PhD life and Ramadhan

Hello everyone!

Let me start of by saying I know it’s been quite some time since my last post – it has been a MANIC few weeks! Hopefully, at least a small portion of the craziness will pay off!

For this post I decided to do something a little more personal than my others. As I’m sure we’re all aware our personal beliefs, ideals, morals and faith play a part of the person we are and in turn the type of student/employee/teacher we become.

Ramadhan:

This week (06/06/2016) marked the beginning of the 9th Month of the Islamic calendar (Ramadhan). This is the time of the year when Muslims all around the world fast; abstaining from food, water, worldly desires and urges (whatever these may be for the individual) from dawn to sunset for the entire month.

The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar phases the time of Ramadhan changes annually and in 2016 it has fallen during the summer months in the northern hemisphere (June-July).

For most undergraduate students it means that the academic year is over and exams are coming to an end, if not finished and they’ve gone home.

But for some (like me!) the year is not over. We are still running around campus trying to conduct experiments, working full days (and maybe nights?), going to presentations/ conferences or doing a bunch of other things that are just part of the usual day.

During Ramadhan – Muslims try to involve themselves in more prayer. One way is by praying Taraweeh – this is an additional prayer that is performed at night (which can last around an hour).

So with this in mind and in addition to the lovely weather we’ve been having it is no wonder that tiredness creeps in at the oddest times!

This first week (for me) has been a lot of trial and error of which is the best way to plan my day. So here’s what I found:

Start the day a little later than usual (if you have that option) I usually start the day at 8 am, but during Ramadhan I’ve found it much better to start around 10am (maybe 11 :P) and work later into the evening.

Take time out to Pray the 5 Daily Salaah at the recommended time (this will change place to place) it allows you to have breaks in your day. Also try to pray some Qur’an (Islamic Holy Book) after each prayer.

Having Iftar / fatoor (post -sunset meal) on your own IS NOT FUN. Trying going to the local mosque / prayer room (we’re fortunate enough to have one on campus) and breaking your fast with others or invite friends over to join in this time with you.

DRINK LOTS OF WATER *during Suhoor (pre-fasting meal).

If you feel a burst of energy USE IT.

Listen to your body – if you really need a 30 minute power nap, take it. Not only do you need to be alert for your work day but for the night to.

It’s easier than you think to burn yourself out.

Remember: Ramadhan is the time to be the best version of yourself, so don’t use it as an excuse to let your work/effort slip. Instead use it as ‘training’ for the future, as a way to plan and use your time more efficiently.

I hope this was help for you and may this be the best Ramadhan for you yet!

Keep Reading,

H 🙂

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New Appreciation.

Hellloooo Everybody ☺️

There are some things that we encounter everyday but don’t really realise how wonderful they are and how much better they can make life.

With that being said, here are 10 things I have a new found appreciation for since starting my journey:

  1. Post – it / sticky notes
  2. Refillable water bottles / coffee mugs
  3. Memory sticks
  4. A GOOD CHAIR
  5. Diary / Calendar /List
  6. Lanyards
  7. Individually wrapped snacky bits / packs
  8. Earphones / headphones
  9. Walks / Jogs in the fresh air
  10. Marker pens

I could keep adding to that list but thought I’d better stop at 10 or we’d be here forever.

Keep Reading!

H ☺️

What’s for breakfast?

Hi everyone!

As students (or maybe just people in general?)  we all need more of one thing.

That’s right I’m talking about SLEEP. So it’s sometimes easy to choose those 20 minutes of sleep over a good breakfast but in the long run that is NOT a good idea.

It’s easy to grab a cup of coffee on the way out the door or even when you get to campus/work but come 10.30am and your caffeine high starts to drop you are going to regret the decision to forgo that good breakfast.

Starting the day of well can set your mood and productivity for the rest of the day. It’s not easy to change habits you’ve had for years, especially if you don’t know where to start. So here are some ideas 🙂

I like to start of everyday with hot water, lemon, mint and a dash of honey and then usually go on to one of my quick and easy breakfasts:

Oats with peanut butter – as my father says “peanut butter fixes everything!”

Breakfast smoothie – Banana, coconut milk, natural yoghurt, 2tsp of coffee and 1 scoop of ice cream/frozen yoghurt.

Rice cakes with Avocado with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Omelette (peppers,mushrooms, onions, cheese)

Usually accompanied by either tea/coffee (depends on the mood I’m in :P)

So let’s try to start the day with a better breakfast. It may take some time to get used to but it’ll be worth it when you do.

From one reformed breakfast skipper to (hopefully) another!

Keep Reading,

H ☺️

Spring Spring Spring.

Anyone else love it when the sun shines? It can completely change the mood of people, a town, a university and even a country.

So it’s no surprise I’ve been having more good days than bad this past few weeks and it is a great feeling!The same fears are still there but I feel so much more motivated to get out of bed and tackle the stacks of paper (electronic and physical).

