Landscape of Ambiguity

Again, here we are, just ticked over halfway through the program, 55% (I think). I messed up the percentage in my last blog post, so I’m trying not to mess it up again this time. Still, I can’t believe it. Time flies when life’s filled with literally foreign stimuli in a new country. Regardless, this week was unique. It was the most lackluster of the weeks I’ve spent here, with many days filled with monotony. However, these days are still more interesting than most days I would spend in Pittsburgh.

I had some excellent academic highlights this week. First, I learned how to process blood. I’d take a patient’s blood and isolate it into different components, which is critical to look for specific markers in the blood for signs of inflammation like cytokines. I can’t wait to try it by myself, contribute to the team, and see how in-depth my notes are. The most challenging part about research isn’t doing the protocols but knowing where everything is unexpectedly. As I’ve been in three labs, learning where everything is located is tedious but necessary. Next, I’ve almost completed analyzing the Echos for a study in my lab. My PI added more categories after I almost finished everything, so I now have to go back and reanalyze. I’m happy I can learn and practice a technique that goes so in-depth. 

Another non-academic highlight was getting pizza with Ryan. It was the first time I’ve eaten Neapolitan or floppy style, so you have to eat it with a fork and knife. It was a new experience and not to mention delicious. My pizza contained buffalo mozzarella, salami, basil, and a chili-honey sauce. There was no red sauce, but it was still delicious!

Both the pizza’s and Ryan looking beautiful
Picture of the menu at the restaurant.

Next, the social highlights of this week were exciting too. I went to the lake for the first time being here. It was an ideal sizzling 90 degrees day to go swimming. Surprisingly, it was a little different than the lakes I’ve been to in the US. It was almost constantly knee depth. There was no drop-off where it became deep until you took nearly 30 steps (estimation) into the lake. You would have to voluntarily dive into the water to let it get to chest/head level. Regardless, it was beautifully relaxing, and I’m glad I got to go on such a hot day. However, the one thing I was very much not expecting was the nudist part of the beach. In America, nudism is highly stigmatized and not very common. On the lake, there was a side intersected by trees. Ryan and I were curious, so we ventured over there, immediately realizing what it was turned around. Even during my medical time, I’ve seen countless patients naked, which didn’t bother me then. But in this instance, it did. I hope I become less stigmatized and more open-minded throughout my time here.

Picture of the lake from afar

Pivoting to this week’s prompt, I think there are many soft transferable skills I’m learning throughout my time here. The first soft skill I’m learning to improve is communication within an interdisciplinary team. Even before coming here, communicating with the team to set up and figure out my role was a learning curve in and of itself. I am still trying to improve effective communication. Moreso, deadlines are something I’m trying to improve on. I’m great when professors give a solid deadline, but I’m trying to learn how to give myself deadlines. As someone who usually procrastinates (as you can see from this blog post) and likes the thrill of the rush of cramming, I’m trying to learn how to be proactive and set myself hard deadlines. Last and most importantly, my punctuality. In Egyptian culture, running late is always the norm. We call it running on “Egyptian time” to be typically 30 min to an hour late. Adapting that to the very stringent EMS culture this year was challenging. I had to learn to be punctual, but this internship is an even greater lesson in punctuality.

In addition to the soft skills, there are many hard skills, or what I like to call “resume skills,” I’ve already learned:

  1. Learning to understand and analyze echos was challenging until I got the hang of it.
  2. Many lab techniques like PBMC Isolation, blood processing, and more for me to learn are directly transferable to other labs.
  3. Scientific writing is a technical skill I’m improving from writing examples like my abstract.

Last, my spiritual reflection upon this week isn’t super positive. I didn’t have many spiritual moments until the weekend, and they weren’t noteworthy when I did. However, reflecting on my time so far, I hope to gain a morning routine. As someone who has always suffered from punctuality, I believe setting a morning routine and sleep schedule would help immensely. Maybe I’ll have to abandon the sleep schedule when this year starts due to academics and EMS, but I hope to try and keep a morning routine.

I’m excited for what the next week holds in store!

Beautiful “landscape” at night