31 May 2015

my week #163

This week, I changed the blog design and I'm not sure I like the header all that much. The colour scheme is also a bit dreary so I may change it again soon if I find the time for it. I have a university project starting soon so this design may stay for a bit longer but we'll see :)

On Friday, I was meant to give blood but I felt quite unwell so had to rebook my appointment unfortunately. This week was also a good chance to catch up on sleep I had missed out on and to be able to sleep in past seven a.m. has been a definite luxury (how sad does that sound?!).

How has your week been?

28 May 2015

fountain pen fight: pilot kakuno vs lamy safari

Having been a gel pen fanatic for the majority of the time I've ran this blog, a fountain pen connoisseur I definitely am not. However, that doesn't mean I'm not interested in fountain pens and last year, I bought my first Lamy Safari when I realised neon coral was it's 2014 colour of the year!

Anyway, I'm still fairly new to the fountain pen scene. I did use a Parker 45 when I was in high school, but it was a vintage one that used to belong to my mum. When I bought a 'modern' one in 2007, the nib just wasn't the same - the vintage one wrote a fine line which I loved; and the modern one wrote a thicker line which I didn't love. I think I mentioned this in my Lamy Safari blog post but I thought I'd say it again as it meant I was bitterly disappointed when the replacement Parker 45 wasn't the same :(

Enter the Pilot Kakuno. This is another entry-level fountain pen, perfect for someone like me but I think it's target market are kids due to its cute design and lightweight, plastic feel. This doesn't put me off though - I'm definitely not mature enough (mentally!) to use a grown-up looking fountain pen yet so this one suits me just fine!

Purchased from Cult Pens back in February when they had 10% off (how could I resist?), I opted for the one with a bright pink cap, grey barrel and fine nib. The bottom bit of the barrel is kind of transparent and the nib has a smily face on it which I thought was a cute touch! My first thought when I opened to up was just how light it was - it's a similar weight to the Lamy Safari I have but is about a centimetre shorter in length (capped and uncapped).

Let's just say I never thought I'd find a fountain pen that could potentially knock my precious gel pens off their pedestal. This pen is amazing - I really can't emphasise that enough. It is super comfortable to hold, the fine nib writes a fine line (finer than even the Lamy extra fine nib I have - you can see evidence of that in a few pictures' time) and it is just so cute.

So cute, that I even forked out for two white barrelled ones: one with a baby pink cap and the other with a baby blue cap. These came all the way from Japan and Hong Kong respectively as I couldn't find a UK stockist for them.

And for some writing samples:

I'm far from being an expert on fountain pens so I thought I'd give rate them out of ten using five sub-categories to try and be as fair as possible. As a basic user, the rating system is equally basic I'm afraid!

Lamy Safari
Design: 6/10
Comfort: 8/10
Ease of use: 9/10
Ink flow: 6/10
Price: 9/10
Total: 38/50

Pilot Kakuno
Design: 7/10
Comfort: 9/10
Ease of use: 9/10
Ink flow: 8/10
Price: 9/10
Total: 42/50

Both pens are in colours that I love but I do prefer the contrasting barrel colour the Pilot Kakuno has. However, neither score too highly here because I do think fountain pens look better when they have a metal barrel. Saying that, I do enjoy how comfortable and easy to hold the plastic barrels are (see the next paragraph for clarification!) so I do understand that it's a trade off here. The only thing the Lamy has on the Pilot is a clip but to me, not having one isn't a deal breaker.

Where the Lamy Safari falls down here is the grip - I found the indentations a bit uncomfortable after a while whereas the Pilot Kakuno has a round and smooth grip. Neither have any rubber but I just found the Pilot Kakuno better for long study sessions where I could be writing solidly for thirty to forty minutes. Both are similar in terms of weight.

Ease of Use
Both are easy to ink up - I use cartridges as I am a fountain pen simpleton. No issues here.

Ink Flow
The Pilot Kakuno could be uncapped for a few minutes without the ink skipping on resumption but the Lamy Safari was a different story. Even a minute or two would cause the nib to dry up ever so slightly where I'd have to do a few squiggles to get it going again before I could carry on with whatever I was writing.

Both are very reasonably priced. The Lamy Safari Neon Coral is currently priced at £15.90 and the Pilot Kakuno at £13.99. Cartridges for the Lamy are 25p more expensive at £1.55 for five as opposed to £1.30 for five Pilot Kakuno ones.

