For my entire life, I have never failed an exam. Study or no study, somehow, I’ve been lucky with exams. I have always taken pride in my ability to have a perfect pass record and my high marks. Failure, has never been an option neither a possibility for me. Then I came to Linköping and I failed my first exam ever. Twice.
I was devastated. For a long time, I questioned my abilities. How have I managed so far when I can’t even pass an exam, even after redoing it? I was discouraged, and all of a sudden, my belief in my natural superpower of doing well in exams was gone. Countless tears were shed and I was crushed inside. Then I thought, perhaps I made the worst mistake of my life by transferring to medical school in Sweden. I doubted myself and my decision.
I felt like a failure. I felt unworthy of staying in medical school in Linköping if I couldn’t even pass this exam after another try. Nevertheless, I persevered. I listened to my friends who told me that it’s okay to fail, and it’s understandable. You’ve never studied in Swedish and this is your first time taking an exam in Linköping and in Swedish they said. I held on to that thought for the entire of last semester, with the fear of being put on academic probation in the back of my head. I retook the exam once again in January, and I passed. Third time’s a charm.
Failing, was definitely a tough experience to go through, but I believe that it is a valuable experience to have. After all, we learn from our mistakes right? Failure is the best teacher.
5 LESSONS FAILURE TAUGHT ME
1. Failure doesn’t define you, but rather what you do about it afterwards
I had this idea that by failing, I will always be marked as a failure. Something that will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life. I was wrong. After failing, no one seems to remember that I failed, but only remember the fact that I passed. Looking at successful people in the world, like Bill Gates and Michael Jordan. Are they remembered for dropping out of college or not making it to their basketball team? Nope, they are only remembered for what they had achieved afterwards.
2. Failure is simply an opportunity for growth
After finding out that I had failed, I repeated to myself of how I knew nothing. I beat myself about it, telling myself how stupid I was that nothing had gone in my head during my entire time studying. When I got to see my score, I found out that I was only 3 points away from passing. The second time, 4 points away (wrong way I know).
Failing doesn’t mean that one isn’t capable of succeeding, but rather one isn’t there just yet. 3 points away to be precise in my case. In this case, one is given the opportunity to continue developing using the lessons learnt from one’s failure, so that one in the end one can reach one’s goal in the best way possible.
3. If your friends and family believe in you, so should you
When I had failed, my friends and family kept telling me nonchalantly, oh don’t worry you’ll make it next time. I kept saying I would do my best, but I already had failed twice so my statistics looked grim. How come my friends and family trusted my abilities so much but I didn’t? Once passing, I was over the moon, and then they told me that they told me so.
If I had believed in what my friends and family said, I would’ve saved myself all the mental anguish and anxieties from the fear of failing yet again. There really is a strength in faith, especially faith in oneself. If they didn’t believe in me, who knows if I would’ve passed if I didn’t even believe that I would. The first step in doing something is believing one can accomplish it right?
4. Not reaching one’s own expectations doesn’t make one a failure
I expected myself to have gone through medical school without failing a single exam, and on the time I expected myself to finish. I was supposed to be a graduated doctor by 23, with a perfect academic record. I’m graduating at 24, in Sweden, with a few failed exams here and there. Does that make me a worse doctor? Does that make me a failure? Nope, in the end I will still become a doctor, which is my goal in the first place. With a lot more experience than I had expected to graduate with.
5. Failing is not the end of the world
You failed, so what. Life goes on. In the words of my favourite prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
In other words, better luck next time!
“Tito (uncle), that man has a limp on his left foot, what do you think is the possible cause?”
And so starts our lecture over lunch at the Hilton hotel, about different causes of asymmetrical limb lengths, ending with the classification of the different types of scoliosis and how to treat it.
Right now, I’m in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a tropical island called Guam, which is a territory of the United States. (I know you were wondering where Guam is). I’m here for a three-week external orthopaedic placement with my granduncle-in-law, who is the local orthopedic surgeon in the region. I’m currently staying with him and my grandaunt (my grandmother’s youngest sister) at their house and am following my granduncle whenever he goes to work. It’s basically a mixture of vacation with work which I like to call, workcation. There is no better kind.
