What it’s really like studying SCIENCE in my university!

“Let me tell you about the four main categories in science,” said our Biology lecturer, on our very first lecture of the semester in university. I could not see my coursemates, but I could feel everyone’s ears perk up. Whoever heard of four categories of science? We’ve only ever heard of three.

“First, math is the most fundamental,” she says. “Then what is the most basic science after that?” “Chemistry,” someone tried. “No, it’s physics,” said our teacher. True. I suspected that was why doctors are commonly physiciansย in the US, because the word physic originally referred to both the practice of medicine AND to natural science (Merriam-Webster, 2020). “Then the next would be, Chemistry, and then Biology,” she finished. “Then Physics is derived from Math, Chemistry is derived from Math AND Physics, and Biology has elements of all of the above.”


One thing I have discovered as in the first few weeks of studying foundation in science at university is: every one of these scientific categories has elements of another category. Math is most fundamental, and therefore only seems to relate to nothing, when you study it on its own. But when you get to the “more derived” subjects, you will see all the interconnected relations between the sciences: there is differentiation (math) in Physics, there are complicated molecular structure of chemical compounds (chemistry) in Biology, and there are logarithms (math), gas laws (physics) and enzymatic graphs (Biology) in Chemistry.

It truly is really interesting, when you see the bigger picture come together. You see the purpose of why things happen; why you are studying math when it seems to be just about numbers. Seeing the patterns and interconnections gave me a new insight into the subjects we had been studying ever since high school; and I wondered why we weren’t exposed to this earlier.

But here’s the really cool thing. I am not sure about other universities. Personally, I am certain not many universities must have this weird concept in their foundation in science syllabus: in our recent Physics exam just two days ago, a white blood cell and a Bacteria (Biology) are racing toward Point A at the speed of 20ฮผm/s and 50ฮผm/s respectively. Calculate the relative velocity of WBC to the liquid…. I laughed, as I read through the question on my digital exam paper, in my room. Maybe exams and studies have dulled the minds of people, and they don’t play as much as I do, and they might find me too peculiar for their tastes. But little things make me laugh, and that does not compromise my intelligence. I think that was a very lighthearted element to include in an exam, a strange rojak, as we like to say here in Malaysia (rojak = a mixture of random foods, used to mean a mixture of random things / languages spoken together, etc).

It’s cool.

Many of my lecturers are really good teachers. They bring across the topic to us clearly, they are prepared for what we might not understand, possibly due to their years of experience, or credentials in the field. They teach us the why of things, which is the whole point of studying science, and a great way to pique our interest.

I am really grateful for the opportunity to study foundation in science at my university. It gives me a fresh insight into science. Although I have been more of a quiet person in my primary and secondary school years, I hope to grab this last stage of education – tertiary education – with both hands, and learn and discover as much as I possibly can.

~Rachel Tan Hui Xin, 20 July 2020, What it’s really like studying science at my university.


Meriam-Webster. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/why-is-a-medical-expert-called-a-physician

Teenage blame

Thursday, 9.05 am, 7 July 2020

On the walls of my little office-cubicle study desk there are exactly fifteen pieces of sticky notes, flapping softly in the midst of my standing fan, all reminding me to focus on my assignments and my future, cheering me on. To my front is my computer, everything in my bookmarks bar having to do with my university, every tab open about the english assignment I am currently working on. Stacked around my desk, to my left and right, are bits and pieces of university assignments that other people would have pushed aside, but which I have branded as “incomplete” or “not yet understood”, because it is important to me that I fully master my courses. Getting a firm grasp on the concepts helps make these assignments more enjoyable, instead of simply a task to finish.

But the pancakes are piling up, and although I am not in any way procrastinating, I am lagging behind a bit. Still, all I have been spending my time on these days is study, and I have still managed to enjoy myself, thoroughly.

I look at the time. It is 7am. I decide to get more rest, after waking up at 6am for breakfast with my high school-going brother, to ensure I have enough energy for a day’s work. So I time myself, leave my mobile alarm clock – my phone on a wooden chair next to me, and try to fall asleep. That’s what I always do – I even plan my sleeping time strategically. I don’t just fall asleep like that, grab a nap whenever I like. If I feel like getting some rest, I must have a reason for it.

There are things to do, things I can find enjoyment in only if I recharge.

