I heaved a huge sigh of relief as I clicked on “finish and submit”. I had just completed my end of term assessment in Biostatistics, the last of a string of seemingly never-ending formative assessments we had been bombarded with since the beginning of term 1. It’s been three months but time seems to have flown by quite quickly.
For starters, we were introduced to our lectures and our very first set of deadlines in the first week. The most prominent dates were the 6th of December for the student presentation for the Public Health Programmes in Eye Care Module, and the 20th of December to hand in the titles for our summer projects. It’s amazing, really, how resilient the human mind can be. We had to juggle a whole range of different activities: formative assessments for the Epidemiology of Blinding Eye Diseases Module which seemed to come back to back, the much talked-about essay which was going to be passed through the dreaded “TURNITIN” software that detects plagiarism, the midterm assessments for Basic Epidemiology and Basic Statistics, series of lectures and seminars or practical sessions almost every day, IT classes, English classes, Global Health lecture series and other such interesting lectures, end of term assessments, and the list goes on.
There seemed to be a subtle change in people’s demeanor from the bubbly, pleased-to-meet-you attitude at the beginning of the term, to the stressed look that dominated the post-reading week era, and finally, the highly infectious “OMG-it’s-almost-Christmas” mood in the last two weeks of term time. It would have been comical too, save for the fact that I was also in the same boat.
But it hasn’t all been just about academics. There have been lots of things to get used to, like the fact that I now have to spend a greater part of my day in darkness (really weird), that potatoes can be transformed in more ways than I could ever have imagined, and that everyone minds their own business on the tube and bus (makes me nostalgic about the crazy conversations people generally engage in on public transport back home). One thing I doubt that I’ll ever get used to however, is the cold, wet weather. Coming from the tropics, I think this is something that you just have to experience firsthand to believe, especially for a self-diagnosed cold-intolerant person like me. I get almost hysterical when people say things like “wait till winter starts” or “it’s still warm”. I mean can it really get worse than this? I guess I’ll just have to take it one day at a time.
There have also been a number of side attractions along the way. I had my very first ice skating experience at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. Proud to say I made it round the rink four times without actually falling, technically speaking. Of course I had more than my fair share of near misses and a lot of help from my more experienced friends. I saw the firework display at the Lord Mayor’s Show and discovered a new Church at Newman House with an awesome, angelic choir. Then there was the morning I got stuck in the closing doorway of a Central line train on my way to school and had to be pried out by two God-sent fellow passengers. And then my biggest nightmare: my two-month long search for accommodation. In my quest to get a place reasonably close to school, I got to know most places on the London tube map and a considerable number of agents and landlords. In fact, I believe I deserve an award as the most frequent visitor on Gumtree for the months of October and November!
It has definitely been a pleasant mix of fun and hard work. And the icing on the cake? My classmates, who have become a really close-knit family (you guys almost make me wish the holidays were over already!) My head’s still filled with the stories, shared ideas and experiences, outings, constant teasing, class chocolates and other goodies, pre-presentation anxiety and the end of year party which culminated in an impromptu photo shoot (funny how most class gatherings tend to inevitably end that way). We worked hard, but we also played hard and there was always something to laugh about. I guess having a small class does have its special perks.
That said, I am thankful for this much-needed break. I hope it would be an opportunity to reflect on what’s been done and the work that lies ahead. But first, I intend to dedicate some days to sightseeing, shopping and fun…