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. โค

Uni semester 2 starts!… but it’s NOT what we imagined it to be.

Hey guys, semester two of university (October trimester) has begun! It is Saturday today, the weekend of week 3 of my second semester. We are welcoming week 4 in. Based on our course plan arranged by our lecturers, the pace will really pick up only by week 4.

So for now there is not much coursework related things to tell you yet, because believe it or not, coursework and assignments are to me what make the semester super interesting. But here’s a breakdown of the 4 courses I am taking this semester.

The courses are arranged in ascending order of my interest, which means the last course is my favourite and the absolute most interesting.

Math:

The topics are very statistical, very dry. Fortunately, we had some basics in these topics such as probability during our high school years (SPM & form 4 / form 5), but it is still supremely dry and most of us dislike this course. However, we are all still in our foundation year and cannot choose courses as we like yet. These are compulsory courses to get into the science degree of our choice (I am from the science stream). It’s full of numbers, and the questions are an entire paragraph of word-dance.

English (Communication Skills):

This course is not so much English as a class on basic communication. It teaches basic public speaking skills, how to overcome apprehension of speaking in front of a large crowd, how to organize the content of your speech, etc.

Much like the English course I took in my first semester, I always find English fun because of the ample research opportunities. My teammates and I researched and presented on the topic of Medical Errors for my first semester, and I learnt so much about the topic I could almost recite an array of medical mishaps to you off the top of my head, and the stories behind each error made, and the impacts those errors had on patients, their immediate relatives, and the medical community. We also greatly improved on our software skills, such as converting files from word or html to pdf, vice versa.

It is one of the most enriching courses I have ever taken. For this semester (2nd sem), our first assignment is an individual presentation unlike the first semester. I have chosen the topic “Covid-19: How has the pandemic benefited us?” to touch on a positive outlook on the advantages reaped from this global crisis. A topic like that I think is interesting, since it provokes thought with its unconventional point of view. I will be presenting on the topic in about two weeks time.

Chemistry (Inorganic Chem):

Inorganic Chemistry’s first chapter – the basics – was slightly difficult to wrap my head around at first. The other chapters follow a very specific pattern: for this whole semester, we are basically learning the Periodic table, its elements, and the properties of those elements. In fact, the chapters are literally named:

  • Group 1 metals.
  • s-block elements.
  • Aluminium.
  • Oxygen, Sulphur and Their Compounds.

“Don’t stress yourself for this semester, ” said my lecturer. “It’s a stress-free topic for Inorganic Chemistry this sem.”

Indeed, but that’s because she’s (probably) comparing it to Organic Chemistry, which we must take in Semester 3, which is way more difficult, will long compound names to memorize.

So, with such a typical pattern to follow, the topics for inorganic chem are not too difficult. This is all except for the first chapter, which was the basics of electronic configurations, and the various components of electron orbitals, which I had some difficulty distinguishing between at first.

But I managed to understand it in the end. So I hope the rest of Inorg Chem will be smooth sailing.

Biology (Modern Biology):

And finally – MODERN BIOLOGY! My absolute favourite! It’s a stark difference compared to the Biology course we took in first semester, which was about Cell Biology. We had had a lot of basics in Cell Biology already since high school. Modern Biology takes DNA, a genetic molecule we only touched upon lightly in high school, and expanding it into a SIX topic long conversation. Mod Bio is basically about Biotechnology and Genetics, the absolute basics in a contemporary topic very closely related to the Covid-19 virus. Knowing that DNA codes for all life on the planet, my interest in this topic is elevated by tenfold. Biology inevitably involves a ton of memorization, though, and sometimes I procrastinate the time away just thinking of the effort required to make my flashcards (I use an online flashcard app to study Biology, but that also means I would need to set aside time to make the cards).

I keep trying to remind myself not to waste all the time away, though. More time would mean I could browse the Internet, checking out even more interesting information on the topic and expanding my knowledge beyond my lecture syllabus. I’ve been watching NASA’s Youtube live streaming of the latest update on a sea altimeter monitoring satellite – Sentinel 6, that would be able to view internal waves and measure them by the centimeter, and plot a World map of the entire ocean that covers our planet. It’s launch is due on But I’m always rather lazy, when I see the pile of work to get done. I always try to remind myself of just what more I can do if I were just to focus and get work out of the way.

But I also don’t want to see studies as a chore to get rid of so that I can do other things. My goal is to make studies a fun thing too, and it’s important, because my studies will be what my career would partly be about. For now, I’m still struggling with that a bit, since my love for certain courses doesn’t quite seem to top my occasional laziness to carry out long-haul efforts.

The next few weeks are going to get busy already, with mini exams, my presentation, lab reports (there’s one due in 3 days time!), and other coursework. That’s all for now! I’ll definitely fill you in with updates halfway through the semester perhaps, to give you a quick glimpse in the midst of the fun chaos of learning, because you blink an eye and I’m gone again until the end of the semester. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Final Assessment: Semester 1 Results!