If you’re like me and love the sunshine, use it as a motivating tool. For every hour of work/revision you do (and actual work not just an hour of sitting in front of your laptop refreshing social media) give yourself ten minutes of sunshine love. Or try and sit near a window to get those beams ☺️. It really does make a difference!

So lets make the most of the rays!

Keep Reading,

H ☺️.

Is it a Break?

Hey Everyone!

So March is nearly coming to an end and it has gone by so incredibly fast but has been packed with SO MUCH.

At the beginning of the month I had this very real feeling that there was no way I was going to be able to do/finish everything I had set for the next few weeks. This then turned into major panic – you know that feeling when you realise there’s so much to do, so you make lists and lists and then the lists have lists and you’re dotting from one thing to another not knowing when or how you’re ever going to get it done – yeah (not good).

I realised that I had to nip this in the bud. Feeling this way was not helping the situation at all. So I decided to take a step back and attempt to organise all these thoughts and tasks (okay, so it took more than two attempts – at least). I spoke to my family, friends, colleagues and supervisor (who is just the best most encouraging and helpful supervisor I could have asked for!) about the feeling that and they all reassured me that it was normal. They also gave me some very helpful and practical tips to tackling it (some were new and some I had already been trying to do):

  1. Talk to people about your research (within the limits set) – this will help you to understand what you’re doing and why a lot better. It will also raise questions about the practicality and time frame of what you’re doing – this will help to focus yourself. It’s also increased my passion for my research.
  2. Establish a good relationship with your supervisor. This is vital and can completely alter your experience.
  3. Set time limits – not just ‘an hour to write’ but what should you have done in that hour. Be specific.
  4. Exercise everyday – even if it’s just a walk, do something.
  5. Have a good breakfast – this I find hard to do everyday because I think ‘Well, I could have 20 minutes more of sleep’ but on the days that I do it – I can really feel the difference in my energy levels and productivity.
  6. Figure out when you are most productive – everyone is different but figure out if it’s morning, evening or afternoon for you and set that time side for the pieces that require your most effort.
  7. PUT THAT PHONE AWAY – limit the amount of time you spend on Whatsapp, texting or on social media. If you don’t want to turn if off use the Do not disturb/equivalent option or put it on flight mode.
  8. Plan the day the night before – this can mean making sure you have the right books/journals/protocols in your bag, having a schedule/aims for the day, figuring out what to wear or even whats for breakfast. I like to do this toward the end of the night (usually with a warm drink and something on in the background), not only do I prepare myself for the next day but it gives me time to unwind before I sleep.

Though it is still the busiest I have ever been, I feel so much better about going forward. I know it is not going to be easy and those pangs of sheer panic will still be there BUT I know I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

To anyone going through something similar, I hope this helps and remember you are not alone!

Keep Reading,

H 🙂

Short and Sweet

Today marks International Women’s Day 2016- though I think that strength, perseverance, and achievements have the the right to be celebrated whenever you want, it is no surprise with the busy lives that we live that sometimes it slips our minds.Which is where I think days like this can be beneficial, it reminds us of all the wonderful projects that women are pursuing, the heartbreaking circumstances and trials that women are facing, the causes that women are fighting for and the amazing women that have influenced your life (in any shape at all).

So today (even with our busy lives) celebrate the influential women in your life.

Keep Reading,

H 🙂

Oh, Hi There.

Well, March has certainly creeped up on me. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t seem that bad- it’s still the beginning of 2016, Easter break hasn’t started yet, it’s not exam season and it’s still cold out. But what it actually means is: I’ve been at university for over a month, I have two deadlines by the end of this month and two for the next, the teaching course I thought was far off is in a month plus I’m a third into my allocated literature review time – and I have definitely not read or come to grips with a third of the relevant literature.

I felt like in the first month, it was ok to feel a little lost because I’d just started and was still finding my feet. The only problem is I STILL FEEL LIKE THAT (maybe even a little more so).

My very well thought out and detailed timeline doesn’t even bring me peace right now 😞.

It can only get better right? RIGHT?!

So that was my little panic –  lets hope some good came out of it and you feel a little better or you had a good chuckle

I guess I’ll be off to make some strong coffee and read or write…Something… Anything.

Keep Reading,

H ☺️

I’m here! Now what?!

Hello!

Well, after about 7 months of applications, form filling, interviews, crumbling into a little ball in the corner and a whole bunch of tears I’ve FINALLY started my PhD project (microbiology/parasitology) – and it is AMAZING.

Taking time out of the field has really made me realise that I am definitely in the right place. I know that even when everything seems overwhelming (which will occur often and soon) I’ll push through it because at the end of the day I love what I do – and yes that does sound cliche but in this case its the truth.

With that being said- it doesn’t mean the first few weeks were a walk in the park. No no no no no. Most definitely not.

