Friday, December 14, 2007

The Good and the Bad

First of all, thanks to W (Erik) of Whittle et al. for his good luck wishes on my New York Medical College (NYMC) interview. I had never been to NY, so it was pretty cool; but man, it's been a really long 3 days, and with every "good" there was an equal "bad." Let's see, I think I'll present it this way.
I had to get up at like before 7am to get to the airport to catch my flight. Thankfully, I had several hours down time between when I would arrive in NY and when my med student host was going to pick me up. However, my plane to LaGuardia Airport was delayed over an hour because there was a lot of air traffic at LaGuardia. So we all sat on the plane for over an hour longer, grrr.

I found the NY Airport Service bus that took me to Grand Central Station fairly easily, but it dropped me off at the "wrong" side of Grand Central. I walked into the subway section when I wanted the rail section, which was Metro-North across the street. I had to cross the street, and when I entered Grand Central, I was lost for like 20 minutes.

I eventually found the ticket person and bought my round-trip ticket. And I also eventually figured out the schedules for the trains. I still had 2-3 hours before peak time, before things got really crowded and expensive. I wandered Grand Central for a while, as there was quite a bit to see in there. There are quite a number of shops and such, as well as a "Dining Concourse" (aka, food court) on the lower level.

I arrived at my destination at 4:30pm-ish. My med student host wasn't going to be able to pick me up until around 6pm or so. But, he actually ended his preceptorship (doctor shadowing) early. So he picked me up around 5:30pm instead. Yay!
The Interview
Again I had to wake up early before 7am, ugh. I hate waking up that early, I could practically watch dawn come. The "continental breakfast" was really lacking when I reached the Administration Building. I did like how the med student campus apartments are like, 3 minutes away from that building and less than 5 minutes away from their classes. The apartments weren't bad either, somewhat better than mine right now, in fact.

The other med school applicants were rather intimidating to me. This one person worked for the NIH for 2 years, another worked for a health management company that manages health-related NGO non-profits. I think I was the only interviewee there who was at his first interview . . . some of the places other people already interviewed at include Harvard and Washington University. Sigh.

Regardless, I felt my interview went fairly well. It was a fairly relaxed atmosphere, very conversational, but her questions were unusually difficult to answer at times. But that's not to say I didn't have an answer, it just took me like 30 seconds to figure ways around to get her to clarify what she was asking.

We talked a bit about my non-science courses. I mentioned medical anthropology, which I loved, and how I read Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a book about how Hmong people and Western doctors approach medicine. Apparently my interviewer was well acquainted with that book. I then mentioned how we also discussed Deaf culture, and she immediately piped up how she worked with Deaf people. Ahh! Then she asked me what I thought the future impact of cochlear implants on Deaf culture. This was difficult to answer, because I didn't really know. I said something to the effect of, "Well, Deaf culture is going against the minority. Hearing parents will want their Deaf children to get cochlear implants whereas Deaf parents will resist cochlear implants for their Deaf children." Apparently that was what she wanted me to say, or something like that. ::Sighs a breath of relief::

I then mentioned all the research I did in my undergrad between two different labs. She kept asking me how things worked and exactly what I was studying. Unfortunately, I had forgotten some of the background on the research I did, as I only really know what I did from day-to-day fairly well. It took me a minute or two to fish out enough info so that it didn't look like I had no idea what I was doing. That was a little scary on my part, but I think I did okay . . .

Logically, her next question was, "Why be a doctor? Why not research?" Well, I had prepared for this question for a while, so I had an answer. Same thing goes for her question, "Why NYMC?" I felt I did fairly well on those questions.

As we ended, it began to snow. I like snow, because in my Midwestern state, snow means it's not that cold, because below a certain temperature it doesn't snow. Apparently people in NY don't really know how to handle snow very well. Oh yeah, about 25% of the med students are from NY, about 20% are from CA, and the remaining 55% are from like 28 other states. And there were 3-4 CA applicants there. They felt it was freezing, lol. I thought it was relatively warm, compared to where I'm from (while I don't like the cold, this weather was tolerable). They also never saw snow before, so they were like, "Is that snow? Is it coming down fast? Or is this normal?" Needless, I was highly amused by their cluelessness.

