3rd Semester for Foundation Year at university: Exams, Commitments and Opportunities

Having completing my exam, I am having my three week semester break now. One week has nearly passed already. It hasn’t been a very busy 2nd semester, at least not relatively as compared to the previous and coming semester. This is because I took only four courses in my 2nd semester, while for the 1st and 3rd sem I am taking 5 courses. It is fixed by my University, for foundation in science Health Science Stream students.

On top of that, I have signed up to take my MUET exam (an English Language Proficiency Test) which I must score at least a BAND 4 as a mandatory prerequisite to enter MBBS (medical course). I am also hoping to involve myself in some extracurricular activities, specifically helping the freshmen adjust to university life, and possibly taking potential students and their parents on some campus tours if we return to campus. One thing though – a few dates for training and bonding during the semester break have been set aside by our senior mentors, which I am still not sure I can commit to. It has been on my mind for a while, ever since I found that we will have training soon.

All these will fill my 3rd semester with the most commitment required so far, but I know medicine is going to be tougher. So the effort doesn’t daunt me. It is my father that may get in my way of participating in these co-curricular activities. Yes, even if these activities are all online, due to the COVID situation and rising cases. I have yet to break it to him, these activities. But these are things I want to and feel like I can contribute to. I am also hoping that these opportunities will open my eyes to interesting things.

My exam results may come out in a week or two, and so will our universities announcement on their decision regarding our academic study mode (physical, mixed or online). I will update you guys again when the time comes!

Back To High School (Collecting SPM Cert!)

Recently I went back to my old high school to collect my SPM cert.

I went the day after the school announced that we could collect it – it was two weeks before my final exam for my 2nd semester at university, which would commence on the 21st of December, 2020. Yet I went anyway, wanting to get it out of the way. Most of my friends went when they were done with exams or their semester, as did the people I am studying at the same university with, who were from my high school. They all went after exams ended on the 26th.

I went in the school hoping to meet some friends, but it was close to deserted. A sense of tranquility fell over me though, seeing how green our school compound was, how abound the place was with prowling cats, pigeons that walked weirdly, always picking food off the floor, and birds with bright yellow feathers soaring at the rooftops. I remember seeing a squirrel scampering up a tall tree in the school field before. It’s not necessarily better – but…. different, compared to my university campus.

I was eager to meet any friend there, but bumped into none. A school staff asked me to wait for a while when I asked to collect my SPM cert. I watched him chatting with another female staff. Having worked part-time jobs, and having spoken to the office staff at my university, I had become more aware of the people working in a school office and what they actually do. Before this, I never did pay attention to this little office and the people in there.

The male school staff approached me to pass me my SPM cert, made me sign on a name list. I saw my old friends’ names on the name list, and paused a few seconds just to look at all their names. No one had come to collect their cert yet, I was the first in my old Form 5 class. It’s strange, how I was not very close to most people in my class, yet I look at the names and feel a longing.

The staff asked me what I was studying. He said: “Bosan sangat lah. Sunyi sangat nie, tiap-tiap hari takde orang.” (It’s so boring here, there’s no one around at all everyday.) I smiled. I chatted with him a while, then thanked him and left.

My SPM certificate
English Language Certificate

These would have to be “quarantined” on a specific table in the living room first. Due to the COVID-19 virus, every time we buy or bring back anything from outside, we usually quarantine it aside for a while!

I wonder when next I will return to my high school?

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!

Getting A New Computer During The Coronavirus Season!

Ahh, dad! That might just be too much disinfectant for a computer!

Blog author, Rachel Tan HX, 18
Our new computer being quarantined at a far corner of our house!
Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX
26 April 2020

“List out three things you might want for your reward, for getting 9As in SPM (major exam),” my father announced, “And I’ll either choose from there, or if none are acceptable, I shall get you a physics reference book.”

This came as no surprise to me, as my father had done the same for my younger brother, who had gotten straight As (9As) for his PT3 exam. We both knew our father would never get us reference books for our reward. But we were also well aware that he rarely approved of our requests, even if some of the things we ask for will not cost a cent.

For instance, I can ask for the opportunity to have a part-time job / do volunteer work as my reward, and he may not allow it due to our priorities as a student.

Eventually, my father decided to give me my third choice: a new computer. I had asked for one purely for practicality purposes. “You need one.” He agreed, as we watched my Windows Vista try to load a google page for five minutes now. “I’ll get you one, and you shall use it to start studying for your foundation leading to university.”

So my father went and bought me one online from Dell, as I studied math Chapter 2: Sequences And Series from a form 6 book in the next room, under his strict orders. The only knowledge I had of it was the stomping of his feet as he strode to and fro his and my mother’s room, trying to settle the online payment, and “Rachel! Your computer will arrive in a few days.” while I mmphed and ohhed absentmindedly, as I attempted to expand (5+7x) to the power of 9 using the binomial theorem.

The computer was delivered to our home three days ago on the 23rd of April.

Prior to that, my father had walked out to buy a bottle of disinfectant.