When I first got my Lamy Safari, I did love it and I still do but I think the Pilot Kakuno may just end up being my go-to pen from now on when writing up revision notes and the like. As mentioned in one of the pictures above, I don't have an overwhelming love for fountain pens but the Kakuno may well have changed my stance on that...

Next on my list? The Kaweco Skyline Classic Sport - which I may or may not have already purchased. ;) Have any of you got a Kaweco Skyline Classic Sport?

26 May 2015

how I take notes part I: from online resources & textbooks

Having been a student almost all of my life, I’ve picked up a few tricks and refined my note-taking methods. In both my undergraduate and current course, there is a lot of information I need to know and this means I have to be extra productive during each study session involving textbooks, online resources, online videos, etc. 

In this series of blog posts, I hope to be able to share how I take notes from:
1. Online resources and textbooks - so textual resources
2. Online videos and lectures
3. Resources in relation to practical skills.

I don’t claim to be an expert, nor do I claim that my methods are perfectly honed but these are the things that I’ve come to realise work for me and I hope one or two of them work for you also.


Most of my note-taking comes from online resources and I’m lucky in that my medschool has an online database of notes for almost every topic I need to know about as a student. As a result, I tend to use these notes first and then supplement them by reading textbook chapters (usually from Kumar & Clark/Moore & Dalley/Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine - depending on whether the topic is physiology/anatomy/clinical). The online database from my medschool is quite good at breaking things down into simple terms before explaining the more difficult concepts so if your school has something like that, I’d definitely recommend you seek it out and utilise it :)

Further to this, I like to do practice questions (there are plenty online for medical students for quite a cheap fee - seek and you shall find :) - I don't like recommending them because different question banks will work for different people and don't want to be blamed if I recommend one that doesn't work for you!), and when I do a question, I will write notes on them regardless if I was right or wrong.

The picture above shows a Moleskine cahier notebook. On the left are notes from the practice questions I’ve been doing and on the right is a full-page spread on liver function tests. These are brief notes and I use as few words as possible - why use five words when you can use one? I never ever write in full sentences and bullet points are a super useful thing to use and I use a variety of these: dot bullets, line bullets, arrows, hearts, squares, hollow circles, asterisks etc).

The picture above are notes from my medschool’s online resource that I mentioned earlier. I numbered each main topic and then re-phrased the information into words of my own. Any jargon is translated into an easier to understand phrase - directly contradicting what I said earlier because this is an occasion where I may use more words than necessary!

When I take these notes, I don't copy them down as I read them. I read the whole text first, noting down key words on a scrap piece of paper (if I have time) or if not, I just skim read it, then I read it again and then I finally start taking notes. When I take notes, I process it and then paraphrase as explained earlier. 

I like to draw tree diagrams if appropriate. Immunology lends itself very well to this and helps me make sense of the bigger picture. Drawing diagrams and making things more pictorial can definitely help them enter your brain easier - at least for me it does! I think I’m quite a visual learner so this really works for me.

Finally, condense things! Post-it notes are ideal for these and in the picture above, I put the main symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus onto one single post-it. Subheadings are highlighted through the use of a hand-drawn box though I sometimes use actual highlighters for this purpose too. 

In a way, these notes were probably a poor example because I do have a basic background in immunology due to my undergraduate degree which had modules on said topic. However, the principles apply for any topic I study - especially for the ones I'm not so familiar with.

My main principles are:
1) Always start with the basics and break everything down to its bare bones. There's no good diving into the deep end - so start with the most basic stuff and then build on that. Think of it as putting on layers of clothes!

2) Never write in full sentences/paragraphs. Big chunks of text are scary when it comes to revision time!

3) Don't be scared if you don't get things on the first go. Sometimes, it can take a while for concepts to sink in. Before one of my undergraduate exams, I didn't understand NMR at all (even after studying it for hours on end) but the night before the actual exam, I dreamt about it and woke up completely understanding it. I answered an essay question on it in the exam and received a first class grade! I have faith in my brain and you should too, in yours :)

The next part of this series will cover taking notes from videos and lectures. It may be a while before it is posted but it is on my to-do list so don't fear :)

Do you have any tips for note-taking from textual resources? :)

24 May 2015

my week #162

This week, two of my close friends from uni left the country because they'll be spending the next two years of medschool in the States. As a result, I've been feeling quite sad because I'll miss them a lot. I spent Thursday catching up on the television I'd missed (hello, Made in Chelsea, 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Have I Got News For You, Grey's Anatomy, The Big Bang Theory... You name it, I probably watched it). There's nothing more satisfying than catching up on TV in your PJs after an intense exam period.

