Home: Day 10, Easter

April 25, 2011

So the family drama that usually explodes eventually during my trip home exploded today.  It was just an off day for all of us.  It was Easter Sunday and we were having dinner (lunch) at our house, but everything sort of fell apart.

I stayed up late, against my better judgment, and because I’m so totally against alarm clocks when I’m at home, asked my parents to wake me up early so I could help them cook and get ready for Easter dinner.  They didn’t.  I rolled over, looked at the clock on my laptop, saw that it said 10:00 and grumpily shuffled to the shower.  I dressed up in a cute little purple dress with a cute little green, springy cardigan and looked as Eastery as I could.  I go downstairs to find Dad preparing the ham for the oven (step 1 of Easter dinner prep) and Mom in her PJs doing laundry.  I checked my watch, noting it was 10:30, and after exchanging ‘good morning’s’ with my parents, asked what time we were to have dinner and who was coming.  The response: 12:00, and that my mom’s mom was the only one coming.  I did a double take at my watch and couldn’t believe my eyes.  Dad was just starting on Easter lunch and we were supposed to eat in 90 minutes.  Mom wasn’t showered or dressed and there was laundry strewn about our kitchen when we were supposed to have company in 90 minutes.  What’s going on here?

I asked why Mom wasn’t ready and she said she was on her way upstairs to start getting ready.  I asked Dad what was on the menu and he started listing multiple dishes that hadn’t even been started yet.  I helped Dad in the kitchen.  Between the two of us, we managed to get all the dishes ready and prepared just as my grandma walked in the door, 105 minutes later.  I don’t know how he would have made it without me.  Meanwhile, my Mom got ready and came back downstairs in 30 minutes, wearing black and white.  I asked her why she didn’t dress up and she didn’t respond.  I thought the kitchen still looked cluttery, but Mom started tidying up while Dad and I cooked.  Then, when she finished, she waded into the kitchen and started trying to help us at the last minute.  We had certain dishes set out for the foods we were preparing and she absent-mindedly put them back in the cabinet.  I was standing there with a pot full of hot mashed potatoes and nothing to put them in.  Then she kept getting in the way.  I was so angry at her and my Dad’s negligence at waiting until the last minute.  I rudely asked her to clear the kitchen.  She was not pleased at this.  I admit, it wasn’t nice, but I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her!  She’d waited until the last minute to get ready, wore BLACK AND WHITE on EASTER SUNDAY (emo much?), and I could hardly hear Dad feet away in the kitchen over the washer and dryer going with her last minute laundry.  COMPANY IS COMING–DO YOU THINK YOU COULD MAYBE DO LAUNDRY SOME OTHER TIME? (Especially considering the laundry room is off of the kitchen where we’re trying to cook and prepare our buffet lunch?!!?)

I know, I sound like I’m being a brat, but she took Wednesday-Friday off last week.  We went out shopping and had fun, but if she needed to do laundry that bad, I would like to think that she’s got the good judgment to know when she needs to take a day off to stay home and clean up around the house.  And what’s with her dressing so emo?  She’s usually the one telling me to go back upstairs and put on something a little more formal than jeans and a t-shirt when family is coming over for a dinner.

And what’s up with Dad, too?  He waited until the last minute to start cooking, then AFTER my grandma had arrived, went upstairs to shower and change clothes.  What’s wrong with these people?  Isn’t Easter Sunday dinner a special occasion for them?  What happened to all those years when I was made to wear frilly dresses and stupid bonnets and my folks wore suits and dresses all for EASTER?  He actually made fun of me yesterday for dyeing Easter eggs–why not?

We finally started making our plates at 12:45.  We had ham with a hoisin glaze, stir-fried green beans with onions, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, honey-glazed rolls, home-made macaroni and cheese, tomato-mozzarella salad, and pecan pie.  My grandma brought biscuits, potato salad, cake, and killed lettuce.  Hers was good and worthy of a traditional Easter dinner.  Our food tasted rushed and sad.  The ham absolutely sucked–NEVER BUY A HAM FROM OMAHA STEAKS (silly Mother).  The green beans were ok but just not as good as the ones steamed out of the can with beef broth and onion.  Dad made instant mashed potatoes and I over-embellished the gravy with red-wine.  Eew.  The mac and cheese tasted like velveeta.  Bleh.  Dad likes his tomato-mozzarella salad too sweet and doesn’t use olive oil, so it just tasted weird.  And the pecan pie was cheap and thus tasted like Karo syrup.  We usually nibble on the left-overs for days afterwards but we threw everything out.

