Author Archives: Milie Fang, Biological Sciences / Pre-medicine

About Milie Fang, Biological Sciences / Pre-medicine

I am a senior and an acclaimed workaholic. While I like to keep busy academically, I really enjoy the simple pleasures of hanging out with friends and family, playing video games, or listening to music. When life seems to go well, allergies and eczema like to butt in and make me miserable. I hope to go into medicine so that I can have a better understanding of skin and the immune system to help myself, and to also help others facing the same problems I have faced since I was three.

A few things before I go

This is it, UIC. My last blog post, ever (unless I come back for medical school, then maybe you’ll see me again). I’ll be honest. I don’t know what to say or write at this moment. Should I talk about my finals? My pre-finals week? How my graduation ceremony will be? That my family expects me to come home, but I don’t want to because I want to be here and work in the city?

I’ve gone from K-12 to finishing my fourth and last year in college in a flash. Left to my own devices, I hope I continue to grow and learn as I have been taught over the years. As I mentioned in my last post, I have decided to restudy for the MCAT a third time and dedicate way more than I did my previous two times. Sure, it was naive to take it when I did the last two times. I think the pre-med mindset and characters around me pressured me into the idea of applying and taking it as I did. I’m so close to graduating and moving on with my uncertain plans, but I’m excited to be selfish for once and use the time for things I used to enjoy, like reading, drawing, playing violin or piano…erhu here and there…volunteering in my free time…so, a two-year gap doesn’t sound so bad if I spend it well with things I love to do!

I’ll still be working, or at least I plan to fit it all in. After completing my Honors College Capstone paper, I most definitely want to stick with research! Hopefully there is space in my current lab to take me in as a part-time worker. I’m sure if that doesn’t work out, then I can apply for another research lab position (I would have a B.S. in Biological Sciences for my qualifications, haha!). I’m keeping my ER scribe position as well, although I’m still worried about how I will get home at 2am. Maybe I can find a place in the hospital to sleep overnight…I don’t know yet. The crime alerts are occurring closer and closer to campus and it makes me nervous about living in the city. Too bad Campus Housing doesn’t let non-UIC students live during the year, haha! I’m sad my graphics and web aide position will end there. I can’t believe I’ve worked there since my freshman year in September! Everyone I worked with at that time have gone / graduated now. I’m really happy I lived on campus for the duration of my education here at UIC. I’ve been looking at apartments nearby and it’s really stressful! I think about transportation, security, cost and everything people normally do…I clearly have a lot to learn still.

Oh man, and the Writing Center. I was offered a job there over the summer too, and I really want to do it! But, I need to figure out the research / scribe scheduling first…and most importantly my MCAT schedule. I have to choose a date, and then start formulating a master plan on killing that test. I wish I could just live where I worked! Things would be so much simpler. There are so many great people I have met there, and it’s going to be super sad not being in the presence of the other tutors, staff and writers.

Polish! Did I tell you we had an oral exam last week? I was so worried because our professor told us we could use ZERO English and ZERO hesitation (no um’s, uh’s, etc) and…that was hard. I’m so happy I studied a lot for it since I got full points! Woohoo! I’m also super sad I won’t have formal instruction anymore for Polish (unless I disguise myself and come back in fall for POL 103, haha!). I plan to adopt a Polish grandmother to keep up with it (Polish friends, beware!) and maybe take up learning Spanish finally in my gap year. Maybe even Cantonese. My Mandarin is still pretty good, phew.

Let’s see…my classes this semester were really great! Genetics lab was fun and Human Physiological Anatomy II was packed with information (and great information that will help me when I become a physician!). I encourage any pre-health student to take it. Happy with my choices, and hopefully this will swing my GPA up. :D

There’s so much to say, and I’m sad I don’t have time or space to go in deep all of my experiences (because I’ve expressed it over time in my previous posts, dear readers!).

GAH! Still in denial this is my last post. I don’t even know how many readers I have, or if I have responded to everyone’s comments! I guess I should leave some ways to keep in touch?

Yes, that’s what I’ll do. This is not goodbye, dear UIC and my readers. While I don’t have a current blog I’d like to publicly advertise, I don’t mind sharing my Twitter! You can follow me at @lilmissmil. I made that username account in like fifth grade, so please don’t judge. xD At some point I’ll advertise via Twitter if I begin blogging hereafter…

Still frozen here in my thoughts. My mind is drawing a blank! Perhaps a few life lessons or things I recommend you all do before you graduate? I don’t know. Sure, what the heck. Here it goes.

A FEW LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED WHILE IN COLLEGE

  1. Do not date anyone your freshman or sophomore year (school is your priority and relationships are just going to suck the life out of you – you paid money to go here!). Once you’re a junior or senior, you’re usually more aware of what your goals are and hopefully someone you are interested in can share that goal with you.
  2. Don’t drink? Don’t smoke? Don’t attend parties? Neither do I and that’s totally OK! I’m proud to say I have never been to a college party or drank alcohol or smoked anything before. I love my liver and lungs.
  3. If you need help, there are plenty of great people to talk to. The UIC Counseling Center, your family, faculty, other students…or me! Bottling up your emotions or shame or whatever burden that brings you down and sinks you in your chair needs to come out! Rant, swear, boogie, I don’t know what it is that will do that, but for me talking things out with someone with my issues keeps stress off my back.
  4. Time management is the best skill to have.
  5. Multi-tasking, similarly, is the second best skill to have.
  6. Motivation plays a large role in your success (if you can see it, you can achieve it – how awesome is that?).
  7. Being honest in everything you do will make things easier. If you make a mistake, admit it and move on! Don’t make it again, unless it takes you three times to understand why you made the mistake. Then, practice makes perfect.
  8. Stuck in a crummy situation? So are those who don’t even have a chance to go to school. I’ve said this many times before, but at the end of the day – you are in a better place than most people in this world, and if given a choice, they’d switch places with you in a heartbeat.

