How to prevent procrastination

Are you all done with midterms? Trying to motivate yourself to get out of your post-midterm state to start reviewing for finals? It’s difficult to totally stop procrastinating but there are things we can do to devote our time to more important things than endless social media.

In the latest post, read about:

  • A surprising reason you might be a procrastinator yet overachiever.
  • Realistic steps you can take to change your mindset and environment to optimize focus
  • Specific programs and techniques to prevent social media distractions on your phone and computer


Applying to UBC: Which program? Which campus?

Question (edited for brevity):

“I’m applying to UBC this year and there are so many choices for programs. Which one did you choose when you applied back then? Is general sciences offered on the vancouver campus or is it only at the Okanagan campus?”

Ooh university applications season is such an exciting time!

At other schools, I was applying to many neuroscience programs but at UBC, you don’t choose a major when you apply. You only choose a general program/faculty to apply to.

I applied to Science program on the Vancouver Campus and the combined Commerce/Computer Science program on the Vancouver Campus. In retrospect, I think I would have also been happy in the Kinesiology or Lands and Food Sciences degree.  I ended up picking Science as my first choice because I was interested in the pharmacology major (disclaimer: as some of you know, I am majoring in Integrated Sciences specializing in Pharmacology & Neuroscience).

You don’t have to know your exact major but I highly suggest that you think about the coursework and several majors that you would be interested in and then look carefully at the program that these majors are in. For example, if you are interested in Nutrition, you may be drawn more to the Faculty of Lands and Food Systems. If you want to study Pharmacology, or Microbiology, Science might be the best fit. If you’re interested in Physiology and Anatomy, Kinesiology or Science would be both good fits so then dig deeper in the coursework offered by each faculty.

Choose your program for yourself rather than blindly follow what your peers or parents tell you. When I was in high school, most of us just followed what everyone else was doing.  This can lead to good things such as a push to join clubs and sports teams. When you’re in high school, your parents likely still have a big influence on your life and may be pressuring you to pursue a particular major and/or career. Your parents and peers can definitely provide good advice but ultimately, you are the one living your own life. You are the one spending 4 years of your life in that major. You are the one spending the rest of your life in a particular career. Therefore, it’s your right to make the ultimate decision.

See Cathy’s Blog about breaking away from her father’ pressure to become an accountant to instead pursue science & potentially medicine:

I know some others might advise you to choose a “safe backup” as your second choice program but I advise against this. Many people do end up in their second choice program so make sure your second choice is something you will be genuinely happy to spend four years in! I’ve said this before in another post, but there is also no “safe backup” because there is no program that you are guaranteed to get into. To address this directly, there is a widespread misconception on UBC Vancouver that the Faculty of Forestry is “just a backup” program. There are many individuals in Forestry that love what they study and Forestry was their first choice so I don’t suggest looking down on any program.

What’s nice is that the application process can also serve as something to help you make a big choice. For instance, I used to be interested in studying commerce/computer science for a while but that interest waned towards the end of high school when I started to get interested in a career in scientific research and/or a career in health care. So I put them both down and used the process as a “let’s see where fate takes me.”

If you absolutely love your first choice program and don’t like anything else for your second choice, you should study as much as possible and get awesome grades in Grade 12 so that you can maximize your chances of getting in.

Which campus: Kelowna or Vancouver?

There is a Faculty of Science in Kelowna. If you’re specifically asking about the “general science major”, it is only offered in Kelowna. We don’t have the general science major in Vancouver anymore. We do have the combined science and integrated science programs instead. My advice for you is to, again, think of your intended major because the majors available are different there. E.g. if you want to study biochem, they have that major on both campuses. But if you want to study pharmacology, it’s not offered there as of the time of this post.

As for picking the campus, that is a really personal choice. I chose to stay in Vancouver because I 1) wanted to stay to support and help my family in Vancouver and 2) made an appropriate financial decision to save money. People told me and I’m sure you’re gotten this advice as well, “Don’t worry about the money. Just do what your heart tells you.” I want to counter that and say that the ~ $10000  or more for rental costs per year is a big financial consideration for some families, including mine . I didn’t want to spend the money renting a place for my undergraduate education because I wanted to save the money for my post-undergraduate education.

But if finances is not concern to you, I would say both campuses are beautiful and there is a lot to do and experience. I’ve visited the Kelowna campus and it’s awesome. Both of my cousins study in Kelowna and have had a pretty good experience.

I wish you the best of luck with your applications! Maybe we’ll see you here at UBC Vancouver next year!

We held a heart in class!