I wake up multiple times during this little attempt at sleep. I feel mild irritation at that, knowing it might be because of my father, who has expressed disapproval when I grab too many naps here and there, that my body itself is keeping me from getting this much needed recharge for the day. It knows. Therefore my sleep is light, and I am easily woken.

I dream. In the dream, I ask my mother for some help with my assignment. She sits in front of my computer, the Microsoft Word file open with my assignment typed out, and pastes 5 emojis on it. She chooses the emoticons with so much earnest, thinking that she is helping me with my assignment. I frown at her. Then I wake up.

I increase my alarm’s time for 10 more minutes, and go back to sleep. I dream again. This time my dad opens the door. “Do your work,” he says. “Wake up. Get some work done. It’s already very late.” In my dream I stir, then fall back asleep. “Now,” my father demanded. “Don’t always procrastinate.”

That last part got me. How dare you say I procrastinate? I have done nothing but study for the past weeks! Even my sleep is planned as recharge moments to last through my study hours. I –

I jolt awake, but the sound of my actual door opening. I stand up quick as lightning, but my dad has already caught me. “Hmmmf.” He grumbled. “Sleep?” He questioned. “Just because I haven’t been monitoring you on your studies recently, does not mean you can be wasting your time. Just because you think dad’s not here to keep an eye on you – “

My blood roared in my veins, but I stayed quiet.

Never mind. Fortunately, I love myself very much and have a good recovery mechanism, and I always give my body what it needs, do for myself what is best. So I walk to my computer, and start on my English assignment.

I know soon, the curious topic on Medical Errors will fill me with interest, and I can try to forget the people who do not fully understand.

But I never truly forget these false accusations, and that is why I am here.

~Teenage blame, Rachel Tan Hui Xin, Rachel’s Truth, 16 July 2020.

The start of week 7: Assignment Rush

I have been really busy this week, so you’d either be delighted or disappointed that I will go straight down to the details. Honestly, this will be a test of my writing abilities. Less backspacing, less thinking… this blog post is going to be like a spontaneous presentation.

Let’s begin.

It is now 1.15pm.

In the past week I have completed two reports, one for physics and one for physical chemistry, the first one graded and the second one not, yet vital for our understanding of the topics nevertheless. We also had two exams in the past week, therefore I had to push these two reports until the last minute to study for the courses we were going to be tested on. I ended up starting AND completing BOTH reports on Friday itself! (Went to bed at 2am that night… despite having exams the next day. Phew.) As for exams, I was pretty nervous, thinking of all the possible issues I might come across that a real life test would otherwise not have – poor internet connection, trouble with submission of answer sheet, clumsiness with using online softwares such as microsoft word, etc. But I have since managed to sit for two online exams without much issues. I have since then become more confident about taking the online assessments, and the procedures involved.

Last Saturday was really exhausting for me, considering I’d stayed up till two in the morning to complete two reports the night before, with a graded exam on Biology, a mock Math test, and a two hour replacement class for Physical Chemistry waiting for me in just a few hours time. It is Monday now and I still do not have the time to rest. After the hectic full day of Saturdays exams, I spent the first half of my Sunday revising one topic on Chemistry, and the other half of the day completing my first ever fully cited scientific poster, according to the APA format.

I was very proud of the poster, as I had used a special software called Canva to create it. There are very nice templates there, though quite limited. As usual, there is the “pay to upgrade to premium” catch. Still, one thing is different about Canva: they categorize their templates not in terms of colour or pattern, but in terms of what the context or event in which they think these templates are suitable for, such as for school, work, presentations, poster, etc. These each have their respective subcategories as well, such as scientific poster, advertisement poster etc. These helped me a lot in designing my very first scientific poster in university, and despite the dreary ordeal of citing all my references, playing with the templates and design made this assignment a lot more fun for me. I managed to enjoy myself as I worked.

A screenshot of the Canva homepage

I completed my poster on Sunday night, one day before the deadline. (It is Monday today.) This is because I am planning ahead! We have a physics exam tomorrow on Tuesday, a math exam on Saturday, and a Chemistry full report and formal cited English essay, both to be handed up next week (and both of which I have not started on). The most immediate goal would now be the Physics exam tomorrow (Tuesday), which will cover four topics. Don’t forget that I still had to attend three lecture classes today, until 4pm. With not much choice, I only have less than half a day to study for Physics. (And now EVEN LESS! Because I’m blogging, of all things to do! ๐Ÿ˜› But I know one day I would want to look back at this, so here I am, documenting history.) Then I’ll sit for the exam tomorrow, throw it all aside, and start on the three other goals coming at me.

