Our second geoscience graduate, Emma, talks to us about demystifying academia, personal connections and the joy of clubbing.
Each episode is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. As the world emerges from pandemic paralysis, are our Class of 2021 feeling inspired or inhibited, glad or gloomy, chaotic or calm?
Welcome to Season 2, a little bit of the same but quite a lot different. Subscribe now and find out what everyone is up to and how they feel about life, the last 12 months and future plans.
All opinions expressed are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Edinburgh.
Multi Story Edinburgh has been created and produced by the Alumni Relations team at the University of Edinburgh. If you are interested in telling your story, please get in touch and let's talk.
Music: Since When by Mise Darling from freemusicarchive.org
Artwork: Vector created by pch.vector from www.freepik.com
Sonia 0:09 This is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. This is season two, Class of 2021. A little bit of the same, but quite a lot different.
Emma 0:22 My name is Emma and I studied Ecological and Environmental Sciences in the School of GeoSciences. I am currently starting a Master's at Stockholm University. And so that's where I currently am, I'm in Stockholm. Yeah, and I'm studying Landscape Ecology, which is quite exciting. Obviously, there's always doubts with, if I don't get into uni, what happens then? But masters was definitely always my plan. I've always liked education, wanted to continue education. As for Stockholm itself, really came down to the degree. And also I am half Swedish so for me, it was cool to kind of come back to Sweden and to come back to studying in Sweden, even though Stockholm’s not near where we live, or where my parents live, I should say. I expected it to be easy, and kind of nice, because it is a country that I recognise. But it was kind of a bit scarier and weirder than I thought it would be. I didn't really anticipate having that almost issue with all the studying, needing to or wanting to speak Swedish with certain people just because it's not something that I've had to do really ever. I've never really studied in Swedish or had Swedish friends that I would only converse with in Swedish. So coming from Edinburgh, where it's like, everything's in English, you never have to second guess it's, yeah, it was a bit weird.
I'm liking it, but it's definitely like, it's especially-- when you enter a new degree and it was like this also, starting in Edinburgh, you're always a bit unsure if it is really the degree for you, because you're taking courses that maybe repeat information, or maybe just don't feel as specialised to what you want to do. And you kind of expect with, with a Master's, that to be like, okay, I've picked a specialised route, so therefore, it's going to be everything I love. But of course, there's always a bit more openness to a degree than what one expects, it's never exactly what you want to do. So we'll see. With a place like Edinburgh, you're surrounded by people that are within academia for a long, long time, you have the PhD students, but also the post doctorates and the, the professors. And I think being surrounded by those types of people, it's definitely changed my perspective on what a PhD is. Because I think prior to coming to university, I always thought of a PhD as like, this really unattainable thing that only geniuses go and get. And you're super overqualified for certain jobs, if you get it, my perspective on that has definitely changed, I definitely am more, or potentially interested in doing a PhD for sure. In the end, I don't really know because I haven't been out in the field enough to really see if I do need a PhD. But I do know that just from really basic job searches, all of a sudden, the requirements are increasing, especially within something like ecology, you're all of a sudden, like, needing not just a Master's, but a PhD, or even a postdoc to get fairly entry level positions.
