After a comfortable phase of "getting used to new surroundings" and a rather fun twist that made me end up in the surgical department, it was time to hit a major crisis.
Because there's no crisis like when you suddenly go from "The student has to perform 10 venipunctures during their internship" to "These are today's blood test tubes, go get the blood and send it to the lab", from "Could you make an ECG" to "Tell me what it says", and from nothing but status survey and history to managing a whole ward of patients on your own.
Because honestly, what's the use of learning exam questions by heart when your graduates literally can't take a blood sample, let alone assess a wound, rinse it properly and create a wound dressing that would fit the needs and circumstances.
Because obviously, other countries and institutions seem to take the practical skills of their students seriously.
Removing drainages independently on a daily basis? Forget it. As a student, your job is to stand in the corner and collect autographs for procedures you've never seen, let alone done.
To be fair, there are exceptions, but to say that University has prepared me for real life would be a gross overstatement. In the end, if you're lucky, you might end up having a really good mentor, but again this means the skills you develop will depend on pure chance rather than a reasoned system.
No wonder that after my first "real" day of work in Germany, I just wanted to go back to my dorm, hide under the bedcovers, cry my eyes out and never come out again. Or, optionally, to go home for good even if I never see my Winter School fees again. Let him have Germany whoever wants to have it, I've had more than enough and just want to get back to my comfort zone. Looking back now, it is only thanks to my wonderful German colleague that I didn't make a complete crash landing.
But slowly, after being thrown into ice cold water, I began to swim...
By the second week, I thought I might actually be able to survive the whole thing. There were still lots of situations that brought me down to earth just when I was about to feel confident, but with the proper guidance of colleagues and enthusiastic young doctors, everything became bearable.
By the third week, things began to feel like fun. While my wonderful colleague left for another commitment, I got another, equally wonderful and skilled colleague that took me under her wings like a real mother hen.
The daily routine became self-evident, and while working myself through the rooms, I could silently laugh at my clumsy beginnings. With even the most timidest requesting me to draw the blood and remove their drainages, I was beaming from the inside out. When I ended up being the mother hen instructing students who stopped by for their one-week practice, it could easily lead to situations like, "You know, I was afraid to imagine that a student would remove my drainage."
"Well, ma'am, I am a student."
When it was time to change wards for my final week, I took all my courage (now that I had it back!) and asked if I could to stay. The entire department from nurses to doctors, students, and patients became dear to me and are now part of a wonderful winter school experience I wouldn't want to miss. Ever.
The downside of the whole story was, of course, a massive lack of time. The intense nature of ward work plus our afternoon lectures made me feel more and more exhausted, wondering what good can Munich's sites, greenery, and events be to people who are obviously too busy to see anything but their jobs? What is the purpose of a work-eat-sleep lifestyle anyway?
Considering the fact that we'd have to literally travel through the whole city to get to the clinic, I'd have to get up an hour before the start of our ward round – a horrible task for a non-morning person like me, and torture in comparison to my Ljubljana routine where the time difference between bed and clinic would be half of that.
Needless to say, the time on the tube was just perfect for a precious morning nap, and thanks to snacks available on the ward, I would usually get my breakfast sometime between blood samples and wound care. When I finished my tasks for the day in the late afternoon, I was often too tired to even eat, let alone prepare something edible and get the dishes done afterward. I tended to literally fall asleep on the tube only to wake up just in time to exit and stop by in the supermarket on my way home. And if it wasn't for Edeka's (super yummy) sushi boxes that enabled me to perfect my time-management according to the laws of "bring home-open-eat-go to bed", I don't know how I would have made it.
I guess my experience would not entirely apply to non-German speaking students, who soon realized that a whole number of tasks which included language wouldn't make sense to them and acted accordingly. Looking back now, however, I wouldn't want to miss starting the day with the morning conferences, and by no means skip any of the bedside tasks I was assigned to, even if it often meant rushing directly to the lectures afterward without a proper lunch. Because who needs lunch if you can do ward work instead?
Due to the busy schedule, however, I can say I literally missed spring this year. The winter jacket became too warm to be worn at some point, but apart from that, it was only in form of subtle roadside signs like the growing amount of blooms and greenery that made me realize nature must be moving on.
Luckily, I had my free weekends which I used to discover my surroundings, even though my mind was craving for sleep. Additionally, we were given the opportunity to join a number of one-day trips that were organized for international LMU students. And after all, how very strange would it be to have spent a whole month in Munich without having seen a thing in the city?
On a long-term basis, I'm still not sure on whether I'd be able to live the German way. I've definitely seen a lot and learned more practical stuff than I have in my whole University career. I gained confidence in my skills and abilities, and, most importantly, realized that my language proficiency for German does include the emotional part, even though I had severely neglected it since leaving High school.
Still, the fact that I barely made it through the week even with no household to run and no hobby to pursue (in my naivety, I actually did bring a couple of crafting projects with me), made the idea of literally living for the job only a very difficult one to imagine.
But then again, Never say never. Who knows, maybe with an organized way of life, a good time management and even a little fairy for the housekeeping tasks, everything is possible. Even a healthy, productive work-life balance.
All in all, my Munich experience gave me a chance to realize how different the world is outside the tiny place I began to call home, that - as I see now - is more and more becoming a place of whining, a generalized self-pity, bad organization, hatred, and stupidity.
Instead of wondering why folks are leaving, one should start asking themselves how come that anyone is still ready to work in conditions like that? The only answers I can come up with are: either a mix of desperation and a naive feeling of being able to cope, the lack of an idea about what s offered elsewhere, or maybe just the lack of courage to find it out.
~ to be continued ~