Friday, 15 July 2011

Volunteering

Currently listening to: She's Electric - Oasis

As briefly mentioned in my last post, I've recently started as a volunteer at a small local charity near my parents' house where I'm staying for the Summer. The charity is a learning centre for adults with brain damage, the majority of whom have become disabled after a stroke or an accident. I was assigned to the Friday morning computer class as a teaching assistant.

Last time I applied for medical school (2007), I didn't have much in the way of work experience or at least, volunteering in a caring environment. I'd done several days of shadowing, and whilst it was very fun to wear scrubs. watch a mastoidectomy and help the anaesthetist with her sudoku, I didn't write much in my personal statement as to WHY it had strengthened my desire to study medicine and particularly, why I wished to work with people day in and day out for the rest of my professional life. Looking over my 2007 application, I have to say, it was a bit rubbish. I had the predicted grades, but my gained AS levels weren't very good. My personal statement was lackluster (I'd volunteered at Oxfam, but for the life of me now I can't work out why as it's not really relevant to the caring professions), and my UKCAT was average. No surprises, I got rejected a few months later.

So this time I'm determined to put together a faultless application. I have the grades, I shall hopefully have a good UKCAT score, and now I'm concentrating on gaining the relevant experience for my personal statement.

It was actually quite fun. Designing a poster on Powerpoint for a pretend hotel may be boring or too easy for most people, these basic computer skills can really make a difference to the clients in terms of their personal development. Simple things like copying and pasting or searching for images on Google need to be explained and taken step by step, but it's very satisfying when the students see the finished product. In short, patience is of utmost importance, it can take a while for the easiest task to be accomplished.

Today was my first session so for the final hour and a half I had to go through an induction which was basically a talk on health and safety, administration, etc. Boring, but necessary I suppose. I'll be going back next Friday, and so far it's been an enjoyable experience.

I'm also trying to get a rather distant relative (in terms of family, not location!), who works in the Immunology department of the Royal Free to arrange a period of shadowing for me in the hospital setting, so fingers crossed that works out too. In terms of UKCAT preparation, I've finished the practice questions so I've started the book again. So far I've identified several things:

  • Quantitative reasoning is simple, but I take a long time getting each problem done.

  • Abstract reasoning is mostly guesswork. Very hit and miss. But I've heard that it's just the questions in this book which are outrageously difficult, and the real exam is much nicer.

  • Verbal reasoning is fine. Get most of the questions right, and within the time limit.

  • Decision analysis is also fine. No problems with understanding or timing.

So in short I have to work on my timing for QR. If I can get a good score for the UKCAT, my chance of getting an interview at Barts and The London (my first choice for medicine) will be high, considering I already have my 2:1. The UKCAT is the final pre-interview hurdle to jump, so I absolutely have to do well in it.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Summer daze

Currently listening to: Days - The Kinks

Having spent the last few posts being either super-pleased with myself for getting a 2:1 (yes, I mentioned it again *smug face*) or writing about the funding (or lack therof) for graduate entry medicine, today's entry will be returning to the regularly scheduled programme of grumbling. I'm a bit strange. I know that bloggers often attempt to be "quirky" or "strange" or any of that attention seeking claptrap, so that's not what I'm getting at, but the fact of the matter is that five weeks after finishing my exams I'm going mad with boredom, or more precisely, mad without any work to do. That's pretty odd, or so my family tell me. I made a very similar post last year, so this isn't exactly unusual for me.

At various points in my life people have described me as a "workaholic". That's not to say that I lack social skills or I don't know how to have a good time, indeed, the many posts I've made on here about being hungover show that sometimes I have too good a time. So I'm more of a workaholic in the sense that studying challenges, stimulates my mind and interests me. Twelve weeks of holidays do not, and I feel it acutely. The voice in the back of my head occasionally chides me for being so easily bored. The voice is a mixture of all the different authority figures currently featuring in my life: my parents, my third year microbiology lecturer, Mr Hanssen off Holby City, etc. Here's what the voice is telling me, and my responses:

Why do you think people are interested in hearing you moan about having too much free time? Get the hell off of this fine establishment.

I know. My bad.

How can you be bored, you've sweated blood for three years to get a degree, why can't you just relax and take it easy?

I've relaxed for five weeks. I've had enough. There was a time (i.e. during primary school) when the summer holidays seemed too short..."only six weeks?!". Now they're too long, and I'm feeling it. I get bored after three weeks of holidays.

Do something totally random!

I gave my blog a makeover.

Get a job then, you wasteman!

My parents town is small and job opportunities are very limited. I scour the local paper for vacancies each week, but apparently you're unemployable in this town unless you're a HGV driver, teacher or accountant.

Go on holiday?

Can't afford it. This is not helped by the employment problem (above). I'm starting my MSc in September which means I get no student loan, so I can't afford to waste any money. I wanted to escape to Paris for a bit, but even that's looking too expensive.

Visit London more often then, you love London:

This isn't actually a bad idea and I do go to London once a week or so, but that's more of a distraction rather than an actual solution. That said, going to the top of Primrose Hill, taking in the view and listening to The Kinks is the definition of relaxation. I suggest you all try it.

Volunteer?

Done. Starting on Tuesday, but that's only a few hours a week. I'll be a teaching assistant at a learning centre for adults with brain damage. That at least sounds interesting.

Prepare for your UKCAT, aren't you supposed to be a medical school applicant or something?

Doing it. I've finished three quarters of the 600 questions book, but I can hardly spend nine hours a day for two months doing that, can I? I spent less time revising for my degree!

Get a hobby, I can't believe at the age of 21 you still have to be told this stuff. Sort your life out, mate!

Well I bought two new songbooks today, Oasis and The Beatles to play on my keyboard. I have no doubt that these will keep me busy for a while, but I still miss the academic challenge that came with my degree.

Perhaps I've said too much. Perhaps now anyone reading this blog will conclude I'm a saddo with nothing of interest or excitement in my life apart from my work. That's not true at all. I just like a healthy balance. I like having fun and taking it easy, but I also miss uni life. I'm sure I can't be the only student out there who feels this way. Finally, I hope everyone else is enjoying their Summer!