A Letter to My College Self

brain-fog

Dear College Me,

I am writing to you from the brand new 2017 to tell you that you survived! Take a moment to smile and relish in that knowledge. Now, I hope you are sitting down because, right now, you are still in college. Did your heart just skip a beat? I bet it did! Don’t worry. It’s not a bad thing. It just goes to show you, things don’t always turn out as planned and that’s ok, better even. You are about to finish your Ph.D.! Yes, this is really you. I am certain.

I wont spoil the story on how you get here because I think you need to experience it in order to appreciate it. What I will tell you is that college is a unique experience that you should take seriously, but also enjoy. Here are a few things that may help you do both.

Frosh Week friends are just that. Don’t feel bad if you don’t hang on to the people you meet during that first week full of parties and orientation That’s all they need to be. Think about it, do you even have anything in common? It’s everyone’s first week in a new place and they are all alone. Everyone, including you, is desperate for friends. Once you get into classes and join various societies and clubs, you meet people that you have things in common with. These people are the ones that you’ll be telling stories about until you’ll wrinkled and grey.

Coffee is like oxygen. Ok, well maybe that is a bit extreme. Between two and four cups a day can improve heart health, longevity and memory. Exams, hint hint! Coffee will help you stay awake in that physics lecture with the monotone professor. Hot chocolate has too much sugar to drink that often and trust me, physics is not one you want to nod off in. You should invest in a good thermos and either volunteer in a lab or make friends in grad school. Labs and grad students usually have a pot of coffee constantly on the go. You can join their coffee club and contribute $0.25 to the pot versus over $2.00 for every cup at the café. This will save you so much, you have no idea.

No one cares about your minor. Stop stressing about fulfilling all the requirements for your major and for a minor. Not once since you graduated has anyone ever cared, let alone asked about your minor in biotechnology. You were thinking a minor in biotechnology sounded impressive right? It’s not even printed on your diploma. Take classes that interest you. Learn what interests you. Don’t worry about sounding impressive on paper.

Take the fluff classes. Fluff classes are basically easy As. Take them. Having a minor and those impressive classes may not matter, but your GPA does if you want to go to grad school. Even employers care when you have very little work experience right out of college. Future employers and grad school supervisors wont blink if you have an A in “Basket Weaving” on your transcript, but a C in “Artificial Cellular Technology” might hurt you.

Standardized tests are not so scary. There are tons of books and websites about how to study for these tests. Don’t let it intimidate you. There is nothing on those tests you haven’t already learned. You should definitely prepare for them, but don’t stress. You spent the entire summer before senior year studying and stressing about writing the OAT and you walked out of the exam laughing. It’s not worth it.

Summer school is for the smart ones. To graduate in four years, you need 5 classes per semester. Being in sciences, you will likely have theory exams as well as lab exams. That could mean up to 10 exams at the end of the semester! Take summer classes so you can lighten the load during the year. Summer classes tend to be easier to digest too; daily classes and only one subject to focus on. Take that “Linear Algebra” everyone is saying is tough. You’ll ace it. Just don’t take English. Reading all those mandatory novels and deciphering poetry in the condensed amount of time…not so smart.

Get to know your professors. At a large school like yours, this is difficult, so volunteer in their labs or be a teaching assistant for the courses you like. The experience is always good, but once you graduate, you’ll need reference letters. You’re more likely to get good ones if the prof can remember you.

Class is not always essential. Go to all your classes when they start. This will allow you to get to know the professor and their teaching style. Some professors are great teachers but some are there for the research and only teach because they have to. If they basically recite the textbook, don’t bother. You can read from the textbook on your own schedule.

Take your own notes. Take them in lectures and make your own notes from the textbook. The act of taking notes helps you learn faster. You are hearing the information, seeing the information and actively writing it. These are three different methods of absorbing it, plus, you have something to study later. If you are good at it, you can even sell your notes as a guide to students who take the course after you.

Join Facebook. Stop being a stick in the mud and just do it. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. How is that for a reversal of a cliché? Facebook will let you stay in touch with so many more people than the old fashioned phone will. Having a network will come in handy when you start looking for jobs. Besides, Facebook is fun and brainless. Trust me, you’ll appreciate having something to do that doesn’t require your brain sometimes.