Mom invited my grandma to stay after dinner, to watch a midday movie.  I volunteered to clean up the kitchen with dad.  Mom chose Bride Wars, a silly chick flick, and then 25 minutes into the movie, came into the kitchen to hunt my Dad and I down to make us come and watch the movie with her and her mom after we had literally just sat down from cleaning the kitchen.  She loudly asked us when we were coming.  After a rude gesture to my Mother (for which I was later heavily tongue-lashed), Dad and I filed defeatedly into the den.  I think Dad thought the movie was sort of cute, but all I could think about was sitting on the couch next to my coughing grandma and how she was literally just getting over 2 weeks of pneumonia, and how much it would suck to be in the air for 5 hours on a plane next week with pneumonia.

After the movie, my mom and grandma went to set out plants.  Dad went upstairs to take a nap.  Not wanting to partake in either, I watched tv.  Mom and my grandma came back in after planting, my mom (without asking) muted the TV, and then started a forced conversation about Nevis.


I HATE talking about Nevis when I’m back in the states.  I kind of hint at it when someone asks me, but they all think I’m being funny.  No, I’m not.  Unless you’re a student at MUA, you have no idea HOW MUCH NEVIS SUCKS.  (Please see list of things I don’t miss about Nevis at the end of the post)  I came to a realization mid-week, last week, that I absolutely must come home between semesters or I will go crazy.  It’s impolite to be a negative Nancy during polite conversation with your friends and loved ones, so when the topic of Nevis is discussed with me, I have to think of silly, light-hearted half-lies to tell them about Nevis when they ask how I like it.  I want to tell them how it’s hell and how much it sucks.  The only positive I can think of is that Nevis is the place I associate with constant stress, pressure and studying but because it’s small and remote, after this med school experience is over, I can lock it away forever and never come back.  None of these people understand that while it’s true I live on an island in the Caribbean with lots of beautiful sandy beaches, I NEVER get to enjoy them.  I don’t think they understand how much I study.  I can take 1 afternoon off during a week and that whole weekend will be ruined with me trying to catch up.  When I skype them, all they tell me here is to lower my stress and that I should go to bed and catch up on my sleep.  What I really want to say back to them is DO YOU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND HOW IMPOSSIBLE THAT IS?

::rant over::

So after a bit of awkward silence, my Dad came back downstairs from his nap.  After a bit more forced conversation about my plans for the rest of my break at home, during which I started to realize how much crap I have left to do before I go back, my grandma decided to go at 5:00.  After she left, my Mom stomped off to the den, complaining about how awkward the day had been.  Dad tried to console her and see what was wrong but she wouldn’t talk.  Dad and I went out on the back porch and Mom came out after a while.  She started out yelling at me for the rude gesture I’d made at her for hunting me down after cleaning the kitchen to go watch the stupid chick flick.  I admitted that I had overreacted and briefly apologized and we started talking about other things that happened that made the day awkward.  Eventually we were all laughing and getting ready to go make a pitcher of fuzzy navels.  Then she brought up the gesture again.  I was angry.  I lost my temper.  I argued that I wasn’t in the wrong–that she should have realized that if I chose cleaning up the kitchen over watching a movie that I really didn’t want to watch the movie, and that if she came into the kitchen and saw dad and I relaxing and whispering to each other that we didn’t want to be disturbed.  Oh, and I accused her of backing me into a corner because she asked us loudly, where my grandma could obviously hear her, why we were dawdling and hadn’t come in to watch the movie.  I told her I felt like she was forcing me to come into the den and watch the movie then and there–I mean, I couldn’t say no with my grandma listening.

She got mad and stomped off.  My dad yelled at me for making her mad and making her stomp off and told me I was completely in the wrong for what I did.  I tried to explain my side of things–the logic that my mom had failed to see, the pneumonia, my hatred of stupid chick flicks, my sudden realization of how much I have yet to do during my last week at home–and then I broke down.  I sat there and bawled like a baby in front of my Dad, told him how overwhelmed I felt and how angry I was about the stupid gesture because I knew it would mean a tense last week at home with my mom and I really didn’t need to add “resolving passive-aggressive mood with mom” to my really long list of things to do.   He took it to mean that I didn’t want to go back to Nevis and tried to convince me that I could stay here if I didn’t want to go back.  No, that’s not it, but his kind words and compassion and the VERY LUCRATIVE offer of just staying at home for the semester was definitely not what I needed to hear when I was already feeling overwhelmed.  So I cried even more.

