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Surviving The First Semester of Med School

Okay, so obviously its been a long time since I uploaded anything - be it on this blog, or any of my social medias, but I’m baaack! I have been quite active on my Twitter and I’ve just gotten back into Instagram, so I haven’t been all that M.I.A.

My last blog post was published all the way back in JULY, and obviously a lot has changed since then, the main thing being that I started and ended my first semester of medical school! It was such a long journey that I’m honestly glad has come to an end, but even though it was definitely the hardest semester of my life, it did come with highs I really enjoyed.

Tough to say the least. Lectures started from 8am and could go on all day until usually 5pm, apart from Wednesday, where we had Chinese language until 9:30 in the evening (!!!) The classes I took this semester were Anatomy, Histology, Chinese language, Medical Chinese, Computing, and Sports. The curriculum in China is different in that Sports are still required for all students to take, regardless of whether you’re in university or not, and Computing was essentially just a glorified ICT lesson, where the only thing I learned was how to use a couple of formulas in Excel that I didn’t know how to use before. Thankfully, those lessons were only once a week for 45 minutes, but going into next semester, I still have to take Sports. How fun.

I live on a campus far from the medical campus, so mornings usually started at 5:30am to make it to class in time, with a fan tuan in one hand (rice covered in a sheet of seaweed and stuffed with various fillings, so delish!) and my bus card in the other. As the weather got colder, this slowly shifted to 6am, then 6:30am, because the crisp cold autumn/winter mornings are no one’s friend at all.

Anatomy was easily my favourite subject, partly because I had an awesome teacher who knew everything about everything off the top of her head, and also because its just so interesting! My exams for anatomy went really well, both in lab and theory, so I got all my credits and finished with a really good grade. Chinese language has always been my best subject, so I didn’t have any worries about that going in anyway. The only thing I haaated was Histology. I don’t mean any offence to anyone who loves histology but it wasn’t very interesting for me, and that was reflected in my grades. Even though I passed, I know I could have done better if I was more interested in it but, sadly that wasn’t the case.

The thing that made the academic side the most difficult was timing. Finding time to eat, do laundry, study, talk to people, clean - all of that was so hard to juggle. I ended up sacrificing my social life and sleep in order to study more, which did wonders for my grades but not my overall health. I was perpetually tired during the day because I didn’t have time to sleep a full 7 or 8 hours at night. Some nights I was lucky if I got even just 5 hours in! The routine got boring and tedious, and when those weekend lectures started in mid-November it seriously took a toll on my mental health, which is why I looked forward to the winter break more than anything! Although now with this coronavirus outbreak, I’d rather time travel and go back a few months, but more on that later.

Seriously lacking! I had no time to go out and enjoy myself because I had to study, simple as. A lot of other students did manage to find the balance between school and life, and I seriously applaud them for it because I just couldn’t do it. If I wasn’t studying, my priority was either napping or doing life-things like laundry or meal prep. If I wasn’t doing any of these things, I would feel serious guilt about not studying which would stress me out until I went to study.

I envied my friends back home who were enjoying their graduations, free time, and holidays, and constantly asked myself “why did I come here!?”. Something everyone hears about medical school is that you don’t have time to do anything, which in a way is true, but it all depends on how you organise your time. My first year of uni was spent learning Chinese and it was nothing compared to this, but I really hope I can improve going into the next semester.

This post is looking a bit moody, but I promise it wasn’t all doom and gloom! I enjoyed learning all the cool bits about the human body, and learning them in Chinese was really awesome too. I did all essay subjects at A-Levels, so diving into medicine where everything is science-based was a challenge. But seeing how I was understanding concepts we’d only glossed over in GCSE was very surprising. I didn’t struggle as badly as I thought I would; after putting in the work (and loads of it!), I can say that I was academically stretched and still came out on the other side.

A couple of weeks before the semester started, I was in Hangzhou with my cousin and I got a few bits she brought me from home, like my favourite snacks and clothing I left at home. Eating away at those late at night with a human body atlas in front of me is a fond memory now! I joined the Dragon Dance team for my university, which is a big deal because dragon dance is a huge part of Chinese culture. We had a performance in front of hundreds in December that went really well, and the fact that I could squeeze in practise with school is something I’m really proud of.

I also celebrated my 22nd birthday in October, and my friends and I went out for Japanese food and karaoke to mark the occasion. It rained that day, and even though the weather wasn’t amazing, being surrounded by my favourite people definitely made up for it.

It was a wonderful semester to have, and I look forward to what I get to do next semester! The subjects I’m taking are Biochem and Molecular Biology, Physiology, Regional Anatomy (we did systemic previously), Sports, and Chinese language. I hope everything goes well, because if I want to get through to second year, it just has to!

Unfortunately, winter break hasn’t been all that...

I’m sure everyone by now knows about the novel coronavirus spreading through China, and a few other countries around the world now too. I honestly have sooo much to say, but since it’s illegal to spread information not released by the government themselves and I don’t want anything to happen to me, all I will say is that the situation is very bad over here, more than what the media is reporting abroad. My dorm building isn’t allowing people to leave unless you have a really good excuse, and even then, you won’t find many people out and about anyway.

My roommate and I took 2 trips to different supermarkets only to find a lot of essentials like veg completely gone, although I hear they’re restocked now. I’m not at the centre of this (Wuhan, in Hubei province), I’m only in Hunan province, so if the situation is that bad here, I can only imagine what the people in Wuhan are going through.

All I hope for is this virus to be contained as soon as possible, although I know that it will continue to get worse before it gets better. If anyone is in China reading this, I hope you stay safe and healthy, and if anyone abroad is reading this, I hope you can do some research into this issue and spread the information you find. I do give little daily updates on my Twitter and Instagram, so if you're interested, be sure to follow me on there!

That’s all I have to say for now! It’s been a season of highs and lows, and I’m currently going through one of those lows, but I know that it will eventually get better soon. I’ll see you all in the next one!