I’d say more, but my brain wants to shut off because I’ve got finals to study for still (funny because I attended my graduation ceremony already). It doesn’t feel like I’m done with school, and that’s probably because I’ll be learning new things for the rest of my life.

All right UIC. This is it. I’m off! To infinity and beyond.

See you around,
Milie Fang

Where do we go from here?

Remember when I said there could be a win-win, win-lose or lose-lose? As luck would have it, I ended with lose-lose as my option–but there’s a bright side to this.

First, the “negatives”:

  1. I did not receive the Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Taiwan (side note: my mother is there right now and a few days ago when I came out from scribing at Rush around 2am, I received a text from my dad noting that my grandpa passed away. My mother went back earlier than September, the time we usually try to get her to go since tickets are cheaper and we have money saved up to send her, for the reason that he was not doing well health-wise. I think it was a mix of prostate cancer and maybe lung too since he used to smoke way back when. I shed a tear or two, but nothing compared to when my father’s father passed away here a few years ago (revisit that post if you’d like)…maybe because he was closer to me? I don’t know. I miss them both. Anyway, I’m really happy I was able to see him two summers ago when I went to teach English. I haven’t talked to my mom since she’s been there, and I’m nervous to talk to her about my plans for the future since I will most likely not live at home as my family would like for reasons I will say later in this post.)
  2. I did not score where I wanted on my second MCAT. I did improve, but only by a point. But, hey, a point improvement is pretty good! Jumping over 1 point puts ahead of thousands of people, but for where I want to be…I need a drastic jump if I want to still pursue MD/PhD.

I spoke with a pre-health adviser this past Monday and gave her the full load of what has been running around my mind these past few weeks. I decided (and she agreed) that I would apply next cycle and in the meantime restudy for the MCAT. I now plan to have a two-year gap potentially before entering medical school, and I’m totally okay with that. I have four exams this week and two for finals, and don’t get me started with my Capstone paper. While I have some worry about those things, I’m more concerned about life after graduation (as most of my peers may be feeling too!). Fortunately (here come the positives), I have many options in terms of jobs. I can continue working as a scribe in the ER, and I really want to keep the job because I have learned so many things that I cannot imagine ever being exposed to. I also want to continue doing research and learn more analyzing techniques / cell culture stuff so that I can understand the methods being used in the field (and thus interpret the data more accurately when I read scientific papers – I struggle with this still!). And I’m sure if I really wanted to find another job or try at a different field, I could…

But what exactly is it that I want the most right now?

That’s the question that makes me spin in circles. I know what I need to do to achieve what I believe is what I want to do in the future as a physician. And it seems silly that a score could determine my chances, but if I treat this third time taking the MCAT as a preparation for preparing for my USMLE Step 1′s later on in the future (that apparently determine what residencies you get to “choose” to apply and hopefully get – with higher scores being competitive for competitive specialties), then good things will follow – less stress and everything. Hermit crab may be the way to go, and my family thinks it’s the best method for me to ensure success (and some people really live by this method).

Who knows, maybe I can’t handle the two part-time jobs and really have to devote my every being to this test. I don’t know. Dealing with school, extracurricular activities, five part-time jobs and other stuff seemed to go OK for me, so why am I stressing out?

I think the whole “living at home” vs “living around school where my part-time jobs are” is probably causing the most stress. I’ve been living on campus for the past 4 years and it’s been great. Everything is taken cared of. I don’t have to worry about anything besides what time am I coming home and can someone bring me back safely…that’s it! And now…I worry about how I will have to work those 5pm-2am shifts when I am not living on campus, if I qualify for UIC services that I will no longer be able to use assuming it ends when I am not a student. Perhaps if I become an employee in the research lab I could continue some services, maybe even use the gym for once! There’s so much to think about and I still have to talk to my family about it. My dad got kind of angry over the phone when I told him via my brother that I’ve made my decision to study for the MCAT while working two part-time jobs (possibly three…but that’s pending since I need to figure out my living situation and make my MCAT study schedule for the summer). He and my brother think I should just stay at home. “Why are you working? Just quit! Stay at home and study.” Ugh, not a fan of that tone — and sure maybe they can help me find a job in the suburbs…but there’s like nothing for me there.

I feel so connected to UIC and the Chicago community that I don’t know what I would do going back to the suburbs. It’s like even the suburbs are in their own little bubbles (as I term U of I) with ignorance about poverty and disparities. I couldn’t believe how different the city was compared to the suburbs when I first entered, and it made me sad that I grew up thinking that we are all equal when we’re really not.

And so, I’ve made my decision to stay. I’m not sure how I will stay, but I want to stay here and grow whatever it is that is inside of me and a remnant of my UIC education. Whether it was good or bad doesn’t matter. I am ready to move on from the lectures, labs and homework to real-world application. These past few months have been full of crazy surprises, heart and headaches. I feel homesick not for my “home,” but for the innocence left in the life I live that wonders where the light at the end of the tunnel comes, if at all. Is it something we’re just chasing or can we catch up and open a door that releases from all of our nostalgic feelings of what makes us who we are?