Mom must have heard me, because she came outside.  Dad and her went inside and talked while I calmed down and took a walk around the yard.  When I came back inside, Mom asked me for an apology.  I half-heartedly apologized and then she said that she was hungry, because it was 8:00 by that time and she didn’t eat much of the 12:45 lunch because she didn’t care for it.  I laughed and said how much I thought it sucked and Dad did the same.  So we all piled in the car, went to Arby’s for a roast beef, came home and watched Ruby.  Then Mom went to bed and Dad and I watched RuPaul’s Drag Race and laughed our butts off.  Dad went to bed and I started playing Yahtzee and making my to-do list for the week.  Now I feel obligated to sleep, but before then, as promised, here’s the list of things I don’t miss about Nevis (I’ll keep it to 50, in no particular order):

People are rude and have no customer service

Cars suck and are all broken down

Converting between currency

Having to religiously check dates on everything at the grocery store

Being afraid to buy sale items at the grocery store because they probably have bugs in them

Having crippling GI distress at least once a week from bad food

Paying exorbitant amounts of money for stale, old food

Having to drive 20 minutes one-way to town

Worrying about whether or not the ATM will be up or down

Only having A/C in my bedroom

Only having 3 minutes of hot water in my shower

No dishwasher

No clothes dryer

Spiders on my clothes line



Having to constantly ask the locals to repeat what they say because they talk too fast and in unintelligible English

Being cat-called at

Bugs. Everywhere.

No drive-thrus

Sand fleas

Mosquitos even when your windows are closed

Gaps at the bottom of my doors that the bugs can crawl in

Holes between my tiles that the bugs can crawl in

Getting only 4 decent cable channels

Mold in my bedroom and on my fridge

Sub-standard plumming


The internet at home going out every time it rains

Not being able to have a proper Skype convo without it suggesting that I terminate video feed because of bad signal

Substandard air conditioning in the gym at school

The weekend librarian stalking me through the video cameras when I’m in the gym


Paying duty on everything

People having no concept of how waiting in a line works


No diet sprite, diet dr. pepper, diet mountain dew, diet 7up, diet sunkist, diet gingerale, diet rootbeer

Overpriced diet coke that only comes in smaller-than-normal cans from Puerto Rico

Bread that tastes like lard

Being afraid of using my sketchy gas stove

Having to sneak over to Potworks to get rid of my garbage

Crappy roads and potholes

Goats being allowed to run rampant and having to avoid them in the road

Waiting a minimum of 20 minutes to get prepared food, even to-go

Constantly having to worry about having enough minutes on my phone and topping up my account

Not understanding how my power bill can be $75 EC one month and $290 EC the next with no apparent change in habits

My hot water being accidentally turned off by that guy who lives with my landlord coming downstairs to his mancave (and finding this out when I go to take a shower…then having to wait 30 minutes for the water to warm up)

Scurrying from my bathroom to my bedroom after a shower to quickly change because you can see through the kitchen window

No blinds

Having to constantly check your receipts when you use your credit card to make sure they didn’t charge you your USD total in EC

Home: Day 2, Shopping

April 16, 2011

Today I got to enjoy the whole family: both Mom and Dad were off work and there were no appointments to occupy our day.  Again, I slept in, then got up and enjoyed a real breakfast in our luxurious kitchen.

I decided that I needed to order my school books for next semester, so I went on to Amazon.  I ended up getting the BRS’s for each of my subjects, as well as some flash cards for neuro as I anticipate it will be my toughest subject.  With a gift card I had been saving since Christmas, my total came up to $12.71.  Not bad.

Also I took a look at netbooks online, so that I can try and lighten my load that I carry around to class.  I found a really nice one with double the ram and harddrive than most of the others, as well as with Windows 7 Home Premium, a webcam, and a microphone built-in.  No more worrying if I have my detachable microphone with me.  It was at Walmart of all places, so I decided to order it online and have it sent to the store.  I’ll bring my backup home in August or send it back with my folks if they come down, then keep this one right here as my backup or home computer.

We decided to get ready and go to Hickory to do some school shopping non-last minute like we usually do.  We went to Ollie’s to see what random stuff we could find that would be useful.  I ended up with some Beefaroni, multivitamins, tooth paste, super glue, windshield cleaner, and a few other odd, random items of use.

After that we enjoyed lunch at Olive Garden.  I really miss Italian food.  We shared smoked fonduta, salad, and breadsticks with marinara.  Mom and I had some of the chicken and gnocci soup and it warmed our souls.

Afterwards, we went to Sam’s Club to shop for the much needed bulk items.  I got another case of sugar-free Red Bull, some Slim Fast, some granola bars, and some beef jerky.  Dad’s throwing an office party at the house later this week, so he shopped for the food.