Guess what – I managed to do well for the first semester! ๐Ÿ˜€

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 ๐Ÿ˜›

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.

What you didn’t know about my blog…!

Hey everyone! I have not been blogging for more than 3 weeks now and I have SO much to tell you. My first semester is almost up, I am just done with my second round of mini tests and will be briefly updating you on a bit of my life in ANOTHER blog post after this before I go on hiatus again for my final assessment for the five courses I am taking this first semester, which will be here in no time. But first, I would like to share with you something you didn’t know about my blog.

The truth is…

I actually have only about 3 viewers average per blog post.

The reason why it has not been growing much is also due to my hesitancy to spread it on various platforms to give it a name. Although I know full well the means to get a blog to grow, I prefer to let it find its own way, given time.

This is because a lot of the things and events that I’m sharing here are semi-personal. In fact, if you have subscribed / been a reader of my blog for sometime, you would have noticed they contain snippets of the lives of other people I have met as well, such as my experience as a teenager working at a hospital in February and March this year (2020) and a tiny snippet of my interactions with patients at the hospital here. I am easily inspired by beautiful people, and the smallest of things make me define a person as beautiful; so if I can’t bear to write sparingly, I must share sparingly, in respect for my and their lives lived.

That is why this blog has not gained much traction, but for now I am happy with it that way.

I might give up on online fiction pieces I am working on, etc, but not this blog. I would like to continue working on this for as long as I can, throughout my life. It is not only be a place for me to share my story with you, it will also become a documentation of the roads I have tread for myself to relive years later.

To my current readers: I am so happy you have chosen to follow me on this journey. Thank you for being a silent supporter of my endeavours.

In my next blogpost, which I will write right after this, I will update you on the things that have happened in my university life recently! Hop over to the next page here!! ๐Ÿ˜€

What it’s really like studying SCIENCE in my university!

“Let me tell you about the four main categories in science,” said our Biology lecturer, on our very first lecture of the semester in university. I could not see my coursemates, but I could feel everyone’s ears perk up. Whoever heard of four categories of science? We’ve only ever heard of three.

“First, math is the most fundamental,” she says. “Then what is the most basic science after that?” “Chemistry,” someone tried. “No, it’s physics,” said our teacher. True. I suspected that was why doctors are commonly physiciansย in the US, because the word physic originally referred to both the practice of medicine AND to natural science (Merriam-Webster, 2020). “Then the next would be, Chemistry, and then Biology,” she finished. “Then Physics is derived from Math, Chemistry is derived from Math AND Physics, and Biology has elements of all of the above.”

Wow.

One thing I have discovered as in the first few weeks of studying foundation in science at university is: every one of these scientific categories has elements of another category. Math is most fundamental, and therefore only seems to relate to nothing, when you study it on its own. But when you get to the “more derived” subjects, you will see all the interconnected relations between the sciences: there is differentiation (math) in Physics, there are complicated molecular structure of chemical compounds (chemistry) in Biology, and there are logarithms (math), gas laws (physics) and enzymatic graphs (Biology) in Chemistry.

It truly is really interesting, when you see the bigger picture come together. You see the purpose of why things happen; why you are studying math when it seems to be just about numbers. Seeing the patterns and interconnections gave me a new insight into the subjects we had been studying ever since high school; and I wondered why we weren’t exposed to this earlier.

But here’s the really cool thing. I am not sure about other universities. Personally, I am certain not many universities must have this weird concept in their foundation in science syllabus: in our recent Physics exam just two days ago, a white blood cell and a Bacteria (Biology) are racing toward Point A at the speed of 20ฮผm/s and 50ฮผm/s respectively. Calculate the relative velocity of WBC to the liquid…. I laughed, as I read through the question on my digital exam paper, in my room. Maybe exams and studies have dulled the minds of people, and they don’t play as much as I do, and they might find me too peculiar for their tastes. But little things make me laugh, and that does not compromise my intelligence. I think that was a very lighthearted element to include in an exam, a strange rojak, as we like to say here in Malaysia (rojak = a mixture of random foods, used to mean a mixture of random things / languages spoken together, etc).

It’s cool.

Many of my lecturers are really good teachers. They bring across the topic to us clearly, they are prepared for what we might not understand, possibly due to their years of experience, or credentials in the field. They teach us the why of things, which is the whole point of studying science, and a great way to pique our interest.

I am really grateful for the opportunity to study foundation in science at my university. It gives me a fresh insight into science. Although I have been more of a quiet person in my primary and secondary school years, I hope to grab this last stage of education – tertiary education – with both hands, and learn and discover as much as I possibly can.

~Rachel Tan Hui Xin, 20 July 2020.


References:

Meriam-Webster. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/why-is-a-medical-expert-called-a-physician