Since I was younger, I’ve grown up knowing of the many great things my granduncle has achieved throughout his career. I cannot even begin to describe how honoured and fortunate I feel to now be a part of it as his pupil. The generations of doctors in my medical family are now meeting. From breakfast lectures and handouts to clinic and surgeries, and finally ending the day with yet another dinner lecture. Everyday here in Guam has been countless learning opportunities in orthopaedics, and no time has gone to waste. Even the short car drives.
So you may be asking, how am I liking it so far? Well, I’m loving every bit of it, and somehow studying actually became fun now. I’m getting more and more tanned, bigger (no student diet here no) but definitely learning. I often reflect on how I ended up to be so fortunate with such amazing opportunities in life, but all I can do is be grateful.
This week I will be with Dr. Landström (yes, he is Swedish – what are the chances!) the local hand surgeon of the island, to have a greater diversity of cases within orthopaedics. Hand surgery cases that is. Tomorrow, I’ll be seeing my first hand surgery with him, and I better be on top with my anatomy. Like my granduncle, he is a very well-respected and experienced doctor too, who even has worked in Afghanistan. So to be on his good side, I better get back to studying, my break is over.
Hafa adai (the local greeting here which is pronounced half-a-day) from Guam! I promise to be back to write more about medicine and life here on the island. Until next time! 🙂
So I’m currently on the plane to Tokyo, and thank God they’re offering wifi on this plane. Blog time!
These past two weeks, I’ve been with my T9 class (semester 9) for our theory weeks. This theory block is called Folkhälsa och Förhållningssätt (FoF), which basically is all the other parts of medicine which doesn’t involve any actual medicine like physiology and anatomy etc. These past two weeks, were devoted to self-development, forensicmedicine and social medicine/public health.
The first week started with a three-day retreat at Vårdnäs, all paid for and provided by the medical school of course. Half of us in the class were divided into smaller groups with classmates who we don’t know at all. Together we learnt new leadership techniques and shared deep personal things with each other. Why is this necessary to become a doctor you might wonder? The explanation was this: patients entrust their deepest and most personal secrets to complete strangers, doctors, us, and the only way we can understand this if we do it ourselves. Then we know how patients feel when they visit doctors, and hopefully, with a better understanding of how they feel, we can in turn improve in our patient contact and as doctors. The first day basically began with a tough 30min presentation of ourselves to our group mates. Difficult, as we are not used to opening up to such personal things to strangers. However, who knew that would be an opening to something very special.
The second day we learnt about the different leadership profiles. I turned out to be a “yellow” profile aka a motivator. I recommend you all to do that test too, and from there you can understand what kind of person I am with my profile. The rest of the days were based on building on what we know about our leadership profiles and each other. At the end of the three days, we went home having warm and fuzzy memories from our time there. We also most probably gained weight as they gave us delicious food five times a day. All worth it.
The following days after the retreat, all the lectures spoke about inequalities in health as well as forensic medicine. I didn’t think I would be so sensitive to these things, but really, after seeing images of murder and rape and hearing gruesome stories of real life crimes, unfortunately these images reappeared in my dreams. After the lecture series, we even had the opportunity to visit the morgue. This side of medicine I never prepared myself for, but this a reality that is very real for us doctors and everyone around us too. Which unfortunately I believe we will encounter in one form or another in the future. At least now I’m better prepared.
In summary, it’s been a tough two weeks, but very nourishing indeed. Tough personally and also tough as the lecture topics were hard to chew. I guess I can’t expect my last two weeks with my semester 9 class to be all fun and games. My next theory block will be with my semester 8 class on the same theme but until then, Orthopaedics in Guam here I come! 😁
(Disclaimer: I received verbal consent from my patient to share about my experience with him.)