We fought the traffic to come home, then.  After unpacking, we decided to sit down and watch the new Harry Potter movie.  Dad conked out within the first 20 minutes (he didn’t get his afternoon nap today), but Mom stayed up for the entire movie with me.  We had bought some sparkling Moscato wine at Sam’s, so we sipped on that and enjoyed the drama.

Now I’m sitting in bed, visiting with Emily, my long lost Siamese feline friend.  I got her from a shelter during undergrad, way back in sophomore year when I was going through a particularly rough time in school.  She was having a particularly rough time too, as her family of 9 years gave her up because she didn’t get along with the new dog.  She’s been there for me during some hard times.  I miss her so much when I’m on the island, but I could never bring her down there with me.  There is a mandatory 6 month quarantine, and then when I eventually would get her back, animals live a hard, sad life in Nevis.  I can’t elaborate, but I don’t think it would end well. I wouldn’t dare subject her to that.  Dad takes excellent care of her and she gets the love and attention she requires.

I’m supposed to go with Dad up to Boone tomorrow to visit my sister and niece, so I’m calling it an early night.

Feeling very nervous the more I discussed the physio quiz with my classmates, I started to panic that I had done quite horribly on it and jeopardized my chances of passing the class, regardless of how I had done on the shelf.  There were a few questions I had down to one or two answers, and through discussion, it had seemed that I had chosen the wrong answer on many of those questions.  I couldn’t talk about it any more.  I went home, started cleaning, got packed, then went back to school to download the Med 3 folder to bring back to the states with me.

I picked up a couple of friends who were going to the Marriott at 1:00, then we caught the 2:00 Sea Bridge over to Kitts.  We had a different taxi driver, Terry, take all 10 of us over to the Marriott and checked in to our suite.  It was separate from the main building in one of the smaller free-standing buildings, but it was quite nice.  It was a regular room with a living room added on.  The bedroom had 2 queen beds while the living room had a fold-out couch that looked like it would be a king–it was a double.  So, with 10 people, we had 3 in each of the beds, 2 on the fold-out, 1 in the chair, and 1 on the floor, me.  It wasn’t the most comfortable night I’ve spent asleep, but up until then I had a blast:

After we checked into the suite, a few of us changed into our swim suits and went to the pool to splash around, play volleyball, and enjoy the fruits of happy hour.  Around 5:15, we came in to change for supper.  I enjoyed a bubble bath in the gigantic jacuzzi tub.  It was heaven.  We went up to the lobby bar for sushi and wings.  Amazing.  A few of our friends came up to join us.  It seemed that had enjoyed happy hour by the pool even moreso than we did.  Haha.

When we finished with dinner, we took a walk down to Rituals, the local coffee shop where they have free Wi-Fi.  Physio grades still weren’t posted, so we all got frappuccinos and walked back to the hotel.  We decided to go to the casino for a while.  We ended up staying until midnight, then went back to the room to go to bed.  We were still exhausted from biochem shelf on Monday, physio shelf on Tuesday, and then physio quiz earlier that day.  We laid down and didn’t go to sleep until 2:00 because we were laughing and playing word games.

The next day we got up and went to Rituals for breakfast.  It wasn’t good–we know next time to stay at the Marriott and go to the buffet.  We checked and physio grades still weren’t up, so we walked back to the hotel to pack up and get ready to check out.  One group went to the airport early to catch the Puerto Rico flight, while we stayed back and went to the casino for a while.  We met some of our classmates who told us physio grades had just been posted.  We got an internet code from the concierge to print out our boarding passes at the business center and while we were there, nervously checked our physio grades.  We had all passed, we were so excited.  Ironically, they only failed 5 people, less than half the number of people who failed biochem.  Giddy with excitement, we had Terry drive us to the airport at 12:30 to get ready for our 3:00 flight.

We got to the airport, checked in, checked our bags, and paid the departure tax.  Upstairs, we went through immigration and security to join everyone else waiting in the terminal for flights.  We met the group from our suite who had left earlier.  We told them the exciting news about physio grades and the low fail rate and reminisced about our woes and concern surrounding that class throughout the semester.  Our flight ended up being late–we didn’t leave until 3:45.  I tried to sit with my friends on the plane but the girls beside me didn’t want to change their seats, so I spent the duration of the flight in silence.  I realized I’d forgotten and packed my iPod in my checked bag.