The snow was nice, but it also caused NYMC to close down at noon, about 20 minutes after my interview ended. This caused our campus tour and lunch afterwards to be canceled. Gah! I ate some turkey bacon and eggs back at my host's apartment. I try to avoid bacon as much as possible, because it's so bad for the health. But I was starving, so whatever. I should note here that their apartment is very very clean, as far as guys' apartments go. Like, 5x cleaner than mine (not that mine's filthy, only that I'm pretty much the only one who actively cleans when I have the time - which isn't too often). Also their apartment is very "Asian," because 2 Asian guys and an Indian guy live there. Their 4th Caucasian roommate is almost never around, and I only saw him for about 10-20 minutes when I met him.
Leaving NYMC
By the time my med student host took me back to the train station, it began sleeting. That's SO much worse than snow because it's a lot more slippery. But I arrived at the train station alright, and took a fairly early train back to Grand Central.

At Grand Central, I had to find the NY Airport Service again to get back to LaGuardia. So I went to the tourism booth and asked the person there. She was like, "It's on 41st Street between Lexington and Park." I was like, okay . . . this shouldn't be too hard. I walked out of Grand Central, into the freezing rain. Ahh! So I promptly went back in, but not before getting quite wet. And I couldn't find this bus stop. I kept poking my head out of random Grand Central exits to see if I could see it anywhere, but I didn't. So I decided to walk the stretch of road right outside Grand Central and between Lexington and Park. I eventually found the NY Airport Service. Across the street. She should've told me that!
Leaving NY - Part I
Well, I thought it would take forever to get to LaGuardia due to the weather, but it didn't. And I had been frantically checking to see if my flight was canceled whenever I had internet connection. It hadn't been canceled, but by the time I arrived at the airport, it was canceled. Oh no!

I managed to get re-booked for a flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul, and take a connecting flight from there home. When I got to the gate, there were so many people there! Probably because everyone on my plane, which was a direct flight from LaGuardia home, was re-booked onto that one.

My parents suddenly/randomly called to tell me that I got an interview offer from Wayne State University and a rejection (from a hold originally) from George Washington University. I told them that I also just got an email from Albany saying I was on hold there. Grrr, indefinite hold is almost as good as a rejection.

Anyway, then this random Chinese woman goes up to me after I got off the phone and asks, "Can you speak Chinese?" I answered "Yes," and she started speaking to me in Chinese. Her English wasn't very good, and she wanted me to translate the constant stream of announcements for her, as well as to just have someone to talk to. Soon this other Chinese guy noticed I could speak Chinese, and asked for my help in translating as well. I actually helped him re-book his flight because he didn't know quite enough English to do it himself. Needless to say, I felt proud of myself for being so useful and helpful. Hurray bilingualism!! Now, to get 100% better at Spanish so I can be almost trilingual.

Well, my kindness wasn't well rewarded by the weather gods. The freezing rain had coated all the planes in a layer of ice, and the de-icing couldn't keep up with the rain. So every plane out of LaGuardia from NWA was canceled, except mine. It was delayed about 1.5 hours. I did manage to get about 2 hours of sleep on the plane to Minneapolis.

But because the plane was delayed for so long, all the connecting flights (except for Boise, ID) had already left. They had attempted to wait for us, but they weren't going to wait over 1.5 hours. Understandably.
Leaving NY - Part II
Well, when we got off the plane at Minneapolis/St. Paul, we were greeted with a counter with our re-booked tickets. Needless to say, many people were pissed. Since I didn't have enough money and with no credit card, I just spent the night in the airport. It was about 11pm by now, and my flight was at 6am. So even if I had managed to get to a hotel, I'd only spend like 4-5 hours there. Not worth the money.

