Graduated from foundation! Next stop: medicine! (Hopefully!)

I just completed my entire foundation year at university, having finished with my 3rd semester final exams a few days ago. Yay!

I have a few things to update you all with. The most significant thing would probably be that our coming medical intake has changed from May to the end of September!! That gives me a long 5 month break in between. and I plan to fill it with small, productive plans.

Normally I will do a breakdown of what the subjects (usually known as courses at our uni) are like, and how I feel about them, but I will do that in a separate blogpost here. In the final two weeks before our exam, right after a bunch of us sat for MUET, I was trying to study efficiently for my exams, but I struggled to focus quite often. I sometimes went to campus to study in peace and quiet, and that helped a lot. It is quite a nice environment, but it is probably due to the COVID situation that the block is nearly deserted.

I really enjoyed my programming exam, even though my programs were not eventually able to run, not completely. But it was still a fulfilling experience, when I managed to come up with efficient programming codes. It was also satisfying to fix bug after bug, although I did not manage to fix all of them. The things we needed to program were things we could relate to in daily life, so it was quite fun.

Introduction to physiology, which is can be considered a sort of pre-health science introduction course, went fairly well. As it was an open book test, I appreciated being able to search the internet, and it was actually quite enjoyable to learn even as I was sitting for an exam.

I spent a lot of time working on and doing practices on Organic Chemistry, which I was a bit weaker at. Eventually, my organic chemistry improved by a lot, but slightly at the expense of my preparation for Math, which I neglected and paid for dearly as I sat for my finals. My advice is to learn to study and keep up consistently during lectures, so that you will have time to do exercises and past year papers as the exams approach. Since I am not so good at focusing during live classes, I intend to work on this weakness during this 5 month break. I intend to try to work on keeping up with the present, instead of always running to catch up from behind. That is one of my goals for this long break.

Physics was the last paper. After I finished the paper, I was very glad for the break! I am looking forward to getting some good rest, doing some things I enjoy doing, and doing things that contribute to my growth and confidence before I enter my MBBS degree (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery).

In view of my delayed medical intake, I have also continued participating in one of my university programmes that welcomes new students to the university. I have found it to be a very enriching where I meet all sorts of warm and friendly people studying various degrees and courses, and where I constantly find my comfort zone being breached. It tests my limits in many different aspects and I love being part of this fun family.

Now, I am looking forward to doing all the things I wished to do but did not have the time for throughout this foundation year, and also relaxing a bit, as this is truly the last time I will ever have such a long break, very possibly for the rest of my life if I become a doctor! The first two years will be heavy duty studying, next three years will be clinical years, then housemanship, then medical officer posting, and so on. I am at a exciting point in my life and I will make sure to prepare thoroughly for it, and then live it without regrets. ❤

Final Assessment: Semester 1 Results!

Guess what – I managed to do well for the first semester! 😀

Those too simple, too brief alphabets you see under “Grades” is all there is to summarize all the hard work I put in for not just my exams, but all my other coursework throughout the semester.

My Final Assessment Grades
My Grade Point Average for the 1st semester of Foundation at university

The coursework I’m referring to includes two formal presentations, which took many nights of toiling and video-chat discussion with my assignment coursemates (which I have promised you I would blog about soon), all the full lab reports, one biological drawing which took a whole day just to draw (I’ll attach a photo of the drawing below!), a research essay and a cited chemistry poster.

Alongside that of course, we had to handle the 1st round of tests, then the 2nd round of tests, then our final assessment. We took 5 courses in our first semester, which adds up to around 15 theory-based test papers, based on the breakdown I did for you.

On top of that, all the exam papers this round has been deliberately made far more challenging, due to the fact that exams are open-book (with information from our lecture notes and the internet at our fingertips) during the Covid-19 crisis.

The biology experimental design video presentation we worked on for days was converted to a total of only 5 effective marks. The biological drawing which took hours of concentration, which I will now attach below, is only 6 effective marks.

