DISCLAIMER: Firstly I want to start off by saying, it is quite a daunting task being the voice of the Biomedical Science (biomed) cohort. This is because the class is huge and full of generally high achieving and very intelligent people. Therefore it is highly likely my thoughts and opinions of biomed will differ from many others in the same shoes. Nevertheless I will endeavour to represent my ‘class’ to the best of my ability (all 1000+ of them), but may I remind you that what I write about biomed is not the only word (it’s just the inside one).
I think university classes and lectures are a shock to the system for everyone, whether they will admit it or not. High school is NOTHING like university and really isn’t any preparation for the completely different style of learning presented to you at university. In your first weeks not only are you trying to make friends and in my case survive for the first time away from home, you’re also supposed to know ‘how to uni’. No one really explains to you how it works, it is just assumed that you know to read the your textbooks, do this online quiz, do this pre-lab and and then go over your lectures all the while attending your randomly spread out lectures, labs and tutorials and trying to make sense of the mountain of new actual content thrown at you at a ridiculous pace. (Ok, sorry rant over). This is all very obvious and second nature now, but initially this completely new style of learning some time and energy to adjust to. Needless to say, the first few weeks are a steeeeeep learning curve (think bacteria log phase)
Starting Biomed is particularly intense because it’s a huge class. It’s strange to think the lecture theatre for all my classes can seat my whole high school, and that’s not including the overflow rooms, and when I say my class I mean the afternoon stream so really only half the class.
On top of this, a large portion of the biomed cohort are extremely ambitious premed students. In the first few weeks just getting into the lecture theatre was a frenzy. I am not exaggerating when I say everyone turned into animals, pushing through each other, knocking down the ropes in front of the lecture theatre and in some cases full on running to get a seat.
So far this has definitely been the ugly part of biomed. Thankfully now we are a few weeks in everyone has regained their ‘chill’ and most people proceed into the lecture theatre in a much more normal and orderly fashion, or else they just don’t come anymore. That being said, I urge all future biomedders in their first weeks to please CALM DOWN. Sitting in the overflow room will not be the end of all your medicine dreams in fact in some ways it is better than the actual lecture theatre.
As for the content, like I said it’s definitely a mammoth step up from high school but at this stage not totally discrete from high school either. People aren’t lying when they say that you will cover a whole level 2 biology paper in one lecture. They also weren’t lying when they said, treat uni like a job with a 40 hr working week because I have found this is about the minimum amount of time required for me to feel on top of it all. But unlike high school the content is much more focussed on what your interested in which is ‘the good’ part of biomed. (No pure math = happy Anneke). Already I have acquired a wealth of knowledge that seems so much more applicable and relevant to my interests than the sometimes tedious stuff we learnt at high school. Another good thing is that the lecturers change after every topic/module. This means you get to change it up every once and a while. Different slide formats, different paces, different accents, different jokes. That being said with some of the lecturers by the time you get used to them their module is over. (Bring back Fabiana!)
As well as lectures, biomedders have fortnightly labs for 3 papers this semester. These were the biggest shock for me. I didn’t really understand what labs were or how they worked and so my very first university class (a 3 hour biology lab) definitely opened my eyes.
I never would’ve thought learning to use a microscope would be so tricky. In hindsight it was an easy lab and would’ve been much less stressful if I had just prepared better. The key message there is, labs are all about preparation. If you’re sufficiently prepared they are a thousand times more manageable as long as you attend with the right equipment, focus for those 3 hours and deal with not sitting down the whole time. (That’s right no chairs in the Chemistry labs.) The other thing about labs is (except for the very first ones) they are assessed and each worth ~4% of your final grade. This means you cannot really afford to bomb out if your gunning for the top grades (which is your gunning for med you’re gunning for top grades). That being said, don’t stress too much, believe it or not sometimes labs can be fun. Take my recent embryology lab after which I am the proud mother of a four week old embryo.
If you hadn’t noticed there’s no ‘bad part’ about biomed, (well not yet anyway). We shall see what I think on the other side of my first midterm tests which I must now go and study for.
Till then, stay sane (I’ll try)