Hello, my dearest readers! Finally, summer! 🌞 Even though our lives as graduate students do not stop, I hope you are enjoying the warm days, and eating a lot of ice cream (it’s good for our brain!) I got sunburned last week and I don’t remember being so happy in complaining about something. In the photo above, you can see me with my super friend Silvana getting as much sun as we can!

In my last blog post, I tried to discuss a little bit about communications skills in grad studies, and I was also daydreaming about my first trip to Québec City and all the poutine I was planning to eat. It turns out the poutine was great, but I fell in love with the gelatos… Anyway, I should stop writing about food and start writing about what this week’s title means: “Enjoying the Graduate Studies journey!” It seems very general, but I will explain where this came from… (not knowing where this will take us!)

It was a Wednesday, at 8:00 a.m., and I was inside room 200C of Québec City’s Convention Centre, assisting the Plenary Lecture at the 102nd Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition (CCCE2019). I was feeling sleepy, but super happy! The presenter was Prof. Cathleen Crudden (@cathleencrudden) from Queen’s University, and she was doing a fantastic, inspiring, and emotional talk, and discussing her vision for becoming involved in society. She moved on to the next slide, where she had a picture of her mom, and Cathleen highlighted the important things her mom taught her throughout the years. Two of those things really popped my eyes out, and I rushed to write them down, following Shannon’s conference advice. (Thanks, Shannon! http://www.mun.ca/sgs/studentblog/tips-for-first-time-conference-goers/). The first thing mentioned by Cathleen was: “Spend time with people that inspire you!” This is something I know is significant, but I somehow always overlooked its importance. The act of focusing our time and energy with people that help, support, and inspire us is fundamental and essential in order to achieve a better version of ourselves. The other thing was: “Always choose the most interesting path!” The words “interesting path” are underlined, bold, and I would add some sparkles on them if I could. She didn’t say “do whatever is easier”, and she didn’t say “choose the best ending”. Sometimes we get so focused and worried with our goals that we forget to enjoy the path that leads to it!

It was a Saturday (May 14th, 2016), the time was 4:00 p.m., and my husband and I were at Fuji Safari Park in Japan. We were about to go home when Arthur looked at me and said, “Let’s go to Tokyo”. We didn’t have a place to stay and money was tight. Option number 1: Go home and sleep, even though we were on the other side of the world and this could be our only opportunity to visit Tokyo. Option number 2: Go to Tokyo, because we were on the other side of the world and this could be our only opportunity to visit Tokyo. Well, we chose option number 2, in other words, the most interesting path. The easiest way to get to Tokyo was via shinkansen (bullet train), which is something I was looking forward to. However, I was so worried about not having enough data on our cellphones and finding an available hotel, that I could only enjoy the trip after we got a place to stay. Before that, I was freaking out and praying to the old gods and the new to help us not get lost. Moral of the story: don’t do what I did, balance is key! Take the most interesting path, but enjoy it. Get comfortable in being uncomfortable, and know that regardless of what happens, you are learning and growing to be the best version of yourself.

(Our adventures in Tokyo! You can see me freaking out before getting inside the shinkansen in the first picture, but then enjoying Tokyo and all its Pokemons!)

During the CCCE2019, I also had the chance to participate in an amazing event (Networking 101) organized by my friend Laura Reyes (@fabulouslylaura). Laura is the Conference Technical Program Coordinator at the Chemical Institute of Canada, her favorite French word is “pamplemousse”, and you can ask her pretty much anything, including what is the average number of hairs on a 7-year-old Labrador-mix born in Brazil in June of 2006. If she doesn’t know what to say, she will come back with an answer or someone’s email 2 minutes later. During the CCCE2019, Laura organized some events she wished she had a chance to participate in when she was a student, including Networking 101. The purpose of this event was to demystify networking and to help students become comfortable in talking about themselves and their work in a professional environment. Each group of 4 students was paired up with a mentor, and mine was the super stylish Community Engagement Specialist at TELUS Spark, Dr. Josephine Tsang (@DrJTsang). The time spent with Josephine was wonderful and productive, she is an amazing person who gave me some amazing advice, and I really appreciate the opportunity to meet her.

After the networking event, there was an Industry Mixer so we could practice what we learned, eat some delicious food (including poutine!), and make new friends. During the mixer, a discussion with a group of students regarding the subject “What will you do after graduate school?” came up. My take-home message after this day was: It is OK not to know what comes next. Life has its own mysterious ways of working, and we should focus on learning and growing with the path that we choose. I’m not saying we should take 40 years to graduate, or that we shouldn’t go after the things we want, what I’m saying is that sometimes things work out the way we want and sometimes they don’t (science teaches us that every day), but there is always a learning process that should be considered. Although you get your PhD title during your defense, is not during your defense that you get your PhD; it’s during these 4 years of hard work, sleepless nights, failures, successes, opportunities, impostor-syndrome crisis, etc., etc., etc. (I could actually continue on forever). Having the prefix “doctor” before your name is also super cool, but the most significant achievement of your PhD is the person you become after these 4 years.

(Enjoying the Networking 101 with Laura and making sure she was having enough food!)

In summary my dear readers, this is what I wanted to discuss when I typed “Enjoy the graduate studies journey!” on the title of this blog. Spend time with people with similar ways of thinking and that bring your energy up, get out of your comfort zone, and enjoy your interesting and uncomfortable path. To achieve things we have never achieved, we need to do things we have never done. I also would like to thank all the people mentioned in this post and involved in the CCCE2019 for teaching me so many things; congratulate my supervisors and my friends for their amazing talks, poster presentations and awards won at the conference; and dedicate this post to the most inspiring, full of energy, and outgoing person I know, who says “Let’s live life to the fullest!” at least three times a day: Happy 13 years together, Arthur!

Thank you all for the attention (muito obrigada por tudo sempre)