NO shading allowed. Dense regions can only be indicated with furious, agitated dotting 😛

My wrist hurt a lot after drawing this. Haha! But it’s still my masterpiece.

As you can see from the 2nd photo I attached at the top of the post, I got a overall Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.8511. That is well above the requirement to get into a medical degree, which is a CGPA of 3.50. However, if you notice from the first photo, I obtained below average marks for Chemistry, a GPA of 3.33. This is because my better marks in the other courses pulled my overall grade up.

Now, for the 2nd semester (which has just begun!), I am resolved to work hard and smart to obtain a 4 flat (GPA of 4.0). Admittedly, I had my father’s help in the first semester as he guided me using the printed lecture notes. His insight and intelligent input are priceless and highly appreciated, however, I had only half the burden to carry back then, and perhaps the training for stamina was much alleviated. This semester, he has helped me get a head start as well, but only in Mathematics.

The truth will prevail now, if I truly can manage to take on the responsibility myself and be competent enough to study, and learn, intelligently.

This is because to do well in exams these days, diligence is not enough. You need brains, you need to be able to think out of the box, and not take too long to figure out the concepts. It is an undeniable fact that to be a doctor you cannot just be hardworking, you have to be able to think intelligently as well. Dumbness and slowness is not welcomed in the healthcare industry, especially during your medical training. Both of which, unfortunately, I have a bit of in my nature. It is difficult for me to rush things, or else I will not be able to reap information properly.

Now, I must get back to studying for Biology! This semester, our biology course is known as Modern Biology (as opposed to Fundamentals of Cell Biology in our first semester). I find Modern Biology quite exciting, as it dabbles in the absolute basics of molecular genetics and biotechnology, which is particularly relevant to the COVID-19 virus mutation, and a very contemporary topic.

I am struggling to understand it for now, but with my determination I will do my best to overcome it, and make learning it fun.

I have JUST found a sliver of extra memories from my job at the hospital.

Only just yesterday night, or rather, at 1am this very morning, I was telling you that being human has already started to erode away at the memory of my priceless experiences working at a hospital. And in that same blogpost, I had said the one thing I wanted most was probably to remember what I’d heard.

Until now, I probably only remember what I’d seen. The problem with remembering what you see is that eventually, you end up only being able to picture the layout of the emergency unit, but you can’t remember many specific scenes at all. All you remember is how the counter looked like, how the lift smelled like, how cold it was in the wards etc. Because when you’re in the same small space for long hours and for two months straight, all the scenes merge together to form a blurred image. Unless you had moved around much more, then you may be able to recall more specific scenes. In fact, I have read about this somewhere before, and that is how the human brain works. This is called “spatial recognition“.

(Spatial recognition is not to be confused with “spatial recollection“, which is another important concept I will be sharing with you in the not-so-near future. But, if you’re curious, I’ll include their meanings down below. I have even simplified it for your understanding!)

Actually? I’m here to tell you that I’d found some recorded moments, knowing that I would want to remember.

Just now, I sat on my bed and listened to the recordings on my phone. There was a lot of background noise in each one, but that’s what you get with low quality phone recorders. There was one recording of my high school classmates collective laughter. There were two of my retail colleagues promoting our travel products to our friendly customers.

And there were about six at the hospital, of my colleagues chatting and laughing. In one, I heard a baby crying in the background. It was probably receiving an injection or an IV insertion…. haha. Doctors spoke on the phone and nurses bustled around the registration counter. I could only make out their voices and no words at all, but truly that itself is all I am looking for.

Six short recordings is hardly anything compared to the two full months I’d experienced. Yet it is certainly still something. I’m happy to have found these memories.

Spatial recognition: Here, space (spatial) literally means empty space. Remembering and recognizing things by being able to picture precisely where those events took place. That’s how the human brain works.

Spatial recollection: Here, space (spatial) refers to time. Remembering things by spaced out re-reading of material, to slowly commit something to memory. If you want to remember something, you usually read it once tomorrow, once in a couple of days, then once next week, then next month. That’s how the human memory works.

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!