By Angeline Aw, Class of 2023
Over time, I had grown used to the tranquillity of the whole place, the familiar faces I would always see, and more importantly – the magnificent view of Singapore's skyline.
Hence, it was with a heavy heart when I had to say goodbye to the library on 5 April – two days before Singapore's circuit breaker began – as my friends and I headed home to study for our Summative Examinations.
While my stress levels grew the closer the time came to our examinations, so did the feeling of isolation. However, thanks to video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom, I was able to communicate with my friends. We offered each other moral support as we trudged through the last leg of our second year of medical school.
Angeline and her friends remain connected through Zoom
Returning to school
Time flew by and the two-month circuit-breaker period came to an end. As Singapore entered Phase 1 post-circuit breaker, I was able to return to School for the Summative Examinations in June.
I finally saw my friends again! But unlike before, we were unable to hug each other or give a pat on one another's back. We are living in a "new normal" where we had to maintain a one-metre distance from one another.
In line with the national guidelines, the School has made it mandatory to be safely distanced from one another at all times, and there were other precautionary measures in place to ensure our safety. For example, we arrived at different times to take our examinations. We also had to scan the SafeEntry QR code, take our temperature and turn on the TraceTogether app.
Instead of taking the examination as a cohort sitting in the Multi-Purpose Hall, we were split across multiple venues, with each venue accommodating no more than eight students.
One of the concerns I had was whether wearing a face mask for three hours during the examination would affect my breathing and performance. After all, the longest period I had to wear a face mask before was less than an hour when I headed out of my house to buy groceries or food.
Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. I was so engrossed in the exam paper, I almost forgot that I was even wearing a mask! Besides, if our frontliners can wear their N95 masks for their full-day shifts, we have little to complain about. Soon enough, we will have to shoulder the burden together with our seniors.
While it was different taking the examinations this year, I understood that these little sacrifices were necessary to ensure that everyone would remain safe while taking the examinations. On hindsight, these measures put us at ease and gave us the confidence to focus on the examinations even though we were in a room with other people.
As such, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard to make this exam possible in these extraordinary times – the faculty for constantly updating us about the situation to put us at ease and for addressing our concerns during dialogues; the Exams Committee for planning how we can take the exams with all the safe distancing measures; the security guards for ensuring that we arrive and leave the campus safely; and our Team-Based Learning facilitators and House Tutors for offering their moral support to us in the lead-up to the exams.
Beyond being a test of our medical knowledge, this year's Summative Examinations were indeed a test of our adaptability and unity in dealing with the challenges brought about by Covid-19.