Reflection from a 2019/2020 EPM student
One year flew by in the blink of an eye. It seems like yesterday I was attending classes at King’s Buildings, or walking down the cobbled streets of Edinburgh in a chilly night. Now I am back in my home country, enjoying the warmth of home and fickle tropical weather. It got me thinking. Here are some thoughts I would like to share with 2020/2021 students who have just started their academic journey in Edinburgh.
- Get out of your comfort zone.
I have said this in my previous blogs but I cannot stress enough how important it is to get out of your comfort zone. Take a leap of faith and challenge yourself to master subjects / topics which you have been shying away! You will be surprised and even discover new passions. More importantly, you will likely benefit from it from the long run.
Prior to my MSc study, I was a wildlife researcher. For my dissertation, I could have just picked a project related to wildlife ecology for convenience. Instead, I chose to learn more about remote sensing and explore the methodologies for forest cover estimation.
Also, once the lockdown restrictions are lifted, do go and explore Scotland whenever you have free time to spare. Conquering the mighty Ben Nevis, visiting a colony of breeding puffins in summer, or going on a coastal foraging trip to get your own fresh seafood; there are simply too many places to visit but too little time for everything!
- Do not procrastinate, especially with dissertation.
Regarding MSc dissertation, I highly recommended that you formulate and even finalize a substantial dissertation plan early. Already have in mind what you would like to research? Stumble on an interesting research question during a lecture? Talk to your potential supervisor(s) to refine your research proposal, otherwise have a chat with your MSc program director to identify potential supervisor(s).
Trust me, last-minute writing and burning midnight oil are detrimental to your health. This applies to assignments too!
In addition, do consider using your dissertation project to boost your employability. If you have a specific career goal or a company that you are interested to join, try developing a dissertation project that will help you in obtaining your dream job!
- Make friends with your course mates.
It is never easy settling into a new environment, especially if you are an introvert. Keep in mind, however, you do not have to do everything alone. Cannot quite crack an assignment? Having difficulty with a particular topic? Talk to your course mates. I believe they are more than happy to help and share. Or, if you are confident enough, you can give a helping hand to your course mates who are evidently struggling with particular course materials.
Birds of a feather flock together. You do not know now but some of your course mates might become your lifetime friends, so take the opportunity to build up your social network. Hey, who knows, you might even get a job alert or recommendation from your course mates after graduation.
- Adjusting to the new normal.
The COVID-19 pandemic was an unexpected crisis. Its impacts were glaringly detrimental to the global economy, causing massive disruption to our normal routine. The lockdown and now the numerous restrictions in place has also affected universities significantly. Physical classes are replaced with online lectures. Face to face interaction is changed to online interaction. Courses are revamped, as field trips are no longer feasible.
Despite the far-reaching pandemic impacts, as the saying goes, in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity. For example, it is clear that many jobs can be done remotely, prioritizing work-from-home culture and no daily commuting. With reduced traffic volumes, air quality improves. This is the perfect time for us to reflect and change our lifestyle, in order to lower our carbon footprint.
In addition, while the job market remains grim, the pandemic has caused a digital transformation and boom. It is therefore best to start thinking about your career plans (e.g. avoid hunting for a job that involves oversea travelling) and revising your career goals according to the job demand, especially since it is unlikely that a vaccine for COVID-19 will be widely available soon.
2019/2020 has been an unusual year for me. While sadly this is my last article for the school blog, I am glad to be a member of the 2019/2020 social media rep team. Hopefully, all the thoughts and tips that I have shared have been useful!
2020/2021 cohort, I wish you all the best and good luck!
Win Sim, MSc Environmental Protection & Management