La Manche

Here I am again, in my room. Outside it’s raining, but it’s warm. I visited my home country, Italy, for a holiday between the Winter and the Spring Semester, but I didn’t expect to be so homesick and jet-lagged once I returned to St. John’s. Everything was similar, but a bit weird, even the weather. So if you plan to go home, remember to calculate one week or two to familiarize yourself again with the place.

When I left to go home it was during a snowstorm but when I returned it was 18 degrees, sunny and relatively humid. Aside from the humidity, it was great. Now that I am adjusted once again, everything is back to normal, but it did help me a lot to get outside and go for a hike. There are a lot of great hiking trails here, you can walk on part of the East Coast Trail, which is beautiful. I have also been to Freshwater bay and La Manche, which is well known for its suspension bridge. These are located a bit outside the city, but if you are looking for something a bit closer you can walk Signal Hill up to Cabot Tower. Signal Hill is a well known landmark in St. John’s and has an amazing view of the Ocean and the city. I like hiking, being outside, and breathing the fresh air, it really helps ease my homesickness and makes me feel better.

The Spring semester brings new students to campus while others have finished their program and have left. During this semester many graduate students go to field sites to conduct fieldwork and collect data, while others travel to conferences or take a break and go on vacation. The campus is very quiet with very few people around, even though classes are still in session.

I am doing a teaching assistantship this semester which is interesting. The assistantship is in a lab and takes place during intersession. Intersession is a condensed semester where students only have 6 weeks to complete a course that would normally take a full four month semester to complete. Because of this, the students have two labs a week.

Aside from my TA position, most of my time is spent working on my data-set. The search of literature is faster now, since I received assistance from a library staff member, Ms. Alcock. During the Graduate Core Seminar in Fall Semester, I met her for a class, and she explained to us how to use the tools of the library. However, I was still not sure how to search some publications that I needed, so I asked for a meeting. She was very kind, and she went through all my questions, explaining to me everything that I needed. I really suggest to ask for research help if you are in trouble, they are very helpful.

In my last blog post I mentioned that I wanted to practice presenting in English, which I did. I gave two presentations during the Winter semester before I left. One presentation was at the Aldrich Conference, and the second was at the Biology Graduate Student Symposium (BGSS). Apart from the presentations I made during the Graduate Core Seminar, I never made any other presentations in English before, so I was very nervous. I remember that I started speaking very fast. However, once I became aware of how fast I was speaking, I tried to slow down a bit. In the end, both presentations went quite well. During the BGSS I had the chance to present my proposal and to receive constructive comments from two professors who listened to my presentation. Having the opportunity to do this was very helpful.

I’m looking forward to the Spring semester but for now, I must go back to my readings.