Returning to campus – finally!

After 6 months of attending online university lectures, we finally were allowed to return to campus for certain classes on the 1st of March, 2021!

Yes, indeed, it’s already 26th of March today, and I’m in the midst of heavy academic load, with the coming week filled with exams, but I thought I’d take a wild risk and stop by here to do a brief update.

Besides, the 1st of March (Monday) is certainly a fun date to remember.

The night before, it was a bit nerve wrecking, but I fell asleep eventually. Surprisingly, when I was finally on campus, I did not as awestruck or nervous as I thought I would be. The campus was very quiet, as most of the students had still chosen online mode.

Our campus has a very strange architectural layout, but you get used to it. It’s quite fun to navigate the university, with stairways hidden here and there, narrow corridors, and lights with sensors. I kept thinking that this must be a different experience for us as compared to our seniors. If we had entered our foundation year while the block was choked full of students, a lot of details may be missed.

I met my assignment teammates in real life for the first time, and we chatted animatedly. Then our lecturer arrived. “Is this my class? Are you my class? Yes lah, should be my class.” She asked, carrying her lab coat, all the while walking at a very fast pace toward the lab on the right. We laughed, surprised to meet our lecturer for the first time. Then we put on our lab coats and entered the lab.

The lab has really bright lights, and for such an early time in the morning it was a little jarring. But I entered the lab with much curiosity. That was the first time I’ve been in any sort of learning space with a group of students, ever since I graduated from high school in 2019, due to the COVID pandemic.

Our first lab session was to dissect a goat’s heart. I did most of the dissecting while my labmate took many great photos. The heart was a little slimy and slippery. This was my very first dissection, as I had never had a dissection lab experience in high school. Some others already had the experience.

Actual goat’s heart, 1/3/2021

After that, we went to the library to attend our online classes. As I did not have a laptop then, it was a little difficult to access some learning materials (I finally got one last Monday though! I’m thankful for the convenience now). It was amusing to be able to see our friends unmute themselves to answer the teacher when their names were called, then here an echo of their voices through our earphones.

Then came our last class of the day – chemistry tutorial. There was a lot of “Sir, we saw you just now!” “Sir, you were walking about in front of the lab, but didn’t see us” “Well students, I saw two girls in the lift just now. Who were they? Who were you?”, and of course, a lot of real time and echoed laughing.

Then it was the end of the day. It takes me about 30-45 mins to reach home from my campus. I returned home quite tired but also happy.

Everyday, I remind myself that I truly must make the most of my experience at university, so that I will graduate without regrets.

Final Assessment + Semester 1 OVER!

Yippee!! My big final exam of the first semester is over!

I’m so sorry guys. It’s taken me over a week AFTER my exam actually ended to finally get back to you all. Even then, I prefer to binge watch medical documentaries on Youtube now, but it’s been one week since my final assessment actually ended and I do owe it you to all to update you on my current situation. I also owe it to myself – the completion of my very first semester of university foundation.

It’s a cool milestone.

So, this was basically how my first semester went: firstly, we tried to adapt to online learning and had fun with all the perks of e-learning. We also improved greatly on our software and technological skills, which online learning inevitably requires. Then it soon became a routine. Lecturers would teach quickly, with the constant excuse of “you can replay this video later, so I’ll move on first!” much to my frustration. Certain study resources were online, most were printable and so I printed them.

Then, in chronological order: Test 1 for all the courses I took in semester 1, which earned me great results; then comes Test 2, which got me a little stressed out due to the increasing level of difficulty, but which I still did well in. Scattered throughout the semester were tons of little different types of projects and coursework for each course we are taking, each of which contributes to our eventual Grade Point Average (GPA) for the semester.

In the last few weeks leading up to our big exams, we STIILL had to deal with two formal presentations, English and Biology formal GROUP presentations, which put our nerves under fire. Both the English and Biology presentations took a lot of hard work, and so much commitment was required and so much learnt that I think I shall write another blog post specifically to talk about them! For the English presentation, my group members and I had chosen a medical topic, and the research I did on it was supremely interesting, and the Biology presentation involved designing your very own experiment, which was pretty fun, too. Click here to read all about the two presentations! I had scored high marks for both and am happy with the results.

After the two presentations were done, I threw it behind my back and began studying full force. Our exam would be an open book exam, since we are studying from home due to the Covid crisis, but a big deal of studying is still required. Hours of reviewing lectures, curating comprehensive notes and summaries using colourful pens, and doing or reading the answers to past year papers that our lecturers gave us. I also did my tutorial questions, or any other practice or revision questions that were available through our online learning platform. I rearranged my course files to make old notes easily accessible. I made To-Do Lists that aimed really high, and tried my best to do tick off most of the boxes.

