How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

When I last checked in I was about to start my last placement of third year. And now, here I am, about to start my first placement of fourth year. I never thought I’d see this day. Back in first year, even making it to clinicals seemed impossibly far away. Now the finish line is in sight!

Not sure what I have to say, what I have to update… Third year was definitely my favourite year of medical school thus far.

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Learning How to Die

Hello, new year, new you and all of that.

To quote the great Benjamin Gibbard, “so this is the new year, and I don’t feel any different”.

In 2014 I am determined to really live my life, now that I’m in my twenties (omggggg) – I want to live a life of constant wonder, at the beauty of people, of nature, of things, and their intrinsic values. I want my capacity for amazement and love to be pushed to its limit. I want to constantly see people through God’s eyes.

And I think the only way I can do this is to die. To die-to-self. More of You, and less of me. I don’t just have to take up my cross and follow Jesus, I have to nail myself to it. Everyday. I think the Christian life is a hard one because it confronts you with the parts of yourself you dislike the most – but (it more than) comforts with the fact that we are being transformed into who God destined us to be.

So in 2014, I’d like to die to self. I’m letting go of selfish ambition, of fear of what others think of me, of the desire to be validated and valued by others (even if this is family/best friends/soul friends etc etc), of all my lazy excuses to stay in my comfort zone, of my usual ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’, of judging others and gossiping and the like, of the constant comparing and running myself down. All that. Gone. And I can really really only do this by His grace, and by constantly beholding the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 3:18

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.

“This was one of the greatest secrets I ever discovered: Beholding is becoming.

Introspection must give way to amazement at glory. When it does, becoming happens. If there is any key to maturity it is that. Behold your God in Jesus Christ. ” – John Piper

2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 

Mark 2:2-22

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

A few cool things that happened recently:

1) my darling Max is not coming to London in 2014 by which I mean she’s going somewhere she obviously thinks is way better 😉 so so so proud of my bubba

2) a new year’s resolution I made was to get to know this one friend better (I think I dislike how not-deep (but that’s not to say shallow) a lot of my new uni friendships are) but I didn’t really know how to go about doing it but then God gave us this amazing conversation last night which she initiated, so see, God is really efficient! Barely 8 days into the new year and already He’s checking stuff off my list. Now, give me the motivation to exercise and get fit.

All that (idealistic? Future Me will keep you posted on that) stuff aside, exams are over, whoohoo. I still am feeling a bit lost with regards to uni (on Sunday someone (the 5th person so far) asked me ‘are you doing law?’) – what am I doing here/what do I want out of this. The aforementioned friend reminded me that we are here because we are going to be doctors, we’re not just here for the study of the subject medicine, which is very true, but I guess I just don’t want to feel like I’m tolerating the next 2 years, that this all a means to an end; I want to enjoy this whole process.

But I know that He placed me here for a reason, and that He is leading me into deeper waters (although I don’t deserve it one bit 😦 ) where my trust is without borders.

So, in 2014, I hope to trust in the Lord always, lean not on my own understanding, acknowledge Him in all ways, and hopefully be this bit closer to the destiny He has planned for me since the beginning of time, and in all of it, glorify His name.

A letter retro in tempore

Tassia here: my first guest post ever! The first of many, maybe? Perhaps a certain Master Jiniuz could write one if this humble blog is worthy enough (woah woah woah shout out).

Very much honoured to have it written by my dear friend C (has it only been 2+ years since we met?! Feels much longer). Thought I might do a little introduction before her post! C is a 2nd year medic in Sheffield (I’ve mentioned her before) who I met when we were both doing our A levels in London. She has been a wonderful friend, (we still FaceTime for 2 hours every 2 weeks!) and was nothing short of inspiring in encouraging me to pursue God in the midst of medicine and life. C brought me to church, and was my shepherd, which essentially meant she took care of me spiritually, mentored me and fed me! The views expressed below are her’s and may not necessarily be the same as mine 😉

I’ll be back to the hot, humid, sunny Singapore soon, and then either eating so hard or studying so hard that there will most definitely not be a post till next year, so have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas, and an amazing new year!

So… I survived my first year of medical school! And now that I’ve been invited to contribute as a guest blogger thought I’d do a little post about how my first year as a medic went in Sheffield. For all you people out there who haven’t heard of Sheffield (I admit I didn’t hear of Sheffield until 2 years ago either, ahem), it’s basically a city in the Midlands (middle) of the UK, about 2 hours north of London via train. A big countryside city (that sounds like an oxymoron, but never mind) that’s just about half an hour from the Peak District, (aka the best countryside experience everrrrr). Despite Shef being a countryside town, needless to say the rigour of medicine still exists. Not to mention the challenges of being an international student just about 13 hours away from home hmm.

