Thursday, September 27, 2012


I should really take more vacations, going to Bratislava was so much more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined. I didn't get any work done- but I didn't really expect to. That's the beauty of vacation! 

Let's start from the beginning. I dropped Copper off at the kennel on Wednesday and on Thursday right after class I flew from Poland to Munich and then to Vienna. Once I got to Vienna it got kind of interesting. I had gotten instructions on how to take a train from Vienna to Bratislava off the internet and intended to do that as it was only an hour ride and 14 euro. So following the instructions I took the train from the Vienna airport to the main train station in the city.

The directions said to buy a ticket for Bratislava and then get on the train from here, I bought the ticket at an automated ticket machine because the office was closed and then looked to see what platform I needed to go to. I stood baffled for about fifteen minutes trying to find where I needed to be by looking at a big screen with all the departures listed- this is when I realized there was a problem. There were no trains going to Bratislava from this train station. So I walked around until I found some guy selling newspapers and asked him where I was supposed to be- my German being nearly as bad as my Polish got me as far as take the tram to (Insert weird German name of stop here) and go to the office and ask. 
So I went downstairs asked another person to make sure I was going in the semi right direction and got on the tram which took me across the city to the train office. By now an hour and fourty-five minutes has passed since I landed at 8pm so it's 9:45. I get to the train office wait in line like a good little girl and then ask the biggest jerk in the world what train station I need to go to. The response I get is a very rude thrusting of the train schedule in my face and another name of a station I can't remember the name of and him telling me that I'm going to miss the last train because it leaves in 15 minutes and I'm all the way across town. I ask him for a refund because it's late, I'm tired, and I've decided at this point to take a cab no matter how much it's going to cost. To which he rudely replies, you'll just have to go quickly. I then make him write down the trams that I have to take to get to this new station which he does begrudgingly and then thank him for being an arrogant asshole (I didn't say that...but I wanted to). The time is now about 10:10 pm the train leaves at 10:26 pm I sprint to the tram and then pray for the thing to go faster and hurry up! At 10:24 I make it at the station and sprint to the platform where I find the train waiting. Thank goodness I made it on time!!!! 

Anyway, I got to Bratislava at about 11:30pm happy to see my stepmom - Sharon and even more happy to see the back of my eyelids. In the end I spent nearly three hours underground Vienna because the MAIN train station had no one working at it. In addition to this, why in the world would you sell a ticket for a train that doesn't even come to said station? 

The next day I got to meet the kids that Sharon was chaperoning at the European Union Competition for Young Scientists (EUCYS) as well as a few of her friends and colleagues from other countries. Basically, if you've never heard of it before EUCYS is big science fair for the best high school science projects from all over the world. It's not as big as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, but it's still a nice size. Because Sharon was working, most of the time I was there was spent in the Incheba Convention Center; but we also got to walk in the old square and down town a bit too. 
The city itself surprised me quite a bit. I was expecting something out of Euro Trip (the movie- if you haven't seen it, it's quite a good laugh). Instead it was quite nice and very clean; much cleaner than where I live in Poland. They also have a huge castle which can be seen from most of the city. I didn't get up to it until the last day I was there. But, I took took the self guided tour and got to see a bunch of cool stuff, not to mention the spectacular views of the city. 
\Speaking of views one the the highlights of Bratislava is a huge bridge, which arches over the Danube river and has a huge UFO looking thing on top where there's a restaurant and viewing platform. Sharon and I went up with a few of her co-workers- which made for a good time (as you can see from the picture of us...). The UFO was really neat, but I wouldn't recommend it to those faint of heart; I could feel the thing swaying back and forth and every now and then it seemed to lurch in one direction or the other. 

Besides these two attractions, the town square and a few museums there wasn't too much to see right in downtown Bratislava. But, there were certainly quite a few German tourist groups on river cruises. Our hotel which must have anticipated this had a very nice spa facing the river. In the window was not your normal spa day activity, but fish. Now, I've seen this before on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel, but I've never actually seen it in real life. Fish, which clean your feet and give you a 'pedicure.' Sharon was amazed by this and insisted that we all go in and try it. The kids while not as gung-ho about it as Sharon were more than excited about it, I on the other hand couldn't even stand to put my finger in the tank. Needless to say, that as they sat with their feet in the water letting the fish attack them like hungry sharks, I simply watched and took pictures. What can I say, I'm a wimp!
The last day I was in Bratislava, I got to eat some of my favorite food- Weiner Schnitzel! And I did some sight seeing on my own. It was a Sunday so not much was open, but I saw some churches and walked around the town square. It was all very nice. I even talked to a Slovakian woman for about twenty minutes, speaking only Polish while she spoke Slovakian (apparently, they're very similar languages). When I was done being a tourist, I bought myself ice cream and headed back to the hotel for one final business diner with Sharon.