For now, miraculously, I am actually still able to enjoy the rush.

I am going to work super hard, develop new ways to be make more efficient use of my time, and discover and explore the ways that best suit my personal learning style, so that these things stay fun and do not overwhelm me instead.

I have a lot more to share with you about e-learning, things that I am sure will pique your curiosity. There have been lots of funny moments during online classes, interesting things I have discovered about myself and the best way in which I learn and absorb information…. and lots, lots more. Do not fear, it will not all be assignment DUMPS like this blogpost! However, if I am supremely busy all the time, it might be so. Let’s see.

It is now 6.45pm. I am a bit hungry, so I went to eat two of my favourite chocolate biscuits. By the way, if you enjoyed reading this, do help me spread word about this blog, I’ll appreciate it so much!

Now, it is nearly 7pm, dangerously late. I cannot be doing this all the time! ๐Ÿ˜› I have got to study for my Physics exam now. Every grade I get will contribute to whether I get into my medical degree or not. Wish me luck, and bye for now!

End of Week 5! #rayupdates

We’re at the end of week 5 now. It is Friday, 3rd of July 2020.

University coursework and assignments are piling up. We are going to have a few minor exams, but minor they may be, they are going to be GRADED.

I am going to sit for my first ever graded exam for Chemistry in university next Wednesday, at 6.30pm – 8pm!

(Yes omg, you heard that right. And we will still have 3 lecture classes in the morning before that. I will be so exhausted by then. I have never in my life done and exam at 6.30pm.)

Then, I will also have biology, physics and math exams in the following weeks.

I cannot afford to flunk these exams, not when I am aiming for a CGPA of 3.5 for the entire foundation year to get into MBBS (medical degree). I am going to MAKE SURE I work hard, and do well all the way. To tell the truth, I am lagging behind a bit in catching up with my assignments, and everyday the pile grows larger and more difficult to handle.

Somehow, I must find a way to coordinate all my assignments and revision such that I can keep up daily with my work.

As for online learning, I am beginning to recognize my disembodied coursemates by voice, which is funny. I am also becoming more familiar with some of the names in the online meetings – names of my coursemates, who don’t talk during class, so unfortunately I’m sad to not be able to get to know them! Our time will come… next year, probably.

Our university has announced classes on campus will resume only next year, even though the Malaysian government has very recently declared that primary and secondary school students will be going back soon, universities will be allowed to reopen soon, and even cinemas and theme parks will reopen their doors soon. But our university has declared online classes for the May and October trimesters. We’ll have to wait. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

I will be working very hard on time management and understanding certain topics for the next few weeks.

When I’ve established a organized system for my learning and I have gained control, I will come here and announce it on this platform. It would be something of pride to be able to keep up, as it is not as simple as you think!

Being able to keep up would also mean I have finally gotten my university life in order, and that would allow things to feel steadier.

That’s all for now. Wish me luck for my exams! :b

The next time I return, I’ll be telling you about my results……

~Rachel Tan HX, Blog author, 3 July 2020.

These are my recent dream patterns… it’s not what you would expect.

My dreams are never what you would expect.

So it is no surprise that my recent dream patterns would be bizarre and extraordinary; it is almost always like that.

However, it must also be more unexpected than the usual level of unexpected, obviously. This is because I am very busy with coursework at the moment and yet stole time to come and write this piece. It absolutely deserves to be recorded down somewhere.

Firstly, I will start with telling you about my typical dream patterns.

P.s. It is 2pm now and I have just woken up from a very short afternoon nap. ๐Ÿ˜›

Normally, my dreams follow this very distinct pattern, almost without fail. My dreams at night would be subdued; strange, but quiet. I would see familiar faces and watch them do things that are slightly unexpected, in places that are slightly familiar. Usually I do not lucid dream at night – which means I am unaware that I am dreaming, or have no control over it. i usually forget the dream, or most of it, by morning.

