Werribee Gorge State Park

The clock on the exam timer webpage indicated 10 minutes left for the exam. After 3 hours and 35 minutes, my concentration was seeping away despite having two coffees before the exam. Part of me wishes to give up, to stop pushing my wearied body and mind. The other part of me was whispering to myself: “You’ve already gone this far. Give it your all, there is only 10 minutes to go. Make the past year of studying worthwhile.” With the questions already completed, I continue to proofread as fast as I could, fixing what grammar mistakes I could find. Before I knew it, the 5-minute mark arrived. Being an online exam, I converted the Word Document into a pdf format and submitted it to the platform. 2:42 pm, the clock read 3 minutes left. I refused to concede. I proceeded to download the document multiple times from the platform to ensure that the correct document has been uploaded, skimming a few times to check if I have answered all the questions. As 2:44pm came, I thought to myself that there was nothing I could do. Yet I still kept checking. The clock struck 2:45pm, signalling the end. The adrenaline rush was at its peak.

I was finally done.

After having 7 exams in 11 days, I was finally done.

Does that mean that I can finally relax, without the feeling of guilt that I should be studying?

It is a strange thought to behold.

The last few months have been rather draining. As week after week passed by, I was consistently at least 2-3 weeks behind on lecture content. A break has been long overdue. Academically, this 1st year of studying Dentistry has been the most difficult and busy throughout my educational journey in high school and university. Initially, when starting dentistry this year, I naively thought to myself:

“Surely it’s just teeth yeah, it shouldn’t be that bad.”

And boy was I wrong. Wrong 10 times over.

An upper-year student mentioned to me at the beginning of this year that the 1st year of Dentistry was at least twice the workload of Biomed in undergrad. I didn’t believe them at the time, but now personally arriving at the end of the year, I certainly affirm the sentiment. In Biomed, with the semester being only 12 weeks, it was somewhat crammable – where watching all the lectures twice was certainly achievable. In Dentistry, there was simply too much content, being impossible to cover everything, requiring prioritisation of content that was high yield, with speculative guesswork as to what the lecturers may potentially ask.

Moreover, with extended semesters, only four single-week breaks were present in the calendar of the academic year. As such, one cannot afford to burn out to recover in the long breaks between semesters as Biomed. It is very much a marathon and not a sprint.

As a cherry on top, the proverbial icing on the cake, the culmination of the academic year comprised of 7 exams in the span of 11 days. It was a brutal way of conditioning the cohort to become more resilient. For me, the routine of the examination period cycled through drinking coffee, doing an exam at 11am, followed by napping in the afternoon to have sufficient energy to continue studying at night for the following exam. Bland and monotonous? By all means. But such a routine provided an excellent opportunity to reflect on what was learnt throughout the year, consolidating and integrating vast amounts of information into somewhat coherent responses for each exam.

I shudder at the thought of dentistry becoming more difficult in the years to come. However, I am optimistic – hopeful even, because of the potential growth that the coming years may bring. That the future may be brimming with opportunities to refine one’s study habits and one’s hand skills to progress towards maturity in thinking and practice.

The infamous philosopher, Friedrich Nietzche, muses with the now rather clichéd adage:

Out of life’s school of war, what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.

Friedrich Nietzche

Clichés, though overused, typically have a reason for becoming clichés in the 1st place, containing much profound truth.

If one isn’t permanently injured from life’s school of war, one grows to become stronger.

Now is the time to rest, recuperate, and recharge. To prepare and fight once again for life’s school of war.

“I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 ESV