While 2018 was a year of fun and “external” exploration—I vacationed in Cambodia and Macau, studied in Australia, and then did research in Prince Edward Island—2019 was a year of “internal” discovery.
In SLxCA (early September), I was astounded to see that many of my old Schulich friends had graduated and moved on to work or grad/professional school. I did not realize this until much later, but SLxCA 2019 was my last Schulich conference as an undergrad, and I don’t know where I will be next September. Still, it was nice to catch up with old friends from UWaterloo and beyond, like Annie, Aaron, Sandra Chan, Sandra Smeltzer, Christopher, Sabrina, and so many more. It is quite incredible to see that everyone is moving on (some also moving away, sadly), and that many people from my Schulich generation (’15) are completely done with school. I also enjoyed meeting the new University of Waterloo Schulich Leaders, who never fail to impress me with their incredible achievements. Later in the month, I had the opportunity to meet Nobel prize winner, Dr. Donna Strickland, with fellow University of Waterloo Schulich Leaders. We were all inspired by her educational and funny talk at the Quantum Nano-Centre.
For the majority of 2019, I was on an 8-month co-op term, in which I conducted geriatric nutrition research with Dr. Heather Keller at the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging. We are looking at ways to help our elders eat better, whether they live in long-term care, the community, or the hospital. Dr. Keller made sure that I had plenty of opportunities throughout the year, like getting a publication, working on a thesis, presenting at conferences, and even representing our lab at the Canadian Association of Gerontology conference in Moncton. I had such a blast with my research projects and enjoyed the flexibility of research so much that I decided to apply for graduate school instead of writing my MCATs in preparation for medical school.
As if applying for grad school wasn’t tricky enough, I decided to apply for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. I’d known about the scholarship since Maike won the Rhodes a couple years ago. The Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University is like a not-STEM-exclusive Schulich Scholarship for students around the world; like the Schulich Scholarship, it is highly competitive. I worked on my personal statement for around six months, working with Writing Centre staff to carefully select and craft my 1000 words into a narrative. In September, I was invited to an interview with three panelists, all executives on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs team. To be honest, it was a pretty intimidating interview, and I don’t think I will ever be nervous for an interview again! I was granted institutional endorsement, which means I was selected to represent the University of Waterloo to apply to Rhodes formally. In the end, I was not selected for the scholarship, but congratulations to Mandeep—and a couple Schulich Leader nominees—who was!
I knew that the Rhodes Scholarship was a long shot, so I didn’t experience too much disappointment. Still, I used the last couple of months of 2019 to think about who I am, outside of being “scholarly”. That’s what I’d used to define myself throughout my undergrad; I was the “scholarly” girl who liked school, and not much else. So… I rediscovered my love for drawing. I realized that I like to wear weird clothes and jewelry. I got a job as a figure skating instructor (I haven’t taught figure skating since high school, but I did miss it!). I registered for dance lessons and even signed up to compete at next year’s national aerial hoop championships.
Overall, 2019 was a pretty unexpected year, and I am looking forward to see what 2020 will bring (graduation and new publications being the main ones!). Hopefully more discovery, whether it be internal or external.