This past week I turned 24 (holy guacamole) and I wanted to share a few things that happened this year that... I didn't see coming. And I'm hoping that these lessons I learned hopefully help some of you who are reading this.
But first, a big thank you to all the readers who reached out to wish me a happy birthday! I truly appreciate you taking the time to wish me a happy day- and it was just that. A wonderful day surrounded by friends and looking towards the future!
If you had asked me two years ago where I thought I would be at the age of 24, I would've said "Doing my PhD." And yet, as I blow out 24 candles on a beautiful cake, I'm not doing a PhD. Although I do plan on dipping my toes into the academic world again, I decided to take a year off between my MSc and PhD to take a mental rest.
Completing a Master's degree is tough. Doing that while juggling two jobs and TFUI was a struggle. I wasn't in the right mindset - and I didn't have funding. No thanks!
I graduated in December; my friends and husband came to celebrate and watched me cross the stage. It was difficult not having my family there- but they tuned in and saw me via video feed (thank you, technology) at 3:00 AM. Starting 2017, I began working at the Island Bay Marine Education Centre as an educator and social media curator. I took on another un-related biology job that paid well, allowing me to save some money for a doctorate.
This year, I also decided to put myself out there more. I started with the "Lessons I learned in grad school" post, where I bared my heart and opened myself up. I took over some twitter accounts (like SciBlogHub, Biotweeps, SciParty, and Real Scientists) and took to talking about women in STEM, diversity in the sciences being portrayed correctly, and also mental health -- my end result wanting these conversations to be commonplace in the science community.
It looks like it paid off in some ways, and my "putting myself out there" led to some big hashtags (like #BillMeetScienceTwitter) and big opportunities- like TEDx Wellington. Doing TFUI classroom visits means I do public talks on the regular-- but nothing on the scale of TEDx. Getting micc-ed up and being in the light for the first time, staring out at all those people... holy wow.
This year "off" was my busiest - I wrote a lot of articles (see some here), I did TEDx, I got to do podcasts and radio interviews, I got to do #STEMSaturdays, and I got to dream big with TFUI. In fact, TFUI is now collaborating with Keep Fin Alive to fight plastic pollution and Let's Talk Science and Share My Lesson to promote reliable shark education!
I plan on continuing to get my PhD soon- afterall, I did promise my grandfather (love you, Abuelo)! But I'll be making sure I keep a few things this time around. For example:
I will follow my passion. I want a PhD I'm 100% passionate about- if I'm going to spend a few years of my life on this project, I don't want to be "eh" about it. And my passions are not just crunching data but going out and collecting that data myself. I'm hoping to go back out into the field... it's been way too long since I've been out.
I want to work with a school and advisor that I have a good relationship with. I haven't had any problems with universities or advisors, but this person (or persons) and I will be working closely together. I want to make sure we get along great. I also want to find a PhD program where the professors are not all working in the same narrowly focused research area.
I want to live somewhere a bit warmer. As much as I love New Zealand, I do miss actual seasons. I find it too cold here, and I miss being able to feel warm. New Zealand is gorgeous, but I'm looking for opportunities worldwide, including NZ.
Think about a few questions before applying for a PhD. You want to put 110% into a PhD; the point is to develop significant and original research in your area of expertise. I've been asking myself a bunch of questions (that allowed me to reach the conclusions above). Am I certain about the type of research I want to do? Do I know where I want to live for the next three-to-five years? What is there to do around the university I choose? Am I prepared to stay in an academic environment for so long? What's the reputation of the department that I'm wanting to join? What career development opportunities are there at the department?
Here are a few extra questions to think about:
I'm glad that I took a year off between MSc and PhD. It was never something I thought I would be doing (and I never intended to get a MSc-- I thought I was going to go from Bachelor's to PhD) but it turned out to be the best adventure I've taken on.
So if you take a year off (or two, or three, or more!) between degrees, please try to not feel like a failure. You aren't. It's okay to take time off to work on your greatest project: yourself.
have any questions? feel free to ask me!
you may also like:
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
SEARCH BY CATEGORIES