It is Christmas time and everyone is ready to celebrate the holidays with loved ones. Some are traveling thousands of miles while some are staying here to enjoy what Sweden has to offer. As we have finished three courses and are 1 week into our fourth, I want to reflect on what these courses have taught me thus far. These ‘lessons’ have been summarized in the following four points:
1. Think independently while thinking together
Have you heard of the term ‘Think Tank’? The term was first coined in the 1940s and was ‘a slang used to describe a room full of war strategies’. However, the term is now loosely used to describe interdisciplinary experts/organizations that are engaged in every imaginable topic to provide problems as well as raise questions in their respective topics. I see our Epidemiology class as one of these think tanks except we are not funded in billions of dollars (maybe someday?). The courses thus far are very interactive in the that at times, we spend more than half the class discussing and refuting one’s hypothesis to come up with a concise conclusion. A physician has to think about treating the patient, a public health professional has to think about what we can learn about cases so we can predict the risk factors for the whole population, while a biochemist will think about the lifecycle of the virus. We pull apart the puzzle, analyze each piece and put it back together. Each specialist thinks independently but they all join to come up with an epidemiological approach that takes into account each of these perspectives.
2.Realize that you might need to do some adjustment
We have dreaded Statistics and computer-based analysis from the start and that is why we don’t have the nickname the happy track but that is not to say that Stats is not intriguing and enjoyable (to some). It is okay if you are disoriented for a while and you feel like you are watching a foreign movie with no subtitles. It will take some time to adjust and you will learn to take one small step at a time. The different backgrounds that we have in our class were more pronounced in the Stats course. Someone from a social science background does find the mathematics behind many regression models and equal variance daunting, and at times, quite frustrating so one has to adjust the frame that he/she looks at each course if one’s background doesn’t align with a course. This is part of earning your degree. You have to jump through every hoop that is held in front of you no matter how many times you have to adjust or how much you have to adjust. Be the persistent boss you are!
3.Group projects- nobody likes them but everyone gets them anyway
Have you encountered a student that jumps with joy at the mention of “Group project”? If you have, hold onto that individual. As a student, I do prefer individual assignments over group projects and my classmates share the same preference. Our class is filled with brilliant individuals with great work ethic but that doesn’t mean we all have similar styles of working and that is why group projects can be, to say the least….awkward. “Oh, crap…” was the first thing we murmured when we received our first group project in Introduction to Public Health. Some questions include: Would this group work compete with the standards that I set for my own work? How much control do I have over my grade? Students aren’t pleased with group work and professors know it. So why do instructors continue to give them anyway? Simply put, there are things that instructors can’t teach any other way except through group work. Through group work, we have learned how to write collaboratively, consolidate research as well as give constructive criticism to each other. Even more important is that in the work world, we don’t choose who we work with (well unless you are the employer then you can hire whoever you please) and certain skills and tasks are accomplished only through collaboration.
4. Ask and you shall receive
Is it that easy? Yes. It doesn’t matter if you know it or not as long as you make sure to know it or ask someone who knows it. Bring your appetite (learning appetite…not food) to Karolinska! Professors here are among the top in the world and are always happy to answer more and more questions as long as you have them. Most of the professors reply with “this is outside the scope of this course”, which translates to “I see you are interested in understanding more about this topic but some might not be so come and ask me personally”. I have done that several times and besides gaining more knowledge about the topic, you might ‘accidently’ fall into your thesis topic.
I am sure different people have taken different lessons than the ones I have mentioned but I am confident these 4 will appear in more than one list.
Stay tuned, lovely people!