安息阿公…

Crisis Averted

I was becoming very concerned about the strike that was announced by the faculty union. Namely, the idea that finals would be postponed as well as graduation, which would mean that my transcripts would be delayed and applying to medical school would not happen in a timely manner. But, thankfully, the strike was called off and I can go about planning my schedule as is.

So, a few updates…I finally received an email from the Fulbright committee and I did not get the scholarship. It was a bit surprising, but I guess they just wanted someone who has never been to the country before (or went only once in their life). Otherwise, I’m not sure what in my application was not up to par with what they were looking for (and neither does Beth Powers, who helped me greatly on preparing my application). OH WELL! At least I know what I’m doing for the rest of the year, kind of.

My plan B if the Fulbright thing didn’t work out was to just work for a year as a scribe, researcher and now maybe at the writing center. I’m thankful that I have options as many of my friends who are graduating may have difficulty finding a job. However, I’m not going to make any quick decisions yet. I am still waiting on my MCAT score.

My fear at this moment is if I scored the same or below how I did the first time. It looks VERY bad to the admission committee if you do the same or worse than your first time (mainly because it means that you didn’t study differently or did not care enough to make sure you would do well the second time). While I did change the way I studied as well as the material I studied from, I did not discontinue my obligations (such as work, club stuff, etc). Specifically, I took tests constantly and reviewed missed problems over and over until I remembered the answer (and thus remembering the reason why the answer was correct and why the other answers were wrong). This process was stressed the most with the practice exams I took (the AAMC ones) and my Berkeley Review books’ materials were on the back burner as test day came closer and closer. I completely had no idea how to study for verbal the second time around, so I focused more on improving my science scores (since those are easier to improve compared to verbal reasoning). While I do wish I practiced verbal passages more, I’m not sure how beneficial it would have been for me to do that compared to focusing on science.

If I miraculously do well, even 1 point more than my score from last year, I’ll apply on time as planned. Depending on my score, I’ll either apply to only MD/PhD programs, mix of MD/PhD and MD programs, or MD only / DO only programs. Whatever score I get, I’ll just have to be as realistic as possible with my decisions.

So, if I don’t do well at all, then I’ll most likely retake it for a third time. I know the pre-health advisor told me it may not be worth it, but I think if I really decided the entire summer to nothing but living and breathing the MCAT, maybe then I would attain the score I want. After all, these past two times I had classes to worry about, jobs to work, club meetings to attend etc…if all of those disappear when I graduate and I turn into a hermit, and I do well…then I’d say it’s worth it to give myself that chance to do that method. I’d hate my guts, but I know I would be really proud of myself if it meant I’d get an insane score!

Oh well, I find out VERY soon how I did…so check out next week’s post for my reaction and actual plans to fill my gap year!

This week I have my second genetics lab exam and I’m also working 4 5pm-2am shifts. I’m kind of stressing about this, but luckily after this Saturday I have the time to study for finals like a crazy person. I originally only had to work 2 of these shifts, but two of the other scribes asked me for assistance (and being nice, I accepted). One of the girls is taking her MCAT that week, and the other wanted to be with her mother during surgery. I know that if I was in their position I would want someone to help out too…so yeah, went ahead and accepted it at the expense of me not getting much sleep this week…but I’ll be fine! I find a way to give myself energy.

Super happy I don’t have to depend on things like coffee to keep me awake. I don’t even really know how I keep my eyes open, hah! When I’m under pressure, I guess my sympathetic nervous system heightens quite a bit.

Once this semester ends and I graduate, I think the first thing I’m going to do is find some kind of spa that gives a nice massage and pretty facials. Maybe I’ll cut my hair short again too. We’ll see how the weather looks. (:

You did good, son

It really feels good to hold events for the public, whether it is going to some space like a high school class or just nearby on campus. Being there for the whole experience is the icing on top of the cake! Watching my fellow future physicians suture for the first time was really exciting, and even though I probably won’t be a plastic surgeon (my first few sutures were quite terrible, lol), I hope that the activity instilled more motivation to pursue medicine in general. The CHI-FEST Suture Clinic, partnered with Kaplan and the U.S. Army, was a great success! I’m so proud of my pre-medical club members who participated in CHI-FEST (Community Health Initiative) as well as those who figured out all of the logistical details to make these events possible.

SFP CHI-FEST Suture Clinic with Kaplan and U.S. Army

We had a great turn out at the SFP CHI-FEST Suture Clinic Event partnered with Kaplan and the U.S. Army. We learned the simple, interrupted suture as well as the simple running suture (I did not attempt the latter because I was still busy learning the first one well without cramping my fingers with the tools, lol!).

A few things about CHI-FEST: Society of Future Physicians (SFP) has a history of holding this event annually with other pre-medical organizations to engage the community concerning health topics as well as creating opportunities to network with each other and get to know current health professionals in the field. As the vision of CHI-FEST is noble, the actual orchestration of making this event possible was never really realized for the past 4 years that I have been here. There would be a medical student panel and physician panel, which was great, but nothing larger-scale than that for the public.

This year, however, we were able to have this super awesome suture clinic at UIC, invite UIC medical students for a panel and invite UIC alumni who were physicians (and a PharmD!) for a panel, have a space for our Health Education Program and Social Outreach Program members to present their community projects / educate fellow college members on health issues and had a “pre-health mixer” where we got to meet and network with other students. Ah, it was fantastic!

