4th Year: CHECK! MD without the .

July 3, 2016 § 8 Comments

Skjalg told me that he’d heard that you get the “M” after the first two years, the “D” after the second two, and the “.” when you graduate. So, we’re officially MDs!

It’s been way too long since my last post. After Moscow I only had a week and a half before my next pharmacology midterm. It was a big deal for me because we needed over 80% on both midterms in order to qualify for the competition at the end of the semester. I put so much time into my pharma studies that this was probably the most important thing to me. I wanted to know it in and out and prove my knowledge to myself by passing the competition. The studying for the midterm paid off and suddenly there were only 2.5 weeks left in the semester. In true Semmelweis style, we were overloaded with mini-exams/competitions/papers, etc. at the end of the semester. It’s worse in the first two years – mainly due to the lab exams and the third round of midterms – but it can still be quite heavy depending on the amount of electives you have. I spent so much of this semester trying to master the new topics that I didn’t really get to review too much of last semester’s topics. As I write about it now, I feel as though I should have had enough time….but I promise that I did the best that I could with the time I had. So, I had less than three weeks to prepare for the competition. Weeks peppered with various exams, classes and other extracurriculars, like helping out with the anatomy competition and tutoring.

The competition took place on the last day of the semester. I had been through the topics twice and had a strong general knowledge of the subject. In the hours before the exam, I went through questions in BRS and Katzung and got around 75-85% of the questions right. I was at a point where I actually felt excited for the competition.

We were only ten English students, maybe four German and up to maybe 80-90 Hungarian students there that day. I sat in the front – as I usually do during exams, so as not to be distracted – and felt my throat cramp into a knot. When I opened the exam and started reading through the first questions, I felt like the blood had been drained from my body and replaced with adrenaline. Everything looked foreign. It was like I’d never studied before.

We had 60 minutes for (if I remember correctly) 60 questions. Normally, I go through and answer all the questions I can really quickly, go through a second time and answer the ones I marked for later, and finally a third time to check my answers and answer any stragglers. This exam was not like that at all. As I moved onto each new question, without having been able to answer the one before it, I completely lost all my confidence. I tried starting from the back, returning to the front again, jumping to the middle – nothing worked! I found a chunk of five or so questions that I felt I could answer correctly and gained back a little of my self-esteem. I looked at the clock. Thirty-five minutes had passed. I’d answered five questions in 35 minutes. I began to panic and started looking through the questions again. The answer choices were mixed with drug names/features from different drug groups/topics so they took a while to process. For example, it’s easier to pick out the drug with “anti-hypertensive effect” from a list of drugs acting on the cardiovascular system than a list of drugs from entirely different systems. There were also some questions that were, I thought, ridiculous. For example, “Which of the following drugs has the highest molecular weight?” followed by a list of just names of drugs. Molecular weight was not something we were expected to learn. It’s enough of a mind melter to remember the group, the physiology, the names, the mechanisms of action, pharmacokinetics, effects, side effects, drug interactions and contraindications. As a doctor, molecular weight is not something that trumps the knowledge of how the drug works, how it will help my patient, any side effects it may cause, how it may interact with other drugs, etc.

When I looked at the clock the second time, I only had twelve minutes left. Twelve minutes to answer maybe 25 or 30 questions. In those last minutes before the end of the exam, I was at a point where I was just selecting answers at random. It’s something I hate to do and something I can’t remember having done since first year. It hurt more knowing how much time and effort I’d put into it and how easily that confidence was taking away from me.

I had my exam six days later. They never posted the results of the competition, so I never found out my score. I had to ask my Hungarian friend Cintia if she knew anyone who had taken it and if they had any information. She told me that one of the guys in her dorm passed the competition. The winners had been notified by email. All were Hungarian and all were from medicine. No English, German or dentistry students made the top 10. (Edit, April 15, 2017: There was at least one English student who passed).

The days before the exam were not what I wanted them to be. I’d lost the excitement that I had before the competition. Instead, I felt defeated. I tried to motivate myself, but I was just too tired and was dreading the four weeks of exams that lay ahead. During the semester, I’d put absolutely all of my focus on pharma. Once that exam was done, I knew that I would pretty much have to start from scratch for the rest of my exams. Only my friend Amir and I took the exam that day. It was the same day at the one-time-only written exam for Bioethics, so the rest of the class was there. All 180-190 of them.