Needless to say, since our flight was delayed, we got to Miami much later than we were supposed to.  Many people were afraid they’d miss their connecting flights.  Thankfully I had plenty of time–my flight for Charlotte wasn’t scheduled to board until 9:25–but I ran through customs and rushed to re-check my bag along with the rest of them.  The Miami airport was huge, so most of us scattered but I tagged along with one of my good friends.  We grabbed our first bite of American food at the Wendy’s in the terminal our departing flights were leaving from, then after her plane to Hartford started boarding, I took the Skytrain to the other end of the terminal, to wait for my flight.

I arrived with 45 minutes to spare before boarding was scheduled to start, but confusedly ran into a classmate who was flying to Nashville.  I wondered how we could share the same gate and still be going to different places at almost the same time, when I discovered that D60 was a common gate for the small planes that hold <100 people.  I chatted with my friend for a while, mostly about classes, then she boarded.  I waited for them to start boarding my flight at any minute, but they finally announced that the plane hadn’t arrived yet and the flight would be delayed.  Thankfully it only ended up being 30 minutes behind.  To get to the plane, we had to walk outside, down a long covered/fenced-off area with 10 or so miniature gates, presumably for small planes just like ours.  The seats on the plane were very tight.  I felt fat.  The flight was only 2 hours, though, so it wasn’t too bad.  I got to Charlotte and rushed inside to pick up my luggage and meet my folks.  It was so nice not having to clear international customs in Charlotte–they take forever!

Mom and Dad were happy to see me.  We drove straight home and went to bed.  I was falling asleep in the car.  It was amazing to be home again, to see them in person and not just over skype.  It was also nice to be in a non-POS car again, driving on the right side of the road, and going faster than 40 miles per hour.  Interstates are grand.

I got to sleep in this morning–my appointment with the ophthalmologist was at 2:00.  I woke up and took a nice, long, hot shower–the first time I’d had longer than 3 minutes of hot water in months.  My birthday present I ordered back in February was sitting in my room on my desk–a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes.  I tried them on, loved them and decided to wear them for the day.  Dad and I went to Dragon Garden for lunch buffet–missed real Chinese food so much.  The wanton soup made my toes curl.  I’ve got to be honest, Young’s sucks.  I go there with my friends because I know they like it, but I really don’t like most of their stuff.  And you can’t go there and spend less than $70 EC.  Anyway, after lunch, we went to Walmart to get more minutes for my phone-in-a-box cell phone that I use when I’m back in the states.  We picked up a copy of the new Harry Potter movie, and I bought some more cheapy pillows to bring back to the island to replace the sad, flat ones that are currently on my bed.

We made it to Morganton Eye Physicians just in time.  The girl at the front desk who checked me in had heard about my strange case of monocular flashes and wanted to know what was going on.  I told her I’d give her an update as soon as I knew.  My exam went normally until it got to the part where they shine the light in your eyes for a while and look around.  My doc used 3 different tools to look into my eyes and kept going back and forth between them.  He didn’t say anything.  He said he wanted a CT of the back of my eyes and I thought, oh no, here it goes, this is exactly what I was worried about–wasting my vacation having to go from doctor’s office to doctor’s office for scans and appointments.  But it wasn’t that way at all–one of the assistants lead me down the hall to a room with another interesting-looking machine.  Much like the ones used during a regular exam, I just had to put my face up close to it and it shined interesting lights in my eye and took pictures.

My doctor apparently wasn’t satisfied with the picture and ordered another test done.  The tech and I went to a completely different part of the office to a similar-looking machine.  This time, she took pictures of my fovea and retina that came up immediately on  a monitor mounted on the wall beside us–they looked just like the ones we studied for the red spot in Tay-Sachs (except I didn’t have a red spot)!  It was scary–she took pictures of the left and right side and they were very different–I started to get worried then.  My doctor came in and explained to me that what I had wasn’t a big deal.  Whew.  What a relief.  He said the 3 weeks of flashes were probably due to a small PVD but that it healed on its own.  What he was more concerned about was on the left side, the retina looked odd.  He explained that it had a granular appearance and showed me the difference between it and the right side (which was normal) via the photos that were just taken.  He said that the condition (a long-sounding name that has something to do with serial and retina and some other word which is currently escaping me) usually appears in men in their 40s who are under lots of stress.  I laughed.  He said it is characterized by blurry vision that corrects itself in 1 week-3 months.  He hypothesizes that it probably started within the past 6 weeks.  I told him about my glasses breaking in the early part of the semester and having to squint to see the board–I mentioned that if my vision had started to blur, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it or would have subconsciously attributed it to trying to see without my glasses for those couple of weeks.  He said there was no treatment for it, but that he recommends that I (futilely) try to reduce my stress.  I said I’d work on it.

