I have simultaneously done nothing and everything this IAP.
After an exciting ten day family vacation in Japan and Hong Kong (highlights include: that time I petted multiple owls, and that time I ate three bowls of ramen in one night), I’ve been spending virtually all of my IAP at home studying for the MCAT, the next great obstacle between me and medical school.
The 6+ hour exam was scheduled for Friday, January 22nd, so I spent the three weeks leading up to that date poring over a complete set of Examkrackers MCAT books and various online practice exams. There’s not really much else to say about those dark, dark weeks.
When you think about it, the concept of IAP is pretty amazing. It’s an entire month of freedom. No longer are we bound by the 36 credit minimum or other constraints and boundaries set for us as students. Instead, we are given autonomy to make our own decisions regarding the time allocation of our lives.
Time is money, and IAP is essentially like being handed a briefcase full of hundred dollar bills every year, no strings attached. Some people choose to spend their windfall on travelling abroad, working an externship, or relaxing at home. There really are no bounds to what you decide to do (although I guess technically you are bounded by the law and also physics and other trifling things like that).
From a pre-med perspective, it’s invaluable in many ways. For me, it was mostly that I had four pristine weeks, neither burdened by the distracting academic load of a semester, nor the lamentable theft of our student-given right to a winter/summer vacation, during which I could study for the MCAT undisturbed. I did some studying over the summer, but decided that ultimately I hadn’t devoted enough time and would not be ready for the September test date. So I blocked off IAP for some intensive studying and nothing else.
Thankfully, the MCAT concluded last Friday so I’ve had this last week to relax and destress before the spring semester starts. Most of my free time has been spent consuming as much media as I possibly can before I become otherwise occupied with classes and other responsibilities. Sometimes what you really need after a really long stretch of studying, is to sprawl out on the sofa and settle into some good books and movies. 98% of Krystal’s who were polled would recommend this real science true method of relaxation (source: none).
At the bottom of this post, I’ve included a starter pack of movies and books that I watched/read this month if you too would like to try Krystal’s Real Science True Method of Relaxation. Of course, some of these movies were awful and not all of the books I read provided the same amount of enjoyment, but I find that it is predominantly the act itself – slipping into someone else’s world and experiencing something new and exciting and sometimes meaningful, even just for a little bit – that calms me down.
Just for fun, I’ve also included a one sentence quote from my brain that either summarizes the plot or contains one of my many offhanded reactions to the book or movie. I’ll try to keep it relatively spoiler free, but I make no promises about run-on sentences or grammatical correctness.
Feel free to leave any recommendations, rebuttals, opinions etc. below!
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
It’s as if the Harry Potter series and the Chronicles of Narnia had a baby and people are always saying things to it like, “you have your mother’s nose!” or “you must have gotten your fantasy-world-ruled-by-speaking-animal-gods-that-is-at-one-point-also-ruled-by-a-bunch-of-young-siblings from your father!”
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
In my favorite book of the series, more shenanigans happen in the fantasy world, but also, half of the book is a jarring account of a girl’s attempts to learn magic outside of the privileged magical school system.
The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
Wow, trilogies are all the rage these days and also I thought the ending was pretty meh, though there was this one plot point about revenge that was quite satisfying.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The international best seller that has both an extremely boring first chapter and a lot of references to Swedish things that I have never heard of, but which should definitely not stop you from reading the rest of it because it’s a mystery and a thriller and I totally did not see that ending coming.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Exorbitant quantities of 1980s pop culture are wrapped up in a plot driven by a shiny virtual reality game contest with billions of dollars at stake that is inexplicably dominated by teenagers, despite the fact that literally anyone can participate.
Movies (date of release) – Director:
Sixth Sense (1999) – M. Night Shyamalan
Bruce Willis has hair!
Contact (1997) – Robert Zemeckis
Despite an arguably faulty use of Occam’s Razor at a major turning point for the protagonist, the movie ends up being a thought-provoking movie about contact with extraterrestrial beings, plus for some reason Matthew McConaughey is there.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014) – Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
Mockumentary about vampire roommates that have just as many problems as regular people roommates.
Matilda (1996) – Danny DeVito
Girl moves things with her brain because her parents neglect her and force her to eat frozen dinners.
Ex Machina (2015) – Alex Garland
Pretty interesting movie about artificial intelligence, the Turing Test, and an ending that didn’t make me want to throw my laptop out the window.
Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Howard Hawks
An archeologist is pestered by Katharine Hepburn and they search for a runaway pet leopard and dinosaur bones.
Rope (1948) – Alfred Hitchcock
Two people murder another person just for the heck of it and then have a party where they serve food on top of the chest containing the body because why not?
Panic Room (2002) – David Fincher
Tiny Kristen Stewart and her mom spend most of the movie in a giant metal box.
Badlands (1973) – Terrence Malick
If you enjoy flat characters, pointless murders, and wide shots of barren plains, you’ll love this movie!
The Conversation (1974) – Francis Ford Coppola
A man who is hired to eavesdrop on a conversation wrestles with his moral conscience, and then at the end sits on the floor and plays the saxophone (this isn’t a spoiler, I think).
The Martian (2015) – Ridley Scott
I watched this one in the dollar theater although it actually cost two whole dollars to watch.
The Signal (2014) – William Eubank
Would have been a largely forgettable movie except I managed to guess the plot twist twenty minutes into the movie which I consider a crowning achievement for me, so there’s that.
Fargo (1996) – Joel and Ethan Coen
A movie that is predominantly about Minnesota accents but I guess also technically about a kidnapping gone wrong.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) – Niels Arden Oplev
The Swedish adaption of the above mentioned novel that is three hours long and stays fairly faithful to its source material.
The Crying Game (1992) – Neil Jordan
I only watched this movie because someone on the internet said it had the biggest twist in movie history, except I think that statement is an exaggeration and also I’m not entirely sure what happened in the second half of the movie TBH.