One year done. Part 2 : The Course

Genetic counselling to me was something novel. On entering my first lecture, I was filled with trepidation, wondering whether the course was going to be what I was expecting. This is because Malta must be one of the few places in Europe where Genetic Counselling does not occur yet. Therefore my only experience of genetic counselling was from research (and lots of it!).

I was never happier, then after the first two days of lectures, doing my first family tree and listening to genetic counsellors. As time went on I not only confirmed that this was what I wanted to do, but realised it was imperative and an essential role in today’s health care system. Doubtless times I felt myself frustrated at the lack of resources in Malta in the field of genetics, although I’m sure they will be implemented in the next few years. You cannot have a genetic counsellor without the appropriate backing and support, from pre-natal testing, to appropriate screening guidelines to the most basic laboratory to carry out genetic testing. The team needs to work together for greater care and most importantly for Malta, provision of unbiased education.

The course was a breath of fresh air. This, at least, I had no doubt about. The most shocking thing for me was addressing the two course coordinators as Marion and Angus. Two BIG names in genetic counselling history and implementation and they refused to be called Profs. or even addressed by their surname. They laugh at me now when I tell them how different the situation is in Malta – when you wouldn’t get a reply to your question unless you addressed them as Profs./Doctor. The atmosphere is so comfortable with them, especially during tutorial, an hour a week they dedicate to discussion, feedback and general advice. I do not know if this is due to being a small tight-knit course, and being a post-graduate, but the fact that they know so much about me, makes me feel that my opinion, and my thoughts count for something.

My supervisor is another amazing woman who has supported me so much already, calling with advice and to check my general progress. And this with me having hardly even started! Having a busy schedule hasn’t stopped her from being there whenever I called and I am looking forward to meeting her and making her proud too!

Last but not least, being in a group of ten people means that you form a little community. Every one of us on the course is different, and we are from all over the world. This does not stop us from getting along, organising events out together and generally sharing anecdotes with each other on our Facebook group! Now as we separate to take part in our different placements, I know we will keep in touch and offer support for each other during our practice! Looking forward to seeing them all next year!

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One year done (Part 1 : Friendship)

Can you believe it? I definitely cannot! Nine months ago I set off to Cardiff not knowing what to expect. All I knew is that I couldn’t wait to see new places, meet new people and follow dreams people had said I couldn’t.

I have learnt so many things about myself, about friendship and about the person I want to be, and the job I want to do. To say that life here is different is an understatement. To live independently is one challenge, but doing so in a place like Cardiff, in University Halls and in a course that is catered for only ten people, has made the experience more holistic somehow.

Although explaining what a genetic counsellor does was something I struggled to explain, I can now discuss it for hours, highlighting all the fields where a genetic counsellor is helpful, imperative even. I have never wanted to be a genetic counsellor more than I do now and for that I have a lot of people to thank.

It didn’t take long for people back home to notice I had changed, at least the people who mattered. Emanuel fell in love all over again with a more confident, nonchalant person who was somehow more sure of herself – knowing she had to prove herself to no one. Knowing she could simply be herself, and people could take it or leave it. So many people have taken to it.

Although I have another year to go, and people to share it with , there are people who come September will go back. Some have already started travelling back home. Being from Malta I had the opportunity to have my cake and eat it. I mean this in the sense that life was easier for me language wise, and tuition fee wise due to being part of the EU. However I got the international buzz too. This helped by being in a block of International students. This has definitely added spice to my experience here. The difference to an undergraduate is stark and obvious but fun drinks, food and laughter where always on the cards whenever we met.

I cannot write this post without thinking of Rodion Liashko, who has been my number one since I have arrived in Cardiff. Ambushing me in the Student Union on my first week there, we were immediately drawn into intellectual conversations and gossip snatching that has continued on a weekly (if not daily!) basis in Flat 28 over an assortment of teas, ice creams and chocolate.

On my noticeboard I have a lovely sign that says ‘Chance made us neighbours but your kind heart made us friends’. Amanda lives right next door and you know she is home if you smell baking. I will be seeing a lot of her next year as she  is doing conservation for 2 years. Lucky me! Adorning the noticeboard as well as numerous postcards from block friends who have travelled and sent lovely messages of the places in Europe they visited. I have some beautiful Chinese images that Channy gave to me – an insight to her beautiful home. Being on the ground floor, all these friends often tap on my window on their way to lectures or events and it makes me feel so special and blessed to have come to know so many people!

