Histology Shelf

December 3, 2010

Today is the day of the histology shelf exam.  I’m up at 4:00 in the morning because I like to give my mind time to wake up and get moving, plus I’d like to refresh some last minute material in my mind.  I mentioned earlier that histology was my best subject, so I’m not super stressed about the shelf–we have 4 block exams in the class that count for 20% of our grade (each), then the shelf which counts for the last 20%, so technically speaking, if I was to not show up to the shelf, I would still pass the class, albeit with a much lower grade than I would like.  It’s good to be comfortable.

But at the same time, there’s something I’m not comfortable about.  A large part of me having done well in this class is because of the prof.  I mentioned earlier that she’s a disciplinarian in the classroom and very strict, but consequently she’s a pretty good teacher.  She gets through a lot of material and seems genuinely concerned that the class does well, though I can’t help but think my semester in particular disappointed her.  Usually after every block, we’d come in for the first regular day of class for the next block and she would give us a long lecture about how the test wasn’t that difficult but that we had a particularly low average and missed easy questions.  Of course we were all outraged at this at the time and thought she was being callous and unrealistic but I know personally it pushed me to do better.  What bothers me is that I feel abandoned by her now, when her presence matters most.  Wednesday of last week, when she started reviewing right after the last block exam, she dropped a huge bombshell that she was leaving on Saturday to go back home to India for the holidays.  Someone raised their hand and was asked: “But isn’t our shelf not until next Friday?”  She said that yes, she realized that, but that we would be ok without her; that she would finish her review by Friday, then the other prof who co-teaches the class wold have her reviews during the early part of this week, and then she would get a couple of other profs to help proctor the exam for her when she was gone.  She ended up not having class on Thursday because she was sick, then Friday she came in and told us that she wouldn’t be accessible by email until the day before the shelf, yesterday.

How can you be allowed to duck out on your class like that?  I feel like my class is a struggling football team who needs a couple of hail Mary’s to win the game, but that the coach and cheerleaders just got up and walked away mid way through the 4th quarter.

I like to think that the reason that I’m not doing as well in anatomy is because the professor who heads the class and I totally don’t jive, but then at the same time, he will be here when we take the shelf.  Which is the lesser of two evils–having a professor who annoys you for the duration of the semester but comes through for you in the end, or having a professor you liked drop out on you on the last minute and leave you alone?  Obviously the grades still say that the histology prof wins, but it doesn’t feel kosher that she both chose to do that and that she was allowed to do that.  Thanks for the vote of confidence, histo prof.

I’ll let you guys know how it goes.  Histo prof tells us that it will be hard–that there will easily be 15-20 questions that we will not know how to answer because they cover material that we don’t cover until later semesters, but not to worry that there will be a curve.  She says to study the cell biology component of it heavily that there will be many questions on that.  Joy.

Break from Studying

December 2, 2010

I am in the midst of studying for finals–I have the histology shelf tomorrow–Friday, then Anatomy on the following Tuesday, EBM on the following Wednesday, and Embryology on the following Thursday.  Later Thursday I have to move out of my dorm, then ride up to the Marriott with my friends where we’re partying on the 9th and 10th before I fly out, back home on the 11th.  It’s gonna be a busy week from here on out.

I don’t really have a theme for this post, so we’ll call it general advice based on random things that are currently happening:

1.  Your dorm fees include a $250 deposit.  What they don’t tell you is that in order to get this deposit back, you MUST pay $100 EC to Julie, the lady who sweeps the halls at the dorms to “clean” your room for you after you leave.  Only when you produce a receipt from her, to Claxton, will you get your deposit back–NEXT SEMESTER.

2.  When you leave the island for good–either Med 5 or earlier if you decide to leave–you have to take a slip of paper around to all of the major businesses & get them to stamp it: the hospital, the electric company, the water company, Cable & Wireless (Lime), Caribbean Cable, your landlord, etc. to prove that you’re not leaving the island owing anyone money.  Made the rounds with my neighbor who isn’t coming back for premed 2.

3.  There are 2 bakeries in Nevis that I’ve seen–one down a side road behind Super Foods–which had nothing and was really unfriendly–and the “Fancy Jamaican Bakery” in town, right when you get off the ferry.  I really like the Fancy Jamaican bakery but they’re a bit inconsistent–had bread pudding the other day that was off.  Bleh.  On the other hand, their white rolls are the only bread I will eat–the regular sandwich bread tastes like lard.  But you should remember to keep your bread in the fridge or it will mold within 2-3 days.  Buy your bread from the bakery directly–the stuff they send to the grocery stores is old.

