Category Archives: skool!

May 18th – the day I became a marine biologist

Guys, I did it. I finally did it. I made 8 year old me proud and happy beyond measure. On May 18th, I successfully defended my thesis and am now a marine biologist.

I have never been so nervous in my life as I was the night before the presentation. I tried to rehearse but that failed miserably. The presentation itself went great, despite me blanking out on several questions my opponent had. That probably nerfed my grade, to be honest. I couldn’t sleep that night, and I even dreamt that I failed it because I couldn’t speak. That probably contributed to the half-assed presentation I did. I’m sure I can pull it off in a better manner today but what is done is done, right?

Yesterday, I spent the day alone. Zoe was at daycare and I couldn’t sit around and do nothing, which resulted in me taking busses around town to play Pokemon Go. Once I got home again, chores awaited and in between those, I experienced a turmoil of feelings. I was happy beyond measure, but I also felt empty and insecure. I know it’s expected. I’ve worked so hard for so long, I barely know what it’s like to fully relax. I honestly cannot remember when last I actually relaxed and didn’t worry about anything. Yesterday was a first. I still feel confused. I didn’t have a plan for life after university because the plan I had up until attending uni was all shot to hell. Why? Because life happens and you can’t ever plan everything.

I’m sure I wouldn’t been able to pull any of this off without the immense support I’ve received from almost everyone I know. You guys have been cheering me on since day 1 and no matter how long I’ve known you, you’ve always come through to pat me on my back, telling me I got this to get me back up on my feet. You’ve truly been the lights in my world and I really couldn’t have done it without you.

Right now, I’m constantly moving between sheer happiness and utter emptiness. Come Monday, and I’ll gotta do some things to get me moving toward a job. In between those tasks, I don’t know what to do. Maybe I’ll read a few books. Maybe I’ll catch up on my never-ending list of documentaries I want to watch. Maybe I’ll just go to the sea side and dream away. Or maybe I’ll catch up on all my series and anime or play all the games I’ve been meaning to play. It’s just weird to have so much time on my hands when I’ve always only been having 2-3h every week. It feels weird to me to start playing a game or watch a show. Those have always been an award to me. If I finish this task, I can watch one episode of X. That has always been my system. Do this and get this. Finish that and buy this. Now I don’t have a real thing to be my number one priority.

I think I’ll just have to go see the ocean. Then I’ll be fine again.

//c_Cae; finally did it. now what? 

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Rejoice

The deadline for the PhD application was on April 16, which resulted in me working over Easter desperately trying to finish it. It ended up pretty good, if I may say so myself. The only problem now is out of my hands, and I can only hope that my application stands out enough to call for an interview among the 40 other applicants. Other than being nervous, I also managed to finish my thesis.

I sent it in twice for revision and now the final version is in my hands. I only need to check for some minor errors and find typos. After than I’m ready to write a presentation manuscript and defend it. It’ll be fun, I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. Knowing that I have so many people that support me is very comforting. I’m not gonna lie, I am nervous but being a little nervous is good. It feels amazing and very unrealistic at the same time. Once my defence is over and I pass, I will have made my childhood dream come true and I’ll finally be a marine biologist.

I remember when I first started this blog and it was all about being a bartender before I realised I need to head back to uni and finish what I started. I also remember the picture shown to me when I was 8 and I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to be an archeologist and head for the deep blue instead. For the longest time as a child, I thought the words marine biologist was just a made up thing. I had just put together two words that made sense to me: marine because of the ocean and biologist because of all the life around us. Countless of times was I met with the question Is that even a thing? Of course it is! Look at me now. I’m very happy, although the thought of not knowing what I’ll do the coming years is frightening.

Most of all, I’m proud of myself. I’ve managed an education with 0 in debt. Zero. Nil. Nada. My degree is the manifestation of hard work in its purest form. Yes, I have put many things aside to achieve this but it is worth it. I’m also very proud of the fact that I managed to do something that I’d never thought I’d be able to pull off. My thesis is strictly theoretical and it’s packed with statistics. I’m still afraid of statistics but I now have a fundamental understanding to it and I know why it’s important. It scared the living being out of me when I took it but I am really glad I did it. It put me through so much agony, pain and frustration but it paid me back in knowledge and resilience. I’m really impressed with myself, not only to the fact that I managed to pull this thesis off, but also because I took the courage and challenged myself and walked out of it alive. So whatever the future has coming my way, I am not afraid.

