Fact: I am completely incapable of studying at home.
Whether this peculiarity is because of my inherent lack of discipline or whether it is the product of conditioning, the bottom line is the same - in order to get a decent amount of reviewing done, I have to study OUT.
Believe me, in the interest of saving my dwindling funds, I've already tried locking myself up in an apartment unit away from all forms of temptation - no TV, no laptop, no internet - but to no avail. After only half a day, I was ready to climb walls and tear my hair out from the stress. In the interest of preserving my sanity, I packed away my books and my notes and lugged them all to Starbucks.
Leave me to do intense studying in an empty apartment with no one around, and you better come back for me with a straitjacket or I will not be responsible for my actions. Just a few days ago, my brain completely short-circuiting from my forced solitary confinement, I was compelled to throw an impromptu concert with my iPod as accompaniment, a hairbrush as my microphone, and the empty office room as audience. (Don't ask me to explain how that helped because I can't - it just did).
Life would be so much easier - not to mention less expensive - if we had easy access to public libraries that are open late into the night. School libraries close at 9pm at the latest and require ID for access. This poses a unique problem for people like me who are: a) no longer affiliated with any academic institution and are studying for make-or-break certification exams, b) at our absorptive best later in the day and into the wee hours of the morning, and c) need the stimulus of seeing other people around to facilitate the learning process. Besides, even if I could find a library that would let me study in it, the point would be moot because all schools are on Christmas hiatus right now.
Thank goodness for Pinoy coffee culture, which means there is an accessible open coffeehouse just a stone's throw away from anywhere in Manila. The ubiquitous coffee house has become a haven for eccentric and reluctant academics like me - reasonably quiet except during peak hours, the pleasant smell of coffee brewing hanging in the air, unlimited access to coffee (if you're willing to spend for it), the sight of other people to break your boredom, and store hours extending into the wee hours of the morning. Rising noise levels and annoying patrons in neighboring tables can be effectively drowned out by music streaming from MP3 players or - for those who don't like studying with music - with industrial foam earplugs which can be purchased from any hardware store for less than P50.
As a case in point... what library would be open on the day before Christmas anywhere in the Philippines? Yet on Christmas eve, my batchmate Vic-vic and I were still both in an almost-deserted Starbucks Libis, poring over our Harrison's like our lives depended on it - which they do. (That we were even studying on Christmas eve is something that deserves a full-length rant in another entry reserved for another time.)
If it hadn't been for the existence of these coffee places, I probably wouldn't have passed our Medical Boards. It might even have taken me reasonably longer to graduate from medical school.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the combined magic of coffee and luck will help carry me through the day again this time around.
That's it for now - I'm already behind schedule in my review as it is. I'm off to Starbucks!