It was one heck of a ride.

Throughout the week before the exam and the exam week itself, I would constantly check the time, the one at the bottom right hand corner of my computer. I looked and looked and looked, whether it be to see if I have been taking too much time understanding a particular question, or if I have been daydreaming / taking a break for too long, or if I was going to submit my freaking exam papers in time. If I don’t manage to hand it in, I would have to resit the ENTIRE course, which means taking an extra semester. And did I manage to submit the exam papers?

Click here to find out….!!

I am returning to campus NEXT SEMESTER in October!

This is my last blogpost regarding university before I go on hiatus yet again for my final assessment in three weeks time!

We have just received notice that all students of our university will be returning to campus for the October trimester, but only for tutorial and practical lab sessions. The 2 hour lecture classes for each course will still be conducted online. Hooray! I truly think that is a great combination. It does not drain us with having to attend university daily, and gives us an occasional change in environment which I wholeheartedly believe would be healthy for my academic performance. I just think it is the best balance ever, being able to attend physical lab sessions WHILST attending lecture classes from home which would need rapt concentration and silence for taking important notes; and I would honestly campaign for this arrangement were it possible. Unfortunately, we will probably return to physical lectures eventually, when the coronavirus has died down completely.

It’s already WEEK 12 now of my first semester at university. I have just completed my second round of mini tests (known as Test 2) in my first semester, with nothing left but a Biology full report and two presentations (one live and one prerecorded) for two different courses, before we have to ramp up the effort for our Final Assessment, known as F.A.. That will be in Week 15!

Which is REALLY soon.

Over the past few weeks all I have been doing is study – I mean, there’s not much to do, is there, since we are studying online and due to the COVID situation. But it’s been very fun, asking our lecturers for help with questions past 11pm at night, and laughing in astonishment (and immense gratefulness) when they actually reply; or judging our coursemates solely based on their Microsoft Teams profile pictures, and recognizing them by voice, since no one ever turns their cameras on. Although now I definitely cannot survive without a computer, and using it for long hours make me feel rather uncomfortable – I think I may be quite sensitive to the emitted blue light.

I have submitted a mini “research paper” for my English assignment, which my little four people group and I will be presenting to our English lecturer on Week 13 – next week. We have worked hard and long on this assignment, learning so much through reading all sorts of scholarly articles and research journals on our chosen subject, Medical Errors, and painstakingly citing each and every source we use according to a strict format. We have also picked up a few software skills along the way, such as discovering the screenshot function on Microsoft Word and the screen recording function on Powerpoint; which, when you are in our position of really needing that function to conduct your project, is a wonderful joy and surprise.

There are, of course, a few funny things that happened along the way. During a math lecture, a boy was shocked to discover that inverse tangent 1 got him a value of 50, instead of 45, on his scientific calculator. He voiced his concern in front of a Teams Lecture meeting of about a 100 people. “Inverse Tangent 1 = 50?” our lecturer said calmly. “Then you need to throw your calculator away. Your calculator is damaged.”

“Really ah?” the boy’s voice rang throughout a meeting of 100 people, and he laughed uncertainly. He sent a photo of his calculator, and our lecturer eventually found out that he had set his calculator to a different mode, resulting in the wrong value.

“Your calculator is high,” quipped another boy in the meeting chatbox, meaning high on alcohol and rather dizzy. “The calculator’s value is also a bit high,” commented yet another, because the correct value should have been 45. Finally, the boy with the malfunctioning calculator replied in the chat.

“High on weed,” he agreed.

Then our lecturer ignored the chatting, as he usually does, and ended it with the best touch. “So, you don’t need to throw your calculator away. It is still a very good calculator.”

Alongside all these, I have also been trying to make notes for each of my lectures, knowing full well that my big final assessment is drawing near. The perks of online learning is that we get to review old lecture videos, pause whenever we like, take a rest when we need to, and begin again with renewed purpose. We also get to take screenshots from our lectures and compile them into notes and print them out! At least, that is what I do for my own learning. Being able to use the Windows 10 screenshotting function, Snip and Sketch, is truly a useful thing. I have printed many Whiteboard notes (Whiteboard is a virtual whiteboard, with markers of all colours, true to its name) from our lecturers. Our lecturers also are able to change between the colourful markers easily, so that our lecturer writing look something like this:

Really love the digital rainbow marker pen.

