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.
I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I participated in the Three Minute Thesis competition. According to tradition, the winner judges the contestants in the following year, so on Wednesday I had the honour to sit next to prominent science communicators and watch excellent young scientists explaining their research in… three minutes.
This year the Graduate School replaced the Three Minute Thesis competition by the 4Cs Science Communication Competition. Although the idea is similar, there are some differences:
- Not only PhD, but also MRes students could participate.
- While Three Minute Thesis contestants could use only one static slides, this year almost everything was allowed: Power Point presentations, props and whatever else they were able to carry on stage.
There are many aspects of the science communication course at Imperial that make it so enjoyable, but perhaps the freedom we are given is the most rewarding part. In our assessments we are given an element of free choice in what we centre our arguments around, which allows for a great deal of creativity and expression. One of the most daunting free choices I’ve had to make in the last few months has been the topic for my dissertation.
The parameters were simply ‘choose anything that is related to science communication’. Having studied this area for the last 8 months I can confidently say that there is a lot that could be explored.
At such a busy time of year, scrolling through the news doesn’t always seem to make things better. A 2018 study reported that over half of Americans find that the news causes them stress, anxiety, fatigue and sleep loss. Although it is important to stay informed, particularly on news stories that require urgent and collective action, sometimes a bit of good news is what we need.
This inspired Emily Coxhead to create ‘The Happy Newspaper’, an online and print publication to ‘share positive news and wonderful people’. Her newspapers are released quarterly and can be delivered or picked up in several locations across the UK.