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.

Picutre of author

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.

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