During this morning’s pathology lecture, our lecturer brought us three heart specimens to examine.  For those of you that have handled raw chicken, a heart feels VERY similar to a piece of young chicken. I highly recommend the class PATH 375 as an elective.  I find the content extremely interesting, and the lecturers very engaging because the content covers many disorders that most of us have heard of and there are many pictures of real specimens as examples. We have also learned about some rare disorders. 


Today is a bit of unusual day. After the pathology lecture, I’m in the library writing out this post. I’m going to review the flashcards I made for this cardiopathology lecture and then review respiratory pathology flashcards if I have time. At 2 PM, Rachel and I were invited to a food tasting and meet-and-greet with the Pacific Poke chef where we are going to do some photography. Then I’m going to spend time with my brother and knock out a psych quiz before going with Misaki to Harvest Haus. Though we don’t usually go out during the week, we didn’t want to waste the tickets gifted to us from Foodyensation. We’ve grateful to have received a lot of food tasting invitations lately, which has been keeping us busy.  But I also intend to turn down some in the near future to spend more time with my family, catch up on some research, and get some work done for Vision Health Volunteers.

Anyway, hope you all have a great day!


How to keep track of assignments

Today’s post is a reply to a question posted by Shaun.

” Hi Shanna,

I have been reading your posts about UBC advice and I have been loving it! You seem to truly know your stuff. Currently, I am a first-year student (just started this month), so naturally, I am curious about all sorts of things.
How are Anki flashcards working for you?
How do you keep track of assignments from all of your classes?
and Do you find blogging to be helpful to your personal growth?



Thanks so much for reading and commenting Shaun. First of all, congrats on starting at UBC! How exciting! I wish you a great year full of fun adventures, new friendships, and figuring out how to ace your classes!

Thank you for your kind words. I hope this is okay with you that I’ll split up my answer into several posts, so I can take some time to give you a quality reply!

MOST IMPORTANT TIP: Set multiple email alerts for your small weekly assignments. I find that getting an email is much more helpful than a phone notification. If an alert about an upcoming assignment comes in as the same idea as a text from your boss or your best friend, you might forget about it! This is the email system that  I use with automatic email alerts. Note that I get 3 alerts! So that if I’m lazy and ignore the first email, my alerts refuse to let me forgot about that assignment!


For midterms and big papers, set 4 alerts. The first alert will come should be set for 2 weeks in advance.


Regarding weekly biology and psychology Launchpad/physics and calculus and statistics problem sets, do your assignment as soon as it’s available. If it opens Friday afternoon at 4 pm, do it before you relax for the evening.

Batch them together. If the professor releases 2 weeks of assignments at a time, I would do both of them at the same time since I’m doing it anyway. Getting yourself started is harder than continuing so if you have time, utilizing your good momentum can save you time in the long run.

My opinion only: Paper planners are superior to a cellphone calendar. I have friends that are brilliant students such as Veena and Kelsey that keep track of their due dates and exams all on their cellphone so that might work for you too. I tried the app too but I find it too much of a hassle to type something in and repeatedly check. When you have a paper planner, you can take it out as soon as the professor mentions it and write it down. Part of this is that I feel rude pulling my phone during a lecture but that might be a personal opinion and maybe everyone will doing that in a couple years.

When needed, keep a blank notebook for long to do lists . In busy periods of your life, a planner may temporarily not have enough space. For example, I used a blank notebook to plan out my estimated timeline for writing and editing my application. When you have a ton of projects in different realms in your life, you can have a page just about “urgent school assignments”, “to-dos for Vision Health Volunteers Club”, “Home life to-dos”, “Finalizing your major/other school admin things”, “General finance to-dos”.. Having a multi-purpose notebook on you at all times proves very useful though when you have a meeting and need to write something down.


I do want to note that in first year,  you have the most weekly assignments that you need to keep track of it that you can forget about because your professor will not remind you! If you utilize automatic alerts, you won’t forget. Each year, my classes get less and less assignments and put more weight on exams. For instance, in third year, only 2 of my classes have assignments. My PATH class has only a midterm and final. My physiology class is literally only based on final exam marks . So the further you go along, the less you have to care about little assignments.

Best of luck!


Useful and interesting UBC Courses and Electives for premeds

Thanks to the reader who asked this question: “What electives do you recommend for someone interested in a health profession such as medicine, pharmacy, etc?” I titled this post “for premeds” but this probably applies to students interested in pharmacy, optometry, etc as well! I also named this courses and electives because what was an elective for me may be a required course for you.

Full disclosure: I am not an expert and in no way a premed advisor. I’m just another student but since this was a popular question, I wanted to share my experience with my classes so far.

These were electives I took and found incredibly useful for the MCAT. By already learning this information in depth, studying for the MCAT will be freeze. I strongly believe that these courses help you help a solid science foundation that you will draw upon when taking high level courses.