Panos, Ian and Federico I group together as they do usually ‘travel’ together. This is because they live in a shared house but have come to feel like Allensbank House is their home, having been invited to potlucks, wine and cheese nights and Chinese New year parties among many other random occasions to drink and be merry.

The list will never end, but this is a simple thank you to all those international friends who will forever be remembered as adding spice to my first year!

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There is always a show in Cardiff!

Yesterday was a truly memorable evening. I went to watch the West end hit Let it Be , going through the hit songs of the Beatles. I was surprised to be one of the youngest there, but equally amazed at the energy at the New Theatre. From the outside, based on a street full of snazzy hotels and clubs, the new theatre would seem like a closed down movie theatre were it not alive every night with audiences streaming in and out.

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I have been there 3 times to watch beautiful pieces, all very different from each other. Fiddler on the Roof was in a class of its own with the perfect accents and the total manipulation of the stage and the instruments. The second time I went to New Theatre was to watch Cinderella the ballet. To make things better, they are now releasing a Disney re-make. Can not wait! The ballet was lovely, with the princes impressing me almost more than the ladies did! Let it Be has to be one of the most shows on the West-End though, with music everyone loves, and nostalgia everyone needs.

New Theatre is not the only place to watch shows in Cardiff. Anyone watching Britain’s Got Talent this year will notice that the auditions in Cardiff where held in the Millennium Centre, which is beyond doubt one of the most beautiful artistic things decorating the Bay. I went to see the Nutracker on Ice here and was left enthralled by the magic of it all.

The prices for students are really good, both at the Bay and at the New Theatre. The stalls in the upper circle are the cheapest but because the circle is so steeped, you can see very clearly down below. In fact for Cinderella I must say I could admire the footwork. At the Millennium centre as well as at the Hayes Library, some music shows are shown free of charge. Click on the links to see their events!

 

Priorities?

I have been thinking of the idea of sensationalism ever since I wrote the poem the other day.Our priorities aren’t quite in the correct order either. Our thirst for something shocking makes us disregard something less interesting but of immense value. Just the other day the top hashtag became WhatSolangesaidtoJayZ or something like that. That became more important than #bringbackourgirls. What girls? We have forgotten them already.

In Malta there are EP elections happening on Saturday. Yet political parties are bickering among themselves what this will mean for Them, not even focusing on the individual candidates. We’ve shouted out about civil unions and gay adoption because that is the ‘in’ thing, however we are more reluctant to talk about immigrants and animal rights, just cos it isn’t trending. Instead of talking about the real issues, one of the top bloggers on the island decides to mock a candidate for his poor typography choice. Boo Hoo , big deal.

I’m tired of Facebook friends sharing all these inspirational quotes, videos and blogs. I wonder how much of them they actually absorb because if they did , the world would be getting better at a more drastic pace.

 

The Maltese food dilemma

As I was chopping up my last Gbejna (peppered goats’ cheese) today, I couldn’t help but chide myself for not placing more food in my luggage. I am now officially out of Maltese stock, apart from something capers and half a packet of Helwa tat- Tork.

I opted out of taking Twistees and Kinnie with me this time round, but I inevitably still stop myself from ordering Kinnie in any restaurant. Kinnie is an amazing soft drink made with aromatic herbs and bitter oranges. My friends on the course will disagree – they can’t stand the stuff. I cannot for the life of me understand why! I have never (as yet) considered taking Cisk (local beer) up with me  since the beer, ale and cider selection here in Wales is amazing!

 

 

What I miss most about food is the bread. I love the crunchy-soft contrast and the smell of it toasted. It doesn’t and will never compare to sliced bread or any loaf on offer here. However, taking up Maltese bread is limited since I am only entitled one fridge shelf and one freezer shelf (enough to hold two loaves at most!). My sister and I was attempted to take up bread dough to Bahrain where my Dad was working, but the results were a swollen dough that had been activated in the heat and grew too big for the plastic that was holding it!

I think I belong to the cohort of people who live to eat, rather than eat to live. Food in itself is such a sociable, enjoyable thing. Like a Greek friend of mine said yesterday, it is not only the food you miss, but the atmosphere that surrounds a good meal!