4.  If you don’t have a car and want groceries, you either have to 1)stay late at school on Fridays to catch the 6:30 bus to the Best Buy in Gingerland, 2) wake up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to catch the 8:00 bus to town, 3) catch an H-bus to town and pay $2-5 EC each way, or 4) find a friend with a car.

5.  If you buy a car, keep in mind you’re going to have to skip class to get the transfers done–they have to be completed at the Charlestown police station from 9-3 M-F, then you have to go to the Island Revenue Dept. and pay a $62.50 EC transfer fee.  Once a year you will have to pay a $350 EC registration fee.  Also you’re going to have to buy a $600 EC insurance policy in order to legally drive the car.  And pay $150 EC for a 1 year Nevis driver’s license–make sure you bring a valid license from home that will not EXPIRE within a year.  Just filled up my new Jeep with gas and it was $170 EC, so keep in mind that a Mitsubishi Lancer will run you $80 EC to fill up the tank and a Suzuki Grand Vitara will run you $170–aim for something in between.  Tires for my lancer were $220 EC each and there are many flat tires on this island.  I’ve heard rumors that batteries can cost as much as $600 EC.

6.  Red Bull is $7 EC/can–if you like it, bring a case from home.

7.  The huge cans of Arizona Iced Tea products are a favorite here–it says on the can that they’re supposed to be 99 cents but they’re $4.69 EC at the grocery store and $6 EC at Flavours.  Bring Crystal Light/Tang/Kool Aid instead or get ripped off.

8.  Beer (Caribs) are $5 EC when you’re out at a restaurant but you can get a case of 24 at the Beverage Depot for $50 EC, same with Coke Zero/Sprite/etc.

9.  DO NOT BUY LIQUOR at the grocery store.  Wait until you’re in St. Kitts and go to one of the duty-free shops at Port Zante–it’s DIRT CHEAP.  We saw Absolute for $9/liter, a handle of Appleton Rum for $12, a liter of Patron for $29.

10.  Bring tennis shoes you don’t mind getting dirty.  I brought white ones that I never get to wear because it’s so filthy and muddy here.  P.S. They say you’re supposed to wear close-toed shoes to lab but even the profs wear sandals.  If you’re a flip-flop person, bring lots of flip flops.

11.  Bring bug spray–the kind that kills bugs and the kind you put on your skin.  My neighbor killed a cockroach in her shower as she was showering yesterday.  The spiders are huge.  There are giant grasshopper things.  And flies/lizards come in through the airconditioning and windows unless you spray them on the outside.  Don’t keep your door open for long.

12.  Don’t buy toilet paper at Best Buy Gingerland–they charge $18 EC for a 4-pack.  Buy Soft & Pretty (from Trinidad) at Ram’s in town–it’s $9.65 EC for a 6-pack.

13.  For those of you who are looking for an apartment, don’t worry about location right now, just find one and get it squared away for when you arrive.  Regardless of where you live, because you’re a first semester student, they’ll send a van to pick you up.  You can move later if it’s a bad location.

14.  Don’t agree to buy things on valuemd from students until you see them.  I saw that there are people trying to sell books–it’s like I said earlier, they’re not necessary & you’re getting ripped off.  You don’t have time to read the textbooks and these books that are for sale are from kids who bought them new at home, brought them down here, didn’t use them, and are trying to sell them for what they paid for them at home.  Either buy used old editions on Amazon or use the library books–don’t get taken.  Don’t commit yourself to a car on valuemd without coming down here and driving it first.  If you’re unsure of mechanical stuff, talk to DON.  Don is a great guy who drives H-buses and is really a renaissance man.  He’s a good guy who won’t screw you over and he knows almost all of the cars on the island.  He’ll tell you what you should pay and how much repairs will cost you.

Short discourse–friend bought a car for $3000 on valuemd without seeing it, had to pay $3000 for work to make the car functional, it’s from the 90s and a car, not even a jeep.  Don’t get taken by a Med 5 with no morals who just wants to leave the island.

15.  Pets.  There are many stray cats and dogs down here.  It can be comforting to treat them like pets back at home, but don’t.  These animals are feral.  They are crawling with worms and fleas and ticks.  At the end of the semester when everyone goes home, there is no one to feed them.  Several of the dogs over at Rawlins have been poisoned this semester–not by students but by locals.  Spare yourself the emotional trauma and don’t get attached.  Pet food is expensive down here and there is 1 vet on the island if they get sick and she has no facilities.  Just wait until you get home to worry about pets.

