5 weeks and still surviving

Long time without an update… I know! I can’t even explain the fact that 5 weeks have gone by without writing a word about it. I guess it explains how crazy life gets once one becomes a medical student.

The first week was kind of relaxed because we did not have all the scheduled weekly classes.

It was not exactly a walk in the park either because after 2 or 3 days most of us just felt paralysed by the amount of material that had been thrown at us. I remember that during my first histology lecture we went through all the biology topics that I had studied for 2 months in Oslo. Not to mention the level of detail…

The way our weeks are organised is a bit strange. Our schedule changes every week. Some lectures we have every other week, while others are weekly. A lot of the time spent in school is actually mandatory due to seminars or labs – anatomy, biophysics and chemistry.

The big monster in first-year is obviously anatomy. I never thought it could get so out of control. I feel so overwhelmed by the amount of material that we need to study. It is horrible.

We have 2 anatomy labs every week (2 hours each) where we spend time with specimens and 1 theoretical lecture (2 hours).

Just to give you an overview of the pace at which we learn things here:

  • Week 1: bones of the upper limb
  • Week 2: muscles and nerves of the upper limb
  • Week 3: arteries and veins of the upper limb
  • Week 4: lower limb bones and muscles
  • Week 5: arteries and veins of the lower limb

So we will be done with the lower limb (nerves) by next week and move on to the back. This pace is absolutely ridiculous. Especially when we must read in advance and come prepared to the labs.

Thank God we had this last week to catch up. 1st of November is a holiday in Poland as well as the 11th. It makes room for some reading. Our days are usually so busy that when I come home in the evening I just want to sleep.

Guess what. This was just anatomy. HAHAHAHAHA!

The second most important subject is histology. It is a nightmare. So abstract and so difficult to get the bigger picture. Details, details, and more details. It feels like we are memorising a bunch of new words that don’t actually mean anything.

In histology, we are tested every week. My group has histology on Fridays which means that every Friday at 10:00 I am having a test. We are given 15 minutes or so to do it. 10 questions: 7 multiple choice and 3 open questions.

Taking those tests without mastering the details of the topic is not very smart. Believe me.

After the test we must listen to a short presentation on the topic we were just tested on – I know it sounds weird but we must read in advance, be tested, and then we get to discuss the weekly topic – and then we get to look at the histology slides on the microscope.

We only see the slides once and only once. Apparently, older students have made it through histology with help of atlases.

I think histology is going to be a big challenge. Since we are forced to read one new topic every week and the time is so limited overall I feel that I do not remember much from the previous weeks. I have to start thinking about a strategy because it will be impossible to memorise all the material one week before the exam.

In these two big subjects, we are constantly tested. Every 2-3 months we have a big exam – here they like to call it colloquium – consisting of a practical and a theory part.

Our anatomy colloquium is in 3 weeks (25th of November) from now and the histology in on the 9th and 10th of December – and as I am typing this my heart rate is increasing.

The other subjects (which are also relevant but worth 5 or fewer credits or ECTS) are:

  • Chemistry
  • Embryology
  • Biophysics
  • Polish
  • Molecular biology

So far I haven’t even looked at chemistry or biophysics. It is crazy, I know. But honestly, I have been struggling so much with the biggest subjects that all my focus has been on them.

Embryology didn’t start well… Guess what: we are also tested in every seminar, just like in histology. A short test about the topic to be studied at any given week. However, in embryology, the test scores give you extra points for the final exam or even exemption (if you score consistently really high). They will not weigh negatively on your final grade if you score zero (whereas in histology we need to get a total average of 50% to be able to write the final exam).

My first test went down the drain… Failed. So I kind of gave up on the subject. Not worth my time anymore because exemption is out of reach. I will catch up later and make up for the lack of preparation now. Furthermore, it is only worth 2 credits.

Polish is going good so far but I find the language difficult to pronounce and write. It sucks to have to learn a foreign language on top of everything. Especially Polish.

Molecular biology has also been completely out of my sight. I will try to catch up later. I just don’t have the time for it now.

As you can see the weeks here are really intense. A lot of things to learn in a very short period of time. It is very stressful and we are under constant pressure.

I don’t even know how I am going to make it in 3 weeks. ? ¬†Anatomy has become a MONSTER.

Besides school, the adaptation process has not been the easiest.

My lifestyle changed very abruptly. I miss my close friends in Oslo, Emma (my dog), watching a TV series (I haven’t done it since I moved to Gdansk), etc. All the small things in life that made me feel like I was actually living.

Now I feel like I have a stone in my stomach all the time due to the exams that are coming. I feel guilty for taking longer breaks. I worry constantly and it’s killing me inside. I need to find a way to cope with this level of stress as soon as possible.

The only thing that really makes me comfortable here is the apartment where I am living. It is really nice and I love coming home.

Other than that… The medical university is OK. Nothing compared to Oslo where the standard is really high. Oh, my… I miss that big library. Ours here is a joke in comparison.

The sun does not show up often during the autumn in Gdansk. It is mostly grey, grey, and grey.

Well, well… I won’t get anything back out of complaining. I guess I just need to get it out of my system.

It has only been 5 weeks and I must be a little more patient with myself.

It takes time to get used to a new place, new people, new environment, new routines. It will all fit in the right place later on. I am sure about it.

Now it is time to sleep. I am so tired… I am going to sleep like a baby tonight!

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