My exam experience

Socrates quote: Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.

The more I studied, the more I realised I loved learning.

To be honest, before the exams, I was very worried. I felt unprepared but at the same time, I knew that if I was given as much time as I needed, I probably still feel unprepared.

This was as prepared as I can get.

I was scared because I was afraid that I would fail and failing means that I would have to repeat the year. The thought of repeating the year frustrated me. Doing this all over again felt overwhelming and because of that, I nearly had a meltdown.

However, as the exams came closer, the more I revised, the more I felt like the subject and I clicked.

It’s like a sudden clarity. 
Suddenly, I can see it in a new light. 
Suddenly, it all makes sense now.
I wouldn’t say that I completely understood it but I could see what it was trying to say now.

It’s odd. I spent my entire year learning and constantly revising, only managing to understand parts of this knowledge. But as the exams came closer, all these parts suddenly merged and now, I understood better.

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Exams and Economics

Image showing large to-do list and short done listWell, as the days pass, you realize the exams are only getting closer. That send terrible chills down my back.

I suppose that I have never ever felt so unprepared and overwhelmed before. There just seem to be so much work and never enough time.

Every time I have one good day, I seem to have five other bad days. Overall, it’s not good. I just end up really stressed and the problem is when I am stressed, I get even more demotivated. And so, this is not a good situation for me at all.

I really do want to do well in my year one so that I don’t have to repeat it. I really don’t want to waste anymore time or money.

As much as exams really stresses me out, I do enjoy learning. I do love going to class and simply learning. There is just so much things to digest and a lot of the stuff is really mind blowing.

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Depressed but still studying

LSHTM logoThe last month has been overshadowed for me by the terrible violence ongoing in South Sudan, which was my home for over two years.  There’s not really a good way to explain how it feels speaking on the phone to your friend who is living as an IDP (internationally displaced person) in a UN base, terrified of leaving for fear of his life due to his ethnicity, and you stuck in another country unable to help.

Map of Yida, SudanStudying has been at times a necessary distraction from being hypnotized by the Twitter page marching on with horrific news. Having finally received my books and Stata CD, I have been ploughing ahead, and am now about halfway through the course textbooks for two courses, and a third of the way through the statistics modules for my statistics course, so I feel like I’ve caught up despite my slow start.

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Distracted by putting theory into practice

LSHTM logoI’ve a really good excuse for not writing for over a month. Really good.  I’ve been too busy putting into practice the theory I haven’t even had time to learn yet. I told you all last time that I’d chosen Health Services Management as my specialty stream for my MSc in Public Health.

Well, admittedly to the detriment of my study, I’ve felt for the last month or so that I got thrown into a very long and realistic classroom scenario exercise in health services management, save for the fact that it’s not just exercise but real life.  As I mentioned last time, I got involved with St. Joseph’s Hospice in Rawalpindi, Pakistan a few months back on the premise that I was apparently young enough to help ‘rev up’ the Facebook page.  That benign suggestion was the beginning of one very long rabbit hole, that I admittedly let myself get pulled into.

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Linking studying to the real world

LSHTM logoSo it’s one month on and sadly/happily this student has now left South Sudan, after two and a half years living there.  It was a pretty hectic last month, trying to get everything finished before I left, and of course full of a lot of emotions, and goodbye parties. In amongst all that I must admit there was not a lot of time for studying, although now I am safely arrived in Cairo and have my own room to study in, this trend is changing. I had a lot of fun being massively culture-shocked going into a supermarket to buy stationery for studying :). I am trying to be philosophical about the small amount of studying I’ve done recently and hopeful that I can catch up.

'Smoking Kills' book coverOne thing I did read over the past month, however, on a day when the internet wouldn’t allow me access to my textbooks, was the excellent article by Sir Richard Doll which outlines the causal link between smoking and lung cancer.

I found this pretty amazing because, of course, it’s a knowledge I’ve always had, for as long as I can remember. Yet this article really does clearly start from a position of merely having a hypothesis that is then stringently tested, nothing is assumed. As could only be necessary in a former era when this was not necessarily something that all people knew or believed, and a desire to show facts in a purely scientific matter was also paramount. I thought he did so in not only a convincing but also an elegant way, addressing every possible riposte to his conclusions.

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The big takeaway to fit study into the busiest times

Picture of decaf espresso

Just because you’ve given up caffeine, does not mean you have to give up coffee!

A few months ago, I gave up caffeine. My addiction was come by honestly, as I remember nipping espresso from the unguarded cups of grown-ups since I was able to hold a cup.  Now that it’s time to ‘fall back’ in most of America, it occurred to me I have never faced a time change without caffeine to power through. I will save the humorous details of the week for another time and focus on how to get through the busiest time with study, work, and the coming holidays.

