Monthly Archives: May 2017

End of my second academic year

It is my last night in London.

I have counted down since forever to my eventual return on the 26th of May, which happens to be tomorrow. When HT and I first separated we texted each other, and one of those messages from him was “259 days more!” I cried as I read his handwritten letter and re-read that message. How unrealistic it was, I told myself. How were we going to last? How many couples have I seen breaking up? What makes the both of us think that “our love is different” compared to the many others who thought the same way when they initially parted? I was so cynical and I honestly do not think my worries were unfounded. On some nights in London I really constantly questioned myself why. It seemed easier emotionally last academic year when I was single. I am however really glad that my “emotional mechanism” is able to shut those thoughts out as soon as they are formed, and despite some reunion jitters I really cannot wait to see HT in 3D again after 6 months.

Today I wore short sleeves out having been blessed with an amazing sunny weather, temperatures reaching up to 28 degrees in the afternoon. I saw a glimpse of London in summer — the streets littered with people wearing sleeveless dresses and holding Starbucks frappucinos, green spaces filled with people with picnic mats holding their sandwich lunches and… simply the increased density of people on the streets even though it is only Thursday. I never got to experience these sights last year and I am indeed really lucky because I do not think I will ever get a chance to experience London summer in full, given that I will always be back in Singapore for VA.

Now that it’s still 9.15pm and sunny I have concluded that today has been an absolutely perfect day. Today I sent off my 7 boxes early in the morning and now I face an empty room and kitchen… it looked similar to what I saw when I first arrived in this room. The rate at which time passes scares me very very much. I remember posting on what you would call a “private Instagram” (which has now disappeared) a perspective of London from Goodge Street when I first arrived for the second time and commenting how scarily unfamiliar the familiar London was. Or the scarily familiar unfamiliar London. It was 7am on a Sunday morning when I wheeled my luggage out of the tube station and saw how cloudy and gloomy the morning was. I thought back on my Sunday mornings at home and I remembered my noisy family, my irritating siblings and the sunny hot weather in Singapore. It was painful to stomach the fact that I would be here alone for 9 months again, especially when I was painfully separated from HT during what I would also call our honeymoon period. I also remember my first night here when my dining/study table was in a different position of the room, when I set off the smoke alarm from cooking instant noodles from a tiny pot (resulting in water spilling all over the induction hob), when I slept on unfamiliar sheets and when I had nothing in this new home to call my own. I managed to Skype HT when he was sailing, and despite not being able to see his face I went to sleep with great ease. It was nice that he tried doing that to help me settle down better.

Slightly more than 8 months have passed since then and I have done many many things. I have not accomplished as much academically as I would like to, and I say this only because I know I can achieve better. I have however, enjoyed myself a lot more this year. I ate a lot better, made an effort to actively seek for entertainment and did many more things that I enjoyed. I ventured to areas even off-London (eg. New Malden) just to have a legit Korean BBQ meal and good bingsu. I went to 梁静茹’s concert, although it may have been more perfect if I managed to obtain tickets for Jay Chou’s concert. Notable trips are Bristol with RV, Thursley Common for a field trip, Mallorca for a field trip, Lake District and Paris with HT, Switzerland with Weixuan and Edina, the UCLSS Ski Trip at the French Alps, Durham to meet Xinci, Italy with my siblings, Amsterdam with Dilys and Weixuan, and lastly the killer Seven Sisters hike with Dilys and Weixuan as of late. I watched Wicked and Phantom of the Opera again, I watched The Kite Runner, and I also watched The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time before their final stage in June. Wicked costed £29.50 this time because I queued in the morning for day seats which led me to a seat all the way at the front; the last time I paid £17.50 I was sitting at the last row of the musical! Seats are important in keeping me awake and stall seats really provide the best musical experience. I am increasingly of the opinion that money saving habits can only kick in successfully with familiarity, how would I have understood the concept of day seats in the past? I snuck into the UCL Korean Culture Society and attended weekly intermediate Korean lessons every Wednesday and Friday. Despite the attendance declining from the start I never dreaded the 6pm lessons when I often had to leave home the second time in the day for school, and especially enjoyed it more towards the end when the teachers started recognising us. I hope to improve enough over summer to find myself in the advanced language class next academic year.