//c_Cae; challenge accepted and achievement unlocked: marine biologist one month from now! 

November?!

Wait, what? I am not ready for winter :(

TA went great. On our last excursions, my students even told me they love me as a TA. That is the best reward that I could ever get. For the ecosystem engineering, I TA’d two groups of five students. These groups were to write a report of the excursions that we made and I had to correct them. It surprised me a great deal, when they sent the reports in and they differed so much. One was truly well written and the other was close to disaster. Honestly, I expected a certain level since these are students straight out of high school. They’re not used to the academic writing yet, and so I had lowered my standards significantly.

The first group’s report was brilliant (for their level), and I had little to correct. The “worst” thing they did was exceed the strict 3 page limit by putting a cover page over their already 3 pages long report. That was the worst thing. The rest were technicalities and they had actually gotten all the theoretical parts right. This, of course, got my expectations up and when I received the second report, I was kind of let down. I don’t want to seem like I am bashing on someone here so I’ll just stop there. Overall, they were great students. A bit reluctant to go out on a lake or sit by a muddy river bank, but then again, they had never done this before and probably never will ever again.

TA fun is now officially over and I’m just here wrapping the thesis. I had a meeting yesterday with my supervisor after all my confusion had cleared up. Everything is done now with the analyses and I just have to assemble this story so it makes sense. It bothers me, though, that my supervisor was all “Oh, I don’t need a first draft from you. Just send me the final version and I’ll correct it before having it examined so you can defend it.” Hold on, what did you just say? Skip the first draft? Wait, what?

I told both the Dutchman and Frank about this. They both said my supervisor was praising me for my hard work. My supervisor also said “well done” and “great job putting this together” but my thick, Asian skull just can’t take it in. I still can’t take it in, 30h later. The Dutchman is right, it’s remnants of what my parents used to say when I was younger that makes it nearly impossible to take in any praise. All I hear is “Oh god, why didn’t you get a higher score?” whenever I ace a test. I did not know you could score more than 100% of every test. This is something I will never do to Zoe. It’s so harmful. I can’t take compliments, let alone praise. Frank said something good, too, though. “It’s a skill to be able to take on praise”. I completely agree, although it is still difficult and it’s a skill that I am still working very hard on to hone.

Anyway, I put a deadline on myself since my supervisor won’t do it even though I’ve asked several times. I think I’m gonna work harder so that I can surprise him with sending it in a week earlier than promised. Think I can make it?

//c_Cae; challenges are what make us grow

To TA ecosystem engineering

The following week was exciting. I had my first TA session and we were going out to field. Prepping took no more than an hour the day before, which was kind of comforting since I was running on a tight schedule. This was also the week the Dutchman headed for Twitchcon in San Diego.

Since this engineering class is so large, we had split the class in two with 30 students in each group. Within these two large groups were smaller groups, each with their own hypotheses and thoughts of what they would find out in the field. We were headed to a little lake across the county to take water samples and give the students a little insight of what could be found in a typical Scanian lake.

I was in charge of the water chemistry groups. These students were going to investigate how the surroundings of a lake could change the water chemistry. Very simple, for someone with a lot of experience. The first day of TA was introducing myself and teaching the students what a hypothesis is and how to test it out in the field.

Getting to know the students was fun. Most of them are straight off of high school, while a select few have worked a little before joining the university joy ride (or whatever to call it). Prepped and ready, I send them off and prepare for the first field day.

With the first group, promptly named group 1, they sang and were all enthusiastic about heading out to the lake and sampling. The best part of having water chemistry, was that there is relatively little to do both in field and in lab. What made it even better was that the weather was with us.

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With an office like this, who could complain?

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We weren’t as lucky with the weather on the second lake excursion, though. It was gloomy, but on the bright side we finished our sampling almost 1.5h earlier than the previous trip.

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With little to do, we decided to help out the other groups so we all could wrap it all up sooner. Luckily, the sun peeked out shortly before lunch and the mood among the students significantly changed for the better.

//c_Cae; got any more of that TA thing?

Getting back to normal

The following week after Frank had been here, was kind of weird. With him being in Europe, we were in the same time zone and it was easier to talk, but also weirder in a sense. Zoe kept asking where he was, and because he forgot his water bottle here, Zoe got a bit defensive of it.