The end of daylight savings time marks the beginning of the holiday season, my busiest professional time of year, and a few weeks away from registering for exams.  Instead of gaining an hour of sleep on at least one night I seem to have lost two or more every night this last week. I started to wonder if, perhaps, holding onto my espresso until May, or at least January, might have been a better plan. I am coming to you a bit sleep deprived and without caffeine but quite contemplative and very realistic about getting it all done, and making sure there is time for effective study. Jelly Bean and I put our heads together, assessed our options, and came up with a plan.

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Inspired by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott quote: ‘Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think anyone will deny us.’Do you recognize the butterflies in the stomach that come with realizing exam time will be here sooner than you think? Maybe it is really a cold panic. Instead of feeling like a far off five and a half months away, the month of May, darling buds and all, instead feels more like it is about five weeks away.  Moreover, exam registration time is a mere sixty days or so away.  Glancing between the growing stacks of books on my study desk and the mountain of work on the desk in my home office intensifies the feeling. There is positively no time for procrastination.  Here are some words of wisdom from an author I am reading this week, Louisa May Alcott: ‘Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think anyone will deny us.’

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Housekeeping from the new PH Kiwi in Pakistan

LSHTM logoKia ora and Asalam-oualikum to the University of London student blogosphere. *Awkward wave* As this is my first post, it’ll be pretty much housekeeping: who I am, where I am, why I’m studying and what else keeps me out of trouble. ☺ I promise it’ll get more interesting after that!

I’m a Kiwi (New Zealander) currently residing in Pakistan with my Irish husband and just starting the MSc in Public Health. I made the decision to head back to graduate study actually largely thanks to the nudging of my supervisors during a recent consultancy with UNICEF – and after umming and aahing I finally settled on Public Health for a two reasons…

1) Everyone, everywhere needs to think about health…and there are so many different things you could focus on, I’ll never get bored! (Commitment issues perhaps?!)
2) I studied social science and business as an undergrad, and have found myself enthralled in the humanities in recent times…and firmly believe that we need these sorts of perspectives alongside the ‘scientific’ paradigm to adequately deal with the physical reality of our bodies, and minds, that simply don’t always work the way we’d like them to and can also do incredible things that we can barely imagine.

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Palate cleansing for the brain

Lemon and Lavender Intermezzo

A study ‘intermezzo’ could be just what you need to move from task to task

We do a lot of cooking and entertaining at our house, mainly because I just cannot help myself. Cooking is fun and relaxing for me and always has been.  I went to culinary school to help manage that particular problem, though the experience and all the years as a restaurateur only reinforced my habit.  There is a lot to learn from the daily challenge that comes with facing one hundred or so people all wanting something different to eat at just about the same time.  Let’s sum it up by saying it is an intense and quickly changing few hours that demand concentration. Besides the sybaritic pleasure intermezzos offer, you quickly learn to appreciate how a little intermezzo can go a long way for the chef as well as the diners.  Once a foodie always a foodie I think, so, for me, it is quite natural to think of my daily tasks in the metaphor of a multicourse meal.  As my responsibilities and academic work become more demanding, I started looking for an ‘intermezzo’ to help me move from task to task.

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New student from the newest country

Public Health student blogger NadiaGreetings University of London International Programmes blogosphere. My name is Nadia, I’m 25 years old and I’m a humanitarian aid worker in South Sudan. I’ve just started the distance learning Postgraduate Certificate in Public Health, although I hope to eventually increase this to a Masters if this goes well (fingers crossed!).

I did a BA in Social and Political Sciences and then immediately after an MPhil in African Studies at Cambridge University, leaving in 2011, so I’ve still got the student vibe in me, and I think going back to studying will be less of a struggle than for many of the other students who have had a bigger gap. However I have no health background, so I am a bit daunted when I see so many of my fellow students are medical practitioners already!

I became interested in Public Health from my work. In my two and a half years in South Sudan I’ve worked on a variety of assessments for NGOs and UN agencies, and since January I’ve been based in Yida and Ajuong Thok refugee camps, where about 75,000 refugees from the Nuba Mountains have come since 2012, fleeing aerial bombardment of their homelands by the Sudanese government to quell an armed rebellion.Map of Yida, Sudan I have been working doing various assessments of the camps, but in particular working with GIS to help NGOs on the ground – for example doing a census of all the households and linking this to a GPS coordinate so we can see how many refugees live within a particular distance of a borehole, and in which areas of the camp people have to walk unacceptably long distances to reach water. As water and sanitation was the greatest challenge in Yida this year and increased by a Hepatitis E epidemic, I worked very closely with water and sanitation experts and became extremely interested in this field and the effects on human health. I feel I applied to the course on a whim and then actually decided to go through with it as I realised it was something I was very keen to do.

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