isobel

3rd year BSc Biology with a year in Europe

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isobel

3rd year BSc Biology with a year in Europe

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Caring For Your Final Year

In which I tell you how to take care of the final year in your life

I’ve been staring at my blog for a while trying to figure out why I haven’t written anything in almost a month and to be honest, I think it’s because there just isn’t anything that exciting going on in my life right now. I am now in the final throes of my Imperial career and all I’m doing is writing my dissertation and trying to find a job! I’m sure nobody really wants to hear about the ins and outs of my trips between my house, the library, my house, sainsburys, the library, my bed, the library etc etc. So instead of boring you, let me give you some insider tips on how to care for the final in your life.

1. Stop asking them what their plans for next year are. Many of them just don’t know and it’s stressful enough trying to navigate this term with the threat of unemployment looming large as they write their dissertations and do their lab projects without literally every single person they know asking what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. Do you know how many times a week they plaster on the fake grin as yet another person asks that dreaded question? TOO MANY TIMES.

2. Ask them if they’re sleeping and eating. For many, this is the time of year where they move into Central Library and cut off all contact with the outside world. This isn’t sustainable behaviour. Please ask them if they’re doing all the regular stuff that humans need to do in order to stay alive and functioning, and if they’re not doing that stuff, stage an intervention.

3. Ask them if they need any snacks, dinner, tea etc. If you’re in a house with someone who is finishing their degree this year, chances are they’d appreciate the odd cup of tea or some dinner that they didn’t have to prepare themselves. It’s also a good way to get your final year to spend time around other humans and not go crazy whilst holed up in their room for hours at a time.

4. Check on their emotional wellbeing. All joking aside, final year is a tough time. A lot of changes and big decisions happen this year and some people find this harder than others. Make sure your final year is doing ok and if they’re not, offer them a shoulder to cry on and/or point them towards the services that can help them.

5. Be patient with them. Your final year may be particularly flaky during this time and they may be conspicuously absent from regular hangouts and society meetings. Don’t stop inviting them, but be aware that they’re under a lot of pressure and can’t necessarily be as present as they once were. They still love you and they’re probably gutted that they can’t hang out. Propose hang ins instead. Everyone needs to eat, so invite them for dinner and a film or something like that – less intense and leaves them more time to hit their desks again afterwards.

Caring for your final year is an important part of your friend job description so if you have one in your life, make sure to apply these top tips. And for the final years: I know it’s tough. But we’re nearly there. Keep going.

Easter Hols

Greeting dear readers! I’m still alive, although apologies to the Student Bloggers Team for having gone AWOL in recent weeks. The end of term was hectic to say the least! I am currently back home, enjoying some quality time with the family before slogging it back to London to complete my final term at Imperial. […]

Greeting dear readers! I’m still alive, although apologies to the Student Bloggers Team for having gone AWOL in recent weeks. The end of term was hectic to say the least! I am currently back home, enjoying some quality time with the family before slogging it back to London to complete my final term at Imperial. It’s only mildly terrifying. So what am I up to with my holidays?

Well I spent Easter weekend in London as I’d signed up to teach Sunday school that week at church. It was super fun to teach the story of Jesus’s resurection to the children at church and we had a great time eating chocolate eggs, making pictures and talking about why the resurection is so exciting for us as Christians. I’d recommend this short video dispelling a few common myths and objections about the death and resurection of Jesus if you’re interested in learning a bit more about why Easter is so exciting!

After Easter weekend, I came home for a few days before heading off to Wales with my church. Every year we go to a conference called Word Alive, where thousands of people from all over the country come to hear Bible teaching, spend time together as church family, go to seminars that deal with different aspects of life and how to live as a Christian in different situations and just have a nice holiday near the beach. The weather was excellent for Wales (read as: chilly but there were no severe weather warnings this year!) and I had a lovely time with friends.

I’m now back at home for a couple of weeks and I’m about to start reading for my dissertation. I’m excited to get underway and move on to job applications and other fun adult things, but it’s also rather intimidating to know that I’m about to leave the cosy, oblivious bubble that is academia at Imperial. Stay tuned as I venture in to the adult world for the first time and try not to have too many mental breakdowns!

Where You Should Eat In London

In which I recommend some places for top notch food

I love food (in case you hadn’t guessed) so I thought I would share my favourite places to eat in London. If you’re up in London for interviews or just getting fed up of the Gloucester Road Nandos and East Side Bar, check out some these fantastic eating establishments!