  • PHYS 117 – Physics: Kinematics, forces, etc
  • PHYS 118 – Physics: Magnetism, electricity
  • BIOC 202 – Medical Biochemistry
  • CHEM 205 – Physical Chemistry
  • CHEM 233  – Organic Chemistry
  • CHEM 235 –  OChem Lab
  • PSYC 101 – Biological Psychology
  • SOCI 102 –  Sociology, Social Change, Institutions
  • BIOL 112 – Cell Bio
  • BIOL 200 – More advanced cell Bio (this was REALLY useful)
  • BIOL 260 Physiology

Classes that you’ll probably also find interesting if you’re interested in healthcare and medicine and diseases and all that great stuff

  • PSYC 101 – Biological Psychology
  • MICB 202 Immunology and Microbiology (diseases and stuff – very cool class)
  • MICB 302  More Immunology
  • BIOL 260 Animal and Plant Physio
  • CAPS 301 Human Physio
  • PCTH 201 Intro Pharmacology
  • PCTH 300 or 305 Pharmacology
  • PSYC 304 Neuroscience
  • CAPS 391 and 390 Anatomy  (though if you’re in Kinesiology, it’s supposed to be very similar to courses you have already taken)
  • CLST 301 Medical Terminology – greek and latin!
  • PATH 375 Human Pathology – Dr. Nimmo makes pathology class so interesting that 3 hours speed by.
  • ISCI 350 Darwinian Medicine

Please recommend any classes that I don’t know about!


Wish you all a fantastic start to the school year!


Getting ready to go back to school

Things I’ve been thinking about:

If you’re actively trying to pave a path to your dream career, you are happy to climb the little obstacles to get there.  

Today, one of my best friends, Veena, had a birthday party during which there was a lot of “wow schools starts again in just over a week!” and “back to the study grind!”. Veena and I had the same thought and glanced at each other at the same time and had a little laugh since we have been studying for our MCAT most of the summer. Yet we don’t regret it at all and we would sacrifice our summer all over again in a heartbeat because we choose to do this to chase our dreams. 🙂

Dreams are allowed to change one day, and I am going to stay open to embracing changes. 

As much I’m really determined to reach my current dream, I watched this video by Dr. Tooley and was reminded that it’s okay to have your goals change as you mature and learn more about yourself. Watch that video here: This past week, I’ve been asked multiple times about what I see myself doing 20 years from now, and of the times I mention I am interested in medicine, I always get asked what kind of doctor I want to be. People usually want a speciality as an answer. I want to 1) first cross the hurdle of getting into medicine and 2) be open to trying different specialities in rotations because you never know until you’ve tried!  Instead of saying a speciality, I would rather say there are traits & a work life and home life that I am envisioning for my life 20 years down the road instead. For example, a doctor that is committed to making patients feel like they are being listened to, feels comfortable with the skills and knowledge expected me for my level of training at the point, feel like my job is helping people and has meaning, a work environment with colleagues that support each other. In my personal life, I envision having a husband and children, settled in a neighbourhood that we’ll be living in for a while (as opposed to be temporarily living in a town for a few months or 1 year for training and constantly moving around). I bet that a good number of things I have just said will change as things happen to me and I grow and experience another 20 years of living.

I need to learn what is essential and what is not, and prioritize accordingly. 

I’ve been listening to the audiobook, “Essentialism”, as I walk to the bus stop, etc . It’s really made me start to think about how I can identify what is most important in my life and what things should I start saying no to.

I look forward to being a full time student again. 

The summer’s been fun but I look forward to the student life of classes, studying with friends, club activities, and all the other awesomeness of being a university student!Plus, I try to always remember that I am privileged to be a student whose main job is to study and learn!

Side note: I forgot that textbooks are very expensive. 

I seem to forget this every year. Booklists are out! I tried to hunt down my Pathology textbook on various used textbooks sites and Facebook groups but in the end, I’ve resorted to ordering the Pathology textbook brand new since the new textbook just came out. I figured that it’s better to buy the new version so that it will be easier for me to re-sell when I’m done the class. I am SO excited for my Pathology course in Semester 1!



3 tips from a medical student

I was quickly losing motivation to study after a long finals season but I needed to regain motivation to study for my quickly-upcoming MCAT. So as I do when I’m stuck, I asked a more wise and experienced individual for advice. Sarah, a medical student whose confidence I admire so much, and I were talking yesterday and she said that sure learning can be difficult but the truly most difficult part of medical school has been staying motivated. She offered her top three tips:

  1. Stay curious. Be hungry for knowledge. Get your fix of whatever part of medicine makes you excited by going to extra research talks or other methods.
  2. Know when to take time off. Take days off if you’re tired. Spend an afternoon napping in the sunshine on the grass. Rest and recharge.
  3. Accept failure, and accept becoming average. You can’t be outstanding all the time. Your classmates/colleagues are incredibly smart so being average is an achievement already.

