Rounding up: 2nd last semester of school

Hi all!

It’s been a while since I’ve last rambled and I thought I should do one…er now?! Haha. I want to summarize my experience in FYP (so far) so that I can look back and hopefully pat myself on the back and say “You’ve made it!”

Basically I’m in my final year in uni and I’m majoring in life science. A rough idea of how the school system works: you must do a final year project (FYP) and take up 3 modules each semester. This number is the minimum if you’ve not overload in the earlier semesters.

So I actually started working on a project in the lab with a prof in June. Mind you, this was actually during my school holiday (which started in May). Most people start way earlier then that so while I’m not late, I’m not early either. It was tough. In the first month alone, I was going to school 7 days a week. On the weekdays, I’ll start work from 8.30am (that’s when my access to the lab starts) and end earliest 6pm, latest around 9pm. On the weekends (Saturday and Sunday), I’ll be dragging my butt down to lab in the early morning and ending around 2pm. Lunch break (if any) was a quick chow down in 10 minutes. Mind you, I live about 2 hours from school. So it takes me a total of about 4 hours to commute back-and-forth.

I remembered when I first started, I met up with a friend for lunch who had started her project 2 weeks earlier. I remembered looking at her saying you looked so tired. She said yah, 2 weeks in and you’ll feel like you’ve aged a thousand years. Truer words have never been spoken. I’ve never felt so distant from the world. My days and thoughts were always revolving about my project.

I was wearing out as the days went by in the first month. I was thrown under the table to start growing 30 plus samples after the first 2 weeks (1st week was just settling the administrative stuff).  So I had to start planning my timeline for when I want to conduct my experiments and monitoring the growth of my culture. Things took a downturn when I kept failing to get sufficient bacteria to even properly start conducting my experiments. It was discouraging. Troubleshooting (i.e growing more plates) didn’t seem to work as well.

During this period, a close friend of mine was opting to graduate instead of progressing to the 4th year (i.e honours year). I knew I would not be doing research in the future. My troubles in the lab also seemed to deter me further from it. My mentor was also not helping matters when she was already celebrating and planning out her leave before her contract ended. So I would be left alone to do the project without any guidance (if needed). The stress started to eye-ball and one day it burst. I broke down at home and started taking action to opt to graduate. Graduation has never seem so attractive.

When I mentioned it to my mentor, I was psyched to stay. So I aimlessly went into the second month of lab. I grew more depressed as the days went by. I’ll be silently tearing in bed or on the train journey to school. School was a nightmare and I had developed a psychological dread and pain to even go to it. I was losing my mind. Already suffering from a lost in appetite in the middle of May, I lost close to 7kg by mid-June. It was scary. My health was suffering. So I thought enough was enough. The thought of graduating returned. I started speaking to the other lab workers and people around me about the working world. I applied to jobs and went to my first interview the next day. Perhaps it was the company I interviewed at but suddenly graduating was scary. The working world was cut-throat cruel.

I felt like I was standing on a tightrope. To fall or not to fall, that’s the question. Should I persist on and go crazy or should I take a leap of faith and graduate. At the same time, my friends was persuading me to switch project instead. I couldn’t fathom the thought of even going from one wet lab to another. Wet lab scared me. So I search for professors where I’ll be in a dry lab. I managed to find one.

A new problem arose. This new project was as not science as they come. I wouldn’t score well. I’ve heard tales on how even those who were working on bioinformatics project could only score a maximum grade of B+ because these students were not working in a wet lab (i.e doing things like pcr, western blot etc.). What about mine then? It was even less science then bioinformatics and more social science like psychology. What would my maximum grade be? A B-, a C+ for 16 modular credits?! My CAP is gonna fall like crazy. I was fearful of my future. It seemed so bleak and I couldn’t even venture to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But I knew I cannot continue working on the old project any longer. I would go stir crazy before I can every graduate. I’m not kidding. So I took a leap of faith and joined the new project I’m currently working on.

Is there stress? Yes, but a different source of stress. Do I wish I had stayed on with my old project, sometimes when the current one seems aimless and not so wow. But hey life goes on. I’ve made the decision I should at least face the music (let’s hope it’s not too bad)! I still have to survive in society and let’s be honest results do matter at the end of the day. The   Honours class I graduate with affects my job prospect, even more so now that most companies I’m interested in are having a headcount freeze. Singapore is still a pretty pragmatic society.

There’re days when I just wanna heck it all, but fear is something that stymies and hold me back. I want to chase my passion for photography, to break free of the monotony of my life. For what is life when it’s stagnant. To be content but never satisfied. To be safe and never to chase. Fear, is a never-ending emotion which waits in the dark. A sitting lion, waiting for the right moment to pounce on its prey. But it’s there and it is real. And I hope, come next year, I’ll have the opportunity to work in a company  I’m truly happy in. To not the dread the passing of each day. Because the simplest pleasure in life is to pass each day with a smile.

I’m gonna end this post now to go back to studying my finals and lets hope I survive through to the next semester. To all the students in their final year or facing exams right now, let’s stay strong together. We’ll weather through this stormy sea.



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