Our examiner was an older woman. She was kind but stern, a perfect mix of both. She and I did not communicate well at all. I tried my best to speak slowly and clearly, but she still misunderstood me and there were points where she would ask me questions that I had already answered. Those are the worst because it takes you forever to figure out what they want. You know you’ve said it already and don’t realize that they didn’t hear it, sometimes until it’s too late. The same thing happened to me in my pathology exam.

The topics I got were also quite…weak. All three of them were from the first semester and they were kind of “leftover” topics. The ones that don’t really have a place and are kind of thrown in at the end. They lack a system and are therefore just annoying. I’d gone through them, of course, so it wasn’t a problem recalling the information. But they weren’t the kind of topics that you could impress with. They weren’t topics that I could use to really show my knowledge – especially when an entire semester of material wasn’t even relevant! Together they represented maybe 0.5% of what we needed to know for the exam.

I was exhausted, defeated and stuck in my own head. I feel locked inside myself. Unable to show what I really knew. To convey the effort that I had put in. To prove my knowledge. On my third topic, I made a huge mistake. I said that clindamycin was a beta-lactam antibiotic rather than a protein synthesis inhibitor. This was an example of an answer where I used no logic whatsoever and was simply going off of visual memory. In my notes, there are 6 drug groups for both beta-lactams and protein synthesis inhibitors. I rushed and went with the first list in my mind, rather than giving myself time to think it through. Amir would later tell me (when I asked him to give me constructive feedback on my performance) that I need to become more comfortable with silence and let myself think. He told me that I answered immediately almost every time, rather than giving myself the opportunity to find the right answer in my mind. When I made this big mistake, the examiner flew back in her chair with an almost offended look on her face. At that moment, I thought she was going to fail me. It would have been the first time I’ve ever failed an oral exam in my entire time here at Semmelweis. “What mechanisms of actions do you know for antibiotics?” she asked me. I then proceeded to list out every group and every mechanism of action. At the end she told me that I was lucky that she was able to find the right answer in my head.

I ended up with a 3 on what was probably my worst oral exam ever. Rather than feel happy that pharma was over, I felt totally empty. I made up my mind that I was going to retake the exam. I was going to subject myself to the stress all over again. I waited almost 45 minutes for Amir to finish his exam and was beating myself up the entire time. The amount of work and effort I’d put in to pharma…all of that time and energy…and to walk away with the 3? It felt horrible. Countless hours, study group sessions and 538 pages of notes (I know because I took pics of them so I can have them in my iPad) – all felt worthless in that moment.

Here’s a taste of some of the pharma madness:

After talking it over with Amir and Skjalg and getting this perfect message (below) from my friend Andrea, I decided to accept my 3 and move on. I still love pharma and taking the exam over again may make me hate it – and I don’t want to risk that!

“Bianca WHY would you retake it?? A 3 is absolutely acceptable, and the most important point is that you know this so well! Had you gotten a 3 but were actually lucky because you should have failed, then I would understand..But putting yourself through so much stress again only for improving the grade seems unnecessary. I’m so sorry that you had a bad experience! Student X also had (the same examiner) and said she was difficult…she also got a 3. I don’t mean to tell you what to do. But please reconsider if you need to do it. It will make no difference to your future patients. I know you know this so well and I am so confident in your capabilities in pharma and on any other professional area.”

The following week I had my written public health and orthopedics exams. Studying after pharma was like trying to push through a marathon without having trained properly. Public health and I have a strange relationship. My teacher last semester was…let’s just say not motivated and after getting a 2 on the semi-final – my first two since first year! – I knew I had to make a change. I switched teachers and put in more personal effort this semester. It’s unfortunate because it is such an important class and yet most of us won’t realize its importance until we are practicing physicians. So, how did it go this time? Another 2!! Then, a 3 in orthopedics the next day. At that point, this was shaping up to be one of my worst exam periods. That Thursday, I hit an ultimate low point. I felt miserable in literally every aspect of my life and felt like the thing I was putting all of my effort into – school – was pointless. How could I work so hard and do so poorly?

After that, I had my ENT exam. Despite my weak start to the exam period, I pushed through and came out with a 5. I got the head of the department, who was a bit tough and demanding, but also easy to please. To start the exam, we drew two cards with so-called “minimal criteria” topics. These must be answered immediately – no time to think or process. After that, we drew two more cards with topics. We had over an hour to prepare these, which was more than enough!