1. Ottoman. Ottoman is on Fulham Palace Road, so maybe slightly out of the way for anyone in halls, but if you end up living out West at some point, make sure to go to here. Any evening out that begins or ends with someone suggesting ‘Ottoman’s?’ is bound to be a good one and my friend group in particular love it. It’s a Turkish kebab restaurant (and take away!) and they basically serve giant plates of meat, rice and salad. I would recommend the mixed grill and the hummus and pitta (but take a friend unless you have a giant appetite, I definitely couldn’t eat it on my own).

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Rasa Sayang noodles in front of my lovely flatmate for perspective on how giant the bowl is

2. Rasa Sayang

I am no China Town aficionado and I am a creature of habit , so this is one of only a few restaurants in China Town that I keep going back to. It’s a Singaporean/Malaysian place and I love it mostly because noodle soup is my everything, it’s cheap and the portions are bigger than your head. It’s delicious, definitely go. Also my flatmate ordered a drink called Milo Dinosaur which is like a chocolate milkshake kind of thing, it was really nice, and the name just makes me so happy.

3. Bone Daddies

Bone Daddies is located above Whole Foods on High Street Kensington and it’s a ramen restaurant (which is another kind of noodle soup. Naturally). The soup is made of bone broth and there are different flavours are toppings. I like the one with fried chicken on top and also any of the ones that come with boiled eggs, they’re sooo good. It’s also set up well for people who aren’t used to using chopsticks, so they give you hair ties and these plastic bib things to avoid inevitable splatter when you drop your noodles in the soup.

4. Bill’s

Bill’s is a chain that can be found all over London, but there’s one on High Street Kensington. They do amazing breakfast/brunch and it’s a really cute restaurant with like, wood and candles and rustic stuff everywhere. I like the vegetarian breakfast and they also do really good pancakes.

5. Tombo

Tombo is a Japanese tea shop round the corner from South Kensington station and they do my FAVE green tea ever. Plus you get free refills on hot water for the tea so it’s basically my dream place. I’ve never eaten a meal there but it’s usually busy with a lunchtime crowd and from what I’ve witnessed from snooping on other people’s food, the food they do is really nice. I also had this white chocolate and azuki cake there one time (azuki is a kind of bean which sounds wrong but it’s really good) and I would recommend it!

That Third Year Life

In which I fill you in on what actually happens during third year biology

Nostalgia seems to be the key word of this year. I swear that only yesterday I was taking my seat in a giant, air-conditioning-lacking lecture theatre in the Sir Alexander Fleming building to have my first ever lecture at Imperial College. Then I remember that was nearly two and a half years ago and I cry a little inside remembering how quickly time flies, how many amazing times (and sad ones) I’ve had since then and also how I’m going to 21 soon which tips me definitively into the ‘twenties’ bracket. Man I feel old. Third year is more than half way done now and I’ve just begun the final course of the year. I love it already and I am so excited for the next few weeks! You can click on my tags on the right hand side to see what first and second year biology look like but what is third year all about and what am I getting up to at the moment?

I was looking for a cringey stock photo to add to this post but I thought I'd share the whole image search with you as it's so funny. The woman bottom right staring at her plants in my fave.

I was looking for a cringey stock photo to add to this post but I thought I’d share the whole image search with you as it’s so funny. The woman bottom right staring at her plants in my fave.

You get free reign to study what you want to study

With third year comes great responsibility – picking all 3 lecture courses that you’ll study in autumn term and the first half of spring. You’ll make your choices towards the end of second year and there are many to pick from. There are no obligatory lecture courses (unless you do a literature based dissertation but I’ll get to that in a minute) so you can specialise a bit more this year. For budding ecologists, there’s an opportunity to do field work in South Africa, spending two weeks in the field doing fun ecology things like throwing quadrats and learning the names of insects (I didn’t go but everyone I know who did said it was amazing and they had some awesome experiences). If you’re more in to the ‘buzz topics’ there’s options to study stem cells, neuroscience and regeneration or if you love to code, model and do tricky maths then bioinformatics and epidemiology may be more your style. There’s something for everyone and it’s been great to study in depth topics that I’m really interested in this year.

You do your final year project

This takes up the last 4 weeks of spring term and the whole of summer term and there are literally over 300 choices for titles. You have to go through this list, picking 8 top choices and ranking them in order of preference. Some people will do lab projects, spending their time working under a supervisor to conduct experiments, gather data and then do a big write up. Others (me included) will do a literature project, still working with a supervisor but doing more independent research through scientific journals and eventually writing a big paper summarising what we’ve discovered. The diversity of projects is immense – you could end up measuring snails at London Zoo, using live imaging to see how plant roots cope with growing in small space or if you’re me, researching exactly how a mosquito’s immune system works to eliminate the malaria parasite from their system. If you do a literature project….