This week I’ve been at the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, and nothing has challenged me more physically, mentally and emotionally during a placement.
At the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, many patients come in after suffering heart attacks. They are in critical need of care, where many patients are vulnerable and are fighting to stay alive… and the healthcare team fighting to keep them alive.
The week began quite calmly, which gave me lots of reading time, but since yesterday and especially today, I’ve been running.
Running. Trying to learn and help out during critical situations, but mainly trying to keep out of the way. Running to wherever the alarm rings. Another patient is dying. Every second counts.
Yesterday, in the midst of a flurry of doctors and nurses trying to save another patient from a cardiac arrest, everyone leaves the room to discuss. At this point, several life-saving electric shocks had been given, and I was there to witness them all. Even seeing the patient in pain.
I tried fighting my tears as I realise, I don’t like seeing patients in pain. And I really wish I don’t ever have to. But there I was.
I was left alone in the room with the patient and I take their hand to comfort them. The patient then looks at me straight in the eyes and tells me:
“Jag kommer nu.” – “I’m coming now.”
Coming. Coming to a place beyond us. Coming to death. Coming to what I like to believe, life after death. Coming to Heaven.
I was silent, again fighting my tears. I look straight back not knowing what to say. What do you tell someone who knows they’re about to die, and you know it too? What do you tell someone who’s about to die?
This question wracked my brain until the next day. Could I have said anything to improve the situation? What if that really was the last chance I got to talk to them? What if I was the last person they spoke to, and I couldn’t even say a word?
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. After a rough night and morning of more emergency interventions, the patient is alive and recovering. I finished my day early and decided to pass by the patient’s room to talk to them. It didn’t really feel right for me to leave for the weekend, not knowing whether they will be okay or not when I return. I waited for their room to be free, came in, and in the end I stayed for over an hour chatting. At the end of it they took my hand and told me:
“You have an important duty to pass on your genes to the next generation and I hope you have many children… but be careful with your choice!”
I promised I will, and in return I made them promise they will be around when I come back after the weekend.
As a medical student, I usually joke that another day at the hospital is another life saved, but now I realised this is not a joke at all. As healthcare workers, we are given the unique opportunity to make great changes in people’s lives, and sometimes even save a life. However at times, we are also there as they take their last breath. Being prepared for both scenarios would make the best impact on people’s lives and today, I realised I still have a lot left to learn.
I’m finally back in medical school! I have never had a more confusing introduction…
As how it turned out, this semester, I will be doing a part of T8 (termin 8 or semester 8) and a part of T9. Owing to this, I belong to two classes, namely my old class from last year and the class above. In addition to this, I’m a hired researcher for the university simultaneously. My introductory day last Monday went a little like this:
- Roll call with T8 followed by introduction to the semester and presentation of important people
- Department fika with my research group and meeting our new student in the group
- Roll call with T9 followed by introduction to the semester and presentation of the SAME important people, hence same information
- Lunch with T9 classmates
- Orthopaedics teaching session with T9 classmates
- Back to the lab
I have never had a more confusing first day. Where do I even belong?
The next day I was in lectures + practical session with my T8 class with a research meeting in between. The rest of the week I was in cardiology, which actually has been really good. I think now my schedule is finally stabilising at least!
So if you ask me what class I’m in, I don’t know. If you ask me if I’m working or if I’m a student, I don’t normally know how to reply either. I thought it was difficult being able to differentiate if I’m a Linköping medical student or a British medical student but well, now it got even more difficult.
But it’s okay. I like it this way 🙂
Confusing, but so far so good! Here’s to a good semester as a T8/T9/researcher! 😀
Since the age of 16, I have known my way around a research lab and understand research jargon. I have familiarised myself with the research life, where everything you do is highly dependent on your cells (your babies) and the experiments you do with them. You never leave your experiment without a timer and when it rings, RUN. Otherwise that experiment you’ve paid thousands for and have been working on for the entire week would’ve been all for nothing. Or when you successfully get your results and realise that you’ve contaminated the sample?… There can be no greater research pain. It’s happened to all of us, and I know that you who are reading this who have done research before can relate.However there is one thing that has been harder to get used to. In every research group I have been in, I have always been the youngest.
