I swear, Ireland must be in a time zone all its own, one that runs so much quicker than anywhere else in the world. I’ve been here for a little over a month and am nearly halfway through my fourth week of classes, yet it feels like I could have arrived just a few nights ago. There’s never enough time in a day to do all I want to do and have to do – I’m still fighting to find some kind of balance.
But, even though half the time I feel like I can’t catch a breath, I’m loving every moment of this great adventure.
I’ve made some new friends, and get along well with my roommates – primarily other med students from the States, plus a Canadian dentistry student and a Swedish engineer here on exchange (I’ll be abbreviating names for privacy reasons). We’re all right around the same age, and it’s nice to have a group of other international students to flounder around with. And boy, has there been some floundering!
From trying to figure out exactly what different things are called (eg: icing sugar, not powdered sugar), to locating where different stores are in the city to get what we need, it’s been quite the undertaking. So far I haven’t used a taxi or bus since my trip from the airport, so we’ve carried everything we’ve bought on foot. Even if it meant rolling a suitcase across town with N, the engineering student, to get the pots, pans, and other kitchen essentials needed to get us started.
Class-wise, my schedule’s demanding. Most of our days start at 9am, going to 4 or 5 with an hour off for lunch. We don’t even move lecture halls between lectures – We’re given 10 minutes to stretch, go to the bathroom (quite a feat with 180 people in our class), and then the next professor comes in to cover their subject. Some days we’ll have double doses of lectures – next Monday is a double anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry day, for instance – but some days are a bit lighter, with just two hours of case study work and a lab class every other week. Those days make for a good time to quickly catch our breaths and prepare for the next round of lectures – there’s always more to learn and more to do because we move so quickly through the material.
Though at times I wish we could slow down a little, I do enjoy the teaching style. Everything circles back to the patient, to the clinical aspects of what we’re learning, giving it all tangible meaning. Rather than just name the parts of the bone in anatomy, we’re asked to think about what would happen if it fractured at a specific point – what other structures would be damaged? How would we test to see if these structures are functioning properly? The same with biochemistry and physiology – we’re already asked to see how all our subjects interact with one another in a systematic view, both when things are fine in a healthy individual, and what goes wrong in a disease state.
Even our anatomy lab, where we primarily work with donors (not cadavers – donors), it’s stressed to remember the person behind whatever facet we’re studying. We’re told the names and ages of the donors we work with, and other confidential information, to remind us that even though they’re deceased, they deserve as much respect as a living patient would. We’re not supposed to distance ourselves from what we’re doing and dehumanize our donors, something I’ve heard is a common aspect of anatomy lab in med school back home. It’s one of the main differences I treasure most about the class style here.
The other is a more widely seen facet – the lack of competition. Our first day here, we were told that our goal shouldn’t be to outshine one another. Instead, we should pool our resources and the many different experiences that have brought us to this point to better one another. Grades are given based on the amount of knowledge and effort demonstrated, not because we fell on a given section of the bell curve. So we share our knowledge and study tips freely, both in case study work and outside of it, because we have nothing driving us to focus only on ourselves.. As someone who prefers cooperative work and hates speaking up, for fear of drowning out others, it’s quite refreshing.
Sadly, two things I haven’t had much time for in this month are writing and sight seeing. I’m hoping to fix both of those soon, what with Nanowrimo and a few short breaks coming up in a few weeks.
I walk almost 5 miles roundtrip to class each day, passing Christ Church and Dublin Castle as I go. I know there’s more in the area besides just those two places, areas I do want to see, so it seems a shame to walk past them for weeks on end without taking the time to truly enjoy them. Maybe this weekend, after our first anatomy exam (just an hour or so until that happens!), I’ll make that time.
Apologies for such a long update with no pictures! I’m going to make an effort to update more regularly and balance these out again. Once I have a bit more time I’ll try to share some about my one excursion so far, a day at the Phoenix Park Zoo with friends, and include lots of pictures.