Examples? Sure:

  1. I moved into a DUMP – actually, dumps are probably cleaner and have way less funky smells. It’s been sorted and my current living situation is SO MUCH better so I feel like I can look back and laugh – there was definitely no laughing at the time though, I’m pretty sure I spent the ONE night I stayed there choking back the tears (and reaching 2 am where they all just came pouring out). Thank the Lord I had a friend keeping me company and whose house I could crash at, it would not have went well otherwise.
  2. THERE IS SO MUCH TO READ and I only understand about 20% without having to refer to other journals, textbooks or a dictionary (I’ve been told this is normal when you start but it doesn’t make you feel any less like you’re in over your head).
  3. Security now know me because of the amount of times my card hasn’t worked or I needed access to a new place (I’ve been here 3 weeks).

But seriously, now that I’m starting to settle in and establish a routine that works for me I look forward to what the next few months (well, years) bring for me. I’m sure there’ll be a bunch of disasters but no doubt a ton of great times too.

Keep Reading!

H.

My First Conference!

Hi Everybody,

So not so long ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to a local BioMed conference (the first of many – I hope!) and boy – oh – boy was was it wonderful. Well, I can say that now- at the time I was terrified ( the good sort of terrified where you just do not want to say anything silly ). It was filled with some of the most inspiring people I have met to date. I don’t just mean the work that they were doing but the people that they were. Listening to their dedication and passion for their chosen paths made me think about mine – Where did I want to be in 3 years? What do I want to do now? What is the aim of my research? Why did I choose Microbiology/Parasitology? How did I aim to achieve my goals?

Throughout the day I mix and mingled with a range of different people – Medical Doctors, Members of Government, Environmental Scientists, Investors and the list goes on. The one thing I learnt from speaking to all of them – KNOW YOURSELF. Not necessarily to justify your choices but to help them understand your work. Now, being my first conference I was very nervous when I had to talk about my work/aims (and I’m not usually a nervous person) however, as the day went on I became more confident in myself and could essentially “pitch” myself a lot better. Talking about yourself is usually pretty easy once you get going but you have to remember you aren’t JUST talking about you and your life – you are there because of your work and your work/research still needs to maintain a level of confidentiality. Thankfully, my supervisors were able to give me some pointers about what I should be speaking about.

Overall the day was great, I met a bunch of wonderful people and learnt a lot about the type of scientist I want to be and though I may not have all the answers to my questions (and theirs) I am definitely closer.

I would strongly recommend to anyone to attend conferences. They may seem daunting at the beginning but as the day goes on you’ll see the benefit through the cloud of fear.

Keep Reading,

H 🙂

AAAHHHHH… Where has the time gone?

I realise it has been months since my last post. Time flies and life waits for no one. This post is about how to deal (or my version of dealing) with the ‘waiting period’. This is the time when nothing (and boy do I mean NOTHING) has been decided, when there is no indication of which path you should wonder down because all in front of you seem to be a viable option.

There are a ton of reasons you could be in this situation either you’ve just graduated and aren’t sure of the career you want, you know where you want to end up but just not how to get there, you’re still waiting for results or like me – you’ve applied to projects but there is no definitive answer. These are only a handful of reasons but all result in you not knowing. If you feel that you are in this period in your life, you are not alone. I’m pretty sure it’s a way of preparing you for the uncertainty that comes with adulthood in the Big Wide World.

So, though I am still technically in this phase of my life I thought I’d shed some light on how I am dealing with it and what it has taught me.

I have learnt so much about myself. People are always changing and evolving, it may not be drastic but little by little pieces of them will fade away and new ones will shine. Embracing change is good but don’t change for other people. If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and evaluate your situation. Think about what you want out of it and how much of yourself are you willing to give to achieve that. Though the hard decisions are the ones you want someone else to make for you, they are the ones that you have to make for yourself. Seek advice from people you love and trust, but YOU are going to have to live with the consequences.

Do something with your time. Yes, having time off is fun and great but don’t waste it. Even if it has nothing to do with your future career plans, do something that excites you. And try to do it as much as possible. It’s easy to fall into a rut, and weeks on end of this will really mess with your state of mind. You can become complacent about the ‘life’ you have (which is really only the waiting period and not the way it’s going to be forever). You may even start doubting whether or not you want to pursue the career  you’ve worked so hard for because you’ve become so comfortable in this temporary situation.

Talk to people about how you are feeling. I don’t mean turning into an emotional volcano that’s ready to erupt anytime another human is in your vicinity, no, I mean talk about your plans, your ideas, your goals and how you’d like to achieve them. Usually, people will be ready to listen, help and offer some advice which can be wise to take onboard because it be something that you didn’t think about.  You’d be surprised at the amount of people that are rooting for you.

Be confident in your decisions. There was a reason you chose that, remember what it was and remind yourself of it every once in a while.

Keep up to date with your field. Read journals, news reports, textbooks, anything that keeps your mind alert.

Lastly, be patient. If you’re anything like me this is easier said than done, but there is truth in it. Be proactive, but don’t rush the process.

I hope this was helpful in some way 🙂

Keep reading,

H.