As a high school student and later medical student in my early years, it was hard for me to enter a group of people who were in average normally 10 years older. All incredibly intelligent, talented and experienced, not only in what they were working with but in life too. They were in much different stages in their lives than I was. Married with their own families, sometimes with children my age. They had their lives established already with fancy titles beside their names…. and I was always just Sam.
I often felt lonely. How could I relate to these people? These people who are all so amazing, how could I match with them? I always looked up to them, and was often intimidated. Would I even be able to say anything smart and mature for them to see me as a peer? I didn’t want to risk it, so most of the time I just sat quietly and did my work until the day was over. Until now.
Since February, I have belonged to a research group in Linköping University working on colorectal cancer. Two days ago, I have finally signed my contract as a Research Engineer for the university. In my research group, I’m the only one without a Dr. title in front of my name – where all are medical doctors with years of experience (doctors/surgeons with MDPhDs mainly) except for my project partner who’s a postdoc from medical sciences, which is why they paired me with him. Two days ago, I found out that he has photographic (eidetic) memory.
Yes, I have asked myself several times – what am I doing here. If there is one group that I should feel most intimidated by, it would be this one. But rather, I could have never asked for a better group to work in. Despite being the least qualified in the group, somehow, I still feel that I belong. It was only in this group where I realised that if amazing, talented colleagues of mine see me as a peer and believe that I can contribute and belong to the group, I should believe so too.
Being surrounded by intelligent people on an everyday basis is definitely a humbling experience. Like before, I still often feel small, but now instead of questioning my own abilities, I ask my colleagues about theirs. I am given the unique opportunity to learn from the best, for me to improve my own abilities. I get inspired to dare to dream for my own ambitions, from those who already are exceeding theirs.
I have been blessed with amazing colleagues who I am looking forward to working with for the year(s) to come. They taught me that having big crazy dreams is good, because they do too. So together we dream and work for something as crazy as even finding the cure for cancer. Who knows, maybe someday we will!
I can’t believe it. I just finished my first medical school exams in Sweden. I’M FREE!!! 😀
So I just underwent my first “Tenta-P” (Tenta = exam, P = period) aka revision week followed by exams. I must say, it is very different from my past revision weeks in the UK (at least in St Andrews). Here are a few reasons why.
Revision week – UK; Tenta-P – Sweden
Also, see my previous blog post on Being a medical student in the UK vs Sweden.
1. Tentagrupp/exam study groups
Revision week: Your exam grade depends on the normal distribution of how the rest of the class does on the same exam. Owing to this competitive nature, preparing for the exams tend to get competitive as well. You’re on your own, good luck!
Tenta-P: This is probably the best thing about Tenta-P. It’s more social, and you’re not alone. Most join a tentagrupp or an exam study group (including myself) where you meet everyday to go over topics and past exam questions according to your revision week schedule. It’s basically a way to keep yourself (and each other!) motivated and on track, since you know you have to go through the topic before you meet the rest!
2. Previous exam questions
Revision week: As previous exam questions tend to get reused, the medical school don’t provide a database with previous exams. Knowing this however, students of previous years collectively made their own “previous exam database.” After one’s exam, one writes all the questions one could remember that came up, to share to the coming students the following year (thug life). This document is constantly growing and is being secretly passed down year after year like an heirloom.
Tenta-P: On our internal school website, we have a database of previous exams (from several years ago up to the one from last semester) available for us to study on, including answers. The questions also have a tendency to be reused, so there were many moments when I was beaming during the exam – that meant I had seen that question before.
3. I’m still on Facebook
Revision week: Every revision week every semester, I usually deactivate my Facebook to minimise my procrastination and hopefully increase my concentration. My friends were used to this so as revision week approaches, they would normally ask me when I plan to take my Facebook down – and make sure they have my number so I’m reachable.