St. Martins Cathedral 

Monday morning I left at 3:00am to ride back to Vienna and catch my plane which left at 5:50 - the first flight to Germany that morning. From Frankfurt, Germany I flew to Poland, hopped in a cab and then rode to a pathology lecture.

Talk about no time to relax! ;-)

This is what Copper did the whole time I was gone. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Crazy Dog Lady

A lot of people though I was totally crazy when I got a dog while in medical school. My parents thought I was joking when I showed them the first pictures, and my classmates were convinced that I was going to flunk out. Not only did I get a puppy, I got a puppy that was going to become a BIG dog (a german shepherd) and I happened to live in a 6th floor efficiency apartment at the time.

It really wasn't that hard though! I enjoy running, so instead of running everyday I usually just take Copper for a walk. He was also good motivation to get up early on weekends. Vet bills are much cheaper in Poland as was the cost of the dog in general (a pure bred german shepherd with an actual german line for $300...that's a steal). I've also since moved into a much nicer and bigger apartment on the first floor (and I don't have neighbors who harass me on a regular basis for being American).  

I can safely say that getting Copper while in medical school has helped both my sanity and my happiness. Whether or not he's helped my grades, is still debatable.

Unfortunately, Poland doesn't seem to have very many BIG pet stores where they sell BIG bags of dog food. I need at least a 30 pound bag for every month. There are a few places that have bags big enough, but I never know when they'll be in stock, which is annoying. I've even tried ordering food at the store, but they take two months to order it, or don't order it at all, which leaves Copper kind of hungry.

The remedy: order dog food online. The food comes within the week and they deliver to my door for free - so I don't have to carry two giant bags of dog food a mile back to my apartment. Also with the website I use, they give discounts and have deals where if you buy one bag you get a free toy. This time I bought four 30 pound bags of food and in return got 4 stuffed vultures.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with four vultures, I think I'll give them to my friends with dogs. But, they are so cute and Copper loves them!!! He's currently prancing around squeaking one in his mouth.

It's easier to buy four bags of dog food than buy them one at a time. So right now I look like a crazy dog lady. I emptied one bag into a big container to keep it fresh when I use it. The other three bags are hanging out in my kitchen because I don't have anywhere else to put them.

I hope I don't have too much dinner company anytime in the next four months!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Relaxing Dinner Conversation

Sometimes, I get so busy I never leave my apartment. Most people would take that statement and assume I'm either a recluse and don't like people or I'm a workaholic. The truth is I'm neither in comparison to some of my classmates. I enjoy a good time just as much as the next person, but I'm also realistic when it comes to getting things done. I'm here for medical school and that comes first, unless of course I'm procrastinating in which case everything else comes first. 

So, when I do get to go somewhere it's kind of a big deal. Even going to lunch or down town is a reason for celebration! 

This past weekend I finally got to go out for the first time since I've been back.  It was great to finally let my hair down ( hair was in a pony-tail). My friends and I headed off for sushi and a walk around Stary Renyk (old market square). I had beef teriyaki not being much of a sushi person; though I have to admit they have a way of making raw fish look wonderfully appealing. One of my guy friends put away almost thirty small plates full of the stuff! 

The thing is despite the fact that there were six of us and no one wanted to talk about school. The main topic of conversation always seemed to about something school related. 

There was the general school related conversation: 

"How far have you read" "I think I'll finish that chapter by tomorrow and start the next"               "Do you think it'll be like the first test, I think it's a trap. They're going to get us."  "I'm going to the library tomorrow." "I don't like the library, it's too loud. All the Polish students are on there cell phones." 

And then there was the MEDICAL school related conversation:  

"CD4+ is with MHC class II right?" "I heard there's a question about a deficiency caused by eating too much goat cheese." (I have no idea what deficiency it could be). "What was the cause of death for that person in autopsy?" 

Yes, unfortunately much of our conversation could be  considered anything less than normal or appropriate for dinner conversation. I don't think we'd have anything to talk about if we weren't talking about school or complaining about Poland. Lucky for us, most people don't understand English when we're jabbering away so quickly. 

Like your conversations during dinner are any better... 

