The musings of a fourth year English medical student

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Veganism

Right now I am really stuck in a conundrum. I was born into a omnivorous family, but aged twelve I became a vegetarian. Aged fifteen, I went vegan and then, aged seventeen, I went full circle and started eating meat again. Now, aged eighteen, I have no idea what to do and what my ethe are.

I initially went vegetarian purely for my concerns over welfare of animals. My sister, a year younger than me, was already a vegetarian for several years and my parents love cooking and were incredibly tolerant and supportive. Over the years, I became extremely passionate about the environment. I spent a lot of time researching the topic, and realised that being a consumer of animal products this was contributing a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere. In fact, more CO2 is produced annually from animal production for our consumption than the entire world's transport systems combined. I also realised, through meeting a vegan actor I was costarring with for a production, the disgraceful animal cruelty that goes on in dairy and egg production. So I became vegan and I loved it, truly. I had never eaten more healthily or felt better.

About six months ago, however, I lost the plot in terms of what my opinions were. Although I wanted to protect the planet, I couldn't justify that veganism was the most sustainable. After all, if I still carry on buying avocados and quinoa from South America, rice from the Himalayas and fruits from South Africa what is sustainable about that? Yes, plants are a much more resourceful way of using arable land in terms of yield of produce, but eating loads of quinoa, soy/rice/almond milk, none of which can be grown in the UK, how was veganism really a good idea? Surely eating meat from my county (Gloucestershire is a farming mecca for free range beef and pork) and eating locally grown vegetables was a far better idea?

I don't oppose the consumption of meat. In the UK, there's a lot of stringent regulations and a great variety of free range meat that we can access, so eating 'ethical' meat is a possibility. But outside of the UK I am far from convinced. However, we're gradually accepting that in today's Western society we do tend to eat too much meat, and having spent so many hours researching vegetable proteins I now know for a fact that I don't need to eat loads of meat, if any, to be healthy.

The Compromise
I'm never going to be perfect. If I'm on holiday and there's an ice cream van, the sun is shining and hunger strikes, I am going to have that ice cream. Life's too short. However, I feel that from now on my aim is to make the majority of decisions over of my food conscious ones, with the odd indulgence. I only want to eat meat that is grown in England or Wales and is free range. I only will eat fish that is labelled as sustainable-approved by a reputable organisation and caught on British coasts. When it comes to dairy, I prefer to drink almond milk, but I buy a specific brand that uses Italian almonds, so is a EU product. I do not eat cheese, purely because I don't like the taste. For yoghurt, I only buy from Yeo Valley as it is organic and from British farms. I will endeavour to make the majority of my fruits/vegetables purchased from European farms.
However, none of this is going to be easy. Given that I am about to go university and live in London, money is going to be super tight. In addition, the origin of foods is very difficult when it comes to friend's dinner parties and social gatherings. Exceptions will be made. But it's better than nothing, and I feel much better for being a mindful consumer rather than a mindless one.


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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Is marriage outdated?

Recently, I've been doing lots of prep for my upcoming A level French speaking exam, where I am preparing a debate on privatisation of the NHS. Following the debate, the examiner then continues to have a general conversation with you on topical discussions - one of those potentially being the relevance of marriage. As I was trying to flesh out some potential responses, I got completely spun out. I had no idea what to think!

Back in previous generations (and still in many non-Western countries) marriage was significant for strengthening bonds and maintaining the prestige of two families. If a family was very wealthy, it goes without saying you must also marry into a similarly wealthy one.

Secondly, there's religion. Whilst the religious population is still significant in the 21st century, a notable agnostic/atheist population coexists with them, with many countries such as the England that really behave in a more secular fashion, despite being technically a Christian nation due to the royal family.

Marriage is believed by many as the only appropriate unit for raising children, but truly I have to disagree. We all know married couples with kids that undergo lengthy, difficult divorces that (without exaggerating too much) truly horrify the children. I have several friends that truly affected by the divorce, and not in a good way. At the same time, there are many same-sex and heterosexual couples
who never marry and have produced stable households that have raised wonderful children.

To me, the only reason I ever thought I would want to get married is a testament of love and commitment. But now I wonder why does everyone else do it. Is it the same as me? Or a combination of the above factors.
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Monday, 21 April 2014

Motivation


Somehow, I don't know exactly how, I've managed to get an offer to study Medicine at the 4th best university in the world, even beating Oxbridge. UCL is also the 4th best medical school in the UK, according to The Guardian. This wonderful UCL that I have dreamt of for years has actually chosen to take me on.

As you can see, it still hasn't sunk in for me. 

It's quite bizarre when I discuss my offer with my friends. I keep telling them I don't believe this is actually happening, to which they always say "But Kate, we always knew you'd get in!"
Then I don't know what to say, but two things pop into my head. Either they clearly don't understand how hard it is to get into medical school in England or that perhaps I am too self-deprecating for my own good, and that I do actually deserve this offer. I suppose both are true, but the latter I struggle to accept.

You see, I didn't get 1200 A*s at GCSE, and I'm not studying five A levels.  I don't play 10 instruments, either. I'm no child prodigy, let there be no mistake about it. To me, UCL is only made of these insanely clever students. So how have I even managed to get my place? I truly don't understand. I never believed for a second that I really could do this.

But all the same,  I am so delighted. I don't think I can properly express in writing just how much I want to study there. 

However, I am facing a very serious issue right now. I am really lacking motivation to revise, and I don't understand why. I've thought of medicine and only medicine for the past 3 years, each work experience placement reinforcing in my mind how it would be the perfect vocation. I, as well as my parents and teachers, have worked our backsides off to maximise all possible chances of getting into medical school. And it's paid off, I now have two offers as two wonderful medical schools. So why aren't I revising? The final hurdle, the dreaded A level exams, are vastly approaching. 

I think a part of it is the fact that recently when I've felt stressed I've resorted to just going completely numb and doing nothing.  Plus bad habits. I've gotten into the routine of partying a lot, lie ins whenever I can. I used to revise throughout the year, but I've forgotten all that recently. 

I'm writing this post in the hope that it clarifies in my head that I want to revise. I want those grades. I want to start my new medical student life. And it all starts with a heck of a lot of revision.
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