Fax From the Future: I don’t know if anyone’s seen the show Switched at Birth on ABC Family, but Daphne, one of the main characters, one of the girls who was switched at birth, is deaf and is also pre-med. In general, though her disability is different from mine, I’ve found the portrayal pretty accurate. In this past season (2015), she started her pre-med classes, and I found a lot of her struggles and interactions in that world to be really realistic (well except for on an exam she mixed up cations and anions, which I don’t find realistic at all, but that’s chemistry-related not disability experience). Sometimes the show stirs me up and gets me mad. Sometimes it inspires me to want to tell my own story. Sometimes it kind of makes me nostalgic for the time I was writing about in this post, taking those first chemistry classes.
Now on to the original post:
I announced on my facebook a week or so ago that I’m going pre-med in school, which is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and want to say more about. I’ve been thinking of it as “my big secret” for awhile, but really it was more just something that was so new, and I was so uncertain of, that I had to keep it to myself for awhile.
I just finished a four-week summer course in immunology, as part of my biology degree. Summer classes are INTENSE. Material that is usually spread out over an entire term is squished into four little weeks, and you have class four days a week, two and a half hours a day. And overall, you cover a huge, huge amount of material over a really short amount of time. There is lots of reading. It’s intense.
To make it worse, Immunology is a 400-level biology class, meaning mostly seniors take it, who’ve had several years of bio already. I’ve had one. There are also two recommended pre-req classes to take beforehand: cell biology and microbiology. Since all I’ve had is the first year (called “Principles” at my school), I haven’t taken either. So, I knew I was getting into something a bit over my head. It was just, I really liked the immune system part of Principles, and I like a challenge and it sounded kind of badass to do something that difficult in a short amount of time, making it that much more difficult. And it just sounded soooo interesting. When I was first thinking about it, I asked my Principles prof if I would be crazy to try it. She said to me, “All our summer courses are intense but I think if someone could do it, it’s you.” And that felt really good. But I still thought it might be half-crazy to try. Anyway, the class was full. For awhile I checked, day after day, to see if there were any openings and when there weren’t, I kinda gave up.
Classes start on Monday! In one sense it feels like I’ve been on break forever, and in another it feels like it’s all starting up again so soon.
My main class will be the continuation of the biology class I took last quarter. This time though, the focus will be on evolution for the first half of the term and plant form and function for the second half of the term. I’m excited for both, though I read somewhere that in the evolution section the students have to memorize phylogenetic trees (basically these charts with branches showing how closely or distantly different species are related based on their rRNA sequences) and that sounds a bit tedious.
And my brain is full, I don’t think there is any point in trying to stuff in any more details about biology. Anyway we had a practice final and I got 78 out of 80, so I’m probably fine, I hope.
So, today is the last day of my first term. Overall, it’s been really good. Really loving the biology class, and my lab group started studying together. That’s been great! We’re all contributing, splitting up tasks like writing up vocabulary, going through practice tests, teaching each other things the others don’t get so well. I know it has been a huge benefit on both ends. It’s great to have people to clarify things you don’t quite get, and it’s also very helpful to teach something to someone else. I feel like my knowledge of how to solve genetics problems really solidified when I wrote it out to show another girl in my group. And studying with these guys is fun! Our ages range from 22 to 39 and a lot of times we take our study sessions to the bar, or go grab a beer before class or after a test. It’s been really fun, and it’s kinda cool to have people to talk with about this stuff b/c most people I know aren’t really into biology.
Okay, I just had an awesome afternoon. Today I met with a woman who works as a naturopathic physician who is totally blind. I mean, WOW. It’s one of those times that reminds me that my visual impairment is NOT an excuse to not do things! I mean this woman is a doctor! She went through classes like gross anatomy and diagnostic imaging with no eyesight at all. How amazing is that?!?! It makes me feel like, yes, I can do science stuff, and there are all kinds of alternative techniques to do visually-intense things, in school and in life.
She also invited me to a group of blind and visually-impaired knitters and I’m going to do it. I’m good with my hands, and that is something that I’ve always felt that if I were taught how to do, I could really do by feel. So I am going to go get my knit on and be a stitchin’ bitch! It’ll be really nice to get connected with the visually-impaired community too. I’m psyched about that!
So I have a bit of a predicament for signing up for classes.
I have to take between 6-8 credit hours each term this year. If I take less than six, I don’t get financial aid. If I take more than eight, then it’s more than half-time, and I simply can’t afford it even with the financial aid. Also if I take eight or less all year, then next year I can be considered an Oregon resident for the rest of my schooling, which will make all the difference in the world. I will seriously be paying less going full-time next year as a state resident, than I am this year at half-time. By a pretty significant amount!
So pretty straightforward, right? 6-8 credits shouldn’t be too hard to manage. Most classes are 4, so it should be easy.
Except that the Biology class I’m taking is a 5-credit class b/c it includes the lab. So that alone is not enough, and if I add any regular class, that puts me at 9 and I’m over my limit. So what it basically means I have to do is take some more unusual classes.
I had my first exam today. I was nervous, but I had studied hard for it. It went really well! If anything I was overprepared. I really took the time to make sure I understood everything. There were a few things I was struggling with and I looked them up online or later in my textbook b/c I didn’t want to get tripped up.
The exam covered a lot of material, especially the last chapter of the book that was on the test, which was an overview of all the parts of the cell, and was by far the longest chapter we’d covered, and was really dense, chock full of parts and processes and terms and tons of information that was different than the previous material (we basically went from some basic biochemistry stuff, building blocks, lots and lots of chemistry, to cell biology and there were just so many processes to understand).
Hoffman Hall – it would be hard to count the countless hours I’ve spent in this lecture hall
Some general observations:
Things have changed A LOT since the last time I was in school, which was only seven years ago! I had to learn how to use Blackboard (online class program thing) for all my classes. It has its own separate email for each class, as well as discussion boards, review material, lecture notes, posted grades and assignments (some of which are completed solely via the web). Also, for my first lab class we had to make charts and graphs on Excel, which I’ve never used (luckily one of my lab partners is proficient).
Fax From the Future: (First off, BTW that is going to be my catchphrase for whenever my current 2015 self wants to interject some thoughts into these old posts from much longer ago. This one was from September 2009. And the catchphrase is a reference to The Office) It is so weird to look back on this now. I have such a clear memory of walking into my first class. It was a night class, and it was still light out when I walked in, not knowing a single person or if I would be any good at science, kinda waiting for someone to tell me I shouldn’t be there b/c of my eyesight, and having all this excitement and fear. I had never gone to a school with such big classes and just had no idea what to expect. I remember I walked in listening to my iPod Classic (still have it, what else could accommodate my massive music collection?) and Radiohead’s “No Surprises” was playing as I walked into Hoffman Hall. It was the beginning of a really amazing time of my life that is still going on. Anyway, on to the real post:
…for the million dollar question in the game of What the Fuck Am I Doing with My Life?
Anyone who’s been following my blog this summer knows that I’ve had some back and forth thoughts about whether to start school in the fall or to attend a training center for the visually-impaired in Denver. But what you don’t know unless you’re one of the unfortunate people to have spent a lot of time with me in recent months is how intense and unending this indecision has been. I thought for sure I would go to school no matter what. Then I was unsure. Then I was certain about the center. Then indecision. Then school. Then the center. Then back and forth again and again, ad nauseam. And each time, I was SURE that I had come to a final decision.