Apply. Apply. Apply. In terms of scholarships, apply for anything you qualify for. You will get rejected more often than you get something, but don’t get discouraged. If you don’t apply, you definitely wont get anything. Aim for scholarship competitions that have a restricted applicant pool. You are more likely to get something if you are competing against students in your region or with your major than versus the whole country.

Loan refinancing. Repaying loans isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. You’ll want to set up a payment plan that avoids interest as much as possible. Paying lump sums when you have the extra cash or paying the loan off early can have penalties. Your taxes will also be involved. You’ll want some advice on this in order to save as much as possible.

You will fail. I’m not trying to scare you or be overly negative. I’m not only referring to classes either. You have always gotten good grades, you’ve gotten awards and you got into all the schools you wanted. You’ve always sort of been the big fish in the small pond. You’ve never failed, not really. Now, you’re at college with all the big fish. You’re not going to be the best at everything anymore. You may fail classes, you will get your heart broken, you wont get that scholarship or loan you applied for, you may not get into grad school or you wont get call-backs for jobs and people will be mean to you. It will hurt, some of it may be devastating, but you will survive. You will learn that it is ok to fail. You will take what you learned from that failure and take the next step in life smarter than you were before.

Now, knowing what I was only privy to in hindsight, start college, be a sponge, learn all you can, but have some fun too. Most of all don’t be afraid to fall flat on your face because you will, and you’ll be just fine.

Love always,

Future Me

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Happy 2017!!

 

Hi All!

It has been a while! I’m sure I’ll eventually explain my absence, but to make a long story short, I was focusing on school. I stayed. Can you believe it? I almost can’t. Anyway, the result is a near complete Ph.D.

I was thinking about starting to write again for a while. I have made some good friends here that I dearly miss. Recently, I got an email asking me to write a letter to my college self on this blog. Since I had been thinking about writing again anyway, I decided this would be the prompt to get me going (see next post). Especially since 2017 marks ten years since I graduated from my first degree. Eek!

I am looking forward to weekend coffee shares and seeing the lovely work of all my artsy friends. I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and 2017 is good to you!

snowy-branches

Share Your World – Week 45

share your world

Share Your World is hosted every week by Cee at Cee’s Photography. This is week 45. Thanks for the great questions Cee!

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “fun”?

Something exhilarating, like a roller coaster, zip lining or jumping into cold water. There are simpler things that are fun too, but these are the things that jump to my mind first.

Here is a picture of the waterfall on a volcano Hubby and I got to swim in while we were in Costa Rica. The water was cold, but it was so blue and beautiful. The blue is created from the sun’s reflection off the silicon in the volcanic rock. I’ve never seen anything like it. The photo is from the park website. Our photos didn’t give the brilliant blue justice.

catarata_aguilar_sensoria01

What is your favorite time of day?

My favourite time of day is evening, sometime 8pm or later. I feel like after 8pm I can say my day is done, it is too late to work, do chores or justify worrying about things. It’s time to wind down and relax without feeling guilty.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want have a evening with?

I would want to have an evening with my husband. An evening without stress, work, grading or report cards. We have been in survival mode for a while now. It would just be nice to have some time off, together, even if it is just an evening.

Complete this sentence: Something that anyone can do that will guarantee my smile is… 

…give me a genuine smile. None of these sarcastic smirks or pity smiles. A genuine smile will always get one in return.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last Week: I am grateful for getting through last week. It was a rough one for me. I am also grateful that my sister visited. It was nice to see her. She lives far away now.

This Week: I am looking forward to seeing old friends. I will be visiting with friends that I’ve known since the 6th grade. It will be nice to catch up. I’ll also get to visit with my aunt, whom I haven’t seen since May.

Supreme Commander of the Universe

NaBloPoMo_2015

Today’s prompt asks if, as a child, you wanted to have the same, or a different job than your parents when you grew up.