I have mixed feelings about studying online and in real life. I AM yearning to attend classes on campus for the first time too, as I have never been on campus for any studies whatsoever due to the coronavirus.

However, online learning has so many benefits. There are less distractions, there is so much opportunity for further reading and exploration of internet resources, and I am better able to care for my personal needs specific to myself. I also compete with myself only and no one else, which leads me to set my own standards and not be complacent if others around me are doing worse, or become disappointed if others are doing way better.

It is, in short, a controlled environment whereby I am the thermostat.

Now, I really must go! It is the weekend and this is the precious time which I have to fully utilize and catch up with my work.

Goodbye for now!

~Rachel, 15 August 2020.

*Disappointed update: With the COVID situation now, the returning of campus in October, my second semester has been cancelled, with all classes back to being online. Now I think our entire foundation will be online, and some.

I do hope that we can at least begin our degree in real life. I do want to meet all my MBBS coursemates in real life and see their faces.

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! 😛 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! 😛 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!

I am in a university lecture call now!

6 June 2020, Tuesday, 1.13 pm

And with that my first lecture week has ended and the new week has begun. About an hour ago I just finished attending a class on cell biology. I fell asleep out of exhaustion, despite having a lot of messy Biology notes to organize, and I literally woke up to the sounds of my father waking me up for my next lecture class: English.

I felt immediately embarrassed. My dad has to wake me up to attend my own classes! It should be my responsibility. I made a note to myself to set an alarm on my phone if ever my lecture periods are quite close to each other, and I plan on getting a cat nap between then.

1.35pm: Our teacher is going through How To Make Inferences now, but she is a little bit rushed in her teaching and I struggle to keep up.

2.10 pm: I am out of the lecture now. I have to take some rest, again. After that I will start working on Bio and leftovers of English.

2.45pm: I did not set an alarm. However I think my body, despite being extremely tired from staying up until 1.30 am last night watching my Biology teacher’s prerecorded videos on Carbohydrates, could not fall into a deep sleep because it knows it has things to do.

Now, let’s get to work!

I did manage to glean two quite useful things from my English lecture, and that is

1. inferences made must elaborate on and demonstrate a deeper level of external understanding as compared to what the paragraph is clearly stating, often including things that may be implied by the paragraph or is not even stated anywhere in the paragraph, and

2. the main idea of a paragraph can be found by underlining the main points as if you were making a summary of the paragraph, then writing a blanket main idea that seeks to cover the concept of all those key words as best as possible.

As for the details on how to answer the questions, I might go back to the replay and watch again. Time is tight, though, and I still have my biology notes, which needs thorough organizing for a smooth flow of thought, and a partial report to prepare. I have one more lecture for the day, though, and that is….

A mathematics tutorial class! From 4-5 pm. I’ll update you on that after the class! For now, I really must work a bit on Biology and English. See you in about three hours, real time.

3.19pm: I’m back so quickly, to tell you about something else. I went back to watch my Biology replay first. But I cannot concentrate on understanding what my teacher said in reply to a question I posed during the lecture, even though I know full well I need to. All I can focus on is judging my very own self, for my tone, for my fluency and confidence in communicating, for the way I asked the question, the way I “hassled” my teacher for the answer. Some part of me knows I am only being persistent in my studies, knows I have tried my best, knows I probably wasn’t being as annoying as I felt I was. Only I think so. But I have never been good at things like this.

I will keep working on overcoming this. It’s a small problem, and soon I will learn to judge myself less and be more natural. I already find my foundation so interesting and gradually I know being passionate and absorbed into my courses will take my mind of silly things like picking at the itty bitty details like the tone of my voice of my lack of confidence. Remember, if anyone can love yourself the most, it is you. So don’t waste time judging yourself for every single flaw. Acknowledgement of these flaws are still important, but don’t start feeling disgust of yourself. It is very debilitating and unhealthy.

I know my burning curiosity for learning will take me far, and all these barriers within myself will eventually fall away.

5pm: Alright! I am now done with my first math tutorial class. I have never had such a tutorial session like this before university, and it is a useful type of class specifically for asking questions based on a set of questions given to us to do. I think such sessions are very helpful indeed, and it makes us keep practicing.

5.15pm: I’m going to sit on my bed next to my window, just to soak up some Sun. I haven’t felt the warmth of the Sun on my skin for ages now.

6.20pm: Phew! It’s really hot. I’ve drawn the curtains. I’ve made a list of coursework and other odds and ends I need to get done, all academic related. I’ve got five things on the list. Going to get them done now, one by one! Hopefully I can get them done before dinner, which is…. too soon. Oh dear.

Let’s go.