Well, there is less than a month to our exams. I just received my admission notice recently. I am sure everyone is filled with jitters. Personally, I am filled with jitters. Especially so when I realise that with each passing day, my exams are one day closer. It’s quite scary to know that your exams are so close and you still feel rather unprepared.
It’s that time of the year again. It’s the Chinese New Year. I know not everyone celebrates this but to everyone who does, Happy Chinese New Year!
I found this year to be rather festive. My classmates are getting haircuts and buying new clothes. Even I got some new clothes. Hence, I am feeling rather festive.
I am (I hope!) in the final three months of my final (third) year of the MSc in Epidemiology (distance learning). This year I took my last elective, Epidemiology of Communicable Diseases (EPM301), and also signed up for the comprehensive exam (EPM400, the “compulsory additional paper”) and the MSc project (EPM500).
It has been eight months since my last post, which I wrote when I was about to dive into the intense exam prep period of my second year in the MSc epidemiology distance learning program. Exams for my three classes (EPM303, epidemiology of non-communicable diseases, EPM202, Statistical Methods in Epidemiology, and EPM304, Advanced Statistical Methods in Epidemiology) went well, helped by the fact that I’d gone through LSHTM exams once already and knew what to expect. The basics—create a realistic exam prep schedule and stick to it, do a dry run to the exam center so you know where it is and how long it takes to get there, and sleep well the night before—were no different. The only thing that had changed was that I parenthetically turned 50 the day before the first exam.
The University of London International Programmes has done great justice to those who want to comfortably stay in their homeland and study. It has given us a great opportunity to be around people we love and get encouraged to handle the pressure with patience. As a UoL student of LLB (Hons.) final year in Bangladesh, I personally am thankful to the one who came up with the idea of making it global. Out of the many pros and cons of the system, here is a list of some which Bangladeshi students of the UoL can relate to:
Despite the somewhat romantic notion I had about enjoying a leisurely time after finishing my degree, it has worked out to be a bit different. This summer I have had very little break time between interviewing for new opportunities, IT repairs, a 180-degree shift in a work project, finishing my home redecorating project, and preparing to enter a new academic program. You would think I could see all of that coming, but, unfortunately, no. What managing it all helped me realize is that reading and studying has been a kind of stress management tool for me, in addition to being something I really, really enjoy. Studying as a form of stress management might sound unusual to you. It certainly sounds unusual to me, but while managing all the rough and tumble of professional life this week, I realized that having my reading and intense engagement with English studies is an excellent stress management tool and helps me maintain a helpful perspective on other projects.
What a week we have had here in Pittsburgh! Jelly Bean, my collie dog, and I have accomplished a lot. We spent some time digging over and planting three new flowerbeds, began a creative project, and finished our ‘spring’ cleaning that got sadly, sadly behind when concentrating on exams and some professional projects. This week we also finally finished two big, lingering work projects. (Yes, we – she is a very good co-pilot for long stretches at my desk.) Having professional and personal projects like this is a great thing right now. While it is sinking, albeit slowly, into my brain that I actually completed the degree, I have not quite figured out what to do with the time devoted to study. There was a celebration and a few tears of relief and joy when grades were released but nothing like the sense of satisfaction that came with the invitation to our graduation ceremony in the spring.
It feels like transition time, and perfectly timed too with the lovely feeling of spring ripening into summer, not that it is always a process without drama. This week we had an incredible summer storm. In just a few hours, we had three inches of rain. A building on our street was struck by lightning, streets were closed from flash flooding, people were rescued from floating vehicles, and our garden room flooded impressively. Although Jelly Bean is normally quite brave during thunder and lightning storms, she felt better sitting in my lap as we watched this one from her favorite window seat. In an almost Shakespearean way, like our own personal ‘Tempest’, the storm arrived along with my decision to pursue new professional opportunities and set new academic goals.
What is exam day like for you? Despite planning a year in advance, for me, it always comes as a bit of a surprise when exam time is actually here. A little stress comes with this deadline that, combined with other responsibilities, can make me feel as if I forgot everything I ever knew. Then there is test taking anxiety, which for me, is another layer to be aware of and manage. I find it helpful to have a few strategies that help me remember material, and that remind me how to write a good essay.
It’s been so bad that it gets to a point where I hyperventilate and my head gets light headed. I know I should have better stress management but I have been trying to remind myself to breathe.
Telling myself to breathe has been my saying for the past few days and doing this has helped me tremendously. If you ever have the same problem as me, which is hyperventilating or that your stress level is going through the roof, well, remember to breathe. It will really help.
So I’m gradually approaching the exam segment of the second year of my pursuit of an MSc in Epidemiology. It feels like someone has been speaking Greek to me for months (otherwise known as EPM202 and EPM304) and – all of a sudden, I can understand (at least a little more) what is being said.
How do you decide on the best strategy for answering a research question?
Newsflash: It depends on what you want to know!
I know this will come as a shock to all those epidemiologists out there…But that phrase the tutors have been patiently repeating for months is (deep breath)…true.