Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A second semester synopsis.

Alright (cracks fingers), here we go. We have five shout-outs to get through, so bear with me people. First and foremost, welcome Marika! Not only have you actually been a member for quite some time, and somehow slipped through the cracks of our nutso tracking system, but you comment on our posts and relate to things, so I don't know how we missed that one. Our bad. Glad to have you here, though. Welcome Jen (1 of 2), whom we're assuming is Denise's cousin based on the other blog you follow. Congrats on all the wicked cool things that have happened to you in the last year. We both miss the company of you and yours. Welcome Jen (2 of 2), who was literally in the same boat as me a few days ago, has a rockin' blog, and is generally a pretty cool gal. Welcome Isa, who (if I remember correctly) pretty much cleaned my clock in a poker game a little while back, thereby scaring me from ever gambling again (except for when I did, and lost 100$. Dammit). And welcome Nikki. I'm pretty bad with people's names, but a little bird told me that you'll be coming down soon enough, and then I'll have the chance to meet you. Good luck on all your planning, and we'll see you soon. All told, if you count Monique's as two people (which we of course are going to), then we have a delightful following of 30 people. What an ego trip.

No two people should have all that power.
As ever, if we've forgotten to give you a shout out, let us know. It's our pleasure.

As I write, Denise is beating the crap out of the stupid exam process at Ross, slapping it into submission. As Katie recently mentioned on facebook, the anxiety of the medical students' schedules tend to spill over onto their spouses lives, and I feel a mixture of nervousness for the process that Denise has gone through, and relief that the break is just around the corner. I thought it would be prudent to review how this semester went, from a spouses perspective anyways.

In hindsight, we were thoroughly unprepared for how shitty this semester would be. To be fair, we had been warned from the start that second and third semesters are far harder than the first and fourth, but we were still pretty blindsided. Because I like lists, here are four reasons why this semester sucked balls.

1. The General Curriculum

It's an established trend now that Ross makes the curriculum gradually more difficult until your final semester, when they want to shoo you away to make more room for other students and their money. Strangely enough for Ross, this makes sense from an educational perspective; it's better to ease students into a process before destroying their soul with too much information. Despite the warnings, the work load definitely took it's toll on Denise: she was up far later most nights studying, she had a vastly larger amount of things to learn, and generally I didn't see her as much, which adds to both of our stress levels. Beforehand people mentioned it, but I think I was pretty undersold on this point, so for those who are entering second semester: it sucks, expect to see your spouse less, and do your best to avoid a hernia. Our understanding is that third semester is more or less the same - we're just hoping that being used to this makes it easier.

Those empty eyes look so mean...
2. Damn you, recession.

I started this semester with like seven jobs or something. My schedule was pretty busy, which would have allowed me to make enough money to keep myself calm, and to stave off boredom. Because of this, I had to back out of a few plans (such as my aspirations for higher office). However, soon after coming back to the island, I lost my job teaching a private family, due to the fact that they tried to lower my wage despite my qualifications. Soon after that, Island Thrift was served notice to produce legal documentation or skedadle, and so a second job was gone. This was rough for me, because I lost two very regular sources of income, as well as about 25 hours a week of time spent on an otherwise boring island. Fortunately I was able to retain my place at the Prep School (the one job I really love), I got back an old gig as a Standardized Patient (I pretended to be sick), and managed to do the odd job with Island Thrift, as we make our way back to being a store (see previous post for hilarity). All in all, I found myself increasingly bored, and I struggled to fill my time with meaningful projects. This has turned around in recent weeks (see below), but for a couple of months I was having a rough time.

3. Wedding Planning

When I proposed to Denise over Christmas break, there was much merriment, and cause for celebration. It didn't take long to realize, once we arrived back here, that we were in a bind: Denise had waited a long time to start planning her perfect wedding, and now she would have to do it from several thousand kilometers away. I've never fully understood the desire to have a fantastic wedding, but for Denise it's important; she cares a great deal about creating a beautiful ceremony, as well as accommodating our friends and family. We'll only get to do it once, hopefully, and I knew Denise won't accept anything but the best we could get. But suddenly, we're having to choose a venue without ever being able to see it. We're having to choose colour themes without seeing them in person. We have to pick meals without tasting them. The list seemed endless, and the going was slow. For a good month, our wedding was not the subject of excitement but of anxiety, as she lamented her inability to properly plan, and grew frustrated with having to rely on others to report on the condition of her dream wedding. A couple of months ago, she decided to hire a friend of hers as a wedding coordinator, and we haven't looked back since. She's made our decisions much easier, clarified a huge amount of our questions (some of which we didn't even know to ask), and been a comfort, simply knowing that we have a source we can rely on close to home. If anyone ever needs to organize a wedding from abroad, we highly recommend using a planner, and we've only had her services for a few weeks.