 

SFP CHI-FEST - Milie's Pig Foot

My horrible suturing, haha! We used pig feet to learn how to suture with 3.0 nylon and silk. The techniques were just like the ones I see the ER doctors use in the actual ER (like if someone comes in with their skin cut from glass). My first few sutures were pretty bad (so loose), but it got better as I struggled less with the tools.

SFP CHI-FEST - Alison's Pig Foot

My friend Alison had great suturing technique! "Future plastic surgeon!" - U.S. Army representatives who taught us how to suture.

Those events spanned a hectic 2 days, and before that we also had our elections for SFP. I had to run over from the UIC Student Research Forum (SRF) to get there because the staff were still tallying up the judge’s scores. This was my first time presenting a research poster at the UIC SRF event and it was really awesome! I’ve always wanted to go and present my research, but it would always be during class time and I could not afford to miss class. This year, while it did coalesce with BIOS 221 (genetics lab), we were just doing class presentations and the instructor said I could be excused. Phew!

There were so many different topics and the judges were varied as well. My poster is basic science heavy, so when my first judge told me he was a law professor, my mind was like “Oh crap I have no idea how this will be, but here I go!” When I had two judges from the medicine department come by, that was a ton easier to talk about my research and they seemed pretty interested in my work (which got me more excited to talk about it, haha!). I didn’t win an award, but that’s OK! The experience was really fun! The reception right after presentations was nice since there was food and whatnot. I sat next to an orthopedic surgeon and we talked about charting and documentation (told him I was a scribe!). After my talk with him, I think he’ll probably look into hiring scribes for his office, haha! Too bad I can’t scribe outside of my job, but I don’t mind. I really love my scribe job, as inconvenient as the hours are with my school schedule and research schedule. I’m just happy that the semester is almost over so that I can spend my summer doing research and working in the hospital (and paying off those loans!).

UIC SRF Maharshi and Milie

I took a picture with my fellow SFP pal in front of his poster at the UIC Student Research Forum! Thanks Maharshi for the photo!

I still haven’t heard back from Fulbright yet, but I’ll definitely keep you all in touch with my plans! I have a weird feeling it will be announced when my MCAT scores come out (April 22 apparently).

Ah, what else is new…oh yes I attended the 42nd Annual Chancellor’s Student Service and Leadership Awards! I’ve never been to this event before, and I also did not know who nominated me for an award (the Chancellor’s Student Service Award) since the person remained to be anonymous on the online form. Well, whoever you are, thank you so much for the nomination! I wish I understood that I received the award (I thought it was just a nomination, so I didn’t think about dressing up all fancy like everyone else was). Three of my fellow SFP members were inducted into the Activities Honorary Society (a big deal), so I was glad to watch them light their candles! I felt very proud that they were representing the organization as well as their other organizations that they’re a part of at UIC.

42nd Annual Chancellor's Student Service and Leadership Awards

I went to the 42nd Annual chancellor's Student Service and leadership Awards and here is a picture of the inductees for the Activities Honorary Society. Congratulations to my fellow SFP Members/Friends Avni Bavishi, Elizabeth Garcia and Masood Qader! Another shout out to a fellow blogger, Michael Queroz!

Eek. Only a few more weeks until I graduate…which means only a few more weeks until I stop blogging! :( I’ll have to make my own blog I guess, haha! When I have time…which somehow I manage to make time for…

LOVE!

As my father says

“If a liar says something 1000 times, it becomes the truth.”

Not sure if my dad got that from a fortune cookie or some Chinese proverb, but today it spoke to me a bit differently when I first heard it a few years ago. I recently went to watch Silencing Stigma: Speaking Out that a ton of awesome organizations came together to present at the JST Events Center to bring awareness to Mental Health and Disability in Asian American communities. I typically don’t go to events like these on my own, but because I joined MHDA (Mental Health and Disability Alliance) this semester, I wanted to come out and support. My reasons before for not doing so in the past (without the relation to the organization) rested on the premise that I didn’t feel that I belonged in the community here. I don’t know why I did not like the idea of hanging out with other Asian Americans. I guess I just preferred to find non-Asian American friends in my circle like I did in high school (had a great variety of people around me of different ethnic cultures). I’m pretty happy the Writing Center is a place of such diversity so it feels more like my high school-esque group.

MHDA Silencing Stigma Event

After the show was over, we took an MHDA group photo for those of us who were able to make it to the Silencing Stigma: Speaking Out event!

But, I digress. After attending the event, I really felt the emotion and could relate to many of the stories told, or at least sympathize. Circa Pintig, the group of actors and actresses that performed (+2 UIC students!), shared their mission and vision at the end, saying that no one is able to share your story except yourself. I thought that was very compelling and speaks greatly to why I even bother to take hours writing these blog posts. I swear, I scrapped 2-3 drafts before writing this one because I wasn’t satisfied with the topics. They were too cliche or overwritten in my opinion. Picking something unique and going with it, making it as personal as possible, is a task that I struggle to do when I write. However, the results are fantastic. I think I alluded to this in a previous post where I talked about “quality writing.

The performance was very beautiful. I hope that I may also assist others in sharing their stories in the future. Sometimes the greatest stories are those that have not been shared, partly because of the fear of shame and embarrassment, or sadness. I remember not being able to talk to many people about my issues in high school that forced me to bottle up everything inside. I think after accepting a certain amount of psychological oppression with negative thoughts, I became them.