I read an article on the British Medical Journal (BMJ) monthly magazine (Sept 2013 issue, page 9 – go check it out for yourself, it’s (Y)!) which was about 6 final year med students sending a letter back in time to their fresher selves, and so thought I’d just do my very own letter to myself too, heh.

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Project Surrender

With exactly 3 weeks to go before lectures begin, I don’t really know what I’m doing.

I went for a Freshers Event last week and met some (very lovely) future coursemates who seem to know exactly everything about what’s going on (except for textbooks. NO ONE seems to know if we use Gray’s or Snells), which makes me feel like there’s a giant conspiracy going on; some email being sent out to every med student but ME. This is all, of course, nonsense.

So since I don’t quite know where I’m going, I’m going to look at where I’ve come from and how God most definitely  brought me here. I hope this testimony encourages you, dear Reader, to hold on to your dreams while at the same time letting them go into Jesus’ hands. But I think this is important for me to record down, to consolidate thoughts (or cerebrations hehe) on just everything God has blessed me with.

This is the story of my whole journey into getting a place in med school:

It starts with what I thought was the worst period of my life. In Jan 2011, I received my O level results, which were straight A….2s. And one A1 for English (Thank GOD). Which led to me getting 11 points, far from my dream school. I was incredibly upset, mopey, and angry with God. I had been far from Him for 3 years already, and to top it all off, a friendship that was very precious to me had disintegrated, my dog had just died, and I felt abandoned by a group of close friends.

It was the best of times, was the worst of times. But of course, looking back, it was all in God’s perfect and wonderful plans to prosper me. In JC, I was miserable and developed a ‘I can’t make it so why should I bother’ attitude (side note: this is NOT a good attitude and does not guarantee one being sent abroad, please do not try at home). My parents decided (after one short conversation and a short meeting with an agent) to send me to the Land of Fish & Chips, beloved and beautiful Britain!!

God had a hand in all this; Deut 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” and Isaiah 45:2 “I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.” come to mind. (what’s a testimony without scripture right?) He went before me and prepared the way for me in my new school in beautiful and most definitely safe town known as Croydon, He brought me to people who would help me in my journey.

The People:

C, a senior in school, who was applying for med, was also a LG leader and eventually became my shepherd! She brought me to the church I’m still serving in, she introduced me to a loving and crazy awesome community in a lifegroup, and was such a source of encouragement throughout my own personal struggles and battles. When she graduated, I took over her old room, and she left behind all the research on universities she had meticulously compiled (saving this very lazy girl a lot of trouble, hehehe).

J, who I met in church. He was a 2nd year medic in KCL (then) and was one of the many pairs of eyes that helped look through my 11 drafts of my personal statement.

B, who I also met in church. In the same class as J, she helped me later in the picture, but really gave me tips on interviews and showed me around KCL.

That’ll be it about them for now!

A year of college later, I was now beginning to officially start my application for med school. I (OMG she’s finally explaining the title of this post!!) chose the name Project Surrender to intentionally remind myself that it was all about surrendering it to God and not about striving.

There are a few hurdles every potential med student has to overcome:

1) AS results (relevant to UK students only, I guess in Singapore it’s about overcoming the notoriously-hard-to-pass Prelims and getting good predicted grades :/ ).

Even going to JC for 6 months helped, because I learnt things to the ‘Singapore Standard’ (ie top in the world, imho), which made getting A’s for my AS a breeze. Here I saw that God is the God of Perfect Timing. Had I gone in Jan 2012, I’d have still ended up graduating in the same batch, but exams would have been more rushed, and I would not have mixed with the seniors as much.

2) UKCAT

This was the one I was terrified of. It’s essentially an IQ test made up of four sections that test your Verbal Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Analysis. I was feeling okay for Verbal and Decision, but worried for the numbers section. Asian I may be, but good at mental maths I am not. I blame the use of the calculator for 5 years of math classes. Add to this the stress of having roughly 15-30 seconds per question (depending on the section). The final test score is an average score of the four sections, with each out of 900. Most medical schools in the UK have a cut off of about 650+. I was aiming for 700 in my head, but thinking I’d fall and land at about 670. Even a few days before the test, I was only getting 400+ on the math section for my mocks. CURSE YOU, NUMBERS. But on the day of my UKCAT, I went in feeling like ‘this is ok, just trust in God, and everything will be okay’. I had no desire to strive or to freakout, I had no anxiety, only excitement to just go in and tackle it!