I have lived very well this year although my bank account has certainly been bleeding more than last year. I remain thankful to the scholarship and the organisation for this financial independence. Last year I used to tell people that I did not have much friends in London, but this statement does not hold anymore. I really had an active social life, a social life that would not have been possible if my phone were to be spoilt like what happened last year. I forged stronger friendships and saw myself laughing a lot more this year. I made it a point to enjoy London for what it has to offer, the food, the sights and simply the way of life. I am liking London more and more as I approach the possible end of my three years here and it saddens me that the dream I had worked and put in everything for may come to an abrupt end soon. Although I think I Skype rather regularly I never thought it took away time from my personal life, I tried to make it a point to lead less of a virtual life especially if we were to “have a lifetime ahead”, as quoted from HT.

I am excited to leave the house for the airport 5 hours in advance tomorrow, to wheel my luggage and struggle to carry it up and down flights of stairs on the tube. It says a lot about the girl I have grown to become; I think I can say with confidence that she is a better version of myself. Other than growing to be even more independent I think I have grown to be more empathetic, kinder and more sensitive. On this note, I will continue to figure out and actively work on my character flaws. This summer I also hope to obtain my COC, because it would say a lot about my lack of attitude/aptitude if I still do not. I also want to work hard on my dissertation because an excellent dissertation project would show how much I have learnt this year from the endless coursework submissions, repeated data collection/analysis/discussion, and show the markers how capable I am of independent learning. Next academic year too, I hope to actively work on my academic weaknesses. I still believe that everything is a choice, and I hope to strive harder to make that active choice for academic excellence.

After tonight I would have no more “sleeps in London” until late September, so goodbye Collingwood House. See you after summer 🙂

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:(

I miss you terribly terribly terribly much all of a sudden. I know we are left with only 20 days but it doesn’t seem to get by any easier 😦 20 more days more and I can run into your arms to cry and laugh again. Honestly quite sick of myself thinking about you too……… can’t wait to be physically reunited again.

You have been such a blessing.

Still quite sour from my terribly done examination paper from Tuesday. I guess it sucked more because I knew I enjoyed the module. Maybe the most, out of the 8 this year. We really learnt beyond the scope of what a Geography student is really exposed to and the professors were so good. I suppose when you enjoy something you really want to do well in it.

I fear doing badly in the rest of the papers and subsequently using my grades as a determinant as to how much I enjoyed the module. So before I take the rest of the examinations and receive my potentially terrible grades back I am going to have to remind myself that the best decision I made this year was to take a majority of Physical Geography modules. I came into UCL with a preference for Human Geography modules, because that was exactly where my interest lied when I was in JC.  But I ended up slanting towards Physical Geography because despite my sub-par performance for the Environmental Change module last year I thought it was the only one that stretched me way beyond my comfort zone. There has been no regret at all ever since, despite the fact that I go to class and sit alone now.

I loved the field trips this year. I loved all the professors and how keen they were in making us identify species on the field, and how they excitedly demonstrated all the coring techniques while rowing around on a sea boat.

I loved the modules and I enjoyed completing every single coursework simply I learnt so much each time. I started off with lots of hate for STELLA because it was so complicated, but after getting through the initiation and familiarisation with the software I was so amazed by its outputs. Everything we had done in our coursework was in direct relevance to climate change projection and modelling that I had always mentioned about in my essays in passing, even in JC. I disliked Hydrology when I was in JC simply because it was pure memory work and so crazily intense — this academic year I have had the honour of being taught by Julian and Richard, both leading academics in the field of groundwater abstraction, subsidence and of course, climate change impacts on water resources. When they were doing their PhDs with crazily beautifully constructed diagrams and location maps I wasn’t even born yet. Their papers are always so well-written and I am continually impressed by the originality and detail that goes into each scientific paper they compose individually. On a separate note I loved the diatom and ostracods practical session by Viv and it felt like I was brought back to secondary school when I placed ostracods on a glass test slide to examine and identify it through a microscope. Except that this was extremely relevant to the field on palaeoclimatology, especially as we were concurrently working on the statistics coursework for diatom reconstruction of acidification values.

I also managed to learn a bit of Environmental Biology when I memorised details about homozygotes and heterozygotes and their differing fitness levels, and the evidence of sympatric speciation through an examination of the molecular phylogenetics within the Monostroma latissimum species. Before I left for studies this academic year HT once asked me whether I knew what Drosophila was. It was a pleasant surprise when I saw this very term flipping through the Ecology textbook that our module was based on.

