The pause button

The pause button has been pushed. But let’s talk about the first things first.

I have been looking forward to this moment. The moment where I can actually drop everything else and focus on writing. I really enjoy writing just as much my best friend loves to cook.

Believe it or not, these activities have things in common. It is perhaps a long shot but I like to believe they do. Among the reasons why people love cooking are:

  • The cosmic variety of choices regarding ingredients, dishes, sauces, spices and so on.
  • The process per se, from preparing the raw foods to the moment where the final product is delicately put on a plate.
  • The most sophisticated people use cooking as a creativity tool. They create new flavours, colours, smells, shapes… A limitless multidimensional world of possibilities.

I have come to the conclusion that the kitchen is the place where some dare to take risks that would not be taken elsewhere. I admire that. Take no risk and I welcome you to lifelessness.

The same goes for writing. My friend’s ingredients are my words. Through cooking she reshapes foods. Through writing I reshape thoughts.

She washes, cuts, mixes, squeezes, and seasons. I pick, type, group, reorder and polish words. Cooking takes care of hungry stomachs. Writing takes care of hungry minds.

Enough of that. You have got the point. I am excited to write again.

Now let’s get down to more serious business.

Back in November. 3 weeks without major exams. Good. The stress levels shot up in the last week. Moreover, once the first battle starts you realise that with it comes war. 

Our first biochemistry colloquium was on the 28th of November. 12 multiple choice and 6 open questions. A total of 60 minutes. I was cool until the exam day. That day felt very long. My group had classes from 08:00 until 13:30. The exam was at 14:45. The waiting was killing me that day. I was really nervous but once I got the exam in front of me the big stone in my stomach broke into smaller digestible chunks. It was a fair exam. I am happy to have survived that one. A good start always helps me to keep up the good spirit.

The days after the biochemistry colloquium were really busy. This year I decided to prepare an event for the 1st-year students. A Histology Quiz. I wanted them to get a sense of how much effort they should put into the subject and the level of detail that is expected for the histology colloquia. Last year I was in their shoes and no one knew exactly how to attack the subject. Therefore, I prepared a colloquium with 85 questions. In addition, important information regarding the practical histology exam was given. To make things a little more fun, Eline (my flatmate), suggested a Kahoot. So the questions were projected on a big wall and everyone answered via smartphone. The event was launched on the 30th of November and I was happy to see that many students came, including Polish students. I hope you guys had as much fun as I did.

The event was organised in the name of ANSA – Association of Norwegian Students Abroad. Even though I prepared the test I must say that the ANSA representatives helped me with the technicalities and all the administrative work. Thank you, guys!

A special word of appreciation goes also to:

  • Eline Nordli for nourishing the idea and making it happen.
  • Hanna Olofsson who sat with me the day before the event and uploaded all the questions to the Kahoot website. If it wasn’t for you I’d have not slept that day.
  • Lena Davidsson who explained all details about the practical exam.
  • Noor Abdur Karim who screened my questions for eventual mistakes.
  • Lise Donbæk, Pernille Donbæk and Matilde Hovland for coming to the event and showing their support despite our tight schedule. Very much appreciated. 

The Histology Quiz finished around 20:00. When I went back home I had to prepare for the microbiology weekly test. There are so many weekly small tests/quizzes that most evenings are spent preparing for them one way or another. That is one of the things I dislike the most about my weeks.

After the microbiology lab on the 1st of December, I remember feeling quite hopeless about physiology. But what can one do? The best thing to do is to ‘Keep on calm and study physiology’.

Our second physiology PAT was on Monday, the 4th of December. I love the fact that we are tested at 8:00 in the morning. One wakes up, eats something to not run on an empty stomach, goes to school and in a matter of minutes the exam starts. No time to overthink. All PATs have the same structure. 50 questions (MCQ style) and 75 minutes. The results are posted the same day in the afternoon/evening. Quite a smooth experience, I must say. Taking into consideration the time I had to study for this exam I am glad that I survived.

December was probably the best month so far. Everyone is looking forward to going home, the number of weekly parties, dinners, Christmas gatherings increases exponentially, and the city lights repel the winter darkness that has conquered Gdansk. The Christmas market in Old Town is really worth a visit. 

And some of the best pictures that I took with my phone.

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One of December’s highlights was undoubtedly the grøtekveld organised by some of the Norwegian students. It is basically an evening where you are served a generous portion of porridge and socialise with others. Everyone had to bring a small gift and after the meal, we played a really fun game where everyone tried to get as many gifts as possible. The funniest part is when people steal gifts from each other. Impossible to not have a good time. I had great fun that evening. I remember leaving the party, coming home and sleeping like a baby that night.

Until the 14th of December, the struggle to study was real. I was so tired by the end of last month that I could not study efficiently for longer than 20 minutes without having a break. Our first microbiology colloquium consisted of 20 questions (15 MCQ’s worth 1 point each and 5 open worth 3 points each). We were given 60 minutes. It is enough time because the questions are very straightforward and you either know the answer or you don’t. The margin to guess is quite limited. The microbiology department offers exemption to those who score consistently high. So I guess it’s worth the extra effort.