The “minimal criteria” is a list of 32 or so items that we need to be able to repeat verbatim. They are the minimal points in the field of ENT that we should know as medical doctors. I’d come up with some memory tools for them and they proved to be extremely helpful. I even ended up sharing them with the rest of my class and got a lot of positive feedback. One of my friends told me that when she took the exam later that week, that everyone had a copy of the memory tools. Memory tricks go a long way!! Here’s an example of some of them:

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After ENT, I had two full days to prepare for my oral exam in bioethics. Since Amir and I had taken our pharma exams on the day of the written exam, we were the only English medical students who had to take the exam orally. I have to say that I absolutely loved studying for this exam. It answered a lot of questions I’ve had through medical school and it was really interesting to view medicine from a different perspective.

Once in my exam, I did something I’ve never done before: I started talking about my topics without writing anything down. I like writing everything down for two reasons: (1) It gives me time to really think about my topic, to remember the small details and make plenty of drawings/graphs, etc., to really turn it into a presentation, and (2) It gives them something to look at, read and process if for some reason they don’t understand what I am saying. The language barrier is not usually a problem, but I like to have the support just in case. I have a tendency to speak very quickly and even though I slow it down to a totally unnatural level (for myself, of course) during exams, sometimes it’s still not enough. This time, however, I felt it was an exam that should be done as a pure conversation rather than a presentation. After five or ten minutes it was over and I was out with another 5. Things were finally starting to look up again.

The following week, I started my surgical practice at the same hospital where I’d taken my surgery course this past year. I still had my surgery exam left, but my teacher said it was ok to start the practice early. We have to do a 4-week practice each summer and since we have to work, we wanted to get it done as soon as possible. The more we can work, the better!

I ended up taking my surgery exam a week into the practice. My topics were inguinal hernias and rectal carcinoma, which I’d seen plenty of times in the OR by this point, and I really got to showcase my knowledge about them. My examiner was the same doctor I’ve had as my teacher this past year. At the end of my exam, he told me some things that really warmed my heart. It felt like I was getting back to the student I want to be rather than the version I was at the beginning of the exam period. He told me that he was proud of me, that our group was a pleasure to teach and that I would make an amazing physician no matter what specialty I choose. Those words meant so, so much to me. I’ve always admired him, both as a surgeon and a teacher, and it feels good to know that I made him proud.

Even though my exam period was officially over at that point, I decided to go through with a little project I’d been working on: retaking my public health exam in order to improve my grade. During the semester, my teacher (who is the head of the English program of public health) offered me a research position with them and offered to be my thesis advisor. Thus, getting yet another 2 in Public Health did not sit quite right with me. I’ve never retaken an exam to improve my grade before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The public health exam is written for the first attempt and oral for each subsequent attempt. The topic list was intimidating! There were 69 topics and I honestly had no idea how far to go with some of them. I ended up writing a book – pretty much – for half of the topics and then had to copy-paste from WHO, CDC, etc., for the remaining ones.

On the day I took it, I had to wait for all of the Hungarians to be examined first (their public health exams are only oral, never written. I got there at 9:00 and didn’t have my exam until around 13:00/13:30. Thankfully, I brought some protein pancakes, water and some caffeine to keep me functioning while I paced around like an insane person and powered through my notes Rain Man style.

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My teacher picked my topics out of the envelopes for me. When I saw the third one, my heart jumped. I didn’t recognize it! I realized then that I had been using the wrong topic list while studying! I told him this and he told me that I should just do the best I could. The first topic was perfect. Why? Because I had done a presentation on it this semester. It was on poliovirus and rotavirus. The second was “Occupational disorders related to air compression. Vibration and noise.”. The first part had not been on the topic list that I had studied from, but vibration and noise I knew well (thankfully!). The third and last topic was “Secondary prevention. Sensitivity and specificity. Lead time bias.”. I had the first part of the topic down, was rough on the second (despite the fact that sensitivity and specificity are brought up constantly in diagnostics *bow head in shame*), and had no clue how to start with the third. I started preparing the topics and then asked if he wanted to switch to a conversation-style so that he could save time (he had been examining people all day without a break and I didn’t want him to be irritated with me for writing for too long). It’s funny how things can click when you talk about them outloud. It’s like when you ask someone a question and your brain comes up with the answer in the same moment that you ask it. That was how this exam played out for the third topic – thankfully! After all that effort, I finally proved myself in public health. It felt so good to redeem myself.