The “proverb” I mentioned earlier relates to this. If you keep telling yourself phrases like “I suck. I’m useless. I’m an idiot. Why do I even live? Why does no one like me?”, well, it consumes you and you become unmotivated to do anything (and everyone around you DO notice, so they still continue to stay away from you or get mad at you for feeling that way — its contagious). I catch myself saying these phrases many times a day, and it’s very unhealthy. Most of the time I say it very lightly, and shake it off by trying to insinuate happier phrases like “I CAN DO THIS. STOP SAYING STUPID THINGS, MILIE. I KNOW I CAN DO THIS. JUST SUCK IT UP AND DO IT.” This post-talk after negativity fuels my drive, and I attribute this post-talk to how I deal with my stress each day.

I had a fellow pre-med club member ask me how I appeared stressed, but did not actually feel stressed. I told him I was boggled too. I stated that perhaps it was because I maintained a level that is right below my threshold of an actual crying-stressful-break-out-session. I was insanely stressed out sophomore year (I took like a million classes and organic chemistry was the bane of my existence) to the point that I really wanted to give up. I just wanted to throw everything around and scream as loud as I could. Yell like a baboon. But, I never think about doing those or post-that moment. I just don’t think it’s worth my emotional energy. I mean, being sad is not useful at all. Suffering is not useful. Pain is useful because it tells you something is wrong, but choosing to not do something about that pain is completely stupid and useless, and it’s a choice that many people and even I have chosen during our lives. I also just think about how I have it really good. I actually am in college and millions of people around the world would give anything to be in my shoes. I think about how I have two eyes, a nose, a mouth, ears, toes, feet, legs, etc. I’m so thankful to have those things, and I’m sure many of us take that for granted. Appreciating these things, when I look at the school work I have to accomplish and all kinds of requests by clubs or demands from other aspects of my life, I just kind of take it all and I don’t fight with these demands. I think stressing about it and being annoyed just inhibits my learning and my ability to work. And work…work is probably one of the most important things to me. I learn a lot when I work. When I study, I learn a lot too…but I have to study it many times for it to really stick with me.

So, if you take anything away from this, I just hope that whatever struggle you are struggling with–it’s a real struggle…but also know that you have managed your struggle well and if not, there are many resources to assist you on campus. I think sharing your struggle is really important, but only if you can grow from it. I have struggles, but I don’t worry about them as much as I used to. There’s always someone else out there a lot worse than me, and I hope that I can help as many people as I can who are in that situation.

Quality Writing

To produce quality writing, you need to mess up A LOT. Draft after draft, scrap after scrap. The second component of quality writing is evaluation and review. Sometimes we don’t realize our mistakes, and that’s where your lovely friend, the peer reviewer, comes into play. While some may say getting over 100 people to look at your essay is a bit much, I actually don’t think it’s a bad idea. Besides, a larger sample size produces more accurate results. The issue with having 100 people look over your essay is what, out of all of those responses, will you listen to?

Another note, I would not consider my blog posts as “quality writing”. This is a medium to share what I feel in the moment that may transcend into the future, but for the most part are just whimsical musings that you can take or leave alone. Edits are made here and there, but this is as raw as my writing can get! The beauty of expressing yourself in a medium such as a blog is that you’re exposed to anything on the internet. Whether it be love, hatred, disgust, wonder or ambivalence–there’s some affect that results (and no, I did not make a typo, although I suppose it could work either way if you think about it).

Why the interest in talking about quality writing today? Well, I have been stuck on my medical school personal statement for a long time. My very first draft was a total disaster (of course, when writing it, I thought it was so amazing and beautiful). After having my first pre-health appointment discussing it, I was totally crushed and cried afterwards! No, the pre-health advisor wasn’t mean or anything, but it comes off as this on face value. The fact of the matter is that the pre-health advisor is there to guide you on what is ideal and steer you away from the common mistakes that people make on the personal statement or other parts of the application. Thank goodness I’ve improved my GPA (especially science) for the past 2 years…not sure how you’d fix that in a jiffy…but luckily writing is a malleable form that anyone can improve on.

The second draft I attempted was completely different from the first draft. I steered far away from anything that could be said in other parts of my application (experiences, extra-curricular activities, good GPA, etc). I focused more on my intent to pursue medicine, touching on my experience living with eczema and volunteering to teach health education with my pre-medical club. I had a lot of help from an MD/PhD student here at UIC (she’s so awesome and very encouraging) who spent a whole day helping me hammer out ideas for my personal statement. It was super fun! And that draft was nice…but I wrote it this past summer’s cycle and reading it again now gives me a nice feeling, but not the feeling that I want to feel when I read it.

What do you feel when you read something amazing? I recall listening to personal statements being read during high school at the beginning of senior year, and the best ones I felt were the ones that made me tear up inside (happy and sad tears at the same time). They made me feel like I was lifted from one place to another (a better place). However, complete separation of whatever struggle mentioned in the essay never appealed to me. And, I think that’s my issue with my current draft of the essay. I don’t touch on what I want to say about eczema and how it has affected me as person, my schoolwork or how I continually deal with it. And then, the strength that I gained from realizing these issues and applying this towards why I want to be a physician…it’s not totally there (and such little space to say so and build up that wonderful argument), but I’m going to try and hammer it out at least 10 more drafts before school ends at the Writing Center and possibly a few professors who know me well to see what they think…the drafts I had to write for my personal statement in my Fulbright application were incredible. I really think I went through over 15 drafts of that essay and multiple visits to the Writing Center (and I work there! xD). But wow, every time I read those essays to myself, I get chills. I just can’t believe I wrote something so amazing and it lasts. It really lasts. The feeling.

