Are you studying for a career in the sciences? Not sure where to begin to gather that lab experience that is oh so important for obtaining your degree and landing a great job? Our Math and Science intern Wilson shares his experiences of finding his place as a student researcher and shares the four lessons he’s learnt both inside and outside of the lab.
For almost 2 years now, I have been a student researcher at UCLA studying the physiology of anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorders. This position has opened my eyes up to the professional, research-oriented community and taught me to dismiss some of the common misconceptions I had before I received this opportunity. Here are a few things I learned on my way to becoming a student researcher.
And no, it’s not the kind where seven people are picked to live in a house. In our editorial intern’s final post, she tells you all the things you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about in this time of inevitable worries—graduation.
Today is my last day as an intern at eNotes. Because they’re promoting me to an EXECUTIVE POSITION.
Hah, just kidding. They’re kicking me out. My internship has run its course and now we must part ways (sigh).
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. As I walk away from this position and from my previous college lifestyle, I can’t help but feel like scissors are snipping at the ties that connected me to these things. Many things are finished and done. And it feels a little like that painful moment someone harshly yanks the blinds open after you’ve been sitting in a dark room for 5 hours.
Life after college…is a really strange thing. I’d like to equate it to a baby bird’s first flight. That moment you leave college is the same moment someone kicks you square in the back. You start to freefall downwards and it’s exhilarating but scary. You don’t know how to flap your wings or gain altitude because you’ve never done it before, but you’re trying with all your might to do something—anything. You know that you are capable of flight, you can feel it as the adrenaline rushes through you.
I think we are all humming Tom Petty in our heads right now.
When we leave college, we’re free for the first time. No homework, no essays, no school responsibilities. No strict guidance, no tunnel vision, no more college microcosm. We can take our lives in any direction we choose to. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily know how to handle the situation or understand it fully. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to know how to grasp the real world off the bat, or even comprehend it. We’re thrown into it, and told to make it work. We know we can because a lot of people can. We know we can because we have a desire to and that desire fuels us. But we’re young. I’m not talking about age. I’m talking about our understanding of the world and of who we are. We’re young. So, it seems, the freefall is the only way we can prompt self growth, but it’s definitely not the most comfortable of feelings.
I’m undeniably in this free fall right now. I’m actually writing to you as I pummel toward the earth.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve done a lot of worrying. A whole lot of worrying. To me, it makes perfect sense. New world, new life, new opportunities, and decisions that need to be made…these are all things that bring their own baggage—their own sets of worries and stressors. Throw ‘em all together and you’ve got one huge, heavy mess.
There’s a good chance this will happen to you at some point, so I’m going to go ahead and help you through it. There are some things that don’t need to be worried about. But we worry about them because we don’t realize we’re worrying about things that don’t need to be worried about. Let’s pretend like that sentence was really clear and not a run-on at all.
Here are some things you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about, like I did.
- Don’t worry about failing. If you’re chasing something—a goal, a dream, a degree, a career—just chase it, with all the gusto you have. Don’t let your mind be boggled by the potentiality of failing. It will distract. You likely won’t fail. And if you do, well…failure is also a good thing. It teaches. The best lessons are learnt from failing at something. Either you succeed at your dream, and move on, or you fail at it, and move on. Both of these things will leave you more knowledgeable about yourself, about life, and about what you really want from both of those things. Hello…this is a win-win.
- Don’t worry about what your life is going to look like in 25 years. Mini van. Dog. Three kids. A house. Early retirement. It’s good to have an idea of what you want your life to look like, and it’s good to take action to make those things more of a possibility. But stop stressing over them. Most of our plans are just rough drafts or sketches anyways. Things rarely happen the way we expect or plan on them to. So why dwell? Silly goose.
- Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet. “If I don’t get this job then I’ll be unemployed and I’ll lose all of my friends because I won’t be able to go out anymore and I’ll just have to hang out with a dog and talk to it and I’ll eventually lose all my money and my apartment and my ability to remain hygienic and basically my life is going to be OVER.” Yes, let’s not do this. Half of the things we worry about are things that haven’t come into fruition yet. They’re thoughts. Little puffs of air that we catch in jars and then stare at until our eyeballs hurt. There’s nothing there. Stop staring. Stop it! Be in the present, not trapped in the different futures you’ve managed to paint. If something worry-worth actually occurs, worry about it then, but only then.
- Don’t worry about what your friendships and relationships will look like as your life moves forward. Just keep in touch with your friends and loved ones. Those who remain in your life are meant to, those who don’t might turn up again later or might not. We can’t control these things except by how much effort we put forth. So show that you care and love these special people, but don’t worry that they’ll leave you. That just makes for messes, drama, and crying. The kinds of emotion you feel during the gut-wrenching, tear jerking portion of a rom-com. Yuck.
