Final Exams: 2nd Semester (University)

My exams began on the 21st of December and ended on the 26th, a day after Christmas. For Christmas, I received a little stand-up makeup mirror, with a little container as its base to to place a tiny number of makeup items. I don’t have a lot, so I filled it with just my 3 nail polishes that each cost only about RM5 from Shopee, and a few of my mom’s lipsticks she gave me. I am quite a simple person; little things like these are enough to make me happy.

The edges of the mirror even has a light. You just touch the mirror itself and the edges light up! Cool.

On the 21st of December I sat for Math. My math is a little weak, and I did not really like the chapters we were studying for math in the 2nd semester (we study different chapters of math in all the 3 semesters), so I’m not sure how I did. I had reviewed all my lectures, but not done enough tutorials and did not do any past years, so I must admit that I did not practice enough. I have resolved to do much more practice for the math course in my 3rd semester. There were quite a few questions that I did not know how to do, so I definitely did not do as well as the other courses. (At university, we do not call subjects as “subjects” but rather “courses”. This is because three courses, such as Math I, Math II and Math III are all under the Math subject, but are separate courses).

On the 22nd of December, I sat for Communication Skills. I watched some debates on Youtube, and a video with very simple English on conversations at a workplace, just to get my mind set for writing dialogues. Eventually, though, I did not write a dialogue, I wrote 5 really short stories on cultural interactions, which was pretty fun, since I based many of it on my personal experiences. In the hours before my exam, I perused all m lecture notes at top speed and made handwritten summaries on them.

On the 24th of December, I sat for Inorganic Chemistry. Since it was an open book test, I made a handmade content page to make referring to my printed lecture notes easier. I had gone through most of the lecture notes in the week before the exam. Since there was a one day break between communication skills and chemistry, I used it to read all of my tutorial answers and a past year paper that our lecturer mentioned would be similar to our final assessment this semester. For Chemistry, all answers must be handwritten, so everything was rather rushed, but I still completed everything in record time and I believe I did well.

On the 26th of December, a Saturday, I sat for my last paper, Modern Biology. Modern Biology is the most interesting course this semester. So far, all the biology exams at university, being completely open book, were the most enjoyable for me because I get the joy of learning while sitting for an exam. I can search the Internet for a better answer, to complement my knowledge from our lecture notes. (Since all our courses have to have open book exams, the examiners have increased the difficulty of the questions, making them much more indirect and requiring much more thought. Yet with the Internet, my lecture notes, my tutorials and past years all next to me as I do my exams is one of the most powerful and enriching exam experiences I’ve ever had. It is, really, a food for thought on how we structure our exams in the future, even when the COVID crisis is over.) For Modern Biology, I reviewed my tutorial videos. I also made a summary on what we’d learnt for all the topics, and it made for great reference during my exam.

Then, phew! It’s time to relax! “You have to study soon, you know,” said my father immediately after my exam, pouring cold water all over my head. Oh well. But I still get to relax for a while first. Haha!

My results will be out in a 1-2 weeks. I do hope I did well! Then comes a hectic 3rd semester…. I am ready for the challenge.

Second week of lectures, done!

HEY! Where did all the time go? Is the second week of university done and gone already?

Week 1 mostly consisted of ice breaking and briefing sessions. (Click here to read about my very first week at university!) I am now done with week 2 of foundation in science, and this week has been a reasonably manageable one, and the pace has not picked up so much that I cannot catch up – not just yet.

This week, we have just been given some assignments to do, and I am learning to adapt to this different part of uni life that is having to complete tutorial questions and practical lab simulations before attending tutorial and practical classes respectively. In high school, we seldom had to complete anything before entering the classroom – homework was always given to us to do after the class.

This week may have felt a bit short because Monday was a public holiday for Malaysia, so there were only 4 days of lectures. Our lecturers did not hesitate to set replacement classes throughout the week and the next, to make up for lost time.

Due to a replacement class for math on Thursday morning and a combined scientific report writing and APA citation & referencing workshop on Friday, the last two weekdays of Week 2 were FULLY BOOKED. That is effectively 6 hours of (four) lectures on Thursday, with breaks in between, and more than 5 hours of lectures on Friday, with no break in between – I was literally seated in front of my computer, attending live sessions from 8 – 1.40pm back-to-back. Non-stop.

“Welcome to medicine,” said my father, when he saw me hurrying upstairs after lunch, to continue with the third lecture on Thursday. “That’s probably how studying for your medical degree will be like.”