Since my afternoon naps are very short, and usually interrupted quickly (by my own internal alarm clock who knows just how much left I have to do for the day), I usually remember these dreams very well… most probably because my dream cycle is cut off. These dreams, always only in the afternoon, far too often fill me with awe, wonder, excitement, the feeling of being in control, and the freedom to do reckless things for the experience, with no consequences. Since I have not really shared any of my dream patterns with you before, you might not be able to fully comprehend my meaning. I usually lucid dream most of the time during my afternoon naps, which means I am in control of my movements in the dream. Not so much in control of the scenes that play out in front of me, but rather just where I choose to run, fly, or fall. I am usually in full control of how I choose to move, and which direction I move in.

My afternoon naps are usually very bizarre, shocking experiences, and fill me with a lot of uncontained emotions. For your information, with my busy schedule since years ago, when I had to prepare for my very major exam, and now preparing to walk to long path called medicine, with days choked full with assignments and topics to revise; I am not the kind of teenager who reads many fantasy trilogies a day. I don’t have a netflix subscription, nor do I watch highly imaginative clips or movies anywhere. So I am not sure where these fantastical imaginations come from.

Lastly, both at night and in the afternoon, I hardly ever get any so called nightmares. Ever.

It is only in the recent year I think that my dreams have established such a unique and constant pattern, each always conforming to their own time of the day. Night – strange but quiet. Afternoon – very emotionally charged, shocking experiences.

However, for the past few days, this has changed.

Yesterday, I was flying at indescribable speed, across a sunny, bright space of which I can’t remember the surrounding layout. Then I zoomed to a deserted apartment balcony. The balcony’s walls was painted pure white. I dashed, still at top speed, round and round a pillar at the balcony, its sliding doors open wide, allowing me to see into a cool, comfortable home. It seemed to be the home of a rich person, and the deserted balcony was laid out such that I knew it was a place where ladies that wore big rattan hats had tea and gossiped.

At first, I had enjoyed zooming around, as I had encouraged my flying of my own accord, but now as I tried to slow to a stop, I found that I could not. I strained my brain as hard as I could. My head ached as I willed myself to STOPPPP! After a while, only did I slow down.

Strange. I seemed to have lost the ability to control where I move.

Today, I flew, as usual, but this time in a big, wooden, shabby, dim, storage building, in search of someone or something. The building was really huge, and the storage space seemed to be so taken up, but filled with worthless things like stacks and stacks of wooden planks and sacks and sacks of hay and leaves. Then I flew out to see tarred road and pedestrian crossings. I flew at alarming speed toward the overhead bridge, flying even higher than the height of overhead bridge.

But as I approached it, I tried to steer right, to no avail. Again, I exerted all of my brain power to will myself to the right, my head hurting as I did so, but I would not go right, to my worst frustration. I tentatively attempted to go left, and saw that I could easily steer to the left. It must be the position in which I was lying on my bed, a thought flashed through me. I must be lying on my left side, or some weird logic like that. I did not even have the mood to feel amused by that, since in the dream, I was really insistent on going right, but failed to achieve that.

Also today, as I slipped in and out of consciousness during the very same afternoon nap, I had a few nightmares in a row, in one nap. A few frightening things happened, though by now, as I am typing this at nearly 6pm, 4 hours since I’d started (sorry, guys, I had to attend a lecture!) I have already forgotten what exactly was scary. I only remember waking up and asking myself when in decades was the last time I had a nightmare in the afternoon! More like an afternoonmare.

So these are my peculiar, completely inexplicable recent shift in dream patterns. Rather weird, I know, this addition of feeling of fear and loss of control the past few days, since I seldom experience fear ESPECIALLY during my afternoon naps, since I’ve told you they are usually filled with happiness, surprise, or some positive emotion like that, and they usually come in extreme levels. I have also said that I am almost always in control during the afternoon, but lately it also doesn’t seem to be that way.

Do YOU have weird dreams too, or have you ever noticed strange dream patterns throughout your life? Feel free to share your strange, funny, or atypical experiences below!

Now, I have to go back to trying to make sense of linear kinematics in Physics. Someone has just been careless enough to drop a parcel out of a hot air balloon (!) , and I’m supposed to calculate at what speed would it hit the ground……?

I don’t know. I do know, though, the speed at which my head would hit the pillow…… for another dream to begin.

~ Rachel Tan Hui Xin, 29 June 2020, Blog author of Rachel’s Truth