At the end of it all, I ended up with one of the best GPAs I’ve had. It would have been the best – maybe even perfect – had I done better in pharma and maybe retaken ortho. But I’m happy with the result. It represents the hard work and the room for improvement.

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Now for a random picture section with pictures from the past two months. Lots of studying, healthy meals, walks in the sun and studying, did I mention that part?

Enough of a update for today I think :D. For those of you that have managed to stay with me, here is a little treat: Skjalg’s first Vlog! He’s decided to do one Vlog a week. I love it! It’s such a great way of summing up the week. Here you can see what our last week in Budapest was like:

Summer’s End

August 31, 2015 § 2 Comments

Bodø summer has come and gone (we got almost a full two weeks of blue skies and 20+ degrees!) and we have only five more days until we are back in Budapest. The two weeks since my last post have been absolutely dominated by work. I had my first two days off from work on the 18th and 19th – thanks to a bike accident that put me out of commission for a few days and a sweet boyfriend who was kind enough to cover both shifts in the restaurant on our days off from hjemmetjenesten. I spent those days sitting out in the sun and losing myself in Carlos Ruiz Záfon’s The Shadow of the Wind.

 

On Friday the 21st we celebrated my 28th (!!!) birthday. We both had to work in the evening, so we decided to celebrate before. Skjalg stayed up late and then woke up early to make me an amazing cheesecake and whole breakfast spread, which we enjoyed together with his mom. After that it was off to the gym and then down to the docks to get shrimp for lunch. One of my favorite things to do in the summer in Norway is get fresh shrimp and sit out in the sun with some wine and music. 11920411_10101941986789768_2127572551_n11940211_10101941986804738_217504594_n 11933083_10155968597370293_478157418_n

At work, I was surprised with a brownie (which I ate before taking the picture…) and a blown-up glove wishing me happy birthday. I hadn’t told anyone about it, so it was a really sweet little start to the shift. 11949575_10101941986794758_1846696379_n

This summer has been exactly what we wanted it to be and we’re looking so forward to heading back to Budapest, exhausted and victorious. At the beginning of the summer we’d set a number of goals for ourselves (which we usually do, though we don’t always reach them…) and this time, we exceeded all of them! We’re in a much better place financially, thanks to an insane amount of work and generosity of Skjalg’s family. We’ve been as active as ever and have been really good about spending time outdoors when the weather is nice. Lastly, we’ve been challenged and gained a lot of experience.

Only five more shifts and registration (which is coming up on Wednesday) to go!

 

8 down, 5 to go!

August 17, 2014 § 4 Comments

Only 5 more shifts left of nursing practice and I can’t wait for it to be over. I have learned a lot, but in the end, there is so little that we are qualified to do – especially with such limited Hungarian. Most of the time, I feel like we are just in the way.

Our night shift went well – at least for the first 6 hours. Instead of doing it in Neurology, we were transferred to Gastroenterology. We’d never met any of the nurses there, but once they got over the surprise that there were three of us, they were pretty nice. We started by changing some beds, checking the soap and tissue dispensers in the department and checking that the emergency bag was up-to-date. Poor Miklós, we are pretty much completely handicapped without him. Checking the medications was fine, but when it came to checking different tools and gadgets that weren’t labeled with a name, we were helpless. I know this all doesn’t sound very exciting, but that’s part of my plan. I wanted to bore you before telling you what made the whole night worth it: we got to practice drawing each other’s blood! I know nurses do it all the time, but it was still so exciting for me. We learned which areas to check for veins, how to identify a good vein, veins to avoid and the techniques for inserting/withdrawing the needle.

Around midnight, we got a call saying that a new patient would be arriving: a four-year-old boy with stomach pain and vomiting. We were allowed to check him in, something that made us feel accomplished. Miklós had to take the history, so Jun and I took his head and chest measurements, weight, height and blood pressure. Once he was shown to his room, I was tasked with taking his temperature. He’d been a little grumpy when he first arrived and had escalated to near impossible by the time we got to his room. Every time I tried to bring the thermometer to his ear, he became hysterical, tossing his head back and forth so that I couldn’t get near him. When I did manage to get close, he screamed and hit my hand. His mom was trying to calm him down the best she could, but there wasn’t much that could be done. With the language/culture barrier, I didn’t feel comfortable forcefully grabbing his head and holding it still while I took the measurement. Had it been a situation where I could have spoken English, I would have handled the situation differently. I would have explained what I was going to do, maybe let him try doing it on me, and if none of that had worked, calmly explained to the mom that I was going to need to hold his head down. Eventually the nurse came in and told us that we should just try to do it later – thankfully!