We are definitely a generation that now has this whole idea of we can actually study something that can make a difference climatically at least, and environmentally, and we have an opportunity to maybe change the world, so to speak. But scientists have talked about all of these things for a long time. And it's just, I guess, the framing that is slightly changed, and all of a sudden, there's more people, at least my age that feel like okay, if I study this, I can actually go on and make that impact that I've wanted to see. My experience with the past 18 months has been a bit up and down. I have been quite lucky in many ways that I haven't been as greatly impacted. It hasn't necessarily changed my course of life. And I think also just the past 18 months for my degree specifically was also very interesting. Ecological and Environmental Sciences is so heavily based on fieldwork, we do quite a lot of field work every single year. There's a big field course and we weren't really able to do that. We were very lucky that we managed to do a Edinburgh-based field course that was initially meant to be in Oban and that was great. We did that in beginning of September, I think of 2020. I've lost track of the years yeah. But even then, you're not getting the same type of education from doing it in a city as opposed to out in the highlands or a smaller town. One of the courses I took called Conservation Science had an opportunity that was up in the highlands with everyone involved in the course, including the professor's so yeah, it's definitely been a whirlwind. And I definitely feel like I've missed out on a lot of stuff, especially when it comes to the, the connections and feeling like I have personal connections with professors that I can reach out to later in life. I really latched on to connecting with my dissertation supervisor, I reached out to her to be her research assistant, and was able to do it in the summer of 2020. So I had an opportunity to not only conduct research that I then used for my dissertation, but actually formed kind of a connection with someone that I still speak to, to this day, because I'm currently in the works of publishing my dissertation. We were very lucky being third and fourth years going into this pandemic, as opposed to first and second years, because we had already formed a very strong basis and strong community within our degree, because our degree is only about 35 people. So very small, very intimate, and especially our third year field course that happened prior to the pandemic, that was really a great opportunity for us to really get to know each other on a more personal level, spend a full week with each other. So we definitely were lucky that we had that bonding prior. Yeah, it was quite sad to not have that last year together.
I was very lucky, I had done all of my data collection, fieldwork, everything that I needed to do. But a lot of my fellow cohort didn't get an opportunity to even do lab work. And yeah, I just think it's, it's such a shame that we-- being such a hard core science based degree where a dissertation in field work or at least lab work is so important. Not being able to do that is such a shame. People created great dissertations in the end anyways. But it's just that panic, I remember reading in our group chats and hearing from people where it's like, what do I do, and I don't-- I have to rethink my entire dissertation within a month basically. I did feel a bit guilty for sure. I also felt very relieved that I didn't have to go through that. Because I was also sitting there with not only a fantastic supervisor, but some data that I'd already collected. And I often have to remind myself that I got a degree, I finished the dissertation, I did all of these things in the middle of a global pandemic. I do wish that I had kind of like taken advantage of Edinburgh and Scotland more prior to the pandemic but I am proud of myself for quickly realising that it's not going to go away. Sure, a lot of those people won't be in that same place and easy access anymore because we're from all over the world but I am definitely proud of myself in that sense because I took the opportunity to go hey, if I want to go see this place, do this thing, I can just do it by myself if I really am so anxious about not getting to do it.
Sonia 8:38 We also ask our graduates to share a place, somewhere special, somewhere we can get together when all this is finished.
Emma 8:46 It's funny because initially if I were to pick a place where I'd want to have everybody meet I probably would have said pre-pandemic, back home in Sweden. I've always wanted to be able to bring friends that aren't from Sweden and like show, show it off almost but post pandemic, super superficial and shallow but a club [laughs]. I miss clubbing, I miss going dancing out with my friends like either post party or just pre's whatever, that was something our group of friends and even the people I wasn't as close with and people in my degree etc etc. We loved doing that and it's, it's just the fact that you get an opportunity to not only gather and see a lot of people as opposed to just your immediate friends, but I also feel like not having been out clubbing and dancing and kind of partying for almost two years is I've missed out on a huge, almost key integral part of my early 20s. Our favourite clubs were definitely very cheesy and grim. Like Big Cheese, Subway, Hive, one of those for sure. Because it's not just about seeing people because I've set up walks or little coffee dates or even gatherings of four or five people. It's, it's very different to have a huge community of people where you're literally talking hundreds of people and you randomly bump into someone that you haven't seen in a while, and it's, yeah, it's so fun.
Sonia 10:20 Thank you for listening. Join us next time for another graduate and another story.
Kirsten 10:37 Wherever you are with planning for your future, the Careers Service is here to support you. As a recent graduate, you can continue to use all of our services, including full access to my career hub, online appointments with our career consultants, our full calendar of employer events, and support with the application process. Find out more at ed.ac.uk/careers.
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