- Don’t worry about finding a perfect career that’ll last you a lifetime. This is just silly. In life, we change constantly, and so do our interests. It’s not really probable to assume that a career you pick now will make you happy forever. In all likelihood, it won’t. In order for you to actually succeed at and enjoy your career, you will need to find work based off of what you feel in the present—what’s driving you now. So, with that in mind, there’s no need to worry about finding the perfect career that’ll last forever. Just find yourself a path that feels right for right now. Don’t worry so much about what happens later.
A wise man and renowned poet named Robert Sylvester Kelly (commonly known as R. Kelly), once sang to the heavens these famous words: “I believe I can fly.”
Well, friends, I believe you can fly.
It’s been nice knowing you, folks.
A positively shameful confession from college student and eNotes intern, Yael…
I need to confess something, guys.
I’m a book-starter. That kind of sounds like a positive thing, but it’s not.
Allow me to rephrase.
I’m a book-abandoner… a book-deserter.
I just can’t kick the habit.
In the past two years, I’ve probably started and stopped reading about 20 books. With each, as goes the one before it, I make it through about a quarter of the novel. Then I bookmark it and put it on my nightstand like I’m totally going to tackle it “one of these days,” but I know, deep down in my book-neglecting heart, that my lame attempts to try and pick it back up weeks later will result in one page being read, over and over, until I realize I’m hungry. Then, you know, it’s game over. Book goes back on the nightstand. Collects dust. Poor book. (Sometimes-and I put this in parentheses because it’s just so shameful-I even do this to used books…books who have already gone through so much. Who does that? It’s like…where’s my heart? I don’t know. I just don’t know.)
Theoretically, I love books. I love the idea of books, the feel of books. I’m one of those people (or maybe the only person) who walks down the hallways at Barnes & Noble just, you know, lightly grazing book bindings with my finger tips, flipping through random pages and thinking about all the possibilities that lie within them. I even love smelling books. Don’t you furrow your brows at me…there’s no denying it: books smell like hundreds of years of life and also like warm, cozy memories and those are the best smells that were ever invented. But…seriously? I haven’t been able to read past chapter 3 in any book since high school when reading fictional novels was required and life was a little more chipper. Harry Potter, where you at? (Obviously…on my book shelf in order from 1-7 and properly covered with their respective book sleeves, but that’s beside the point…
The real point is, I’m fed up.
I’m done. I’m ready to change.
TODAY IS THE DAY I START MY JOURNEY TO BECOME A WELL-READ, BOOK-COMPLETER. I will be a book-MASTER. (You go, girl ← yes, that was self encouragement, and it makes talking to yourself acceptable)
If you’re like me, this transformation I’ve just gone through might spark something in you. Maybe you’ll feel motivated to kick that nasty habit, stop pretending you don’t know how to “read for pleasure” anymore because textbooks burned you out, and get your act together. Seriously…just get it together. Because, if you’re like me, you may soon be an unemployed, recent graduate, looking for ways to kill time in between all that job-hunting and stress eating. Books, friends. Books. We can spend time getting caught up in other peoples’ more exciting lives, actually gain a little knowledge, and maybe even get our hands on a little bit of peace of mind and calm.
Now that you’re ready to become a librarian and the world’s most influential leader in literary criticism, let’s discuss book choice.
It doesn’t really matter. Any kind of reading is the good kind.
Personally, I want to tackle the classics. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe because everyone’s read them and I just want to be one of the cool kids. But that’s only about 80% of it.
I also think that the “classic” novels are classic for a reason, and not just because they’re old and wise. In general, I feel like it would be beneficial to read the works of writers who laid the backbone and set the pace for the next great writers. They’re the OGs, you know? You have to learn from the masters and then their students.
Now if you hate Jane Austen and Dostoyevsky and are about to say to me sternly “Yael, don’t you dare put that Hemingway anywhere near me,” be soothed: there are millions of books left out there to read. All kinds and all sizes, from all different kinds of countries and different kinds of people. You have a world of novels to choose from. So choose randomly, haphazardly, and without much forethought. Scratch that, without any forethought. And do it often. (A good analogy is to act like you would if you were at a grocery store in the ice cream aisle, and that for today only, all the ice cream had 0 calories and 0 grams of fat. I mean…just go to town. Take all of it. All. Of. It. Even the weird flavors.) Books are one of those world wonders that will enrich your life in so many ways you can’t even begin to realize. The lessons you learn, the relationships you make, the inspiration you’ll take, and the enjoyment you’ll get from reading a book is something you really can’t get elsewhere.
So go to your nearest library or book store, grab some books, smell them (seriously, just try it) and read them. Finish them. Even if you don’t like them very much, you’ll get something out of it. That’s what I’m going to do at least, and honestly if I can do it…I really think anyone can.
Oh, and also if anyone wants to start a book club, I’m interested. I’ll bring the snacks.
Your-Book’s-New-BFFAEAE (that’s best friend forever and ever and ever)