After the thermometer incident, the night quickly transitioned to a game of “who can keep their eyelids open the longest”. At 1, one of the nurses asked us if we were curious about the patients in the department. The one I remember most was a boy, not even 10 years old, suffering from a brain tumor. She told us that his brother had died of the same condition last year and that he didn’t have more than a couple of months to live himself. It made me so sad to think that such a young boy was given such little time on this earth. In addition to the tumor, he’d had a right atrial infarction (heart attack in his right atria) and stomach pain. Later on, the other nurse walked us through how to hook up the oxygen in case his condition worsened over the night. When I asked why he was in Gastroenterology and not Oncology, the nurse answered that even she didn’t really understand the reason, but that it had something to do with statistics/bureaucratic nonsense concerning his nationality (non-Hungarian).

On Friday, we expected to do our practice in Gastroenterology. We had been told that we would be doing the remaining shifts there instead of Neurology (apparently so that Jun and I could experience more of the hospital). When I showed up Friday morning, I tried my best to communicate why I was there, but communication proved impossible. I ended up sitting and waiting for Jun and Miklós, since I didn’t want to just help myself to the changing room and start fiddling around with the soap boxes. Before the boys showed up, the head nurse arrived. After cordial greetings, I explained that I wasn’t able to tell the nurses that I would be working there that day. I was careful to use English appropriate for the situation and yet she still needed 3 minutes alone to understand what I’d said. She then told me that we would instead be going to Pulmonology for the day, since there were residents there that spoke English (whom we never ended up meeting).

Our stint in Pulmonology was the slowest yet. We were introduced to all the cases and then took the temperatures of a few of the patients. After that? Nothing! I didn’t want to totally waste my time, so I decided to harass Miklós with questions about Hungarian. He will be finishing his practice on Thursday, which leaves Jun and I to fend for ourselves for two days. Two days without a translator! In anticipation of this, I tried to think of some questions/statements that we could have translated beforehand. I carry around a little book for notes, some Hungarian terms/words and some diagnoses that we are told about so that I can look them up at home.

These are examples of words I noted down before I started the practice:

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Here are some of the questions that Miklós translated:

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After the question-translating and a little lesson on how to conjugate verbs in different tenses, we moved on to Hungarian vowels. Miklós had been stressing the importance of them and how they were each their own letter and not variations on the original vowels. I told him about similar vowels in Norwegian – æ ø å – but that didn’t seem to matter…

I was having a hard time with them – there are 14! – so I made up a little game: Miklós would say a word in Hungarian that started with a vowel and I had to guess which vowel it was. From the results, you can see where my weaknesses lie.

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So that was Friday! Exciting stuff…

Now, it’s late Sunday night and I’m trying to trick my body into falling asleep before midnight so that I don’t only get 5 hours of sleep. By tricking it, I mean getting into bed before 21:00. I’m looking forward to this being done so that my sleep cycle becomes more regular…right now it’s a bit manic. Can you spot the nights before work and the nights before a day off? I feel like a sloth-robot hybrid!

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The value of achievement lies in the achieving

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!

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Flashback to our last biochemistry lab! Our teacher surprised us with eppendorf tubes filled with whiskey, blue curacao and vodka.

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Joining Jannie on her apartment hunt. This one was pretty strange – but had a beautiful view!

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View from the plane – still amazed at how bright it is at night! I arrived around 23:30

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!

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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!

 

Summer Day in Oslo

August 18, 2013 § 2 Comments

Sandwiched between a rainy Friday and a cloudy, drizzly Sunday was a warm and beautiful summer Saturday. Stian and I started the morning with fresh juice (using his awesome juice maker) and watched an episode titled Is There a Creator? from the series Through the Wormhole (narrated by Morgan Freeman). Stian shares the same love for science and documentaries that I do and we take no hesitation in indulging each other.

When the afternoon rolled around, we decided to take a walk through Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen. There was a multicultural festival going on at Rådhusplassen, so we enjoyed walking through the crowd and experiencing the array of ecclectic food smells wafting through the air.