There’s no secret to quality writing (or really anything for that matter in this world). I think if you work hard at something, you’ll achieve greatness in all aspects of your life. Of course, the support system needs to be there. I can’t imagine doing well in a school that lacks resources or doesn’t care to see me become successful. All in all, put your best effort in, evaluate as you go, and you’ll know where and who you want to be.

Happy April! Sure doesn’t feel like it with the weather and all, but hey, I’m never surprised. Love Chicago! <3

As happy as a Chinese girl learning Polish can be

Let’s break this past week down, shall we?

  1. Second exam of anatomy and physiology is over.
  2. Round two of MCAT is over.
  3. Submission of abstracts for RARE and SRF are sent.
  4. Spring break is here (although I am making up my hours missed in the research lab and scribing effectively).

I’m not sure what to feel at the moment, whether I should be relieved or freaking out. I won’t find out about my MCAT score for another month, and even if I felt it went OK, I don’t want to give my hopes up like last year. I did surprisingly well on the anatomy and physiology exam, even though the whole time I was going blank on less than half of the questions and I was worried I was going to miss over 10 questions! Phew. I still have to wait on my lab exam, but hopefully I didn’t miss too many. I’m preparing for my research presentation at the UIC Student Research Forum as well as Recognition for Achievement, Research and Excellence in the Kinesiology and Nutrition department (although I am technically part of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, but I guess my minor in human nutrition counts). Need to prep that poster up! I was also nominated to go to Posters Under the Dome where a select few undergraduates can present their research in Springfield, Illinois. I’m excited to sign up and go, but I would have to reschedule my final exam in BIOS 221 if I do since I’d be gone the whole day. I need to think about it a little more…

There’s technically only a little over a month until I graduate. It’s crazy how fast four years past! I still feel like I just got here, haha. Well, I won’t get mushy here yet. Perhaps closer to the end of the semester I will. I’m waiting to hear back from the Fulbright committee in Taiwan if I have been offered a scholarship. I probably won’t hear back until the end of April, the same time that I will hear back about my MCAT score! It’ll either be a yay-yay, yay-nay, or nay-nay day. I’ll keep you posted on the exact details.

On another note, I’ve been having a wonderful time learning Polish again. I can’t explain how much of a relief it is to go from reviewing kinetic and thermodynamic control of organic molecules for the MCAT to running through the layers of vessels and remembering the differences between large and small arteries or veins…and then peeking at my calendar for my list of to do’s with “oh man I still have Polish homework”, but then feel the rush of actually doing the homework and listening to the CDs that come with the textbook and end up saying “OK, one more time because I really want to know what they’re saying…” to inadvertently being all giddy when good grammar clicks in my head. It’s so fulfilling, and my advice to those who’ve always wanted to learn another language and have not had the chance to, it’s never too late! Never in a million years would I think that I would learn another language such as Polish. Spanish was an easy choice for most to choose, and while I will most likely have to learn it in the future, I didn’t have to learn Polish by any means. I already fulfilled my language credit with Mandarin (it’s a shame they do not have upper level language courses beyond 104 or 112!), but I was without the experience of learning an entirely foreign, new language. And how could I leave college without that experience?

I think about what it means to have a liberal arts education, and while it may or may not prepare one for the world ahead, it at least does its best to do so. I know many who pursue a liberal arts education do not find their career coming right out of college. Why? Well, it’s hard to translate philosophy, English or another humanities major into terms that employers can understand (employers, feel free to butt in with your own opinion on the issue). Apparently, and this is what I have gleaned from my peers, two things come into mind for the typical student pursuing liberal arts major: teaching and law. It boggles me, but after considering what we do in those classes, it makes total sense.

What is the skill that we are exercising in these classes? Critical thinking is the main one, and the second is reading and writing. Anything else? When I think about my “liberal arts education”, it’s a lot of the former with a vast amount of memorization of scientific facts and concepts. Do we learn to apply it here in college? I’ll be honest; I don’t think so. Until I met the MCAT, I did not understand what “application” really meant. The crash course with Kaplan helped, and my extra reading with the Berkeley Review assisted in formulating this idea, but in my actual classes? I can’t recall a time. Perhaps this is one of the cons of public education and the reason most private universities are labeled as “top universities”. The approaches are different. Here, we memorize like there’s no tomorrow and we cram like there’s no tomorrow. Over there (some magical place in a private institution), they read, apply and synthesize information. In other words, those students think much differently on many levels compared to how most students here think. And maybe this different idea of thinking is distinctly evident in the job market post-college.

Sometimes I feel very “one path-ed” in my way of approaching problems, and that’s not going to make me stand out once I’m out there in the real world. Of course, I’m thankful for being insane and forcing myself into as many uncomfortable situations as possible to see how I would do and react (so that the next time it ever happened, I would know what to do or at least have a mediator). So, for the time being, I’ll be all right. For my peers and those still in school? I want to explore more options for them. Once you’re out of school, it’s very difficult to decide to change everything you ever knew about yourself and your goals, but it’s such a common blockade for people to go through because they didn’t understand while they were in college at the time what they wanted to do.