So today, I remembered how privileged I am to get to work at a dream summer job, to do a lot of things my younger self wanted to do, and that I’m so lucky that everyday I get to work to get closer and closer to my goals.  During the many, many times I lose faith in myself, I have so many people who believe in me and I’m thankful for them.  My positive feelings towards studying for the MCAT are definitely going to ebb and flow. It won’t be pleasant all the time but I think it’ll feel better if I keep reminding myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. I am grateful that I have the opportunities I have right now and that I have the incredible love and support from the people. For example, my friend Amy has taken charge of our trip planning so that I can get lots of studying done this week and spend the vacation guilt-free from studying. How sweet a friend is she!!

I also think having fun plans has been keeping me going. During the midterm season, it felt dreary when I had nothing but another midterm to look to after a midterm (yikes). But now when I’m studying, I can daydream about the exciting things planned. I look forward to sharing the incredible adventures coming up very soon. I’m looking to something later today. A fellow food blogger got us VIP tickets to an opening ceremony on Saturday so I’m taking two of my best friends and my cousin and meeting up with a number of social media influencers. This is the first event we’re attending as official social media ambassadors so we’re excited!

To end, this song by KYGO has been on repeat and has helped me get a lot done this week so hope it help you too!

Have a fantastic week! Enjoy some sunshine. 🙂





Balancing studying with research

I’m excited to be giving a research talk at the end of this month. Oh my, I am nervous because I’ve never given a talk before and I feel intimidated that I’ll be speaking in front of a room full of knowledgeable researchers and healthcare staff. I have tempted to not this because it scares me. But I know that deep down, I really want this experience. I love my research project and love talking about it so the chance to share it with people interested in hearing about it – count me in! I also think this will be a helpful learning experience to learn how to give a presentation, especially since I plan to continue academic research in my future career.

My mentor advised me that the first time you give a talk, you spend the most time making your slides and rehearsing your talk over and over until you can give your talk in your sleep. I want to give the best talk that I can so I’ve been putting a lot of effort into this.

The problem is this is the heart of final exam season. So, to make time, I woke up at 4:30 am to work on my talk. I ended up working on my talk much longer than I intended to and did not get as much biochem studying done as I planned to. As a result,  I’m going to bring up my study intensity tomorrow.

I was a bit sad after my first final exam yesterday in Physical Chemistry because I realized I did a written answer question wrong – after I handed it in. But I can’t dwell on the past if I can’t change it. I just have to focus on the next exams and do as well as I can!

I’ve always believed in trying to do the best you can when possible and would and sometimes still do feel down when I didn’t do as well I thought my studying would amount to. The further I get in my studies, the more I have become to realize that dwelling on mistakes is unproductive. Analyzing and learning from your mistakes is useful but beating yourself up over a 91 because it’s not 100% is not worth it! I hope this hasn’t come off as preachy. This is really what I wish my younger self would have known sooner and it’s something I still have to remind myself of. Don’t get me, I still wish “aw, if I didn’t make that silly error” but I get over pretty quickly compared to in the past.

I thought I was going to stop blogging when I got busier with school but strangely enough, the busier I get with school, the more I seek writing as a creative outlet. (By the way, let me know how you like the new layout of this website!)

Thank you so much for reading this little blog! I hope this brought a little peace and quiet to your busy day.


The start of finals

I try to constantly remind myself that I’m grateful for the opportunity to study at an university and to fulfill my love of learning in a variety of cool subjects. It’s a privilege that I should never forget is a privilege but sometimes do. I forget because the pressure surrounding studying and doing well on tests is no fun but I do love the actual studying, learning and going to school a lot!

As much as I enjoy studying, I also thrive on connecting with and talking to people so too much time at my desk can make me feel sad. That’s why I’m thankful for my study buddies and why I still spent a day at the lab and why I keep going to work during finals. It helps me remember that besides trying to learn as much and as well as I can, I want to do well in my classes so that I can chase my dream job where one day I can  interacting with and help a variety of people almost all day.

I wanted to share how beautiful the study spot Misaki and I is. It’s been renovated since we’ve been here last but it’s the best: lots of natural light, chalkboards, quiet, long desks. Can you identify where this?

Alright, back to studying for tomorrow’s physical chemistry final!

Can you guess where this is?
Sushi Fridays at the lab