Some Pre-IBO Thoughts

I think it's a good opportunity to reflect a bit on the whole Biology Olympiad 'journey' so far.

On the plane to Melbourne, not a clue in mind what was going to happen or what I would find
Thinking back to last year, I still remember the entrance exam.
Heck, I remember hearing about the Olympiads, turning up to the meeting, being overwhelmed, and then promptly pushing it to the back of my mind.

And then there were issues with handing in the note, etc., etc., but those aren't the important things.

Those 3 weeks of cramming for the NQE were very, very intense. I can assure you that.

And to walk out of the exam centre and think to myself "Holy smokes I could have done /so/ much better in that exam..." and then being in an entire slump for the next month because I thought I blew my one and only shot.

In hindsight, thinking back on those moments, it feels so surreal. Who. Would. Have. Known.

I got the phonecall, I remember, when I was in Parramatta Library. I don't even remember who it was that called me, but it was one of the organisers and I practically squealed in the library.

Fast forward a bit, and I remember the week leading up to the camp. Trying to cram everything and go through all the resources that the organisers had linked me to in preparation for the summer camp (believe me, I didn't even get through half)

I was so unbuhlievable terrified of going. For several moments, I actually /did not want to go/

Yet, time doesn't wait for anyone! In a flash I was sitting at Monash University's lawn.

First day, first lunch, first gathering
And once again, in hindsight, how surreal does that moment feel? It was only 6 months ago though.

Once I got to the camp I forgot about a lot of things. I was just there to have fun. Meet heaps of people, enjoy myself, and laugh. Enjoy the moment, because I had no faith in actually getting selected for the team.


The people there were so, so, incredibly smart and talented in /so/ many different ways. It was amazing and I just felt a teensy bit overwhemled by the sheer body of people there. It was just incredible and despite feeling overshadowed, I was immensely in awe and just glad to even be there in the first place.

The things we did, oh how they were exciting.

It was more of a learning experience for me. I was there to enjoy the ride. I'd gotten that far, and I always registered that was as far as I was going to get. 

HAH let's get to the exciting part of the exams.

Some practice morning tests (I did terrible in these too)
That's right, 43%. Below the average of the 23 of us there. Yeah... that's when I figured that this was going to be difficult.
These exams were the biggest kick in the ego I've ever faced. I am not exaggerating. They literally made me feel like I didn't deserve to be there at the camp. I mean, to get below 50% in a theory exam (TWICE) in a subject that I absolutely loved is pretty demoralising.

You could /actually/ smell the taste of defeat in the air when we all received our results back.

It was that day that I gave up on even trying for the Biology Olympiad. Immediately stopped studying on camp and just played table tennis and pool every. single. night for the rest of the camp.

((Ironically enough, of the 5 offered spots on the team, 4/5 of us spent over nearly all nights on the ABO camp playing table tennis., etc., rather than studying. Thinking back, I think there was one moment where all four of us were playing together.))

Yeah that's me during a lecture.
I'm not going to hide the fact that I fell asleep for like the entirety of the immunology lecture (which I soulfully regret. I had to go back and read the entire textbook chapter to catch up. Would not recommend). I also struggled a lot to understand what the lectures were about and it was quite mentally stressing.

In hindsight, reading back, it's all not /that/ bad. Of course, I've accumulated enough study to basically have read the textbook like twice by now, so of course it seems easier in retrospect. But at the time, I really struggled. 

Anyway, this post is getting long so let's skip forward.

Leaving ABO camp was sad. I figured it would be the last big /experience/ in this whole Olympiad thing that I would experience. I wasn't even sure if I was going to even try for the final selection exam (FSE). It was a bittersweet goodbye, to say the least. Half of these people I'd never see again.

Get back and skip a couple of months, and find myself in the face of the FSE.

I. Have. Never. Crammed. So. Hard. In. My. Life.
I say that /literally/. Those three days before the FSE were the most crazy in my life. Pouring over my Campbell textbook, rushing through the handouts, really, really pushing myself to cover everything by the deadline. 

In retrospect, my studying for the IBO now is nothing compared to then. I don't even understand how I even did it? How did I do it? It was like some superhuman motivation for studying that I've never been able to harness ever since that time. If only I studied that hard all the time for all my assessments.

Those few days of studying really pushed me to my limit. If you gave me a second opportunity I don't think I'd be able to replicate those few days. It was the hardest I've worked in my life, or at least, that I can remember, and in retrospect I like to conclude that the effort was worth it(? I hope)

I'm not sure why I was able to do it without burning out. I think I had a small, inking of a desire to maybe possibly perhaps get into the IBO team? A friend and I, JH, ended up being good partners in that we bounced off each other and motivated the other to study and try hard for the FSE.
We were so pumped, and he was probably the closest friend I made from the camp (though, we only really became friends after the camp when I realised he was like the amazing cool brother I never had). 
He was so incredibly determined to get into the IBO that it rubbed onto me and I perhaps considered the possibility of trying.

It's funny how we said, initially, that we'd study every day and so by FSE we'd be prepared. (Hint: We didn't. We both ended up cramming like we've never crammed before)

Walked out of that final exam not expecting anything to come from it, but I couldn't stop that little bit of hope grasping onto the slither of possibility.

A month later. 

Results were coming back. Some complications happened with my phone so that I had no signal, and thus did not receive a phone call.

So, to say the least, I was a tad bit disappointed. I wasn't excessively, y'know, upset; I had worked myself up to be ready for defeat -- if I didn't get in then that's okay because I had no expectation to, y'know? 
But that little puff of hope was gone and I recovered quickly with just curiosity into who from the camp got in.

I'm not going to dwell too much on the moment my father told me (in the car) the news. I'll just say I was beside myself. If you drove past our car you'd think I was insane.

And somehow, in a matter of coincidence and chance, my friend JH got in too, and I just. I couldn't believe all of this was happening.

And now we're here. Finally. So many months down the track.

Those weeks of preparation before the NQE. Those weeks of panic before the ABO summer camp. Those days leading up to the FSE. Those months and months of hard work.

It still is weird to think that this is the last step. I still haven't quite registered or accepted it.
The memories of how it all began are still fresh in my mind, yet here I am, going to the /actual/ IBO in a couple of days? Am I ready? How is this real? All this work has lead up to this? Is this the end?

The next 2 weeks will perhaps be the biggest in my entire life. The highlight of my entire 17 years of existence, I suppose? Will the /journey/ end after this? All this work leading up to this one moment, which is finally here.

On camp we were discussing whether this IBO would be the highlight of our /entire lives/. The instructor said we were insane. 
'This is not the highlight. This is just the beginning. You have so much ahead of you.'

Well I don't know if I believe that's true, but I know that I could never have expected this to happen and I still don't understand how, why, and in what ways I'm standing here in this situation.

First day of camp.
All I know is that it started off many months ago, and it proves to show you never know what's going to happen.
All you can do is give it your best shot.
And that the journey only ends when you will it to.


P.S., hopefully an update before I fly


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Hello! I'm a student from Australia. I like photography, am aspiring to be a Doctor, have fallen in love with many things that life has to offer, and hope to see more of it. I've been blogging for a while and over the years what it means to me has changed. Currently still trying to figure that out, but here I am in a weird hybridisation of photography, film, blogging, and the confusion of a young adult, you'll find me here writing about my experiences and life. Or whatever tickles my fancy. Whether that's entertaining or not is yours to decide. Stay hydrated, kids.