Or rather, they had their life all planned out. They’d go to school, get a job right away or get into graduate school and then get married, have kids and life a happy life with a nice standard of living than the one you were born into. And then, maybe senior year of college of post-college things instantly changed. You had to pay for your own rent, worry about paying off your college debt, budget for food and/or adjusting your resume and cover letters for every job opening you saw online. Shamed and did not want to ask for help, a hole was dug and anxiety built up. It’s crazy how typical this scenario is, and I wonder what the equivalent of this is like in other countries. I remember I was listening to my Mandarin language instructor here at UIC discuss what education is like in Germany. Apparently this is how it works: anyone can attend any class they want. For the class that they actually want to count towards credit, they take the exams accordingly and pass or fail them. It is not atypical to be an undergraduate student for eight years. EIGHT YEARS! I think FAFSA is available for a maximum of 5-6 years or something like that. I don’t know what I would do without governmental aid in paying for my education. I probably wouldn’t even go to college because it’s too expensive.

Have I gained more than what I have lost? I definitely think so. I suppose I can thank my uneventful high school experience as playing a role in most of what actions I took in college. I did sports, played instruments and studied, but it didn’t help me discover myself or challenge me as college did. While the quality of education was immensely different, there were pros and cons to all methods. In the end, college really is what you make of it, and if I was a freshman I’d probably do exactly what I did coming in. As for those who are past this stage and off to search for the next chapter in their lives with no clue where to go, perhaps they would want to return to school and do something different. The cons of going back to school may seem to outweigh the pros at first glance, but I personally think going back to school would open many doors and networks that were unavailable during a time that one is unattached to a university or academic resource. Then again, not sure what Master’s degrees can do for some people who may actually want to get PhD’s and they just don’t know it. There’s a lot of researching to do, but go with your gut and roll with the punches because this is life and we’re in it together.

Enjoy your spring break, UIC! One more month until summer (and that usually means really great weather!). I’m pretty psyched.

How to properly cram before your test

I am going to share with you all how I cram before an exam. Cramming for quizzes is the same method, but that it is done the night before and not a week before. My cramming for exams is ALWAYS going to start 1 week (okay, maybe 5 days before, but close enough) before test day, and here’s how it works!

RULES TO STICK BY AND CAUTIONS TO BE AWARE OF:

  1. IGNORE EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING. You only have 1 week or less for that exam? Do not take any more commitments! I usually do because I’m super nuts and psycho, but I highly do not recommend this. You’ll regret it very much. Your focus needs to be on the exam.
  2. GOT MORE THAN 1 EXAM ON THE DAY OR THE WEEK? PLAN TO MULTIPLY THE HOURS OF STUDYING BY 2 or 3. This is a common issue that arises among taking classes that are not spread apart (for example, someone might plan their schedule out to fit four classes ONLY on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Is that smart? Well it’s nice to have MWF, especially if you are a commuter, but those Tuesdays and Thursdays are probably going to be the worst days of the week for literally every week until the semester is over (and this can totally be worth it if you need those huge time gaps to work or study for an exam like the MCAT, but again, not my case). Anyway, you’ll just have to repeat the steps I’m going to mention by each exam you are preparing for.
  3. TAKE PRODUCTIVE BREAKS. These include eating food, using the restroom and/or stretching and taking deep breaths. Beyond that, nothing is productive.
  4. LIMIT CHECKING EMAIL TO 2X/DAY. I can’t be away from email because it piles up so quickly and I have to respond to a million people, but when time is crucial and I really have to buckle down, I don’t even think about what I need to do. I just do it.

THE GAME PLAN:

  1. PULL OUT YOUR CALENDAR AND MAKE THAT STUDY SCHEDULE. I don’t know what I would do without Google Calendar and my phone. It keeps my on track and makes me feel good when I complete tasks or get through certain things during my day (I delete it after so that I feel accomplished).
  2. STUDY SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN. Each day should be focused on a topic. While it’s a goal to cover everything each day, it’s way too much for your brain. So, for example, if you have exams every five weeks (like anatomy and physiology), your first day should be lectures from the first week, the second day should be lecture from the second week, etc. You will go over all of your notes and slides / lecture material by reading it out loud, especially with someone in your class if possible (so helpful). Review is always number one.
  3. PAST EXAMS. More likely than not, someone has a past exam that you can either find online or through academic centers / upperclassmen. I hope you got these prior to the semester, but it’s never too late to look around! If there’s 8 exams available, each day take 2 exams by yourself.
  4. THAT’S BASICALLY IT. You’d think I’d have some crazy magical way of doing it, but not really. This method is so straightforward, but the most important thing is during your studying that you review what you do not know (and if that’s everything, you better make flash cards or say it 100 times to yourself until it’s in your brain…draw if you have to!). Your confidence should boost near the end of the cramming week, assuming you really devoted the hours to go in the order that I explained. Listen to lecture capture if you have that for your classes. Rewrite your notes (waste of time after awhile, but eh).
  5. OKAY, ALMOST FORGOT. If the instructor of the class posted a study guide, DO THAT FIRST! That’s the single best source to study from, for obvious reasons. I don’t think I ever got a study guide from an instructor that was unhelpful. They didn’t make that to throw you off. That’d be kind of stupid (and please report it if you believe so because that’s not fair). They made it to help you, so use it to your advantage.