That watch is so delightfully ominous.

4. The Guinea Pig Effect

All in all, I don't know how Denise does what she does. She has to pack so much information into her head that it boggles me. In two semesters, I am absolutely certain that she has absorbed more information than I did in five years of university (what with my intense English and Education degrees). And despite all the challenges she and other medical students face, she somehow gets some pretty sexy grades. For some reason, though, Ross has felt the need to fuck with her day, and this has pushed her nerves to the limit.

It should be noted that this paragraph will be a bit of a rant against Ross' method of testing. Feel free to skip.

As if Denise (as well as every other medical student) hasn't had enough on her plate, the Ross administration has been using her semester as guinea pigs several times over. I grant you, experimentation is expected and even healthy in a large educational institution; it keeps the system innovative, and adapts to necessary demands by the students. But some of the changes they've been making are baffling, amateur, and downright malicious. I try not to be a douche and talk too much about my profession, but it is very clear to me that no one on the Ross staff has an Education degree; or, at least, no one who makes decisions about assessment ever consults anyone with an Education degree. They've changed the testing system, as well as the process to challenge results, to a new method that is drastically detrimental to students' learning. Their exams switched from classic pencil and paper, where students can control the ebb and flow of the questions, which would better test their actual knowledge, to a computerized system where you can't change your answer, nor skip backwards or forwards. The result is a test that assesses not how much you know, but how well you do at computerized questions. This would be well and good if their computer tests matched the computerized tests administered by independent exams like the USMLE, but they don't - the USMLE has a much simpler and logical format. There seems to be a culture within the Ross administration that believes that students don't need to be consulted about decisions that can drastically alter their marks. I would bet every dollar I have (admittedly a very small sum) that overall student grades dropped significantly more than normal because of this testing. I doubt Ross would ever admit it though. There is an alarming lack of transparency here, and for that matter, ethics with regards to the assessment process. Rant done.

And so the semester has gone to shit. There is, thankfully, a silver lining. Recently I've turned my free time into an excuse to go to the gym, which I've been doing alarmingly regularly. I've also made a much greater effort to be more social, which I think I'm gradually succeeding at. On top of that, the possibility that Island Thrift could reopen soon is getting stronger. Finally, Denise and I will be moving apartments, to a place where we'll have a lot more neighbours (not that we don't love our current neighbours, they're just rarely home), and live in a less sketchy part of town that happens to be right next to a delicious shwarma restaurant. I'm not sure if there's a silver lining for Denise, except that we're about to go to Vegas. And Vegas, after all, is her happy place.


  1. Howie FeltersnatchApril 19, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    I stopped reading after "cracks fingers".

    That post is longer than the Harry Potter series.

    Denise needs to start writing these again and let the teacher (Mark) go back to summer vacation (i.e. not writing a damn book for every post).

    P.s. I loved the skunk

  2. Thanks for the shout out, buddy! Excited for another semester with you! See ya in May!

  3. Wow, I was pleasantly suprised by the intro, thanks! And all I have to say about the Ross Administration is: UGHHHHHHHHH.

  4. Howie - My sincerest apologies, mystery man. Maybe now that you have your own blog (copy much?) you can come out of the woodwork?

    Jen - Yes ma'am, see you soon.

    Nikki - Goodness. I worry they'll give me a stroke.

    Joss - This is true. What a jerk.

  5. Why are you guys going to Vegas? Also, I finished my exams (email to follow) - I hit such a state of sleep deprivation I'm not sure I even wrote anything for my last one. That being said, I absolutely appreciate Denise's work/exam/social life/anxiety. I hope y'all are doing well otherwise.

  6. Okay...so that was me (SJ) and not Noel....who borrowed my computer and logged on the other day. So, while he probably would have written something similar if he knew who you guys are or how awesome you are...it was me. Sorry to disappoint.

  7. Aw, thanks for the shoutout, I feel so loved now!

    I don't know how you guys do it, both of you. Mark, your job situation makes me feel like a total whiner for bemoaning the Vancouver job market. You obviously handle it very well though, turning your frustrations into hilarious blog posts for all of us to enjoy. Denise... why don't they deliver a little random electric shock just to make the test that much more fun? Good lord. Those sounds like the most horrific exam conditions ever. I hope the wedding planning is going well despite the setbacks, and you can keep it fun and exciting. And Vegas!