I have completed my share of long-term projects before, but I still felt nervous when deciding to apply for my course and seeing the research project at the end. Now, a month in, I am still a little apprehensive about the final result but also feel fairly capable of producing a decent work. For those curious about what the research process entails, I offer a few tips below:
Actively build new skills
Four months is a long time to be working on one thing and boredom can start to set in, so choose a topic that lets you learn something new.
Since time hasn’t existed since March, it feels utterly unreal to be actually working on my thesis right now. Nevertheless, from now until September you can expect to find me knee-deep in air quality reports and R scripts. My project is desk-based so fortunately the overall research process hasn’t been impacted too much by the pandemic. Still, remote thesis work has required its share of adjustments:
I know I’m not the only one for which time since mid-March hasn’t felt quite real. The Easter break passed in a dissociative blur and now it’s apparently summer term? It’s been challenging to get back into the headspace of academic work since I‘m still stuck in the same physical space that I’ve been in for a month. But since deadlines don’t stop even though time isn’t real, I’ve been slowly clawing my lockdown life into something of a routine.
I start most mornings with a run in my local park. Running has never been my preferred form of exercise but being able to get outside and burn off some pent-up energy helps me cope with spending the rest of the day in my room.
After paying the second half of my tuition fees, it’s fair to say that money has been on my mind a lot this week. One of the reasons that I chose to come to the UK for grad school was the cost. Higher education in the US is infamously expensive and, unlike my undergrad degree, I would be taking on the price of grad school entirely myself. Even factoring in the exchange rates, the cost of a UK MSc was still far less than one from back home. Pretty much a no-brainer to study here, right? However, as an international student, choosing to pursue a master’s degree at Imperial rather than another UK university has been its own financial challenge.
The option term is going by at light speed, which means that it is nearly thesis time. And while the course conveners have been quick to tell us that we have plenty of time to sort out projects and not to get too stressed out, I have, in fact, been stressing out about it. In particular, the process of choosing a project idea has been intensely frustrating for me. I would describe it as running on a sort of hamster wheel that cycles through several stages.
As an international student, I feel the need to see as much as I can while I’m here in the UK. And although I love living in London, I will readily admit that sometimes it’s nice to get out of the city. Fortunately, this island is well-connected by rail, which I’ve found allows for a variety of inexpensive day or weekend trips. And, perhaps less fortunately, I get to indulge my amateur travel-blogger side here on this site.
My first daytrip upon arriving to the UK was to Dover, an hour or so to the southeast. I didn’t know much about Dover beyond some vague notion of white cliffs, but that was enough for me.
Not gonna lie, I was a little anxious about returning to Imperial after the Christmas break. UK Masters programs are only one year long, which is great in many ways (including for my bank account) but time passes incredibly quickly as a result. The arrival of the spring term meant that the pace and level of learning were sure to be kicking up into high gear. Two weeks in however, I‘ve found a lot to love about this second term.
Environmental Technology starts with a core course in the fall, which gets every student on the same page in terms of thinking about the interdisciplinary nature of environmental problem-solving.
During the fall term I spent most of my time on campus, even coming in on weekends to use the pool at Ethos and get some work done in the quiet student common room of my department building. But now that the College is closed for the holidays I’ve been spending a lot more time at home, which for me is a student accommodation in North London. Finding a place to live in London was a big concern for me as an incoming international postgraduate student, as options through Imperial were limited, and I know that many of my fellow students have been in the same boat.
And just like that third term is over! In keeping with my previous end of term blogs I thought I’d stick to tradition, but this time use songs from some of the best-loved Disney films to round up my final term at Imperial.
We finally reached the practical option term of the masters course and I chose to take courses in radio and documentary. For radio, I produced a short piece about cultured meat and together with some course mates, produced a short documentary called ‘the sun shines for everyone’. It was an incredibly busy term with not much time for reflection as it progressed, but looking back on it now I learnt so much and gained experience to aid me in the future.
Studying in one of the most expensive cities in the world is one factor that affects people’s decision to study at Imperial College. Rest assured it can be done, but particularly for students like myself who are undertaking a one year master’s course, the different funding options means that money can sometimes get tight. An upside of the course though, is its flexibility in allowing its students to have part-time jobs. Indeed, most students from the Science Communication Unit have part-time jobs, myself included.
I have previously mentioned my job as an Observatory Explainer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, but have not delved into many details.