Tenta-P: I didn’t close down any of my social media accounts, instead I even added another one – Jodel. It proved to be quite a fun method of procrastination.
4. More space to study
Revision week: Back in St Andrews, we only had one central university library for all 9000 students. One could say that it definitely was not big enough to fit us all. Especially during revision week. Once, I walked around the library for over an hour trying to find a space with no luck – I just ended up going home. To be fair though, it was also a form of procrastination since you see everyone there during revision week, as everyone take their exams at the same time. Because of this, an early version of Jodel and Tinder combined begun called Spotted at St Andrews Library, where students could post about their library crush anonymously. Procrastination at its best.
Tenta-P: There are several study spaces across campus and I studied in my campus which is part of the university hospital area. To my surprise, I never had a hard time to find a spot to study, and I still seemed to see my fellow medic friends at the medical school. Where do they come from? Where do everyone else study? Wherever they may be, I’m definitely happy they left me a spot to study at the medical school anyway.
5. I’m actually sleeping
Revision week: At first, I would set some alarms at about 6/7am to make sure I wake up and study. After a while, my body gets used to waking up so early, that I don’t need an alarm clock anymore, regardless of the time I go to bed the day before. My body gets used to the 5h a day sleep routine. However, when it’s an extra harsh study day, I can’t afford 5h of sleep. That’s when the caffeine pills come in. Believe it or not, all-nighters with the right company are actually quite fun!
Tenta-P: I never had an alarm during the entire time and I think I got about 7h sleep each night. I never pulled an all-nighter nor took my typical caffeine pills to help me study. I feel so much healthier – and definitely more well-rested.
6. Packed lunches
Revision week: Bringing food to university isn’t really a thing in the UK – well at least in St Andrews as there are no microwaves in campus. So during study breaks from the library, you go to a fast food place and get take out, or to a nice restaurant to eat. Considering one could get a three-course meal from Jahangir (my favourite Indian place ever) for £5 (at the time about 50kr), it wasn’t really a big deal eating out everyday. Which definitely explains why most of us gain weight during revision week. For example, a friend of mine gained over 3kg from eating take out pizza everyday during revision week. But pizza is bae so it’s okay ❤
Tenta-P: To save time, you prepare your packed lunches for the entire week you will be spending in the library during tenta-P, and keep them in the fridge. Then you bring them one by one, and eat with your fellow medic classmates with their packed lunches at the medical school. You end up eating the same thing everyday but who cares, it’s revision week. And definitely more economical (#studentlife). Thank God for microwaves in campus.
7. One doesn’t study in the evening
Revision week: As previously mentioned, late night studying and all-nighters is a thing back in the UK. I used to do at least one all-nighter every revision week and mastered the 5min nap. Literally, I’d put my head down and my friend would time me, but I would automatically get up after 5min anyway and keep going. Also, it’s so much calmer in the evening hence so much easier to concentrate!
Tenta-P: In general, the medical school clears out around 5/6pm during tenta-P. I tend to study more effectively during the evening, so I usually stay on until nearly midnight. Which is apparently unheard of as most during this time are at home relaxing – or better yet sleeping – after the day’s study schedule. I often wished I was them.
8. I’m actually doing other things apart from studying
Revision week: Life is wake up, study, eat while studying, sleep (if you can), study. Breaks every now and then if you deserve it. Repeat.
Tenta-P: So my friend Arianne from St Andrews came to visit over the weekend (yes, the few days before the exam), and I also celebrated a friend’s graduation back home in Stockholm. Arianne was a regular revision week study buddy of mine back in St Andrews, and I must say she was quite surprised by how “normal” I was. Not sleep deprived, not talking medical jargon to myself and lastly, not too stressed to not have a good time out!
