Canada Trip + Life Update (With Photos!)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Photo Cred: Unsplash

Wow. I feel like I can finally breathe again.

These past few months have been a total whirlwind. It's the honest truth. My life became far busier than I thought possible, but it also became so much better on various fronts! Here's the rundown of personal activities and developments since this October:

First up, Vancouver! My lab colleague and I visited Vancouver to present our project at the 2016 ASHG conference. This was my first trip to Canada, so I had no idea what to expect. Apart from the trip being infinitely long (4+ hour flight, ugh), I loved absolutely everything about it! The scenery was especially breathtakingly beautiful. I've never thought I'd enjoy living in a mountainous area, but I've gotta say, being close to those hills and mountains felt amazing. I truly missed them when I came back to Chicago.

As for the trip, my friend Aly and I visited the downtown Vancouver area, went into Shopper's Drug Mart about a billion times, and went on fun excursions around the city! We visited the site of the 2010 Olympic torch, went to a local shopping center, hung out at a farmer's market, and visited an art museum across the street. The most memorable trip though was definitely whale-watching off the coast of Vancouver Island. We went on a 5 hour (*groans*) whale-watching trip, where we saw two adorable humpback whales and a ton of sea lions. In hindsight, it might have not been the best trip to take for someone who hadn't eaten beforehand, wasn't properly bundled up against the cold, and who got some mild motion sickness. Totally not me. All the animals were super cute, though!

The conference portion itself was amazing, too! This might only excite the biology nerds out there, but it felt amazing to be in a place with so many intelligent minds displaying their research. It's an amazing experience to know that you're one of the first people hearing what could potentially be ground-breaking research.

The conference got even crazier when I realized I had gathered enough knowledge to have coherent discussions with them about various biological and genetic topics. Quite a few people also asked questions about our project, which felt amazing! It was definitely an experience to remember. At the end of the conference, we attended their "summer camp", which was essentially an outdoor summer camp situated indoors, complete with jewelry-making, photo booths, camp games, and real Canadian Mounties! Those guys were hilarious and were truly the highlight of the day.

Below are some of my favorite photos from the trip! Have a look! The rest will be uploaded to an album soon.

Downtown Vancouver

Whale-watching. That's a whale!

Outside of our hotel

My lab colleague, Aly

And me with our poster! 

Second up, finals are over! And I applied to graduate school! My final exams are finally done. Honestly, I felt like I didn't pay as much attention to my classes as normal, and my grades did suffer a little. This semester was truly testing on a number of personal and academic levels, which I've listed below.

  • Stressor #1: My immunology class and lab were filled with countless Type-A pre-med students who felt that their success depended on screwing me over. No offense to you pre-meds out there, but keep in mind that science is collaborative, alright? You don't need to create more competition and stress just to get ahead. If you're good at what you do, then the quality of your work speaks for itself. FYI: I got an A in that class. They can suck it. Sorry, rant over.
  • Stressor #2: My molecular biology lab partner dropped the course, leaving me to perform a gene cloning experiment by myself. Just to clarify, I'm not mad at her at all. She had a completely valid reason for dropping the course. Just upset that it had to happen during a super involved project. After I got over the fear of working alone, my project was successful in the end. Super happy it worked out!
  • Stressor #3: University Chorale, the choir group at my university, held two concerts the Saturday and Sunday before finals week. Who does that? Who decided it was a good idea to have those not only the day after the other, but also the day before finals start? Thank goodness it's over.
All in all, it was a very stressful semester, but everything turned out pretty alright in the end! I'm not so much upset about the stress as I am peeved that this happened during the semester I apply to graduate school. Speaking of graduate school, I applied to four Immunology programs! I'm super happy I finally know what I want to do career-wise. Can't tell you how done I was with personal statements. 

Photo Cred: Unsplash

Last, I've made huge improvements in my personal life. I've actually made way more new friendships than I expected. I'm not generally someone this happens to, but I guess being in chorale and being around on campus more really paid off on the friend front. I actually have quite a few guy friends (say whaaaaat?). I've met a ton of fantastic people, and I can't wait to spend more time with them this coming spring semester!

Phew, that was a lot to get off my chest. It always feels like I unload so much on you guys when I post for the first time in a while, so thank you for taking the time to read this. This outlet helps me get all my feelings and words out there, so it means a lot when you take the time to read it. Since I'm finally on winter break, here's hopefully that my posts will become more consistent!

Talk to you guys soon!

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