I’ll start with my Dad because I can say with certainty that I did not want a job like him when I was a kid. Actually, I had no idea what he really did until I was nearly graduating high school. Dad worked for IBM. IBM is a huge corporation with a multitude of different types of jobs but, when you hear “IBM” you automatically think computers. I thought my Dad worked with computers. He was certainly always on the one we had at home and he had a laptop before long before people realized it wasn’t something that only existed in the Star Trek universe.

My Dad did not actually work with computers. He was an engineer. A civil engineer to be exact. When I figured this out, I was completely confused as to why IBM would need a civil engineer. IBM built computers, not buildings.

Wrong again.

Dad was responsible for managing the building of new IBM buildings, maintaining current infrastructure and remodeling new space that was acquired. I suppose all those IBM employees did need space to work in right?

It was a big promotion that moved the family to Montreal in 2002. When I asked my Dad what his new job was, he would tell me he had been promoted to “Supreme Commander of the Universe”. Funny, but not so informative.

Living in Montreal, I finally got a better understanding of what he actually did. I got to see the buildings he was working on. There are two of them in the business district that I had to pass on my way to McGill everyday. He took me on tours and explained the unique methods of heating, wiring, etc that would be more economic for IBM and environmentally friendly. I don’t really remember what they were exactly, but the temperature control system stuck with me. In one building, water was circulated through the walls and floors. The water was heated or cooled depending on the season and then circulated throughout the building. This was a new concept to me. I thought it was interesting.

My mom’s job was a little more straight forward. She worked in Hematology and Blood Bank at the local hospital. I think it was learning about her job that got me interested in science. I thought studying the little vials of blood that got sent to her via the “Blood-vator” was pretty cool. The “Blood-vator” was a foam canister that blood was sent down to the lab in. It came down a chute from the floors above, kind of like a elevator, but for blood. Hence “Blood-vator”.

The hematology part of my mom’s job was interesting, but I was not a fan of blood bank. The blood bank was where blood and other fluids were stored for transfusions and such. Those big bags of blood made my stomach turn. I was a little squeamish, which makes no sense since I worked with cadavers during my undergrad, but I think it was just the blood. Big bags of blood or guts with blood were disturbing, but just plain guts, that I could handle.

Working in a hospital required shift work. As a child, it appeared that my mom handled it well, but as I got a little older, I realized I was not a night person. There was just no way I would be able to work the evening or night shifts that my mom did for a week at a time. Especially since you were alone on a night shift in blood bank. I can’t imagine how she stayed a wake on a slow night.

I knew engineering and shift work were not for me. I remember wanting to be like Anne of Green Gables. A teacher and a writer. I have no idea how that aspiration morphed into a career in science. Even when I had settled on science, I said I never wanted to do research, yet, here I am. Research.

I wonder how many children actually grow up and become what they said they wanted to be.

The Coolest Job Ever

NaBloPoMo BlogHer Prompt: What did you think was the coolest job in the world when you were younger? Do you still feel that way now?

The coolest job in the world was being a Spice Girl. It couldn’t get any better than that. They were the closest thing to superheroes in my mind. Think about it. You get to travel all over the world, with you best friends I might add, promoting girl power! You get to wear cool clothes and sing and dance all day. Plus, you have your very own double decker bus to drive around on. That was cool!

I will always be a Spice Girls fan and would definitely buy a ticket if they were to have a concert around here, but I would not want to be one. The awesome parts of their jobs I mentioned above are still pretty cool, but that is not all they did. They were celebrities. As one of those, especially at the level the Spice Girls were at, your job is your life, your life is your job. It’s all the same. You have to be “on” all the time. As an introvert with depression, that would probably be my worst nightmare.

Celebrities get all sorts of criticism for everything they do. Their choices are criticized, their words, their clothes, their bodies. Sometimes it is constructive criticism, sometimes they do something dumb and are asking for it, but a lot of the time it is just plain mean. Tabloids were pretty bad when the Spice Girls were in their prime, but those gossip newspapers don’t even compare to what we have now; social media. I think having all those negative things said about me on social media would be crushing. It wouldn’t matter how well I was doing or how many good things were said, the haters would win.

Now that I have a better understanding of what being a Spice Girl might have been like, there is no way I would want to be one. I admire them for being able to handle it though.

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