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.

First graded exam at university! (and end of Week 5)

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, 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 shall be sure to 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. 😥

(*28th of January, 2021 update: With the COVID situation now, it seems my 3rd semester (January trimester) will be online, too. Looks like my entire foundation year will be online. But I don’t mind, I think online lectures are quite an experience as well. )

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 here!

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

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

For My Future: The Race Begins Today.

18 June 2020, Thursday

You know, when I was working in a little mall kiosk after SPM, things were fast-paced, but still manageable. During my 1 hour breaks off work, I would roam the entire mall on my own, or sit down for the whole hour and record down significant events in my diary. Sometimes I really wanted a coffee bun or a Starbucks cappucino, but I would sacrifice that wish for my journaling. I knew that the experiences that came with my first job, of dealing with my colleagues and my customers, would be something I would want to remember.

In February, when I got another job, this time at a small hospital, things changed drastically. There was no time for breaks, no time to breathe; it was certainly no time and NO PLACE to write in your diary at the emergency unit in a hospital. I tried typing in point form on my phone when I first started, but soon gave up when I had to wear gloves often due to the COVID situation. Together with that reason, and the fact that there was just so many patients coming in per shift, I was soon deluded that this was something I would remember forever.

As I familiarized myself with handling my job as a patient care assistant, the antics of my friendly colleagues of every skin colour, and the patients and their myriad of symptoms presented, on top of all the ice and fire emotional roller coasters I had ridden throughout my time there…. I did not think I would forget this. There was no way, no way at all, I could forget such an enriching experience.

Yet after I stopped working, my memories of my former workplace started to fade; and I acknowledged that was part of being human. I cannot remember everything like a computer. I was very consciously aware of all the memories slipping away, leaving only the most surface of memories: just the registration counter, the triage bay, the treatment room. Deep down I know just how many times I have set foot in the nooks and crannies of that tiny area – the emergency unit, yet I have already forgotten the things that happened there. Most of all, I have forgotten the things I’ve heard, which is the one I most want to remember.

I only hope that some of these are already ingrained in my system. Two months is not a lot, not a lot at all, to have stuck fast within me. But I do believe I will carry some of what I’ve learnt with me.

University has just started the beginning of this month (June), and I am already nearing the end of week 3.

First Sem Assignments!! Oh No…. We’re barely into Week 3.

It’s only Week 3 of the first semester. I’m sure this is only the tip of the iceberg. The very tip.

I wrote all the deadlines (except the one in blue) two weeks before the actual deadline, like a false trick to myself. To get me going early, so that I don’t rush and panic at the very last minute.

I also taped and stapled three coins, 2 pieces of scrap pink paper, and the ultimate one: a solar powered keychain with my name on it, to weigh the two pieces of paper down. Can’t even remember where I got it from already. The standing fan behind me blows too strong.

So as you can see, university life is going to be another hospital job. Rushed. Crammed. No time to breathe. Thus my blogposts, my writeups, will have to be of questionable depth in the next month, next year, or years to come.

Again, I will be deluded, tricked into thinking this is something I cannot forget. I wouldn’t forget a life I would live for the next six years (if I manage to get into MBBS (medical degree)), would I? But truly, all memories fade with time.

Yet, there won’t be time to document every university experience. Thus, I still must focus more on being in the moment.

Now, my first stop would be getting into medicine. I am going to brace myself, and rush toward my first finish line!

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.

Pic

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.