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Medicine must be way busier than the second week of our foundation year.” I huffed and puffed as I bounded up the last of the steps, not allowing myself to be deterred by my busy schedule – but only because I knew studying medicine must be a ton lot more hectic than this, and if I could not survive this now, then there was no need to talk about going up to the degree level. So this little bit of busyness has to be beneath me. I do not mean that in an arrogant way, but simply because with the start of my path in medicine, I know I must shift my very definition of “busy”.

Still, I am thoroughly enjoying the new experiences of online classes AND the different way of studying required at university, despite being stuck at home 24/7.

It’s Saturday and I am using the weekend to do some self-studying of Cell Biology. Time to throw myself into the third week!

First week of lectures, done!

“Make some noise!”

Mr Yeo* (name changed), my math lecturer, said after a while, when no one was willing to turn on their cam (camera) and an awkward silence followed his questions. “I want to hear your voices, to make sure you’re still alive.” I checked to make sure my mic was muted, and laughed out loud. That is totally not the typical thing your lecturer would say in a classroom.

But there was more. “Remember, you can eat or drink during your lectures,” he said, not even an inch of mischief in his voice. He said it matter-of-factly, like it were printed rules from the university code of conduct rule book. “And please, you can go to the toilet without my permission.” I heard someone cough, then a laugh come from my speakers.

What weirdness.

In a blink of an eye, I have already attended a whole week of university lectures!

The first week started off quietly, but it has begun swiftly nevertheless, and I did not even have the time to write a first day of university blogpost for you! 😛

From what I can gather from my lecturers, things will really pick up its pace from week two onwards. Ready your engines… it’s going to be a one-year spurt, charging head on toward the defining moment where I may or may not meet the requirements for my medical degree.

My online lectures are being conducted on Microsoft Teams, a tight-knit community platform which can be used by school or work accounts. Due to the COVID crisis, our university will be conducting online live stream learning for the rest of the semester. All our assignment documents and online class schedules are easily accessible through this special platform.

This week has been a busy yet fun one, as I tried to adapt to balancing lectures and the daily sessions with my father as he tried to guide me with my foundation syllabus. Having two parties trying to occupy your time and teach you, in their respective ways, is not easy to handle. But I have been managing it so far, whilst having fun, enjoying myself and learning new things. I hope to return to campus soon after this COVID situation improves, as I am quite eager to experience campus life!

“We have such a pretty teacher!” A student gushed during our first cell biology lecture class, right below our teacher’s nose – or, to be more precise, right below our teacher’s screen.

“Hahahahaha….” our teacher, Ms Nadiah (name changed), laughed loudly. She found this student so amusing. “Some of the students here are retaking the paper,” she explained to about a hundred of us, listening behind our screens in our own homes. Clink! The sound of a coffee cup was heard… this was probably a shared house for online teaching that the lecturers were sharing, or this could perhaps even be on campus grounds.

Suddenly, Ms Nadiah’s face turned serious. “My line… is lagging a bit ah! I might have to turn off my cam.” She was even so nice as to ask us if it was alright for her to turn off her camera, despite ALL ONE HUNDRED of us having our cameras disabled. No one wanted to show their face.

“Never mind lah, teacher,” said one student, safe behind a disabled camera. “All we need is to see your face.”

Still, online learning is not very much less of an experience. Your hair is messy and you’re still munching on the last of your breakfast. There is the new normal that constitutes an “e-classroom”, where your mom slides open your door every once in a while, and your dad barges in to listen to your lectures, out of curiosity, every ten minutes.

Your new excuse for being late to class is a bad internet connection…. and no one can really blame you for that. If you’re shy to answer a question in class, you can say your mic is not working, and type in the chat box instead. Most the time when you speak, your profile icon pulses, which can be set to a default blank image with your initials in bold on it. But sometimes it doesn’t even pulse, which means you can ask a question without fear of being judged; no one, not even the lecturer will know who you are. You can change the tone of your voice to avoid being recognized by voice; if anyone is even as observant as that.

Of course, I haven’t actually done any of that. This is my chance to gradually ease my way into uni, so I don’t want to let online learning get me too comfortable. Throughout the week I kept trying to push myself out of my own comfort zone, ask some questions, use the ‘raise hand’ function. It’s healthy, it’s good practice, for introverts like you and me (if you’re one). If you’re wondering, I’m actually an introvert in real life. However, I am very verbal and confident online. I am comfortable expressing myself through written or typed out words where I can backspace and prepare.