16.  Don’t bring your cell phone from home.  A friend racked up $700 in roaming costs.  As mentioned previously, you’ll get free phones here that you just need to buy credit for.  They also function quite well as watches, flash lights, and alarm clocks.

17.  Bring plenty of cheap towels.  They don’t dry properly here and stink to high hell.  I am throwing mine away at the end of the semester and bringing back new ones.  It’s too salty and too humid.

18.  If you’re living in the dorms, bring a shower rack.  There is 1 tiny shower shelf.  You do not need to bring a shower curtain.

19.  Bring small rugs for your room–your shoes get very dirty.  Also bring one for the bathroom, for when you’re getting out of the shower.  FYI–the tile here is funky–I shower with shoes on.

20.  Make an investment when you’re here and buy a gallon-sized container of water.  Keep it in your room for when the water goes off.


22.  Bring hangers and something like this http://www.amazon.com/Extra-Closet-Rod-Doubler-Chrome/dp/B000KFZE74 (it can be found for cheaper elsewhere) but it’s necessary–we have tall, narrow closets.

23.  Bring extra dryer sheets to function as deodorizers for your drawers for your clothes.

24.  Class cannot technically be cancelled, though teachers will do it from time to time and tell you not to “tell” the administration although they obviously figure it out.

25.  Any “extra credit” mentioned for EBM counts as a bonus absence you’re allowed.  There are no makeup points.  If you go to the research symposium, the journal club, or a couple of extra class meetings, they’ll give you bonus absences in addition to the 4 or 5 we’re allowed by the 80% thing.

26.  IMPORTANT–if you have done ANY research RECENTLY, present it in the research symposium.  It will get you an automatic A in EBM.  I’m so jealous.

27.  Bring extra headphones for your iPod.

28.  Bring an extra adaptor for your computer.

29.  Bring more clothes than you think you’ll need.  The less often you have to do laundry, the less crunched for time & pressured you’ll feel.  The laundry machines break down all the time.  Rather than buy tokens from Claxton or the gardner for $10 EC each, people put US nickels in the machines and they’ll wash their load, but then break so that no one else can use them until Claxton fixes them (on his own schedule).  There are already only 2 washers and 2 dryers for all 3 (soon to be 4) buildings at Potworks, so often you’ll wait until the last minute to do laundry only to find out that the machines are broken and you have no clothes.

30.  If you’re tiny, bring sweaters and sweatshirts, otherwise don’t worry about it.  The walk to school is excruciatingly hot, but then the classrooms are ice.  If it bothers you, cover up, if you care about more important things in life, don’t worry about it and carry a lighter bookbag as a consequence. Clearly I fall into the later category.

31.  Keep your binders at home.  They’re heavy to carry if you walk to school and then take up precious desk space at school.  Everyone brings a notebook (in case we have to draw in Embryology or Anatomy), a laptop, and their scrubs/gloves.  That is all that is necessary.  Leave your old printed out lectures/notes at home.

32.  Hold yourself personally accountable for keeping track of your absences and how much class you miss.  There are some teachers who very rarely turn in their attendance and if you’re not careful, will mark you absent either intentionally (because you weren’t there) or accidentally (they didn’t hear you) and you can fail the class because of a <80% attendance rate regardless of your grade.

33.  If you live at the dorms, keep your room neat and tidy.  Claxton comes in without warning.  You’ll just come home one day to find dirty footprints in your room.  It’s creepy, yes.  Also make sure you turn off your A/C when you leave in the morning, or that gives him an excuse to come into your room to turn it off.

34.  If you live at Potworks, upper Meds live above you on the second floor and there is a gym on the roof.  It is loud.  It will often wake you up out of a dead sleep.  Bring ear plugs or an iPod.

35.  Bring ear plugs.  Especially for exams.  You’re stressed and sleep deprived, sitting in room full of cubicles of computers.  People are stomping, playing footsie, sighing, coughing, breathing, chewing gum, humming, whispering to themselves, tapping their fingers, clicking their pencils, twirling their hair, scooting their chairs, raising their hand, asking questions, teachers are circling–reading questions over your shoulder.  Life is better with earplugs, trust me.

36.  The teachers are not Nazi’s about mechanical pencils here, just make sure you have a #2 pencil either old school or mechanical for scantrons–we use them in the lab exams.  All other exams are computerized.

37.  Cheating sucks and you’re really only screwing yourself over if you cheat.  I found out over last weekend that there have been kids in my class cheating.  Yes, you temporarily get good grades but you won’t be able to cheat on the shelf and if you get caught, there is hell to pay.  You have to pass the step one day and you can’t cheat on that either.  Grow up, buckle down, and learn to be a productive member of society.