Quarter 3 – Family First

Third quarter – the quick 1-week break after finals rushed by all-too-fast, especially compared to the three week break we had for Christmas.

New information continued to pour in – it seemed like a never-ending stream of knowledge and our sponge-like brains were already feeling saturated. Classes this quarter included Regional Anatomy II (the head and neck), Systemic Physiology, Diversified I (our first adjusting class!), Biochemistry I, and Peripheral Anatomy (PNS).

Third quarter saw the first noticeable transition of our initial 12-quarter group moving forward through the program faster than us, as we were taking classes that they had already passed. Along with that, a lot of people in our class (at least 10%) had unfortunately failed Sue Ray’s General Pathology class the previous quarter, which resulted in some significantly smaller classes due to overlaps. On top of everything else, people were really starting to feel the pressure of being away from home and their loved ones, which resulted in quite a few more emotional breakdowns throughout the class.

One thing that was special about the spring quarter at Life West was an event called Spring 4 Life – where classes would be replaced by a half-day seminar, followed by an afternoon filled with food and games at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont. It wasn’t until May 5th of the quarter, so we still had 5 weeks of class to get through before the day break.

As always, there were numerous events happening weekly to keep us occupied throughout the quarter, from Sunset sails to hockey games to movie nights. One thing I was looking forward to was applying for the Student Champion’s program – a group of student volunteers who talk to prospective students about coming to the school. Their work was the whole reason I ended up coming to Life West, and I wanted to be able to do that for other future students. That event was even later in the quarter than Spring 4 Life, so I still had some waiting to do.

One thing that was happening back home in Canada during this quarter was an early spark of wildfires in Alberta. The town of Fort McMurray had been completely decimated, and a lot of the Canadian students knew people from the area. A few of us decided that we needed to do something to fundraise for the wildfire relief efforts, since we couldn’t be helping physically at home. We quickly put together a bake sale, and because the Canadian government matched any donations to the Red Cross, we were able to raise over $7000 over a course of three days! It felt great to be able to do something while we were in school.

As we reached week 5 of the quarter, midterms began to pile on once again. The one everyone seemed most concerned about was Dr. Strutin’s PNS midterm – many people had been known to have failed his classes before.

As the day of the midterm arrived, our instructor for our earlier class gave us an additional 20 minutes from her class to get prepared for our midterm, since we had just completed hers the class prior. I got up to stretch and get more water before the test, and as I checked my phone to make sure it was muted for the midterm, I noticed a text from my dad which I was not expecting. As I opened it, I felt my heart drop into my stomach – “Grandpa’s in the hospital, he’s not going to make it much longer”. I didn’t know my Grandpa was even sick. I immediately texted my dad back asking if I should book a flight home, to which he responded that we would figure that out if and when the time came.

I couldn’t stop shaking. I was grief-stricken, and now I had 5 minutes before I had to write the most difficult midterm of the quarter. Questions that I was easily answering during study sessions looked like a different language. I couldn’t stop thinking about if I’d have another chance to see or even speak to my grandpa again. I rushed through the midterm, grabbed my stuff, and immediately went looking for a private area where I could call home. As I picked up my phone again, I saw one additional message from my dad that had shown up while I was writing my exam: “Grandpa has passed”.

I don’t remember much of that day (to be honest, I don’t remember much of that quarter after that point). I just remember having to sit in the Spring 4 Life room the next day (because attendance was still mandatory), and hope that everyone would leave me alone for 4 hours so that I wouldn’t burst into tears at their touch. Surdeep and Jordan tried to give me some comfort, and they at least kept other people away from me. I went home as soon as I was allowed, and stayed in my room as much as possible until I got on a flight home the next weekend for my Grandpa’s celebration of life.

The rest of that quarter I felt like a zombie. I still managed to do well in my classes, and I did make it in to the Student Champions program, but I couldn’t tell you how or when I managed all that.

The one thing that kept me sane, as it had my entire life, was my dancing. It was 2 hours a week where I could just focus on movement and music. I’d made some great friends in my new California studio, and we decided as a group to put on a small show for our friends and family. We had a great turnout, and it was wonderful to have a year-end recital again.

As I went home for our 3 week summer break, I knew that I was ready for a rest. I’m pretty sure I slept most of those three weeks, but somewhere in there I managed to see all of my friends as well. I was 3/4 of the way through my first year, and while I was excited to go back, I was more excited for sleep in that particular moment.

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