Friday, May 29, 2015

Flashback: Coming to Poland

I had just gotten a phone call. It was the type of phone call that could change my future.

"I'm sorry to inform you that our school no longer accepts US government loans."

That's the only part of the conversation that I heard.

I sat in my parents office crying for thirty minutes after that. I had two weeks left until I was supposed to come to Poland, I had already bought the plane tickets, made plans, and then this. TWO WEEKS before I was supposed to come.

I had no idea how I was going to pay for school or what I was going to do. I was totally lost.

I probably should have seen the last minute notice as a sign of things to come. But, me being me I completely ignored it (probably a good thing too!). After I finished crying, my step dad coaxed me out to the living room where we had a good chat. A week later after making some inquiries and after some long hard contemplation I decided that I was going to find a way to make this happen. I was going to go to Poland, I was going to go to medical school.

Thank goodness for Sallie Mae.

I got the money I needed. And two weeks later my father and I landed in Poland for the first time. My Dad being the pioneer that he is opted to take the bus to the hotel versus a taxi like a normal person. We had no idea how to speak the language and no idea where we were going. Luckily some old woman adopted us. She bought us tickets and showed us which stop to get off.

My first thoughts about Poland were, "wow these buildings are really run down." And looking back I was only half right- the outside might be disastrously run down but the inside of most of the buildings are actually quite nice. (Maybe that's a good metaphor for the country?)

After we arrived and got the hotel stuff sorted out we went for what would be the first of many Polish meals. KFC! 

Okay, I know what you're thinking typical Americans! I had just been on an airplane for 13 hours I can eat whatever I want. Plus, KFC in Poland isn't quite the same as in the US, it definitely has more of a fast food vibe here.

My dad stayed for about four days and helped me move into the dormitory. My roommate arrived as we were organizing all the newly purchased items from ikea. Her first words to me were, "If you see any needles I'm diabetic, not a drug addict."

I had no clue how to respond to that so I just said, "I have asthma. My inhaler is in the drawer."

Clearly we both need to work on our introductions.

So something you should know about Polish dorms. They're not the cushy rooms that North American Students are used to. No personal space here. The rooms are small. Very Small. When we laid down in bed at night our feet pretty much touched each other. But, there was something quaint about our room. Yes it was small, but it was about to become home.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Would You Want to Know?

A group of us sat huddled around a table in the local gas station at one in the morning. We were sipping cokes eating sandwiches and laughing at silly jokes.

It's amazing how conversations that are lighthearted can quickly turn into deep discussions about the very core of our existence. We sat there laughing and then all of a sudden someone asked the question: "If you had a terminal disease that cannot be treated, would you want to know?"

We were all quiet for a moment, thinking, wondering.

At this point we've seen people who are dying, we've spoken to them, we've helped them into bed, we've put our hands over their chests to pump the blood through their body, we've seen them take their last breath and die. But, would we want to know if that was what was coming soon for us?

"Yes, of course," were my friends answers. Their reasoning, "Because I would want to make sure that I live life to the fullest."

I thought for a second longer before speaking and ironically my answer was the opposite of theirs, but for exactly the same reason.

If there's nothing I can do about it for myself or future children I would not want to know. I want to live my life to the fullest, I don't want my imminent demise hanging over my head anymore than it already is.

You see I believe you should always live life to the fullest, regardless of when or how you're going to die- why should having a terminal disease change the way I live? I live or I don't.

The truth is terminal diseases aside, anyone of us could die tomorrow in a freak accident or from some undetected health problem. I hate to say it like this, but if I do happen to go, I'm okay with that.

My friend gave me an "I'm concerned" look after I explained my reasoning so I continued to explain.

I've explored the world, I've done crazy things, I've loved and been loved, and most importantly I'm happy.

I'm not saying that I want to die or anything like that. Just that, I think we should all strive to live like we're going to die tomorrow. We should enjoy each sunset, each kiss, each moment of laughter like it's our last.

If that makes me sound crazy, then okay.

I'm enjoying life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I don't have much time left here. 

It feels surreal. 

How is it over? How has four years of hard work and classes ended just like that? 

Today I began the process of packing my suitcases. There probably aren't too many people that can fit their entire life into two suitcases. 

I feel like I've lived an entire lifetime here.

I can't even begin to explain how much it hurts me to have to leave. I don't remember ever being as happy anywhere as I am here right now. 

I've been running to my favorite parts of the city more, thinking that it might be the last time I ever see these places. Even if I do come back to visit, it will never be the same. 

I know that it will be the last time I ever feel like I'm home for a long time. I'm sure wherever I'm at next will slowly become what this place has been to me. But it will take time. 

I know people will say, "look at all the other great places you will go" "change is good." 
Those people have never dropped everything and left their entire life behind. I have done this more times than I can count. 

I hate it. 

I just want to go home. But I don't know where that is.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Flashback: The Interview

Deciding to come to Poland was one of the hardest and easiest decisions I've ever made.

I knew that I wanted to come here from the moment I first saw the website my sophomore year of college. Of course I knew it would be easier to go to school in the US, but I kept Poland in consideration.

The time to apply to medical schools came around and I had my applications in the first week they were open. I was so excited and nervous. Mostly excited. There was nothing else in this world that I wanted to do.

I got interviews at a few places. But, my first interview was for my school in Poland. It was one of their first interview days in November. My mother and I drove out to New York City where the interviews were being held. It was my first time in a city of that size.

My mom helped me pick out my business suit and shirt. She helped me do my hair (because anyone who knows me, knows that I can't get it under control). We sat around for a while at the hotel and I nervously looked up possible interview questions. I had an answer rehearsed and ready to go for almost any question they would give me.

The time finally came for us to drive to the interview. We packed everything in the car and headed off. We had driven ten minutes when I realized that I had forgotten my folder with my passport copies, my research, and everything else I'd need for the interview. We made it back to the hotel in 2 minutes.

After that little mishap we made it to my interview. My mom decided to stay in the car where she could look at the hudson river and I walked- well hobbled to the building where the interview was being held. As it happens, heels have never been a strong suit for me. Why I decided to try them out the day of my interview I'll never know! Luckily they wouldn't see me walk.

I came into the building and was immediately beckoned into a room with a large oval table with 8 people sitting at it. They placed me at the head and thus the interview started. At first it was just basic, why do you want to be a doctor? why Poland? What do you do to relieve stress?... And then the question that I blanked on: Name three attributes that would make you a good doctor?

I got two. And then I totally blanked. My palms began to sweat, my hands began to shake. For the life of my I couldn't think of a third attribute.

I tried in earnest to think of something and then hastily apologized. "I'm sorry, I'm so nervous." I explained. They nodded and smiled.

Luckily, the remainder of the interview was science questions that I knew the answers to. The hardest part was deciphering what the interviewers were asking me. Many had Polish accents which I wasn't yet accustomed to, but one particular older professor spoke so deeply and with such a strong accent that I kept looking to the other interviewers to decipher what he was telling me.

After they were done with their questions they were quiet for a moment. And then the one who must have been in charge at the end of the table said, "Congratulations, we would love to accept you."

My heart literally jumped into my throat.

I was so happy.

I stood up and they each shook my hand. One of the older women gave me a big hug. I'm sure I looked like I needed it.

They gave me pens and a book on the school. They asked me if my mother was in the waiting area so they could congratulate her as well. Unfortunately, she was outside. They still loaded me down with pens and notebooks to give her as well.

I thanked them and walked calmly out of the building. And then I RAN to the car to tell my mother. If I hadn't been wearing the heels I probably would have done a heel click too.

We celebrated by going to see downtown NYC.

I was going to be a medical student.