Hello Fellow readers!
My fourth winter in Newfoundland (NL) is just a few weeks away and I am so looking forward to it! I hope everyone is making the best of the Fall offerings while they last (Pumpkins, the yellow green hues around and a little sun). I still remember how the fall of 2016 had me thinking about what a beautiful place I had decided on for my Grad studies. So, as my introductory blog post I thought what better than to go back in time three years ago and share with you my eventful Grad school journey; the joys and fears, the failures and accomplishments and the experiences which I feel are vital for where I see myself five years from now.
I come from Chandigarh, India also known as The City Beautiful. Since I grew up in the lap-cozy protection of my family in one of the best cities in Northern India, it was a little intimidating at first to get out of my comfort zone into the real world, far from home, but I knew I wanted to move to a new place to start my PhD (that would mean more exposure and I knew, acclimatizing yourself to a new place gives your otherwise ‘routine’ life an adventurous taste). I went through a little decisive phase where I would keep listing in my head the pros and cons of moving to St. John’s, but I finally made up my mind after some deep introspection. Now that you know a little about where I come from, let me share with you a few of the lessons I have learned from my experiences at Grad school.
Okay, so no matter how much you enjoy your work and how much effort you put in, we all should agree that there are days when your experiments don’t work, your to-do lists get longer and things get overwhelming. I feel it’s important to be excited about your work, to learn new things with a zeal and to overcome the challenges smartly and efficiently; as all this eventually broadens not just your knowledge sphere but also your personal capabilities. I came to pursue research in core Synthetic Organic Chemistry (I had always loved Organic Chemistry but, had my Master’s degree in Inorganic Chemistry) but that transitional phase was beautifully advanced, thanks to my amazing Professor Dr. Sunil V. Pansare and my labmates (Dr. Moorthy, Dr. Amarendar, Dr. Gopinathan, Ritesh and Hrishikesh), all of us made such a great team that working in the lab became a lot more fun than expected. With what I have experienced in these three years, I think five things are worth inculpating (no matter what level of education you are pursuing, but definitely researchers can relate better to this):
- A positive attitude – Pessimism can make your PhD the worst phase of your life and on the other hand, a positive, yet realistic approach will make you see the brighter side of things, eventually making you work harder, learn better and resolve issues with a better mindset.
- Slow progress is also progress – In research when your Projects don’t work, they just don’t work and you feel like you have been in the same place for a long time, making you feel that you aren’t making progress. This is the time when you need to sit down and take into account all the baby steps you have taken towards your goals (I like to think about what progress I made each day, like, it may be little, but you see it still counts).
- A stitch in time, saves nine! – My mother’s best advice and it goes a long way in Grad school, but I am still trying to do my best at it J This could be making important notes in your Record Books, keeping your data organized and leaving your bench-spaces clean when you are done for the day. These little things save you a lot of time towards the end of your program (things like having to repeat experiments because you missed out on some important data when you did it the first time, coming in in the morning to see a messed-up bench-space may take away your zeal for the day).
- Work life balance – All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and see, when Jack is a doing a PhD a little excuse for having too many things to do is fine but still, finding some time for things he loves and the things which make him feel good about his life is quintessential to his wellbeing. For me, going home and cooking a nice meal for myself and my husband takes my stress away. No matter how busy I get I try to take time out for my favorite three things: good food, good company and good music, because I feel happier this way and when I feel happy, I do better work. I am sure nobody does better when they are stressed, sad and unhappy so knowing how to strike the right chord to balance your work and life is something we definitely have to know as good professionals, so why not learn this when at university itself!
- Building relationships – University provides the opportunity to meet a lot of people who can prove helpful to us at some time in the future, both professionally and personally. The importance of building healthy relationships at your workplace, with your supervisor, fellow colleagues, professors and other people around cannot be underrated. It’s a small world and it’s good to build real relationships; University is just a very good place to begin.
So, from 2016 to now, life has had its highs and lows. Grad school has had me at my best and at my worst but not a single day did I not take solace in choosing to come to Memorial for my PhD Okay, so, yes, it is cold, freaking too cold and windy at times, but I don’t know what it is about this place that I see one beautiful day after a couple of bad weather days in a row and I say to myself, this day is just worth the wait! There’s no denying that I miss my homeland, and I sometimes miss it a lot. I miss my Culture, our dressing style, our endless varieties of sweets and my mother’s homemade food; but St. John’s has definitely been a Home away from Home. The weather is cold, but the people are warm and I would rather have it this way than vice-versa. This place has given me the right atmosphere I was seeking to pursue my PhD research; it’s a long journey and I knew I wanted to do it at a place where I can harness my energy towards my research, enjoy a peaceful life and just have a lot less things to do which would otherwise divert my focus. So, here I am in St. John’s living the life I wanted and taking pride in having completed three parts of my PhD program (with courses, comprehensive and one publication done) and extremely excited to embark on to my last year of Grad school. Signing off for now, I wish you guys all the best with your time at Memorial and will see you around next time with my next post: How Final year at Grad school is making me feel!