Going back to uni was a breeze. I was filled with inspiration even though there was stil la lot of frustration regarding the statistics of my thesis. So I scheduled a meeting with my supervisor and he gave me some pointers that I followed. Surprise! Getting some new insight of it all actually cleared a few clouds off my sky. The problem is still not fully resolved but at least I am now out of the frustration and can move just a little bit forward.

Aside from working hard at finishing the very prolonged thesis, I also prepared myself for the week of TA-ing. Exciting times were ahead of me.

//c_Cae; yay for updates! 

The past week

It’s been an eventful week. I’m TA-ing an undergraduate class, got good news on the thesis and most fun of all, I got a mail from a very dear friend.

First things first. The undergraduate class is exciting, the students are cheerful and willing to learn. But since most animals we deal with are my weakness (terrestrial and insects), I could only guide them to the best of my abilities which are very limited. We did get to hear European tree frogs play and it was amazing just sitting there with tea and enjoying the scenery. It did get better when we got out on a field trip and some students caught some crucian carps. It was my time to shine and I could actually tell something about the fish and their induced defence in the presence of a predator. It’s somewhat of a famous topic at the aquatic ecology unit and so I’ve heard many talks of the matter. It was fun and I can’t wait until we get to the aquatic stuff of the class.

My thesis meeting was alright. I gotta go through my data once again just to make sure it’s completely waterproof (read: flawless data). It takes a lot of time and I’m already pressuring myself into having a first draft of my report by next week. There’s another PhD position I’m interested in and I feel like I have to get a first draft finished if I am even to have a shot at it. Deadline’s May 23rd and so I just have to step up my game a notch or a few.

And the mails that I received from a dear friend (and frequent commenter), sent me over the moon. I hadn’t heard from him for two years and it was as much of a relief as it was joyous. I now know he is safe and happy, and that’s all I could ever wish for a friend. The most comforting part is that even though it’s been two years of silence, we picked up right where we left off. I genuinely cherish this friendship. Now I have one less worry and can focus even more on what I need to do.

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I was trying to work from home today, but Zoe wanted otherwise :)

//c_Cae; “I won’t apologize for the fire in my eyes”~

My first love

I remember the first time I saw you. I felt this calm while you gently reflected the sunlight and shimmered like blue marble. I was 8 at the time and I have loved you ever since. Almost 22 years later, I occasionally get to visit you and love you a little bit more. Yesterday was such a day.

I was recently assigned as course assistant for an undergraduate course. It’s mainly for 2nd year biology students, I think, and they’re supposed to learn how to use books (also known as keys) to identify different kind of animals. Because the lack of marine bottom fauna, I was sent out to fetch some. Along with one marine biologist professor and two journalists, we set out early morning and I was over the moon. Going at 30knots, the wind was hitting my face with ocean splash, and it felt great. It wasn’t even cold, and I have to admit, I was colder (still am) on land than I was when we were out. The only time when it was annoying was the brief hailing we experienced near the end of the day. Other than that, it was a perfect day at sea. We saw the R/V Sabella. I miss riding that boat. She’s huge (as opposed to our 7 man boat) and even has an underwater camera attached to her hull.

The ocean was so calm and it was the same marble blue as it was the first time I saw it, and I enjoyed every single second of it. As soon as we got back on land, the only thing that kept me from going on at sea, was my lunch. I had to have it at 430pm, but it was worth it. I was so happy to be at sea, I actually forgot about hunger. That’s a first, but it assures me that the ocean is still what I love most and that I am most definitely doing what I love. Soon, I’ll grasp that title of marine biologist. Soon…

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This is the beauty I want to preserve.

It was kind of heartbreaking seeing a lot of ghost nets on the echo location. It’s even more awful to know that there’s a lot of seals that hang out here, and they could get caught in those ghost nets. Gotta save the oceans to save the planet :)

And I stumbled upon this comment to remind me of a lot of things. Mostly, it makes me miss my friend a lot, but it also reminds me to look back to where I came from and not be sad about whatever hardships are thrown my way. There are a few hardships to deal with, mostly at university and it rocks my self-esteem in a bad way. But I’ll keep your words in mind, and wherever you are, I hope you are safe.

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//c_Cae; having all sorts of muscle pain because of yesterday’s sampling, all worth it though!