The workload for the first week has been quite light, though I am sure it will increase sharply in the coming weeks. The chemistry and physics questions mostly touch on the basics, topics we have learnt about in form 5 during our preparation for SPM, but just a few months of not studying has caused out minds to become rusty, and I have forgotten even how to solve the most basic mole ratio questions. Well… not to say forgotten, but perhaps I have to get used to the concepts and formulas I used to remember for SPM again.

I have printed out some of my notes for all the courses I am taking this semester, namely Chemistry, Physics, Biology, English and Math; all of which are either very neatly prepared or very colourful and full of comprehensive diagrams to facilitate fun and effective learning. I have begun to do some self-studying and find it quite fun and interesting! Some of our lecturers are also very nice and helpful, using Kahoot, a simple online multiplayer game, to engage with us; or telling jokes once in a while to brighten up the mood, or telling us not to panic about the assignment deadline on week 7, since they will remind us again when the date approaches. Still they never fail to bring the focus back to lessons, which is what makes them such great lecturers.

In the middle of the week, while browsing through my countless Microsoft Teams groups meant for different classes, I was shocked to find that I had actually missed a class on Monday. It was the first practical class for Physical Chemistry! My student portal stated flat out in red BLOCK LETTERS that I did not have any records of attendance for Monday, 1st of June 2020.

Oh dear. Very luckily, online learning gives us the ability to go back and watch the replay! Of course, the attendance record cannot be changed. I squeezed the time to watch this replay in the midst of the other lectures I already have for Wednesday, which made my eyes hurt quite a bit, as I am not used to sitting in front of the computer for long hours. However e-learning is like that, and I should learn to get used to it.

One thing I have done quite a lot throughout the week is also… guess what? Yeah 😛 Printing my lecture notes and tutorial questions. They come in bulk! I say, the best way to stay fit during MCO is running up and down the stairs to print your lecture notes. Really.


To date, I have collected quite a lot of lecture topics, neatly in files, and have begun to prepare ahead a bit before everything starts picking up its pace. I never thought I would get to say this before the rush begins, but shockingly, at this very point of time, only SOME HOURS before the second week of lectures begins, I can tell you that the pace has NOT picked up yet. (Whoa. Unbelievable.) (No. I’m just joking.) This statement could possibly be true only for a few more hours… or maybe a couple more days, not sure yet. We’ll see.

For now, I need to get back to learning how to draw a glucose molecule.

You know, drawing glucose is definitely more fun that I had imagined! Especially when your lecturer guides you slowly in learning the steps, and describes the how the actual structure of a glucose molecule really is.

Once in forever: I am now officially eighteen!

“What’s the first thing you want to do on turning eighteen?” asked my mother.

Any other teenager may have said learning to drive, for those who did not start on turning seventeen. Cheekier ones may have joked about going to a pub and taking their first drink.

“Open a fixed deposit account,” I said.

Fairy Lights and Me 2
the 21st of May 2020
Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX

Eighteen years ago today, on the 21st of May 2002, I was born.

Yes, I’m turning eighteen today!

(The nerve! This is my first time putting up a photo in my pyjamas. Hopefully I still look presentable.)

Today is a happy day, even though it’s still CMCO (Conditional Movement Control Order) due to the Covid 19 situation. My mother and I took a quick trip to the mall (masks on, hands off elevator railings, walk ten miles away from everyone, etc) and got us lunch. Then she redeemed two free Tealive drinks, hazelnut milk tea, which she won from joined a mini online contest.

Hazelnut milk tea from Tealive
21 may 2020
Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX

A stall across from Tealive caught my eye, and I bought a little box of cappucino almond biscuits for myself. It had a cyan-coloured ribbon tied around its cover. I was delighted.

“I love almond,” I gushed. “And cappucino. And the colour cyan.” I pointed at the ribbon toed around the biscuit container. “That’s why I’m getting this one.”

It was my first trip out of the house to the mall since MCO for Malaysia begun on the 18th of March, 2020. (However, my contract work as a patient care assistant with the hospital ended only early April. Read all about it here and here!) I eagerly kept my eyes out for the little details that I saw at the mall today, knowing full well that after this short trip on my birthday, the next time I left the house would be who knows when. So it’s like that – temperature taking at many shops, long lines going into departmental stores, recording of names and contact numbers etc. One of the clothing outlets had an especially long line, and I was surprised. Clothes are in demand? At this time?