During my test, I was extreeeemely chill. It was weird, even though I knew it determined what schools I could apply to, I was just happily talking to God throughout my test. In the dreaded QR section, I didn’t even do complete calculations!! I just ‘eyeballed’ the numbers and cancelled out some options, then guessed. In the trickiest section, with patterns, there was not even enough time to make calculated guesses, I just had to randomly click answers, and could only pray ‘Holy Spirit! Guide my hand!!! Let these be correct’. When I came out of the test room, my answers were just coming out of the printer. I couldn’t even believe it was mine and asked if it were someone else’s!! Because I got

700 700 700 760 , to average 715. To demonstrate just how bad my mental math was, I actually took my handphone out to calculate the average of those numbers ok….

So, UKCAT done!

3) Personal Statement

I am honestly very proud of my ps. I put a lot of effort into it, but I could not have done it without my sister, master wordsmith! She is so gifted with language that she can point out slight negative implications of one word and suggest a more positive synonym. For example, one line of it reads ‘I believe Medicine to be as much an art as it is a science.’ I initially wrote ‘as much of a science as it is an art’, and she said that most people think of it as a science, so the emphasis should be placed instead on I thinking of it as an art and then a science. SYNTAX. This is the level of attention she paid to each line of my personal statement. The aforementioned J also helped to give a medic’s own input on it, and on what would work for me. C gave me sound advice, to start on my ps during summer, and so by the time school reopened, I tweaked it a bit more, and was done! I also think that my love for literature and strength in English helped in writing it. Before school started, I was advised to take Bio Chem Math and Econs, but I refused to let go of my beloved Literature. It was the balance for my right brain, to compensate for all the other left brain heavy subjects. I actually believe it made my application a little different from the other prospective med students in the UK who do triple science + math or BCME.

4) Interviews

I applied to KCL, Leeds, Glasgow and Sheffield.

I was aiming for 4 interviews, but I thank God I got rejected from Leeds. The rejection made me a bit 😡 at first, because I thought I had submitted a top-notch UCAS. But, I think, had I gotten all 4 interviews, I might have been proud and complacent. Instead, it humbled me, made me hungrier for my other interviews, and made me more grateful for the interviews I already had. It also served to remind me that no rejection from man should ever hurt me, or affect my self-worth, because Jesus was already rejected for my sake, and only His opinion of me matters. And He loves me the way I am! The day my rejection from Leeds came, I went home and found a sunshine-yellow letter of love from a dearest friend who I shall call Max (to her delight, I’m sure 😉 ). Perfect timing again.

I had stopped surrendering sometime around November. Can I just say, thestudentroom.co.uk is amazing for information, but it can COMPLETELY kill your confidence and peace. Stalking Reading about people getting interview offer after offer, I started to stress. I told myself I was on a different timeline because I was an international student. So I asked C to scroll through her old emails to find the date her interview offer from Glasgow came. I think I checked my phone every 5 minutes for a new email, that whole day. I still remember it was a thursday, and LG was a chill session at Costa. I talked to J and T (my beloved sheep!!), and J confronted me about this anxiety and inability to trust God. I remember taking to heart what he said, and going home and journaling and surrendering it all over to God again. (because, sometimes we have to surrender again and again to Him). I went to bed full of His peace, and woke up the same way. I remember checking Twitter/Whatsapp/Insta before going ‘oh yeah, might as well check my email’, and just casually opening it, not expecting to see anything. Glasgow offer, sitting there!!! IMPECCABLE TIMING.

My Kings interview offer, I can’t really remember when I got it. I think it was definitely before Christmas.

My Sheffield interview offer came the very morning the Spring term of school started. It was just God’s way of saying, ‘this term is in My hands! Here, a gift to spur you on for this term!’

I sometimes resent just how damn talkative I can be, and then I ramble on and on and think to myself ‘argh you just can’t shut up!’ and continue. Hehehe. Isn’t Proverbs full of warnings against the prattling fool? Always feel like God is saying ‘yup, that was written with you in mind!!!!’. But He made talkative, gregarious (IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF) me, and we cannot insult His creations 😉 So, I think I excel at interviews. I always felt that once I got to that stage, I’d be ok.

Anyway, this overly confident attitude was also bad!! I was trusting in myself and not in God. Psalms 118:8 ‘It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.’

