Birthday!
Huge day – LAST LECTURE EVER!!
Weekend of hell! I had 6 exams the following week and had already been cramming for weeks up until this point.
DONE WITH MY LAST EXAM PERIOD EVER! Still can’t believe I survived 10 exams in 2 weeks.
Dedicated Step 1 studying time – here we go!
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!
February 11, 2017 § 8 Comments
It’s almost 3 in the afternoon and I’ve only been awake for 2.5 hours. Even still, as I lay here in bed writing this, I’m considering taking a nap (Edit: it’s now 19:00 as I continue writing this… I fell asleep for another 3 hours).
This week was scary, amazing and all-consuming. Almost everything I did was outside my comfort zone. There were some really high high’s and some very low low’s. Everything is changing now. We are nearing the end of this giant, life-altering chapter of our lives and that fact sinks in deeper and deeper with each passing day. I feel like I’m standing in a giant room with every door and window open; time is running out and I need to escape this room, but I don’t know which door or window to go through.
Now, let’s take you through the past week:
- 8:00-12:00 – Hematology practice on the Buda side
- Leave an hour early to make it to anatomy on time
- 12:00-13:30 – Teach anatomy
- Colleague is sick, so take on his class as well. Come up with a plan for making the practice useful for your now 25 students.
- Teach cardiac embryology and hope that they at least understood half of what you were saying.
- 13:30-14:00 – Try to help your students with a scheduling problem they have with PE and anatomy.
- 14:00-15:00 – Last minute preparation for public health (PH) research presentation
- 15:30-17:30 – PH research presentation
- Mock presentation of your research for the entire department
- Note down critiques and tips and answer any questions
- Sit in on the presentations and critiques of two other Hungarian students – all in Hungarian
- 17:30-18:30 – Get home and eat dinner – you’ve only had two protein shakes so far today
- 18:30-22:30 – Work on changes to your PH presentation
- 8:00-13:00 – Hematology practice
- Try to pay attention and learn something, but you are 18 people crammed into a small room and you can’t think about anything other than your research projects.
- Leave early with Amir to work on surgery research project. Note to self: make-up missed session later (just another thing to deal with).
- 11:00 – Find out you’ve been rejected from the 6th year program in Stavanger, then immediately after, get a call from your boyfriend that he was accepted. Feel extreme happiness and sadness simultaneously.
- Ignore your emotions so that you can focus on your research project
- Best friend pushes you to talk about it. Feelings and fears about your future as a doctor rush forward. Freak out about the future for 30 or so minutes.
- 12:00-22:30 – Surgery research project
- Literally 10.5 hours of constant work on your presentation. Remember all that statistical analysis you did in December when you wrote your abstract? That doesn’t make sense anymore. Re-learn it and do it again.
- 22:30-02:00 – Home to finish up project while talking about Stavanger with boyfriend
- 02:00 – Submit presentation to advisor
- This still counts as Tuesday night, right??
- 8:00-13:00 – Work on presentations
- Make final changes
- Look up any articles/data needed for any potential questions about your research
- 13:00: Find out that you need to attend the laparoscopy competition on Friday and need to find someone to cover your classes
- Luckily, one of your TAs is a close friend and amazing human being! (Thank you, Marianne!)
- 14:00-15:00 – Surgery research presentation for your advisors (one of which is the head of the department)
- 15:00-16:00 – Watch 4 sessions of the Hungarian student conference while waiting for your public health advisor
- Get smacked in the face with the reality of what is going to happen to you tomorrow.
- 16:00-16:30 – Meet with public health advisor to go over finishing touches on presentation
- 16:30-17:00 – Rush into a store to find a suit jacket for tomorrow
- 17:00-18:45 – Amir’s place to work on changes to surgery presentation
- 19:30-02:00 – Work!
- Finalize both presentations
- Practice presenting
- Make quizzes for anatomy class – and start grading quizzes from Monday!
- 07:00 – Get ready and practice presentations
- Realise you’ve made a mistake in your presentation and go through the data again. Make the change in your presentation.
- 10:00-11:00 – Attend presentation by Thieme at the anatomy department.
- 11:00-12:45 – Practice presentations at conference location
- 13:00 – Session starts!!
- 13:35 – Surgery research presentation
- Maximum 10 minutes
- 5 minute question section, where jurors can ask any questions regarding your work. Some of your questions:
- How did you account for the potential bias of those that volunteered for the experimental group (i.e. that they were already interested in surgery as a profession and therefore likely more skilled)?
- Do you plan to redo the study and if so, what measures will you take to increase the statistical significance of your results?
- What role do you think gaming systems play in the development of laparoscopic skill and technique?
- 13:45 – Rush out of room with Marcus (a fellow 5th year student presenting with you in the next block)
- The block for your other presentation is already halfway done and you have to sneak in and upload your presentation during the break
- 13:50-14:50 – Observe presentations of all other students of your block.