Long line in front of Jaya Grocer
21 May 2020
Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX

Then I remembered Hari Raya (the Muslim new year) was coming soon for the Malays. Maybe that’s why!

Still, mom said I hadn’t seen the real thing. “Back during the first few weeks of MCO, the mall was half deserted, all the shops were shut… and there was free parking.”

On returning home, my father called: “Follow SOP! Quarantine everything else except lunch. Lather your handphones with hand sanitizer. Bathe and wash your hair.” We do so.

It was only after that that we were allowed to enjoy our lunch – Nandos! We said again how amused we were by the catchy words on the brown paper bag. See, that’s the difference between us and bags. Humans only live once, bags can have many happy returns. Please recycle this one.

In its next life, this bag wants to be a bag.

Funny text on Nando’s paper bag
21 May 2020
Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX

We go back to doing our own things. At tea time, it was time to cut the cake. For our family, birthday cakes are always cut and eaten at tea time (around 4pm). This year, my mom bought me a cake of really unique flavour – a delicious lemon earl grey tea cake, ordered online.

Earl grey tea has a really exotic, out of this world taste. Try as I might, some hours after eating the cake, I could not recall its taste. When I tried to think of coffee, the memory of its taste was vivid, even though I hadn’t had coffee for a month. Maybe that’s the way coffee becomes addictive for some people – it has a way of latching on to your brain cells.

“I like things that are different.” I said to my mom. “It’s a breath of fresh air. And I love the experience.”

My family and I, on my 18th birthday
21 May 2020
Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX

Now, I am writing this blogpost to share all of this with you, enjoying the final hours of my birthday while it lasts. I would like to thank all the beautiful people – my family, my old classmates from high school, and ex-colleagues from my retail job (first day at work: retail job) and hospital job (first day at work: hospital job) – for all the kind wishes for my 18th birthday, and my future.

I am now a legal adult. But with more freedom also comes more responsibility. It will be tough, even alien, at times – but I am prepared to tackle all these challenges bravely as they come my way!

~Blog author, Rachel Tan HX

Officially Eighteen

I’m turning eighteen, and I’m finally getting my own room!

Guess what: I’m finally getting my own room. I’m so excited! 😛

Me in my new room
8 May 2020
Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX

My dad is famous for giving us false hope. In 2017, he asked casually if I wanted my own room. “Nah,” I said passively, as I always did to many of his questions, thinking if he really wanted to give me one, he would give me one. Expressing too much enthusiasm to rewards would raise suspicion, so I tend to play it cool. He didn’t give me one that year, and I wasn’t too surprised; my dad was just exploring possibilities.

In 2018 he said, more definitively this time, that I should have my own room. “You need one,” he said, “To study for your major exam, SPM. It will decrease distractions. We may give you one next year.” (My major exam was in 2019.) I did not voice objection. It sounded like it was going to happen!

He never gave me the room in 2019, and I spent an eternity in our studyroom, specifically meant for the son or daughter who was going to take a major exam that year. I was sitting for SPM that year. The door remained closed at all times, and I alternated between doing model exam papers and taking a “quick lie-down nap” on the backless, rock-solid, head-cracking wooden bench that was my seat….

A week ago, my dad brought up the subject of my own room again. This time, he drew up a small map of how he felt the layout should be like.

Then yesterday, on the 8th of May 2020, it really happened!

Dad chose the 8th because “faat” in Cantonese means eight, which sounds exactly like the word “prosperity”.

So with lots of sweat, groans and head scratching in contemplation of where everything should go, the four of us heaved and yanked everything that was not mine out, shoved it haphazardly into the room next to it, and arranged my bed and bedside table into my room.

Me in my new room 2
8 May 2020
Credits: Mother of Blog author

Dad promised to put up a new wooden sliding door for my room, sometime after the COVID situation has improved. This is because we have always been using the existing plastic sliding door from the previous owner of the house. We have already been living in this house for more than ten years!

(Update: It is 28th of January, 2021 one and still no news of the wooden door. Oh well. I’m happy with my old door anyway!)

After that, we laughed when we saw what a disaster the room next door looked like. Time to decide where some of these should go…. in that room. How terribly overcrowded! My new room instead appeared spick and span, for now. University may just bring a tornado through it!

Finally, I have my own personal space. I can’t wait to decorate or personalize it a little bit with pretty things. I may find something next time, when I’m shopping outside. Let’s hope the coronavirus situation improves soon!