He was most excited that with my prescription, my vision was 20/15 and that I was actually able to read a couple of letters on the 20/10 line.  It was a slight change from my previous prescription, but not enough to merit changing out all of my glasses.  If no other problems arose, he wanted to see me back within a year.

Triumphant and excited that I didn’t have glaucoma, macular degeneration, or any other serious sight-threatening condition, I went to the optician’s shop to get my original glasses repaired and look for a new, exciting pair to put my yearly vision allowance of $150 towards.  I decided to get a pair of prescription sunglasses since I’m in the sun so often.  They should be ready next week–I’m thrilled.

Dad and I came home and took a nap.  We woke up when Mom got home and made a pizza for dinner.  We discovered that neither Mom nor Dad had seen the 6th Harry Potter film, so we sat down to watch it together.  Mom was exhausted from being up until 1:30 the previous night, helping to pick me up from the airport, and still had gone to work that day, so she tuckered out and went to bed.  Dad liked the movie I think–he had many questions for me at the end.  I filled him in on all of the plot holes and emphasized to him that the main cliffhanger at the end of the movie (and book) was whether Snape was a good guy or a bad guy.  He was frustrated and wanted me to tell him before we watch Part I of the 7th movie tomorrow night, but I didn’t.  I told him to imagine how excruciating it was for all of us avid Harry Potter fans when we rushed out to the get the 6th book the night it came out, read it in a few hours, and then had to wait over 2 years for the final book to be published to find out for ourselves.  He scoffed.

After catching up on facebook and gmail, I’m settling down to bed with my Netflix account that happily works here in the US.  So happy to be home, Good night!

Whew, that was rough.  I don’t think you’re supposed to guess that much on a final exam, but I had to.  There was so much muscle stuff that was just Greek to me–didn’t study it in anatomy, didn’t study it in physio, I had no idea where I should have gotten that information.  Ended up utilizing First Aid to study for biochem and ESPECIALLY physio–VERY HELPFUL.  To all you rising Med 2’s out there, this is a worthwhile investment.  Don’t use it throughout the semester to study for blocks–it’s not detailed enough, but to jog your memory and review for the shelf, it was a great overall resource that didn’t require days of reading ::cough:: BRS ::cough::.

The quiz was fast but not easy.  It was on par with our usual physio questions, only it was nice to have just 2 sections on GI and reproductive, not like the usual 3-5 systems on our other blocks.  Still, I should have studied more.  While I might sound a bit lackadaisical, I’m legitimately concerned that I might not pass the class, but I’m trying not to let it get me down since I’m presently finishing packing on my way to St. Kitts to spend a fun night with my friends at the Marriott decompressing before we all go our separate ways.  Deep breath, inhale, exhale.

Biochem shelf

April 11, 2011

Well, my philosophy about shelf exams being easy after our professors’ tests is out the window…

I ended up studying a bit of Saturday and most of Sunday for biochem, both on my own and with a study buddy.  We did mainly Kaplan and pre-test questions, definitely identifying some areas where we needed work reviewing.  I would say that probably the most high-yield thing I had forgotten was the specific amino acids–branched chain, positively charged, negatively charged, polar, non-polar, etc.  Just like biochem gal said, metabolism was very low-yield.  Kind of makes me wonder why we wasted a whole block on metabolism alone.  I think we would have been more productive slowing down for example, the iron metabolism lecture or the uric acid lecture and spending more than a day on them, and then if a block 5 was still necessary, to make it on pathology and diseases rather than metabolism.  I bet we had 20 questions that started out with a clinical vignette about a <12 month-old baby who came in to see the pediatrician with some kind of ailment involving either jaundice, hepato/splenomegaly, mental retardation, failure to thrive, coarse facial features, etc.  There were a few odd-ball questions that were straight physio questions and a few that I had absolutely no clue what they were talking about and just had to guess.  Definitely not as easy as everyone said it would be–probably on par with our block 4 exam in terms of difficulty or perhaps just a shade more difficult.  Know that I did well enough to save my B but doubt that I did well enough to TA.  Shame.

Physio shelf is tomorrow.  Have already reviewed cardiac and respiratory, still have to go over endocrine, GI and renal.  Thankfully, I think I learned more the first time around that I gave myself credit for, but there’s still so much to review.  Just want to pass.  Even if it’s with a 70.0.  Not trying to be greedy.  ::crosses fingers::

P.S. Epi

April 9, 2011

Almost forgot–Epi final was Thursday.  Ended up making just below what I needed for an A, but was sure that there would be a curve because some of the questions were messed up and not in English–haha.  Grades were posted yesterday and, WOOT, ended up getting my A, but feel really sketch about the grades.