Aker Brygge and the newly expanded/developed Tjuvholmen are so amazing to walk through on a sunny day. Stian and I moseyed through, stopping for some gelato and people watching, and even checked out the view from the tower elevator.

We returned to the apartment about 3 hours later and settled into the couch to watch Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (Stian’s trying to convert me to juicing 😉 ). Afterwards we took a sunset walk through Akershus Festning – a medieval castle built to protect Oslo. To close out the perfect summer Saturday, Stian made an amazing steak dinner while I skyped with my mama and stepdad. Dinner was enjoyed with red wine and good conversation and followed by watching Oblivion (with Tom Cruise).

Cabin by the Sea – Part 2: Jannie visits Norway!

August 14, 2013 § 2 Comments

Summer is flying by even faster than it was last time I posted. Today is my last day in Bodø before heading to Oslo, where I will be staying for a few days before heading back to Budapest. Then it is only 3 weeks until school starts up again!

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We spent the past weekend at the cabin in Halsa. The weather was pretty bad up until Jannie arrived. There was a major bicycle race in Bodø that day, so all the roads were to be closed between 13:00-19:00. Since her plane was arriving at 14:30, I got a ride with Skjalg’s mom to the airport. As I was sitting and waiting, the skies began to open up and scattered rays entered the airport. I crossed my fingers that it would hold – this was Jannie’s first time in Norway and bad weather would dampen her first impression.

As soon as she arrived, we walked into downtown Bodø and stopped in at Vinmonopolet (government run and controlled liquor store – the only place to get wine and anything stronger that beer in Norway). Afterwards, we grabbed coffee and sat in the main square as we waited for Skjalg to get off from work. The bicycle race had just ended, so the square was busy and entertaining. Soon it was home to pack and then off to Skjalg’s dad’s thai restaurant for dinner – which was amazing as always. To close out the evening in Bodø, before starting the drive to Halsa, we had waffles and coffee up at Skjalg’s grandparents. The 3-hour drive landed us in Halsa at around midnight, so we enjoyed some red wine and then head to bed.

Our days in Halsa were unintentionally themed. Day 1 was Glacier Day, Day 2 – Fishing Day and Day 3 – Whale Day. Our luck with the weather was unbelieveable! I took about 600 pictures on the trip and tried as much as I could to narrow them down while still retaining the story feel. Ready for the longest blog post I’ve ever published? Hope you like pictures! Click on the pictures to view/scroll through larger versions.

Day 1 – Glacier Day

We started the day with an egg and bacon breakfast. Jannie slept in, so Skjalg and I enjoyed coffee and sheep watching on the balcony before heading to the store.

After breakfast, it was off to Svartisen! We dressed warm for the boat ride into the fjord – which takes about 30 minutes – and packed hiking bags for the trip. Since we’d arrived at night, it was Jannie’s first time really seeing the mountains and fjord – and what a way to see it all!

The walk up to the main path leading up to the glacier is about 2 km. It was lunchtime by the time we got to the beach near the fjord, so we stopped in for a small bite at the cabin restaurant overlooking the glacier. Skjalg and I shared a small plate of lefse (potato pancake with butter and sugar) and a waffle and Jannie had a waffle with freshly made strawberry jam.

The rest of the walk up to the glacier path was nice and calm. Jannie and Skjalg both drank water from the waterfalls – nothing like fresh glacier water!

Then began the hike up to the glacier! The hike is pretty much navigating across huge expanses of rock and large boulders. The rocks had such beautiful patterning and the view got better and better with each step.

Finally, the glacier reared its head over the rock maze. It has receeded quite a bit since Skjalg and I visited it for the first time in 2011. Still, it is Norway’s second largest glacier – about 260 sq. km. The part that we are able to walk up to is called Engabreen and is the lowest glacier point on the European mainland.

The sides were a bit dangerous, since there was a large gap between the ice and the rocks leading straight down under the glacier, but there was a sort of sand beach near the head of it, right above the waterfall. We managed to climb down there and were met with one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen in my life. The ice was a vibrant blue and the water was a cloudy turquoise with small pieces of ice floating in it. The cave leading into the glacier was pitch black – despite the glowing blue of the glacier. We took the opportunity to take some candid shots.

After about half an hour up at the glacier, we started back home. The trip back was spent in a sort of state of bliss. It was such an amazing experience.

