An inspiring story of a late freshman
Patrik C. is a 27 years old freshman who studies pharmacy at the Faculty of Pharmacy that belongs to Masaryk University. His life story can be an inspiration for people who think that you have to finish all your studies in one go without interruptions or with just one gap year. Patrik was close to even not finishing his secondary school but now he studies one of the most difficult study programmes.
When did your love for chemistry begin?
I’ve always loved science. I was a weird kid who loved encyclopaedias and instead of mischief I just wanted to read. I was constantly asking people around me curious questions and was fascinated by human physiology, cell processes and space. To be honest, I was never a good student, though. I sucked at most classes except for chemistry. I fell in love with the subject.
And then you continued studying chemistry at secondary school?
My grades weren‘t that good so I couldn‘t have been picky but, luckily, my mother told me that there‘s a new study programme opening—chemist operator—and I miraculously got in. I soon discovered that chemistry is really my passion. I loved that school but since I was a young idiot, let‘s not sugar-coat it, I dropped out.
Then started what I call my dark period I‘m not proud of but I still knew that I want to do chemistry. My friend with a similar life story called and persuaded me to try a different chemistry school which I finally managed to finish. It was interesting because I was much older than my classmates but we had a very good relationship. I guess I was kind of like an uncle to them. The school even let me lead a seminar for young chemists which I enjoyed immensely and I appreciate the experience I got.
Did you enrol at university right away?
Not at all. I went working for a pharmaceutical company but I had to quit after a few months because the chemicals destroyed my health. It was very hard for me because I could no longer work in the field I love. In hospital, I saw many people whose health condition was really terrible which was an eye opening moment for me. I decided to change my life and habits so that I don‘t end up like them. I applied to university even though I was never interested in university education before. Another miracle happened and I got in.
How is being a freshman during the pandemic?
It has its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is, obviously, that I don‘t have to get up so early and I save commuting time. Lectures are online and recorded which is really handy when I don‘t catch something or want to review.
The disadvantage is that you can‘t really talk to teachers after lectures because everyone logs out immediately and the session ends. I also miss chatting with my classmates before lectures; I like studying with others. Also, my computer isn‘t that good so I often struggle with online schooling.
Fortunately, as a medical study programme we‘re allowed to physically attend practical education meaning seminars in laboratories, which is amazing.
Did you even manage to get to know your classmates?
Not many, to be frank. We have a group chat on Teams but there‘s over a hundred people so you can‘t really make real connections. I‘m very sociable so I really miss talking to people face to face.
Did your study programme fulfill your expectations?
I didn‘t have any expectations, I just wanted to try it out and see if it works for me. But, generally, I think my study programme fulfils what is to be expected from pharmacy. It‘s a hardcore field where you need some serious skills or you can even kill someone. It‘s a very responsible job.
Are school laboratories good enough?
I think they are really nice. They‘re well-equipped and if there‘s something missing, we can work around it by using something else and be inventive. It also seems there‘re some funds coming in lately so I guess they‘ll be modernised further in future.
Do you think studying pharmacy will prepare you well for your future career?
I think it will. We‘re learning organic chemistry and I was always interested in that. It basically means that you have some matter, you want to do something with it and you have to think of how to get there. Organic synthesis is my passion.
Do you have foreign classmates?
Not in my class because it’s taught in Czech. But you can study pharmacy as a duplicate programme also in English and many people do.
Would you change something?
We have Latin and I don‘t see any point in that. Sure, you have to know Latin names for plants and other stuff but learning grammar is really pointless. You can‘t communicate in it anyway. But our Latin teacher is really great and she‘s trying to make it as enjoyable as possible. Still, I dread my Latin exam.
Who would you recommend studying pharmacy to?
To those who want to ruin their lives. :) But seriously, chemistry is really tough; you have to know that beforehand. We write two tests each week—one from organic chemistry, one from botany—and unless you pass those little tests throughout the whole semester, they won‘t let you take the final exam.
It puts a lot of pressure on you but I think it‘s a good system actually. Just imagine cramming 400 plants a week before the exam. Generally, you have to study a lot but it‘s manageable. You just need to find study hours which work for you and stick to them. And sleep properly! It‘s during sleep when our brain stores new information permanently, after all.
I‘d say that if you want to be a doctor, you have to only cram loads of information. If you want to be a pharmacist, you have to cram but also understand certain principles. If you want to study biochemistry, it‘s mainly about understanding principles. Choose what you prefer.
Personally, I think that chemistry and pharmacy are fascinating study fields. It‘s basically alchemy! With drugs you make you can turn on and off certain processes in one‘s body so you have to carefully pick the right mixture. It‘s a very responsible job and you have to deal with people which I enjoy.
What can you do when you finish your studies?
I can be a pharmacist. Maybe I could also go into research and develop plant-based drugs. I definitely want to work on organic synthesis. The most known example of this process is LSD which is made from ergot. Through the process of organic synthesis, you extract lysergic acid out of it and then through the process of chemical synthesis create LSD.
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Do you like studying in Brno?
I‘ve always loved Brno‘s specific atmosphere. It‘s truly a student city; people are kind and open here. You can go out, randomly meet people in the street and become friends with them. Brno is good for both introverts and extroverts. There‘re many places for either studying in peace and quiet or partying with friends. Accommodation is very expensive, though, with prices comparable to Prague or maybe a little bit cheaper.