Posted were only 3 grades:  our midterm grade (+8 pt curve), our project grade (P for Pass but no # grade), and our final grade (no curve).  The final exam grades were not curved, yet somehow, miraculously, the lowest grade was a 70 (which just happens to be the lowest passing grade).  And no one failed the course.  I suppose it’s good because no one failed our class that didn’t actually have a professor, but at the same time, grades were obviously manipulated and I’m just curious exactly what was done.  I got my A so I should probably let it go, but it just doesn’t smell right.  We have the same guy again next semester for Med Psyc and I really hope grades won’t be as skeezy in that class since its material is actually tested on the Step I.


April 9, 2011

I’m on my second day of one of the oddest weeks of the semester–I affectionately call them flux weeks.  It’s that period of time between the end of formal, daily classes and exams where you’re really excited that classes are over and you don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn every day and be lectured at for hours, but you’re supposed to spend your time off studying for exams, so you’re kind of stressed.  Ugh.  During my years in undergrad, I hated this time because our final exams were cumulative and difficult (organic chemistry counted for 50% of our grade!!!) so that meant sitting down and reviewing a HUGE amount of material that I (generally speaking) didn’t grasp so well the first time around, in order to be tested on integrating said information.  Not my idea of a good time.  There were many panic attacks, and consequently, many trips to Cook Out for a milkshake.

Flux week isn’t so bad on the island, though.  Every semester we have 2 easy classes and 2 really difficult, time consuming classes that have NBME shelf exams (written by the national board of medical examiners back in the US).  For Med 1, they were histo and anatomy (with EBM and embryo as fluff classes).  For Med 2, they are physio and biochem (NBME has a small genetics section) (epi was our fluff class–technically genetics was supposed to be one too but it wasn’t).  Usually, the hard classes are the last ones to have their shelf exams, so you can forget about the other fluff classes and focus on the difficult ones.  From my experience so far, the NBMEs are usually much easier and less detailed than the block exams our instructors write, so that’s a huge plus.  Also, they usually only count 20-30% of our grade, so you’re not sitting there with the obligation to cram a semester’s worth of material into your poor little head just to secure a passing grade.  As I’ve said before, last semester, the shelf exams actually brought my grades up.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone.  You’ve got 3 categories of other:

A)There are a lot of great students out there who give it their all, all throughout the semester, doing really well on block exams, but then when they get to flux week, they’re so stressed out from studying that they burn out.  They play games, go shopping, lay out on the beach–all of the things you shouldn’t be doing right before final exams.  They come in, take the finals, make mediocre grades, and then all that work they did throughout the semester getting good grades is flushed down the toilet.

B)There are a ton of mediocre students (woo hoo for my category!) who do average throughout the semester, usually making a little above or a little below the average on most of the exams, who then get to finals and feel like there’s so much pressure to do well and bring their grades up that they burn out.  Or, they’ll wait until a day or two before the exams to start studying, because they felt like they needed a break just like the category A people, look at all the material and feel crazy overwhelmed, and then have an emotional breakdown.

C)These are the kids who either do great or fail.  In one class, they had a really bad first block exam or second block exam where they either studied completely the wrong stuff or they were sick or they partied too much, and they had to spend the rest of the semester in recovery mode.  Every block had to be skewed to studying for the class in which they were deficient, so their grades in their other classes went down.  Because they’ve focused so hard on this class, either:

I) They know the material like the back of their hand and as long as they took the time to go back and learn the material for the block they did bad in, they make some of the highest scores on the shelf and they end up passing, with either a C or even sometimes a B.  (This was me in anatomy last semester!)

II) They are so close to passing, but they’re just so stressed out from a semester in recovery mode that they burn out and don’t study enough, so they’re one of the 10 people who fail.  (I haven’t known any of these people personally, but I’ve seen people who I’m pretty sure fall into this category, at the bar.)

Do you see a common theme here?  Getting burnt out.