Let me tell you, finding comfortable place to sleep in an airport is rather difficult. I first found a bench, and "slept" for about half an hour. But there were too many noises. Same thing with location 2. By now it was like 1am when I finally found a spot that was quiet and decently comfortable. But I suddenly woke up around 3am in a panic for whatever reason, and I couldn't go back to sleep.

So I went to my gate and just sat there. I dozed off for a little bit. Then this Asian woman walked up to me, sat across from me, and started talking to me. I was like, "Who are you??" She first thought I was Japanese, but I corrected her. Then she said she was Hmong. OMG!! Was this real?! I just met a Hmong!! It was like out of the book I had to read for medical anthropology! This was an anthropological experience.

I had to fight every urge to ask her random useless things about her culture. This wasn't too difficult to do because I was exhausted. I must've talked with her for 15-20 minutes. She mentioned how you shouldn't let any boss over you, and that you should be your own boss. And she recommended that I pursue chiropractics over medicine so I can set my own hours and be my own boss. Throughout all this, I thought, "This is SO part of your culture" (The Hmong people are fiercely independent and don't like to be told what to do, which is the source of a lot of conflict between their people and others). Anyway, that was an interesting encounter. Before she walked away, she said how people my age need boyfriends/girlfriends, otherwise we wouldn't feel human. Hmmm . . . I think she might be hinting at something to me.

By this time it was almost 5am, and I hadn't eaten anything really since about noon the previous day. So I had Subway in the airport, and returned to waiting. 6am came around, we boarded the plane, only to be told half an hour later that we had to get off due to some malfunction and that they were finding us another plane.

Well, half an hour later they did indeed find us a plane. And we were on our way home. I slept maybe an hour this time.
Once Home
Once I got back to the airport at home, my dad picked me up and directly drove me back to my university. I was meeting someone in the library to study for our final exam in evolution today (oh, did I mention that? Yeah . . .) at 11am. I left the airport at around 10:30am, got back to my apartment at 11am, and got to the library by 11:10am or so.

We studied for several hours, then went to eat something at 3pm before our final at 4pm. The final went alright, though if I had either a good night's sleep or an extra hour to study, I would've had a guaranteed A on it. As it stands, I probably got a really low A or a fairly high B on it. Oh well, it's over with.
So yeah, that was the last 3 days. Got about 5 hours of nonconsecutive sleep, if that. Was all over the place due to the weather. Had to take an exam almost as soon as I got back on campus. I don't feel quite as tired as I really should.

There were some good things . . . Staying with the med student was a really good experience. Witnessing the CA guys be all confused and such over snow was funny. Being useful to random Chinese people was something to be proud of. Meeting a Hmong was a rare opportunity (they're a really small Asian minority), and was akin to an anthropological excursion as far as I'm concerned. Oh yeah, and the actual interview went alright. Here's crossing my fingers for an acceptance email/letter in 10-12 weeks.

Anyway, everything else was just bad. I don't ever want to fly NWA (Northwest Airlines) again. Okay, sleep for many hours starting NOW. It also felt really really good to jerk off after 3 days of not having done so. Just one of those things you miss . . .


Mike said...

Sounds like the interview went well!!!

Good luck!!!

Aek said...

Yup! For the most part it did. Thanks!!

W said...

You're welcome!

Goodluck with the wait period. All you need is one interview and one acceptance. Don't fret too much:)

Seems like a pretty eventful trip. But waking up early is so much fun, so much more time to get stuff done plus you get to watch the start of a brand new day!

My first grad school app went out and I can't remember if I used contractions in a couple of answers. Yikes!


B said...

Minneapolis is one of the places you're most likely to see Hmong, they are a huge group here.

Aek said...

To w: Thanks! I have to wait 10-12 weeks now, ugh. But I also have another interview in about a month, I just found out. Yay! I normally like waking up early, just not when I had next to no sleep the night before. Good luck on your grad school apps!!

To b: Yeah, I know. At first I was like, "Why is there a Hmong here?" Then I remembered I was in Minneapolis, so that made sense.