We got home and warmed up a little bit – it had gotten cold out on the water. For dinner we grilled pork chops and corn and then relaxed a little before taking out the boat for a midnight fishing trip.

Day 2 – Fishing Day

Woke up to another beautiful sunny day. It was a little chilly, but I found a comfy spot in the sun and enjoyed a cup of coffee and The Fountainhead for a couple of hours. We packed a picnic lunch and loaded fishing gear into the boat. It was perfect fishing conditions and the view was amazing. Jannie had never caught a fish before, so we made it our mission of the day. Within the first hour, she’d caught three – one of which was big enough to feed us for dinner. Mission: accomplished!

After 4 or so hours out on the sea, we found a perfect little picnic spot on a small island.

We fished until 9 or so and then headed home to gut, clean and bake the fish. We’d forgotten to go to the store before it closed at 6 and had to make dinner with what we had available. No cold fish, sour cream, potatoes and cucumber salad for us!

Day 3 – Whale Day/Return Home

Since we would be driving back to Bodø on Sunday, we’d planned to take an easy morning. Skjalg and I were enjoying coffee on the patio when I noticed something black pop up out of the water. Skjalg went to grab the binoculars and we were soon able to confirm that it was, not just one, but two whales! I ran to get Jannie since she had really been look forward to seeing a whale while we were there. The two whales played in the fjord for a couple hours, making for a perfect end to the trip. Dark clouds rolled in just as we were packing up the car and cleaning the cabin. Lucikly, we were able to catch some shots of the beautiful scenery on the way back.

For Jannie’s last night in Bodø, we had dinner at Pepe’s pizzeria and went to see The Heat at the local theater. Though short, the trip was a major success and absolutely unforgettable. I still can’t believe how lucky we got with the weather! I’m sad to say goodbye to Bodø and all the amazing memories we’ve made this summer, but we’ll be back next year for some more.

Crossing the halfway point

August 7, 2013 § 7 Comments

Summer is seemingly flying by and I feel the need to remind myself that it is, in fact, only a few days past the halfway point. Somehow that makes it an easier pill to swallow. My last exam was on the 28th of June and since we spent the remaining days of June moving, I consider July 1st as the first day of my summer vacation. Since classes resume on the 9th of September, that left me with 70 days of summer to call my own.

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In the last weeks of the semester, I kept myself sane by daydreaming about all the amazing things I was going to do over the summer. I had so many plans, so many tasks, that I was just itching to get started on. When that free-time finally rolled around, none of it went to any of those things I’d ached to do. Instead, I’ve spent countless free hours sleeping, watching movies and TV series on Netflix and playing CandyCrush (an annoyingly addicting iPad game that I am embarrassed to admit I’ve played).

On the other hand, I’ve done many other things I hadn’t planned, but am very grateful to have done. Since we are staying up in Bodø, we have had the opportunity to spend quality time with Skjalg’s family. It’s very hard for me to be so far away from my family and the pain of distance is less in the company of Skjalg’s. I feel so welcome and included and feel so lucky to share in this aspect of Skjalg’s life. There have been many brunches and lunches, teas and dinners, a cabin trip, a mountain climb, midnight fishing excursions, movie nights, picnics and heavy yard work – family style. It’s been an amazing summer, but as a new semester approaches, I find a sort of restlessness creeping in. We’ve heard that the first two years of med school are the most difficult and that, of those two, the second is the major challenge.

I spent an hour or so this afternoon tracking down the physiology website and downloading old lectures and notes. Then I caught myself. It’s so like me to do this. When I was in the middle of exam period, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I could do with free time. Now that I have the free time, I am stressing about exam periods. I need to exist now, to allow myself to take it easy and to do so without feeling guilty about it.  For the past 5 days I have been bed-ridden with the flu and this is my first day where I am finally feeling functional again – there is no need to tire myself out right away! Plus, tomorrow is a big day – Jannie is coming to visit from Sweden! She will be arriving in the afternoon and we will be leaving for the cabin in Halsa in the evening. The weekend will be spent talking, fishing, cooking and exploring. There is a time for relaxing and there is a time for cramming. Now is time for the former!

Speaking of living in the moment, here is a picture of one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in my life. Skjalg and I saw in while riding our bikes home after a movie. The colors were unreal! The picture doesn’t do it justice.

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