Pass/fail results were released on Wednesday and I was tense the whole day. We were told they would be uploaded at around 3pm or 4pm so cue a nervy hour or so where I sat glued to my email/Facebook to see if anyone else had any info about these results. At 1608, there was a sigh of relief as I saw those four beautiful letters that made up the word 'pass'. Numerical results won't be released for a while yet but this means I can relax a bit easier! This officially means I'm halfway through medical school - where did the time go?!

How has your week been?

21 May 2015

my planner (by seeso graphics!) set-up

In the past, I've done posts where I've showed how my binder has been organised so I thought I'd do the same with my planner this year, even though it's bound. Although you can't modify the set-up and layout of it, I can show you how I've utilised each section.

The cover is a textured orange card with a real minimalistic feel. When you open it up, there's a 2015 year calendar sticker and some post-it notes.

The next section are monthly planning sheets and I've definitely made use of these. I've tried monthly sheets in my binder before and I just didn't get on with them in the sense that I'd forget about them so they'd just be taking up space. In this planner, I've found myself using them a lot more and I'm not really sure why!

In the middle are the weekly planner sheets and I do love how there are time slots for each hour of the day from 6am to 7pm. I would've preferred it if the time slots were from 8am to 9pm but they are pretty functional the way they are.

The spaces under the slots are used for to-do lists, shopping lists and other bits of planning that need to be done in that particular week. I may also slip in a quote or two if I'm feeling particularly philosophical that week.

At the back, there are various types of note paper, from lined to plain, from half lined to squared: I use these to write lists of topics that need revision, books I want to read and other things such as important information I may need when out and about (such as membership numbers, etc).

Right at the back, there is a secretarial pocket which holds dot stickers and other things. The pocket is made of quite thin card and looks like it may rip at any moment so I'm careful not to overstuff it and also try and be as gentle with it as possible.

It's not even halfway through the year yet and I love how battered the planner looks already! Hopefully, by the end of the year, it'll look well worn and used - just how a bound planner should look after twelve months of consistent use.

Pictures taken in Feb 2015

19 May 2015

essentials for a study session

Last month, I did a post on the tools I used for exam revision. In this post, I will be building on that by listing the items required (mainly for myself but some may also be applicable for you :) ) for a productive study session.


One of the most important things is your environment - you need to have everything you need before you begin so that you're not leaving your desk every five minutes for that glass of water or that snack. For me, I need to have some water nearby, a healthy snack (or two in this case!), paper, pens and loads of post-it notes.

Comfortably Clothes!

Studying in your prom dress won't make you very productive at all so I always make sure I'm wearing something comfortable. Mostly, I'm either in pyjamas (yes, really! Even though it can make answering the door quite awkward!) or a jumper and sweats/leggings. I find that my study pose is sitting cross-legged so whatever I'm wearing has to allow for copious stretching!

Paper, paper and paper. And pens, pens and pens!

I go through so much paper and so many pens when it comes to studying. Technology doesn't have a look in as I prefer to write everything down by hand even though it does often take longer than if I typed it all.

A4 Posters

I mentioned these last time but this is my favourite technique for revision - write everything down on one side of A4 and stick with just that one side. This encourages you to write down only the necessities and helps you break the stuff down into a manageable amount. Basically, if it's not worth knowing, it won't be on that sheet of paper; at least, that's the principle behind why I do this.

To-Do Lists!

This cute to-do list pad from Katie Leamon is perfect and I can't believe it's taken me this long to finally dig them out for use (my excuse is that they are just too cute and I didn't want to waste them!). They definitely make tedious tasks bearable.

Practice Questions

Finally, find a practice question bank online! There are loads if you just search on Google and practice questions are great for teasing out those gaps in your knowledge that need filling in during your next study session. 

My sister made me this adorable Totoro earlier this year and he stays propped up on my desk, accompanying me every time I revise or study! He was just too cute not to share so I thought I would :)

Do you have any other tips you always stick by?

17 May 2015

my week #161

My last exam was on Tuesday and since then, I've been trying to catch up on sleep (let me tell you it's not easy when you're used to getting up at 5am and going to sleep at 10-11pm!) and just hanging out with one of my friends who is leaving tomorrow. He's going to be spending the final two years of medschool abroad (he's part of an international course which has this as a requirement) and he's a solid part of my friendship group at uni.