I felt so relieved after that exam. The game was over for 2-3 weeks and I could not be happier with it.

Travelling home for Christmas was refreshing. Oslo had lots of snow and it was not as cold as I expected it to be. For the first time in a long while, I managed to pop out the bubble that I live in 9 out 12 months a year. To truly enjoy myself. Good food, best friends, my dog… Getting all the things taken for granted back for a week.

Recharging mode lasted for 4-5 days. After that, it was time to open the books again and start swimming against strong currents. So much material to cover in so little time. One word. Insanity.

The last day of 2017 I went for a little walk alone. Just two years ago I would have wished for a couple of things to happen in the new year. Personal achievements. This time around I felt empty for wishes. The school bubble overtakes pretty much everything. You know that you embarked on a long trip and you have just lost sight of the shore. To be aware of your progress is harder when all you see around you is the ocean. On the other hand, everyone left behind on the island seems to carry on with their lives. They enjoy their time together, constitute a family, build homes, do fun stuff on the weekends… It feels as if you have pushed the pause button in your life. Let’s make it sound more positive and call it the knowledge button instead. Because honestly one really learns a great deal about the human body. However, at the end of the average day, all you have is more topics to study and a sneaky exam period waiting around the corner.

There are times when things get a little unbearable. Luckily, I tend to break out of the depression mode rather quickly.

January has been particularly heavy on 2nd and 3rd-year students. 

My exam period calendar in more detail.

  • 9th January: Immunology and Introduction to Dentistry.
  • 12th January: Psychology in Medicine.
  • 16th January: Introduction to Dentistry (retake).
  • 18th January: Polish II Oral Interview. Psychology in Medicine (retake).
  • 19th January: Biochemistry Colloquium II.
  • 23rd January: Immunology (retake).
  • 27th January: Parasitology Colloquium.


Classes started on the 8th of January.

On the 9th of January, I had my last psychology class/workshop at 12:00. The sky was blue clean and the sun shone through magnificently that day. So I broke the routine and walked to school. It was a good way to shake the pressure out of my shoulders. Here is a picture of my walk to school that day.

My group’s performance was considered outstanding by our teacher and we were all granted exemption from the final exam. That was absolutely sweet!

The immunology exam was scheduled for 15:00. 38 questions (MCQ) and a total of 60 minutes. By the end of the exam I remember feeling quite good about it but the results would later show me that I barely dodged the bullet.

The dentistry exam started at 16:30. 20 questions (MCQ) and 30 minutes. It is a small course and rather easy to pass it at your first attempt.

After that Tuesday my focus was shifted 100% to biochemistry. This colloquium covered a lot of material. Carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. You are expected know pretty much everything about. Where in the body the different processes occur, the names of the enzymes, reactions, structures, cofactors, inhibitors and activators, etc. Trust me, it is a never-ending story.

That exam was a sour experience. Unexpected questions and so little time. A total of 60 minutes for 12 MCQ and 12 open questions. At some point, I just thought to myself ‘Do they expect us to know this?’. I did my very best and I decided to not take this exam very seriously for the sake of my own sanity. There will be two more colloquia and hopefully, things will go better then. From what I have heard the results were not terribly low as everyone expected. That’s just a good thing. 

The weekend after biochemistry was a breeze. Truly. I took the time to actually live and socialise with friends. My brain needed a break before the last push. 

Last week we were all quite free. There was no physiology lecture/lab nor biochemistry lab. As a result, I had a couple of free days to go all in and get to know all those disgusting parasites a little better. It was a slow week. Saturday, I woke up full of energy and smiling as if I had just won the lottery. Soon it would be all over and I would feel free as a bird again! Not even the fact that I had an exam made me cool down. I was burning for freedom.

The exam was in Gdynia, at the Institute of tropical diseases. The practical exam consisted of 5 parasite pictures projected on a wall so that everyone could take it at the same time. 1 minute to write down the name of the parasite, the stage of development and clinical sample of choice regarding that same parasite. The theoretical part had 25 questions (MCQ where either 1 or 2 answers are correct) and lasted only 20 minutes. 

At the end of the exam, the atmosphere among the students was really cheerful. Peace and love are suddenly all over the place. People kiss and hug each other, jump together, and smile a lot more. In addition, most of us meet downtown at night. I personally love the positive vibes.

On the 2nd of February, Friday, another exciting event is taking place at our university. An Anatomy Quiz organized by Hanna Olofsson. She was granted exemption from the anatomy final exam last year due to her excellent performance throughout both semesters. The goal is to help the 1st-year students prepare for their second colloquium which will have a different style (open questions). So don’t miss the chance to learn from the best! It will definitely help you out. Great job Hanna!

I have talked to a couple of proactive students over the last months. Exciting projects are incubating at the moment. Making them a reality will definitely improve the quality of life of our student community. I will let you know about it as soon as the first brick in the right position.

The second semester starts on the 19th of February, meaning that I will have 3 weeks of school break. Wooooooo! 

Yes, there will be exams coming up right after the break but that is a topic for the next post. For now, all I want is to disconnect for a while and recharge my batteries.

See you soon.

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