- Marcus does an amazing job and gets more questions than you’ve seen anyone get (he worked on a study comparing different EKG readers).
- 14:55 – Public Health research presentation
- Maximum 10 minutes
- Get a little thrown off when one of your animations messes up and shows Dresden and Munich as being in the middle of the North Sea. Marcus tells you later that you made a nice save.
- 5 minute question section, where jurors can ask any questions regarding your work. Some of your questions:
- What explains the age difference between the analysed subgroups?
- How did students specify their desired specialty?
- Do you have similar statistics showing predictive factors of other specialities?
- Maximum 10 minutes
- 15:15-19:00 – Pictures, celebrate and nap before the closing ceremony.
- You didn’t finish grading the quizzes from Monday, so you have to do it while celebrating with your friends at Spiler.
- Luckily, your friends are awesome and split the grading with you. Cocktails and grading for the win!
- 19:30 – Closing ceremony
- On the way here, Skjalg brings up how he thinks you could win. You tell him to stop bringing it up because you don’t expect it and don’t want to start thinking about it. You’re just happy with having presented.
- The ceremony starts and people keep asking you what section you were in. You honestly don’t know. Getting through the day was literally the only thing on your mind.
- You recognize a name in 3rd place of one of the sections. Skjalg, Amir and András (your advisor) get antsy. Second place is announced and you see your name flash across the screen as it is read out loud by the conference director.
- You walk up, get your prize – in complete shock – and then return to your friends.
- The next section results are read. You’re busy looking at your prize and diploma – still in complete shock. Suddenly, your and Amir’s names are read out loud for 1st place.
- Back to the front you go – is it possible to be more in shock than to be in complete shock? You and Amir are both so surprised that it makes for one of the most endearing and genuine moments.
- 22:00 – Bed
- Have you ever been this tired before? Probably, but it doesn’t feel like it.
- 06:00 – Suturing practice
- Laparoscopic competition is at 8:00 and you haven’t practiced suturing in a long time
- No chicken breasts or bananas present….this kitchen glove will have to do!
- 8:00 – Laparoscopy Competition
- 1st round – Peg transfer: you do great during warm-up, but when the comp starts, you drop your rubber tube twice! This adds 40 sec onto your best time and puts you in 12th place.
- 2nd round – string 5 pieces of straw onto suturing thread: you drop one of your straw pieces (again!)
- You (somehow) manage to snag 4th place. Your amazing boyfriend rocks it with 3rd place!
- 13:00-17:00 – Last day of haematology practice on the Buda side
- 17:00-18:00 – Psycho-cleaning of the apartment
- 18:00-midnight – Indian night with your friends!! And a perfect way to close a hectic week.
Click here for all of the abstracts by presenters at the conference.
- I was rejected, and Skjalg accepted, from Stavanger. This means that I will be here in Budapest for 6th year and have to find a new place to live (for myself). Skjalg will be in Stavanger for the entire year and will come back to Budapest every few weeks for exams.
- I won 1st place together with Amir for our surgery research project and 2nd place for my public health research project.
- Skjalg won 3rd place in the laparoscopy competition.
- I have amazing friends from all over the world.
I’ve slept for about 16 of the last 24 hours, which is a pretty good indication of how I am feeling right now. This week was a heavy one. A really, really heavy one. But in the end, I am so happy for it. It felt so good (afterwards) to have pushed myself through something I never thought I could do. I’m happy that I have the strength to throw myself in new directions and the support system to care for me when I don’t quite make it.
July 19, 2015 § 7 Comments
This month (so far) in pictures.
Grandma’s homemade whole grain bread!
July 6th – Signed up at the new StaminaHot gym. They are remodeling the whole area and the gym is now up on the 4th floor. It has stunning views!
Post-workout sushi made by Skjalg’s stepbrother Pai – such a treat!
This random photo represents one of my “I love Norway” moments. The receptionist at the gym is only there for a few hours a day during the summer, so the rest of the time, the gym is unmanned. There is a little kitchen area with coffee mugs and a coffee pot. I watched one guy walk over, wash some dishes and put on a fresh pot of coffee. Then he poured himself a cup and walked back to the training room to continue training. This is something I feel could never happen in the US because of the liability. Here it just seemed so natural…and homey.
July 11th – Skjalg and I started the day with a hike up to the top of Keiservarden
That night, Skjalg had his shift at the restaurant (we’ve been working a couple shifts at Skjalg’s dad’s restaurant; I have mine on Fridays). He ordered some chicken satay to go, picked me up and we headed up to turisthytta (a sort of lookout point) to eat dinner and enjoy the midnight sun.
After last weekend, this has been the weather pretty much every day 😦 Trying to make the best of it and appreciate the coziness… but it’s hard!