The key to mastering flux week is to have a respect and an appreciation for it.  Flux week is there because the teachers have run out of material, so it’s your job to review all of the old material and get familiar with it again.  Flux week doesn’t come with a schedule and that’s where the respect part comes into play.  Though you aren’t still in classes, you have to treat each day like it’s a class day.  You need a schedule of what you want to accomplish that day, and you need to hold yourself accountable for your productivity and how close you stick to that schedule.  You can screw up and put too much on your plate, and it’s important to understand that if you sit there and work, legitimately work, all day and you still don’t finish everything on your schedule, then you’ve just set yourself too much to do and you need to adjust your schedule to a more realistic pace.  On the other hand, if you set yourself 3 or 4 chapters to finish in a day and you only got through 1.5 chapters (aka 25 pages) and you took a trip to town or went out to a nice dinner with your friends, then the problem probably isn’t with your schedule being too full.  MODERATION.  Remember that you have a lot of material to cover, but at the same time, you need breaks and time to digest as well.  Flux days need plenty of breaks, side activities that do not require much concentration (laundry is a favorite past time of mine), and naps are an excellent reward for staying on schedule.  It’s silly and a bit infantile, but I have a prize box that I save all semester for flux week–it’s filled with stupid stuff that makes me happy like new pens, retractable highlighters, stickers, stuff from Sanrio Surprises that’s pink and girly (and supposed to make schoolwork fun–for third-graders, lol)–so every time I finish something on my schedule, I get to get something out of the prize box, which in theory, is new and exciting enough to make me want to study more to try it out.

What’s your incentive to be successful during flux week?  While a prize box might not be practical for everyone, in the very least, there is NOTHING worse than that horrible feeling of sitting down to a test, reading the questions, and knowing that you could have easily answered them had you taken the time to study.  It’s like your stomach has no bottom and you feel like you’re falling.  If you ever experience that feeling, you’ll never want to again.  Yeah, it sucks to be on a tropical island with beautiful beaches, a pleasant breezy 75 degree climate, and breathtaking views just inviting relaxation, but there’s a time and a place, and if you can’t get through these exams and do your best, then there’s no way you’ll ever be able to afford to come back here and enjoy this again.

One huge disadvantage of Med 2 was that blocks are all on the same day.  Now you’ll find people in our class who are excited to have them all finished in just one day so they can party, but I disagree.  I have to say that I liked the Med 1 schedule much better where we had 1 lab test and 1 subject test (each of opposite subjects, though) on Monday, and then visa versa on Tuesday.  It just seemed more balanced.  On Med 2 exam Mondays, we have Physiology at 8am, a 2 hour break, and then Biochem and Genetics back to back in the afternoon from 11:45-2:00, then we’re required to stay for genetics class, usually until 3:00, where we review the test UNLESS you make a 100 on the test, then you can go.  It’s a physically exhausting day.  And given everyone’s poor performance in physio this semester, it’s not a great way to start out the morning, finding out you’ve just made a failing or barely-passing grade.  That’s why a lot of people this semester chose to have the proctors write down their score so they didn’t see it and have it ruin their motivation for biochem and genetics.  (I’m a control freak and always chose to write mine down–seeing the score did the opposite for me, making me want to work harder.)

Where I’m going with this is that we had our Genetics final and biochem block 5 exams yesterday morning, BUT just those exams…nothing involving physio.  Low and behold, I made some of the best grades of the semester!  I did well enough on Genetics to secure my A (I was worried that I hadn’t studied enough resources for genetics–just the review document) which was a sigh of relief for me, but then I went to go take my biochem test and I really was apprehensive because the genetics final was worth 25% of our grade in that class, but the biochem test was only worth 8% of our grade in that class, so obviously I devoted more time studying to genetics.  PLUS the biochem exam was only 20 questions, meaning miss 2 and you’re already down to a 90.  I didn’t have high hopes.  It was on integration of metabolism, and because assoc. biochem gal covered the bulk of metabolism when we learned it in blocks 3 and 4, and I did (comparatively) so poorly on her exams, I had low self-esteem about my knowledge of metabolism.  BUT chief biochem gal was the one who had reviewed with us for block 5, so I just made sure I went over my notes from her classes, and…I MADE A 100!  I was shocked.  I handed her my paper when I was finished and saw her eyes get big, but I was still so shocked that I just turned around and walked away rather than waiting for her full reaction.  I think  I might go talk to her and see what she says–also I want to know what I got wrong on the genetics final (because it’s not being reviewed as all the previous tests were).

So I had a triumphant plate of chicken fingers from Livingston’s on my way home, then rewarded myself by crashing from 2:00-7:00 and napping.  I found out yesterday that the Epi final on Thursday will be cumulative, so not only are we being tested on the second Saba professor’s material for the first time (and he came to lecture 2 months ago!) but now we have to review the first Saba professor’s material on top of that (and she was here 3 months ago!).  Aah, and I’m still sitting here.  So unfortunately, there’s not a lot of time to celebrate my grades from yesterday, but it’s nice to create a written memory of how happy I feel.

Finals start today!

April 4, 2011

Genetics final is today, followed by biochem block 5.  Wish me luck!