The big news is, that not only did I get to go to lunch this past weekend, but in two weeks I'm headed to Slovakia to see my step-mom in Bratislava. Lucky for me she comes to the European Union Competition for Young Scientists every year, and this year I can actually go! I just bought my ticket yesterday, so I'm ready to fly out! I'll post picts of course, but I just wanted to share how excited I am that I get to LEAVE and go on VACATION for three whole days!!!

Todays question: what is the strangest dinner conversation you've ever had?   

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cost of Attendance

So a lot of people have asked me why I chose to study in Poland, and the answer is quite complicated really. Most people think it's because I was too stupid to get into a med school in the states, the truth is I only applied at two schools in the states, and I didn't even finish the application for one of them. The other one was through the military at their medical school in Bethesda, MD (and yes, in case your wondering I didn't get in- but, that was to be expected). The one other school I applied to was St. Georges in the Caribbean, I got in despite royally pissing off my interviewer.

My #1 reason for applying at these schools was, cost of attendance. The military medical school was free, but required me to serve in the military for a few years after graduating (they also would have paid me while I was studying). St. Georges cost between $23,000-$32,000 depending on the term. Making it one of the more expensive schools in the Caribbean, but also one of the more well respected. The school that I currently attend in Poland is dependent on the exchange rate so last year I paid $17,000 for tuition, and this year I paid only $15,000. The average cost of medical school in the US is between $28,000-$47,000 depending on if the school is public or private. And remember this is only tuition we're talking about! You still have to calculate in cost of living! Which at minimum I would say $10,000 to be on the safe side depending on where the school's at, more even if the school is in some big US city where rent and food prices are more expensive.

To pay for school I usually take out $30,000 per year via Sallie Mae and I use the money left over at the end of the year to pay for the interest built up on the loan. So in sum I'm going to be in about $120,000 worth of debt when I finish (excuse me while I go cry). But, in US schools the total debt when finished is quite a bit more and ranges from $150,000-$180,000. That's between $30,000-$60,000 worth of difference! I could put a down payment on a house or buy a really, really nice BMW with that money!

There a a few other important facts as to why I chose Poland, all of which are good reasons, however in the end I do agree that you get what you pay for. Looking back, I might have considered the quality of education and my job prospects when I'm through. But, what a person can think in retrospect, cannot change what has already been done. What does make me feel better, is that after all this is done, I will be in less debt than most, and I can practice anywhere in Europe without jumping through insane hoops. Plus, by then the euro will probably be worth more than the dollar and paying back my loans might not be so bad.

There isn't a day goes by that I want to be out of here but, medical school isn't always about graduating and being finished, it's about the journey to becoming doctors and better people. What we learn here will not be the end of our education, a good doctor is always learning, always trying to better themselves and where or how much you pay in medical school shouldn't change that.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Emergency Fail

So uh...interesting run tonight. 

I was running by the park and saw a bunch of kids knock an old guy down who had a crutch, I ran over to see if he was okay (because everyone else was totally ignoring him). Only to find that he was unconscious with a lacerated scalp. 

I ran to some lady and told her to call and ambulance and ran back to the guy to start CPR if need be-he was awake by then (thank goodness). I started talking to the guy (in small pathetic Polish sentences) and he was obviously drunk, but still obviously hurt too. Meanwhile the woman takes 5 minutes to get anyone on the line and then comes over to tell me that an ambulance will be there in another 5 minutes and that she has to go because her baby is getting fussy. 

I'm left standing there like an idiot with Copper trying to make sure this guy is okay, and he's now at this point trying to sort himself out and roll over and stand up and of course there's the band of kids who knocked the guy 
over in the first place laughing at us.


10 minutes later and the man is back up and hobbling away (still bleeding, and who know's what type of mental state he was in after that smack in the head).  The ambulance had already been called, but lucky for me a pair of cops walk by and I flag them down. But, of course first they have to yell at some other poor guy who was sitting near by first. And then I have to explain to them with the handful of words I know what happened and that a woman called the ambulance, but the guy walked off...they were helpful...NOT. 
And then because the ambulance never showed up I left after about 20 minutes. 

SO moral of the story don't get hurt in Poznan, especially if you happen to be drunk: people will totally ignore you despite the fact that you're face down, unconscious, and bleeding severely.

In any normal country people would be telling the guy to sit still and stay put and there would be about 10 good samaritans (at least), all of whom would have called the ambulance, which would have shown up in about 2 minutes tops.