On Wednesday, I went to the Forensics exhibit in Euston, London and it was a bit underwhelming but that could have been because I'd already read the book.

How has your week been?

14 May 2015

april & may book reviews: all of the bright places, geek girl & lucy in the sky

The last six weeks have been weird - surgical placement and exams took over but I still managed to read a fair number of books. In this post, I'll talk about All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Geek Girl by Holly Smale and Lucy In The Sky by Paige Toon.

All of the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

AOTBP is a book that's been on my radar for at least six months now and I've seen others rave about it on various social media platforms. Mental illness in young people is a serious issue and I like how this book tackles it in a realistic manner. Having read the author's note at the end, I can understand why Niven was able to write such a heart-rending book that doesn't distort the (potentially ugly) truth of mental illness at its worst.

Honestly, this book had me in tears towards the end - mental illness in the young is something I feel very passionate about and this is probably the joint best young adult book I've read with it as a theme. I know I raved about My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga and to me, this book is on a par. Some might find this book a bit dark but the world isn't necessarily as bright as we'd like to believe and hope it is.

I gave this book 8.5/10 because in some parts, it was a bit slower than I would've liked and I managed to guess the ending. Both of the main characters (Violet and Finch) are relatable and likeable and the plot is super sweet in some places but also super sad in others. If parts of it don't make your heart wrench, then you're a stronger person than me.

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

The second book I read in April was Geek Girl and I wasn't very impressed with it. I found all of the characters annoying (particularly the dad) but it may be that the book is aimed at someone in their mid-teens as opposed to someone in their early twenties! (I still fit into the early twenties category, right?!) However, thinking back to my teens, I don't think I would have enjoyed this book at any stage so I would wager that the target audience are 10-13 year olds. 5/10 from me.

Lucy In The Sky by Paige Toon

This is the first book I've read by Paige Toon and I wasn't overly impressed but not completely put off either. Lucy is a twenty-something year old living in London with a seemingly 'perfect' boyfriend, James, but then goes off to Australia for a few weeks where she is tempted by a younger and hunkier man.

I did wonder why she was with James when parts of his character came to light (she spent how many years with him?!) and well, to put it mildly, I found her character a bit wet. Plot was decent but the book could have been half the length it was and still be the same. I found a number of the chapters to be a bit waffly (like some of my blog posts maybe? :p ) but I'm still intrigued by Paige Toon as an author all the same. Maybe it's my hidden desire of wanting to move to Australia at some point in my life? I gave this book 6/10.

After these offerings, I decided to read the Harry Potter series all over again. I do this about once every two years so this is about the right time!

Do you have any book recommendations based on these reviews? :)

12 May 2015

how I create my revision posters

Sorry it has taken my so long to write this post - the pictures were taken back in February/March so I have no excuse! Anyway, here is how I create my revision posters.

First off, I'm not sure how applicable this can be to other subjects but I find them super useful for each of the conditions I need to know about for exams. By limiting my page size to A4, I have to choose what information is essential to know with the more intricate details left within my revision notebook

I try and make the heading as attractive as possible and I also like to use coloured A4 paper just because I feel like it. These posters aren't colour coded in anyway. 

Within the posters, I use mini post-it flags or page markers. I divide the page into thirds or halves, depending on the condition and then try and organise it in a logical manner.

For example, my leukaemia poster is divided into halves because there are acute and chronic types of leukaemia. These halves were then divided in half again because there are two types of leukaemia (myeloid and lymphoblastic).

For me, the most important parts of a condition are:
- the definition;
- clinical presentation;
- investigations;
- management and;
- prognosis.

Occasionally, I'll include some pathophysiology, risk factors and causes too. Sometimes, these bits are fit above and below the line drawn on either side of the poster title (you can kind of see this in the COPD poster in the first photo above where I've noted the pathophysiology with keywords).

This can be applied to any topic because all you need to do is decide what the most important bits you need to know are and then arrange it in a logical way on the piece of paper. Because I plan on using these for years to come, I try and make them as neat as possible - and I would recommend doing the same because you won't look at an ugly poster twice but you will keep on staring at something you deem aesthetically pleasing.

I hope this has been useful and I know that this method won't work for everyone. You might want to adapt some parts of it to suit your own way of learning but fitting everything onto a single side of paper is a good way to ensure that you get the basics nailed before moving onto the niche detail.