We've been together in Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Morocco and now in my hometown Stockholm too. Thanks for the short, spontaneous visit – next time we'll definitely be in New York for sure! 😉 Enjoy the rest of your amazing gradtrip and congratulations in advance for your graduation!!! ☺️😁🎊🎉 #standrewsforever #standrewsalumni #USAFS #datwinddoe
9. The fear of failing
Revision week: In the UK, passing is not the difficult part and passing is not enough. You need to get a good grade as well because the better you get, the better it will be for you later. Also, your grade once again depends on the normal distribution of your class’ results. The fear was never about passing, so in a way I never had the anxiety of failing. Rather, the fear was getting a bad grade.
Tenta-P: The day before my exam, I had the biggest pre-exam anxiety ever. So bad I even had to go to church to calm myself down – God was the only one who could help me now. As we don’t receive grades but just a pass or fail on our exams, the fear was on passing as there’s nothing else to aim for unlike before. 65% total minimum was the goal, otherwise you gotta come back in August to do the resits!
10. Meh, I’ll just do the resits
Revision week: If you fail an exam, you have one chance of redoing it during the summer. No matter how well you do on the resit, the maximum grade you can get is a pass. Also, it will state on your academic transcript upon graduation that you had to do a resit. If you fail the second time however, you need to repeat the year – touch luck! In other words the mentality is: failure is not an option.
Tenta-P: Once I overcame my pre-exam anxiety of failing, I accepted the fact that I know what I know and I can simply only do my best during the exam. I accepted my highly likely fate of returning for a resit in August. I listened to my friends’ advice who have this embedded within them – doing a resit is not the end of the world. At least the information will be fresh in your mind when the next semester starts! Meh if I fail, whatever there’s always next time 🙂
Time for summer vacation. Ehh, Linköping see you during resits in August? 😂
May has been such a crazy month. Let me summarise my month in bullet points:
- I got operated on at the end of April/beginning of May
- I underwent post-op hell
- I moved three times with my newly operated arm
- My phone got stolen
Oh and of course, I’m a medical student + researcher on top of that. Now May is coming to an end which means soon summer vacation, but before that even sooner, EXAMS.
Normally during what I used to call revision week in the UK but here tenta-p, I would turn off all social medias (especially Facebook), pull all-nighters with the help of caffeine pills and stop eating. However it seems like it’s not the case here in Sweden. My friends even had plans to do things during the exam period. Much healthier I’d say.
Nevertheless, I have my game face on. I’m gonna study everything I need to know, and I’m gonna pass these exams. Until then, wish me luck guys!
Ever since months back, our concert has been sold out – my normally super organized mom wasn't even quick enough to get a ticket. People have been telling me they've seen posters, heard about it on the radio, and seen interviews about it on TV. It's so amazing and humbling to be part of such a big production, only months into my new life here in Linköping. TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT! I only need to contain my excitement for a few hours more. Carmina Burana here we go! 😁
For the past week, I have been part of the most amazing production ever. Namely, Carmina Burana.
My choir Den Akademiska Kören Linnea sang together with our brother choir Linköpings Studentsångare (the official choir of the university) and another all-female choir Da Capo. The orchestra who came and played came all the way from Gotland, as well as the soloists. We all even had a small choreography.
We’ve been working on this production for weeks, even requiring some of us (including myself) to travel in between cities to go to practices. It’s been hard work, tiring practices lasting to the night. But it’s been worth it. Last Thursday the 21st of April, all our preparation was put on the test, and our journey had met its end. And It was amazing.
Last Thursday the 21st of April, we stood on the stage of the Linköping Concert and Conference Hall and sang to a completely sold-out hall. The tickets had been sold out for months.
I’ve sang in a choir for quite some time now but this was definitely something else. And the media seemed to think so too. The local newspaper Corren gave our concert a 4/5 rating in their article, and SVT local for our region Östergötland covered it as well in an interview. Like, what just happened. Omg.
The whole experience has been so humbling and I still can’t get over what just happened. Nevertheless, I’m thankful. I’m so happy I belong in such an amazing choir with such an amazing group of girls. Until our next adventure! 🙂