I hope this helps anyone who has their exams coming up. Papers are a different realm, but basically I recommend the same time frame. The writing center has openings so please make appointments there! You can do online appointments if you can’t go in person, and if a day is filled, you can drop in or sign up to receive texts when an opening arises.

Spring break in a few days! MCAT too. EEP! xD

To the point you feel your cells moving against your nerves

I can’t define what stress and anxiety feel like, but I can describe it as the title states: to the point you feel your cells moving against your nerves. I get that feeling when I’m playing video games. Put me in Gears of War 3 and I’ll play until it’s done because there’s no time during the story for a break and you’re constantly shooting and firing away at aliens / mutants without a blink in your eye. It makes me shiver. I didn’t think I could have this feeling when it comes to school, but man do I have the chills right now!

A glimpse at Google calendar would say it all. There’s loads of colored boxes to indicate all of the MCAT studying I have postponed secondary to my inability to motivate myself each day to complete much more (red color) as well as all of my classes, quizzes, club meetings and events that require my attendance (or that I just badly want to go – in blue color). To top it off, there’s the occasional green color that lists the scribe shifts I work (and those are quite the time-space lovers).

If you forward to the future post-MCAT, it’s a wonderful week of spring break (slight sarcasm on the “wonderful”). I am working many 5pm-2am shifts as well as working during the day at research (since I need that time to study for the MCAT now, I have to move everything to that free week). As much as I miss my family and grandmother, it might have to be the week of graduation before I see them again! The pile-up of studying to do is enormous. I am starting to think it may even push the limits of everything I know. It’s crazy to think I have been here for four years and each semester just building on each other in regards to learning, implementing and application to the future. If this is what college is really about, then I’d say I got my money’s worth. Although, I’m not looking forward to paying $25,000 in loans post-graduating. I will need to apply to more jobs to sustain myself if I want to be functional!

I spoke with a Human Rights Campaign worker while on campus and he stated he has been out for 2 years now and stated he had more money during college than coming out of college. It’s so bizarre because you’d think you wouldn’t have any money (assuming you did not work) during school, but that post-college you’d be making more money (again, assuming you found a decent job) and not have as many problems with food, housing etc. Well, totally not the case because we forget about our loans and all of the people we need to repay for helping us get here. He said he still gives at least $12 a month to HRC even though times are tight for him, which shows he’s very dedicated to the group! Unfortunately, I am in no position to help out ANYONE financially. You’d think having 4 part-time jobs would bring in quite an income, but compared to someone working full-time at one job with their Bachelor’s degree and no loans, I make very very very little. This money I make just goes straight to tuition honestly.

And even though it seems stupid to work during school when you could study and get straight A’s on every single assignment and class and join all of the clubs you want, I still think working is really key to helping you find a job post-graduation. The skills you need at a part-time job are TOTALLY applicable to the skills in a full-time job, including but not limited to: communication, time management, multitasking, improving professionalism, etc.

I am totally rambling about unrelated topics into one, but that’s just how my brain works and it’s suited me very well so far! (; I somehow got a 98/100 on my genetics exam (the first one). The 2 points I missed were totally silly mistakes. I can’t believe it! This is my second exam in college where I actually got an A on the rest (without a curve) in a science class. Even though I heard genetics lab was easy, I felt that during the test the questions were VERY difficult and specific (who knows, maybe the added stress of having my Polish exam, which I also did very well on, helped me study for biology, lol!). Has anyone done research on that? Language learning helping with science? I wonder if finding relationships within words helps apply to relationships among numbers and such. Probably, but we need science to prove it, haha!

Because of this weird feeling I have, I think I’m going to need to start exercising soon. Burn off the stress. Just go out and punch something with my MP3 rapping in my ears. Perhaps this is how medical students feel when they study…

The aortic arch in March

It’s March.

Not only that, but it’s the eighth week! The semester is halfway gone, and even though I predicted it’d come as fast as it always does, the pressure with a gazillion exams circulating my brain is kind of overwhelming. Just kind of.

To be specific, there are a ton of crazy structures we need to know on the cadavers for anatomy and physiology. The last class we had was difficult to see anything because there were 50 people crowding 3 instructors (1 TA, 2 UT’s) and there’s only so much crowding you can do around a normal person’s height (the “tanks,” they call them). I couldn’t see anything really, and neither could my lab partner who was standing on a high chair! The exam is the week of my MCAT, and I also have a Polish exam coming up (they come every 2 weeks, and did I mention I had to prepare a presentation?).

Luckily my brain is being exercised left and right, up and down, so no need to worry about Alzheimer’s (the occasional brain fart is warranted, however). Gah, and then those 5pm-2am shifts! I sacrificed working the weekends 9am-6pm for the 5pm-2am shifts Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings so that I can get more studying during the day (because at night, it just ain’t gonna happen after those tiring shifts). I can’t imagine what doctors go through because they have to work AND study all the time, even throughout their residency (and beyond that, they have to take tests every 7-10 years to keep up their certification or whatnot). I’m glad I’m conditioning myself to prepare for such a future! As much as I complain about all the things I do, I am relieved to at least know that I can handle very stressful situations and manage my time appropriately to do well in all academic areas.

But, alas, the semester is not over. I have half a semester to still prove my worth as a candidate for medical school, and while my grades are doing pretty good so far, the MCAT is a mystery (until the end of April when I know how I did for real). Until then, I need to buckle down and ignore everyone (not happening, but I try) until it’s all done with. THREE WEEKS! Then, slightly more freedom.

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