I've had a few people ask on Instagram about sharing the posters I've made for each condition but at this moment in time, it won't be possible as they are done in line with the learning objectives outlined by my university. These learning objectives are not allowed to be shared so I'd rather not run the risk of getting in trouble with my medschool if that's okay. I know you can see what my COPD poster says but as I'm only sharing one or two of these posters (I've shown a pancreatitis one before in the past), this isn't such a problem because I've now got over 50 of these self-made posters :)

10 May 2015

my week #160

Week one of exams! My planner is very, very plain because all of my to-dos are elsewhere. This will be a sweet but short post as I have two more exams on Monday and Tuesday and then (hopefully), I'll be free for a week or two before my end of year project commences (and I'm very excited about that!).

On Thursday, there was a big political event here in the UK: the General Election. Although it is exam time, it was just as important for me to do my research in order to decide which party would get my vote. The future will always be uncertain but I have faith that the elected government will do what is best for the country.

How has your week been?

7 May 2015

my first throwback thursday

On one of my procrastination sessions a few months' ago, I found some images from when I first started this blog. As I have exams at the moment, this blog post is scheduled in advance but the content is still appropriate for my first throwback Thursday.

So, first up, I found this picture of one of my weeks back in 2010. It's almost five years to the week too and it's amazing how much, or little, changes! Back then, I was in my first year of my undergraduate degree and had exams coming up the following month (not dissimilar to my current situation I guess, except this is my second year and exams resume in a few days, eek!). The use of colour is still present and I really like how minimalistic it is compared to my current weeks.

Sadly, the Filofax in the image (Finchley in jade green) is no longer in my possession and I no longer use a ring binder as my planner. Like I mentioned earlier in the year, I'm not sure I'll ever return to a ring binder diary as there are so many bound ones out there that I want to give a go at least once.

My second image is one of my sister and I when I was two years old (she is just under four months' old here). Though I remember feeling jealous at some points when I was younger after the arrival of my sister, this image doesn't show that at all! My sister is in the chair and is holding her hand out to me (not sure why!) and I seem to have a really innocent look on my face: one that makes me wonder what naughty thing I'd done prior to this photo!

So there you have it: my first throwback Thursday. I'm not sure if I did this right but it was nice to look back to five years' ago and also twenty-two years ago (gee, that makes me feel old). It also makes me appreciate the events and things that have made me who I am today that bit more.

5 May 2015

what's in my bag #17: university backpack

Carrying a shoulder bag has resulted in a sore left shoulder so just before Christmas, I bit the bullet and purchased this backpack. What stood out for me were the straps and how padded they were, the design of the bag and also the size of it. The straps make it easier to carry the same load as before and my shoulder pain has since subsided - result!

Here are a few of the things I carry in it (add in two notebooks and a laptop and it's about right):

From top left, clockwise: umbrella, Soap and Glory hand cream, my planner, pencil case, tissues, purse, contact lens solution, water bottle, Pom Bears (too cute to eat), a pouch with painkillers and other stuff in (such as a contact lens case, nail file, etc).
A bigger bag has often meant that I may end up carrying around more than needed so I often have to be wary of overstuffing it. 

Within the bag, there is a laptop compartment which has the softest and fluffiest lining ever (you can kind of see it in a picture above). I still put my laptop into its own sleeve though - just to be on the safe side - but with a lining like that, you kind of want to dive into the bag itself.

The one negative about the bag are the lack of pockets, especially on the outside. I get a bit nervy when slotting in my water bottle as it's quite easy for water to leak into the laptop compartment so it would be nice to have an external water bottle pocket (though it would definitely make the bag look a little bit uglier!). To combat this problem, I carry my water bottle by hand whenever it's more than half full and whenever I'm travelling or walking for more than five to ten minutes. Though it can look silly on the tube or on the bus, at least I know my laptop is safe from accidental water damage!

Since finishing school when I was eighteen, I vowed I would never use a backpack ever again but Herschel, with their 'Little America' backpack, have changed my opinion of that as it is aesthetically pleasing and meets about 95% of my bag requirements! It is quite a big bag for a girl and I think I just about get away with it but if you're petite, it might not suit you.

3 May 2015

my week #159

This week, I've been a total hermit. As exams start on Wednesday (eek!), I need to make good use of my time and this means my planner is looking plainer than usual. Most of my revision to-dos are in a separate notebook again but a few have slipped through into this week. I've also put a motivational quote in the lower right corner too.

Anyway, back to revision I go - in just over nine days, exams will be over and I can get back to replying to emails, comments, questions, etc :)

How has your week been?