“Now,” dad mused, “where shall I begin?” Once he began, though, he couldn’t stop. Here is a photo of him spraying the CPU:

Credits: Blog author, Rachel Tan HX
23 April 2020

Ahh, dad! That might just be too much disinfectant for a computer!

“Better safe than sorry,” replied my father, in response to our protests. He sprayed the keyboard, then the mouse. “Safe than sorry.” We watched as liquid soap started pooling on the CPU’s surface. He sprayed viciously through the tiny holes where the CPU’s cooling fan and harddrive were supposed to be. Psst. Psst. Psssssssssstttt. Dad stood back.

“I hope there won’t be a short circuit inside.” He admitted.

We lifted the CPU and put it in a far corner of the house.

The next morning, dad said: “I turned the CPU upside down and sprayed the bottom again!” causing me to gasp in worry. “Bad thing is, this disinfectant is not like hand sanitizer, it doesn’t evaporate off. When I lifted it, I saw a puddle of soap underneath.”

I opened my mouth.

“But stay calm. Stay calm,” said dad. “We’ll open everything up and blow it with a hairdryer after five days.”

Utmost suspense. Will the computer kaput or live to see tomorrow?

The Choice Between When To Live And When To Remember

Fairy lights and me
17 August 2019
Credits: Blog Author, Rachel Tan HX, 17

When I was younger, I used to have shockingly good memory, the ability to remember unexpected details such as the exact page I read that line or a dream I had in my sleep five years ago. My parents agreed that my two strengths were diligence and memory; I was less adept at thinking out of the box.

As I grew up, I found I remembered less and less, or at least I stopped noticing any impressive memories I had of the past. In fact, I noticed I was forgetting a lot, though that applies more to short-term memory: telling myself not to make that mistake and then making it seconds after, or forgetting a math concept I just learnt yesterday.

I am not sure what causes this phenomenon, or why my memory has “deteriorated” slightly as I grew. Perhaps it is the pressure my father constantly put on me to “learn faster, read faster, absorb faster, be more efficient” until my hastiness has messed with my eye for detail; or perhaps it is simply biological.

Nevertheless, this has posed a bit problem and frustration for me. These days, I can no longer remember things with the crystal-clarityness I used to have.

This has caused me to tighten my grip on my pen, to hold my notebook at bay with the intention of writing down everything remotely interesting I have seen or experienced.

My Diary Notebook
22 February 2020
Credits: Blog Author, Rachel HuiXin, 17

Still, this mild “short-term-memory-loss” has disappointed me a bit, for a big part due to the volume of things I want to remember, and for another my perceived lacking of experiences compared to others around me, at least during my secondary school years. The amount of all the little events I wanted to remember sprained my wrist, and my unrest mind when a pen or notebook wasn’t available; my lacking in enriching experiences made me eager to collect memories to relive during the long periods of time when I have nothing much to experience.

I previously believed that when I wrote in my diary, I was having fun; but after giving it some thought I am not sure “fun” is the best word for it. If you see me scribbling furiously in my diary, it may seem as though I am enjoying myself. The problem is when you consider the situation from a different point of view, I also cannot be at peace until I record the moment.

During my time with my retail colleagues and customers, there was a one hour break in between working, and I could sit on a bench and quickly record down many of the fun things that happened that day. During my time with my healthcare colleagues and patients, however, I was on shift work and there were no breaks in between. There were so many things to learn, catch up with, and make sure everything goes smoothly that it would be inappropriate to start scribbling in your diary at the hospital’s registration counter. Therefore after some struggling with digital recording of some experiences in my phone memo, I stopped doing so and decided to focus on the experience.

The crux of the matter now comes: choosing not to write these experiences down and instead be more in the present is equivalent to choosing to live that moment properly, BUT conceding to the fact that the moment very likely cannot be relived. Focusing on the experience gives you the delusion that you will remember even better, but from my experience at least, that is not true. What you write down is what you will remember the clearest years later, with all the keywords to jog your memory. No matter how much focus you put into an experience that is not written down, it becomes a blurry blanket memory very soon. It may not even take a year, or even a few months, to become that way.

Memory Loss Due Image & Photo (Free Trial) | Bigstock
Credits: BigStock photos

But how can one’s pen keep up with time? The only way would be to selectively pen down memories.

It is your choice, however, how you would like it to be: #1 being always there and in future recalling everything in a blur of equal level, or #2 living some and remembering some (therefore missing some experiences during the periods of time you choose to write). Some people are content with the former and sometimes I envy them, because I cannot be at peace if I leave myself to forget. For me it is a constant war between trying to be present, and ensuring the piece of memory lives on.

I choose #2 all the time. I did #1 out of necessity for my time as a Patient Care Assistant, but until now I find it difficult to be content without at least some records of cool things to remember. I will definitely try to put down as much as I can while the memory is still fresh in my mind, but I know I can never catch up with two months of experience, and more to come.

Free forgetfulness Stock Photos - Stockvault.net
Beautiful Blue Forget-Me-Nots
Credits: Stockvault

All I know is that the feeling of obligation to remember will forever be a burden I will carry; but I can learn to enjoy myself in the process, to find a balance between being present and recalling great things. 🙂