You get the opportunity to do a short science communication course

Since the literature projects take a slightly shorter time to complete due to the fact that we’re not in the lab gathering data before we can start writing, we take a four week science communication course before the Easter break. This includes talks from various professionals in the industry, from videographers to teachers to the chief executive of the Science Media Centre! We also do some science writing, blogging, podcast-making, book groups, basically all kinds of different things to introduce us to the concept of science communication and to get a feel for what we enjoy. It’s only been a week but I honestly cannot commend this course highly enough, I love it so much and it’s really affirmed for me what I want to go in to in the future.

You have to find something to do next year

Word of advice: don’t ask anyone in their final year what their plans are for next year. Some will tell you about the banking job of the PhD they’ve already been offered but most will cry a little, stare blankly at you or run in to the distance. It’s a stressful time of year for those of us who are moving on to new places, still waiting to hear about graduate schemes or waiting to interview for postgraduate studies, but moving on is inevitable and so I’ll end this post by wishing the best of luck to all my fellow biologists. We’re nearly there, and I hope the remainder of year 3 is amazing for you.

Throwback Thursday

In which we revisit the first thing I ever wrote for this blog!

Going through my sent box today I came across the piece I submitted to the student blogger search back in October 2013, when I had been in London for about a week and was still bright-eyed and excited about arriving in the Greatest City Of All Time. I still love London because why wouldn’t you, but life is very busy at the moment and I’m feeling so tired and worn out by work and revision! It was fun to relive my freshers week through reading this old post, which I don’t think made it on to this blog originally, and I thought I’d share it with you today. Join me as I arrive at Fisher Hall for the first time (how sad is it that by the time this year’s intake of applicants arrive at Imperial in October, it’s unlikely that my old halls will be taking freshers anymore!) and sign up to way too many societies during Freshers Fair. I love being reminded of how much I do actually love both London and my degree at a time where everything is quite tough!

How do you even begin to describe moving to London for the first time? Driving around South Kensington trying to find my new halls of residence was stressful enough, (Mum: Should I pull out? SHOULD I PULL OUT?! Dad: BE MORE AGRESSIVE) but let me tell you, being a pedestrian in London is particularly terrifying for someone who has never experienced the Big City this intimately before. Just walking to campus on the first day I was nearly run over at least four times. Since then I have learnt to be a more assertive pedestrian but I still frequently find myself stranded by the crossing as my friends laugh at me from the other side of the road.

 Aggressive road users aside, I’m absolutely loving South Kensington life. I’m lucky enough to live in Evelyn Gardens (yes, I live in Fisher, no, it’s not as bad as everyone makes it out to be) and every time I step out of the front door I can’t believe that I’m living in such a ridiculously swanky area for a ridiculously cheap weekly price! Settling in to hall life has been a lot easier than expected, helped no doubt by our lovely hall seniors who have been amazing at shepherding most of the hall around on the tube to various Freshers events and throwing down some serious dance moves with us at the Mingle. One thing I love about my hall is how sociable everyone is. I may not be able to remember everyone’s names yet (it’s a work in progress ok?!) but it’s always lovely to go down to the common room and find someone to have a chat or play a game or two (or five) of table football with.

 Midway through our Freshers week came the Freshers Fair! It was every bit as crazy as people had told me it would be, with spokespeople and flyers coming at me from every direction. Imperial don’t lie when they say there is a society for everyone (although I’m not sure that synchronised swimming is my thing despite accepting a leaflet!) and I signed up to around six different groups. Kind of regretting that now that my inbox is flooded almost daily with reminders and updates from various societies that I’ll probably not be able to keep up with. That aside, I’ve been along to a few Christian Union events already and I can’t wait to get involved with the French society and Women in SET. Social-wise, it’s shaping up to be an amazing year!

Of course, the social fun of Freshers Week can’t last forever. Saturday was my last night out, as Freshers Week culminated in the Freshers Ball. It was great to get dressed up and hang out with all the people I’d met during the week, though I’m feeling all those late nights now… the dreaded ‘Freshers Flu’ has definitely caught up with me! Monday saw my first day of biology lectures and getting used to the lecture style of learning is definitely going to take some time. We were eased in (haha) with two lectures on phylogenetics (evolutionary trees and ancestral relationships between organisms) and then two lectures on primates on Tuesday. I also got to pick up my lab coat on Tuesday which I’ve been looking forward to all week! I feel like a proper scientist now, although the lab coat buttons to the side rather than straight down the front so I think it makes me look like a chef. With safety glasses.

Freshers at Imperial has been amazing, everything I hoped for and more, and although the academic side is definitely challenging (I genuinely have a lecture on ‘The Proliferation of Fish’ next week), I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store – both for biology and for everything else that London has to offer.