Having already completed an undergraduate degree at the University of St Andrews, my decision to remain and complete a postgraduate degree was in some ways both difficult and easy – difficult in the sense that I was keen to broaden my experience through study at a different institution, but easy as I knew already how excellent St Andrews is as a place to study and live. This degree offered me the opportunity to not only experience postgraduate study at the University I already knew, but to also research and study at a very different sort of institution in the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS). As someone who has always been interested in ultimately finding an academic career, I wanted to take part in a degree which would outfit me with the relevant research skills (both fieldwork and computational) to be successful.
My decision was firmly vindicated by the end of the degree, and despite having not studied mathematics beyond GCSE level I found I was able to build upon my undergraduate foundations to become much more confident in skills such as modelling data. There have certainly been some very stressful weeks and long hours working into the night, but I always had a sense of great satisfaction and pride upon handing over a piece of work I knew would have been firmly beyond my abilities pre-postgraduate study. The most important thing I realised during my course was that excessive focus on perfection would be a sure way to madness and undue stress – there would have been little point taking the degree if I was already an expert in all its components! As I believe everyone on my course found, we all have strengths and weaknesses in different areas, and it’s those areas of weakness that were often both the most interesting and most challenging to explore.
The degree offered some incredible opportunities; I’ll never forget my first footstep on Antarctica and being covered in the blow of a humpback whale, nor exploring the stunning scenery around SAMS and St Andrews, nor chugging up Loch Etive in the RV Calanus to collect various biological and physical samples. All these experiences, academic and otherwise, made this year of my life not only one that I value for the sake of my CV and academic potential but also one that has shaped me as an individual (hopefully for the better!). When I think of the experience in those terms, every late night and frustrated hours spent trying to work out how to do a particularly fiddly bit of modelling seem very much worth the effort. Though it may be a while before I stop having to remind myself that there are no coursework deadlines imminently pending!!