Gdansk at night. I

October in a nutshell

Hello everyone.

I am finally writing a new post.

I wish I could be more of a consistent blogger but it is easier said than done. Usually, after school, I just want to come home and use the few hours I have to prepare for the next day.

This is October in a nutshell.

This time, getting back to reality was not as hard as last year. The subjects are more interesting and the professors have a different attitude towards us.

To start with they smile a lot more. Secondly, they show availability and willingness to help us.

The best example is physiology, a subject in which students are tested every week. The so-called OLA test consists of true or false questions. 10 statements and 5-6 minutes. The statements can be as long as 3 lines and the level of detail is usually great.

There will be 5 PAT exams throughout the year. I actually don’t know what PAT stands for but it’s the same as a colloquium type of exam. 50 questions (MCQ style) and 75 minutes. By the end of the year, our PAT and OLA mean scores will be summed and the final score will be converted into extra points. A minimum of 40% is needed to be admitted to the final exam.

This information was recently posted by the physiology department. I was shocked by their stinginess. We can collect a maximum of 7 points. However, to get the first point you need to have a final score higher than 65%. 7 points will be given to you if your final score is 92%-95%. If you happen to be a physiology king and have a final score above 95% you will be exempted from the final exam. So you get the idea. It’s theoretically possible but realistically impossible.

We had our PAT 1 on the 30th of October. It was a tricky exam. We are mostly tested on our understanding of physiology and not so much on our ability to memorise. Cheers for that. Moreover, I was quite confident that time would not be a problem but I was proved wrong during the exam. Some of those statements were really tricky and I could have used 10 more minutes to think through some of the questions. Instead, I had to make quick decisions without being able to reason out the correct answer. Not the first time it happens and certainly not the last.

Nevermind, physiology is fascinating. The professors are really great and the lectures are worth my time. So thumbs up for physiology!

Biochemistry is not as easy to fall in love with. In the beginning, there is a lot of pure memorization which is a motivation killer. But I quickly realised that things connect and make a lot of sense. It is difficult to understand the bigger picture but I believe that many eureka moments will come sooner or later.

There will be a total of 4 colloquia. The first is already at the end of November. Minimum average to be admitted to the final exam: 35%. Getting an average of 85% or above will exempt you from the final exam.

The last biochemistry lecture started with the professor saying ‘First, the bad news. You need to know all of the reactions of the Kreb’s cycle and the respective enzymes.’ while showing us this diagram.



Hopeless? Definitely hopeless. But as my Polish I teacher once said all we, medical students, get to ask back is ‘How long do I have to memorise it?’.

We have had 2 labs in microbiology so far. The subject is very interesting but the fact that there are no clear guidelines on what resources to use makes me a little nervous.

In the previous years, students were given a lab booklet with all the topics they needed to study for a particular lab. This year things changed and the booklets are not provided any longer. All we get is a topic list on the extranet. Some of the topics we need to study are not covered in the recommended book.

I am still trying to figure out how to attack microbiology. So far I have used a lot of youtube but I am afraid that in the future it won’t be enough. We are tested at the beginning of every lab. 5 questions are given and we need to provide 3 correct answers in order to pass the weekly quiz. 1 point is given for each quiz that we pass.

Same story in parasitology. The labs take place at the Institute of Tropical Diseases in Gdynia. There are only 5 labs of about 3 hours each but after a long day, the last thing you want is to travel to Gdynia and learn about parasites. Fortunately, Uber will ease your pain and make the trip rather smooth.

We are given a short quiz at the beginning of every lab class. 8 questions for a total of 16 points. 5 labs x 16 points = 80 points. A minimum of 48 points (60%) is needed to be admitted to the parasitology colloquium (which does not have a date yet).

All the points obtained from the microbiology weekly quizzes, colloquia and parasitology will be added at the end of the year. The formula is complicated but a final score equal to 85% or above exempts us from the final exam. 60% is the average to be admitted to the final examination.

Microbiology is sort of a concern due to the uncertainty around it. Hopefully, I will find a way to cope with the situation and make it all work out. The good news is that my group is done with parasitology by now. So we will not have such a tight schedule on Wednesdays. Cheers to that!

Polish II has started well. We have had a test that covered the last year’s topics and my result did not disappoint. So I am still fighting for exemption.

Immunology consists of 5 seminars and weekly lectures. I am quite lost here because I have not had the time to study it properly. Things will fall into the right place once I start giving it the attention it deserves.

Introduction to emergency medicine has been a fun course to take. You basically learn what to do in an emergency situation. Quite useful, I’d say. It would make more sense to me to have it during my first year though. Any medical student should have an idea of what do when someone around us faints all of the sudden.

On the 26th of October, it was registration day for the elective courses. At 20:00 I was ready to fight for my spot in the most exciting classes but this year I wasn’t lucky enough to get my wishes. In addition, the day after I came to understand that pretty much all of the electives were overlapping my weekly classes. This is due to schedule changes in the second semester (which I forgot to check beforehand). What a tremendous mess. All because the technology is not optimized to make everyone’s lives easier in 2017. Ultimately, it’s all my fault but the online platforms we are using here are everything but user-friendly.

So my electives courses for this year are:

  • Child abused and neglected.
  • E-learning in medical education.
  • Telemedicine.
  • Fighting the tobacco industry.
  • Principles of evidence-based medicine.


I am not very excited to take these courses but I have no other choice. Sometimes it’s better to not have high expectations. Then I might be positively surprised.

The transition period is pretty much over now. My study routines are pretty much established by now and I don’t struggle so much to actually get things done.

Once again, I feel like time flies effortlessly. School starts and all I do is to count down days and hours. 18 days to biochemistry exam, 25 to physiology PAT 2 and 35 to microbiology colloquium. I don’t do it to stress myself out but rather to remember that I need to read and prepare myself in advance. Trying to do as little cramming as possible is a good way to learn.

Yesterday the freshmen had their first anatomy colloquium (theoretical). Today was the practical part. Apparently, my kids have a good feeling about it and that couldn’t make me more proud of them. I believe that they are now real medical students because they have gone through one of the toughest examinations.

Gdansk has also changed since September. People don’t look as happy as when the sun was up there warming us all down here. These days we get to see it sometimes, but not to feel its warmth on our skin. Jackets, gloves, scarfs, hats… They keep our bodies warm but are unable to comfort our souls.

The air has become thick, cold, heavy. The sky is mostly grey and one never knows when the clouds are going to cry over us.

Fewer people walk to work/school so the public transportation is overcrowded most of the day. A greater variety of odours is noticeable wherever you go. For the better or the worse.

While we tend to add extra layers of clothing as the temperature decreases, the trees keep on undressing, shamelessly, all around us.

Autumn is definitely one of my favourite seasons.

I am really happy to be where I am right now. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to study medicine abroad despite all the challenges, to have met real people that make my everyday life fun, and to be loved by the ones who matter the most to me.

Lighting a candle to celebrate this good energy is definitely worth it.


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