So, even though my 3 prior mock interviews had gone splendidly, I managed to COMPLETELY mangle a mock with two church friends two days before my first interview in Glasgow. All in God’s humbling ways.

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In Glasgow, I met the son of my parents’ friends’ friends. He was in his 2nd year, and gave me some insider’s information of the course there. I had Korean dinner blissfully alone (yes this is all relevant ok), and because it was so cold and Korean food is so deliciously spicy, I decided to have a beer. I have the occasional beer, but this was a bit out of character, because I don’t drink ever the night before anything important! Maybe it was the thrill of being alone in somewhere new. Being alone, I stared at my bottle and observed the recommended limits for drinking, for both men and women. The next day’s interview threw up a situation involving drinking, and the interviewers were trying to scare me out of my certainty of my answers, but thank You Jesus because I stayed calm and I think I impressed them by managing to quote the recommended amounts! SEE, DRINK BEER. IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR APPLICATION. I also managed to give my insider’s information of the course, making me seem incredibly well-informed bahaha.

Before my King’s interview, I met B, who talked me through her experience in applying, and took time out to show me the campus! She had always been someone I looked up to in church, and to hear her say that she thought I would be fine at my interview convinced me that I would be fine. At my interview, I got along with my interviewers like we were all friends and felt they were genuinely interested in me. Digressing a bit here, but I did not feel like the Glasgow interviewers cared about me at all, they were just ticking boxes and immediately switched off when the time was up. The stories I shared in my King’s interview which had my interviewers smiling warmly and laughing at, made my Sheffield interviewers look at each other with a mixture of disdain and disbelief like ‘what is this girl even saying?!?!’. Explains why I got rejected from Shef eventually, and why I chose King’s over Glasgow. 😉

My King’s offer is another example of God’s amazing timing. It came on Valentine’s Day. I was a bit meh that day, homesick for the friend-filled affair it was back in Singapore schools, and feeling the sting of my broken heart (hahahaha why am I so melodramatic) a bit more that day. Going for LG perked me up, and sharing about God’s love made me leave feeling all warm and fuzzy. Having been there, I hadn’t checked my mail in a few hours, so I suddenly found a new update from King’s! You can’t see it on your phone, so I had to walk home for 8 minutes before I could check. I had two thoughts here:

1) I’m going to be rejected and it’ll be okay because I know SO STRONGLY how much God loves me, at this moment

this followed with thought

1.2) HOW CAN A SCHOOL BE SO MEAN TO SEND A REJECTION ON VALENTINE’S DAY?!?!

then

2) Maybe this will be the best Valentine’s Day gift ever, no cheap chocolates or tacky roses for me, but an offer to my dream school!

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I think I screamed on the phone with Max.

Sheffield was a fun time, but it was not the right school for me. Funny, everyone said King’s interviewers are mean but mine were lovely, and everyone told me that Sheffield would be a piece of cake with the world’s friendliest interviewers, and I somehow got the meanest meanies on that campus. 😦 Everything that I could answer wrongly, was wrong, those that I thought were good answers, their faces showed ‘how dare she spout such rubbish’, the interviewers interrupted me, blatantly looked at the clock a few times. I stuttered, I was stumped for answers to easy questions. I rambled on unnecessarily. Strange, haha!

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My Glasgow offer came two days before my January exam results came, and again just reminded me of how God was watching over me, and that there was nothing to be worried about.

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Writing this post over the past 2 hours has just reminded me, of how lavish His grace is. I used to never dare want things, because I felt I would never get them. At the beginning of June 2012, my self-esteem was at an all time low all thanks to an ended relationship. Now, September 2013, I believe I am wonderfully and beautifully created, with purpose. I even dared to try for a scholarship, instead of thinking ‘I don’t even stand a chance!’. I believe in myself more. And even though I didn’t get the scholarship, I’m just so happy to see I’m someone who now believes in herself and who dares to try for things, and challenge herself.

Thank you, if you believed in me when I didn’t myself.

So even though I head into September 2013 with certain amounts of trepidation, I can say with full confidence that He has brought me thus far and He will lead me on. And I will follow. Hopefully the lesson He wants to teach me in this new season isn’t about how failing and eventually dropping out of medical school will make me a stronger person, but if it is….. just watch this space. Hahaha.

Dear Reader, thank you for reading this all the way to the end.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

If you feel like you’re in a situation that couldn’t get any worse, remember the above promise. This will all be used for your good. And remember the promise that He keeps His promises – Deut 7:9 “Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands.”

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