I have really enjoyed how the year has put together subjects that I studied for in the past — especially in greater relation to Chemistry within the Hydrology module. I want to remind myself that I truly enjoyed what I learnt this year and I will not define my growth academically by the numbers I see eventually.

Happy RSN50

It is Navy’s 50th anniversary! I have been so goddamn distracted the whole day by thoughts about my short 2 years in the Navy so far. I guess it is the perfect time to describe in detail my irrational admiration of a leader that has been involved in my leadership journey. He also happens to be the one I am referring to in my previous post — the leader I truly respect despite his claim that he is not outstanding academically. Let’s just call him MDT (rank and name LOL).

I remember the first encounter with MDT, when we, as a division, were all sat in this room meeting our training officer for the first time. He got all 30+ of us to self-introduce our names, our schools, and a hobby. I think so. And then it was his turn. He went around in a circle, addressing all of us by name. He had memorised our names and matched them to our appearances even before our first meeting. Everyone in the room had heard of this happening to previous batches, but seeing him do it in front of us truly amazed me. It is difficult to even remember names of people you know (I am terrible with faces), how do you do the same for 30 strangers when you only have their 2D faces printed on a piece of paper?

I struggled a lot throughout my time in MIDS (Navy OCS). There was a lot of self-questioning and self-doubt as I trudged through the days, ending up in tears many times because I was shouldered with so much burden and frustration. This sounds really cheesy but he was a beacon of hope in the darkness; I remember a particular occasion when we had individual review sessions and I had mine. At that point, I was afraid, worried and sad. I did not know where I was heading and every day felt like a torture because I never did see myself improving. I shared my frustrations tearing up, nearly breaking down crying. He talked to me about my strengths and weaknesses, and reminded me to focus on the bigger things. He shared about how disappointed he was with their oversight (!), and how he felt that he could have been more involved with us especially when he saw that external instructors wielded such a strong influence on our day-to-day mentality. I marched back alone from OCS HQ to wing line grinning from ear-to-ear. I felt like someone truly cared about our well-being and growth amidst all those nonsensical scoldings and various instructors blowing things out of proportion. From his words, I felt like each of us mattered as an individual.

We were to submit weekly/fortnightly reflections on our leadership growth. We were to keep track of our leadership journey, write reflections and journals on how we felt we were growing. He read them all to understand our points of view and gave us personal feedback. He constantly took stock of our learning progress and showed us areas we could improve a lot more on. We were repeatedly told to look beyond all the seemingly important things — performing well in tests, or having the best physical standards. He made sure to congratulate people for passing their retests, and gave more credit to those who “finally passed after three failures” than those coasting through the tests. He likened every leadership role as an opportunity to invest in your learning experience, be it a small or large role. He saw the value in people who tried and tried despite all our individual weaknesses. Above all, he paid the most attention to our learning attitudes evident in the people he favoured the most, and I see how it materialises in the success and growth of the people he nurtured.

I remember a particular dialogue last year where we were told to share one thing that we learnt the entire year — I mentioned that it was the little things that matter. MDT walked the talk. You would never catch him with crumpled sheets, you would never catch him with an unneat appearance, you would never receive a thoughtless reply in any statement or reflection submissions. He made sure to send all of us personal messages on our birthdays even long after commissioning. He made provisions to meet us as a division even when he was definitely busy as a new CO of a ship. He never gave himself an excuse for anything; despite his age he made sure to run faster than us despite carrying a jerry can when he shouted at us countless times during X48. He was willing to sacrifice his professional image and be in disfavour of the other officers when he shouted at us again and again for our basic mistakes. Afterall, who would enjoy being hated by everyone? No officer wants to be the bad guy. If anything, he is the most under-recognised instructor/leader, and the RSN is truly lucky to have him dedicating his all to nurture batches after batches of officers. I am truly lucky to have met him as an instructor in my leadership journey and I am sure most, if not all, my division mates have benefited from his harsh training, even if they may not have the same admiration for him as I do.

Many people joke on Instagram or Facebook about how “when I grow up, I want to be like you”. MDT Sir, when I grow up, I truly want to be like you.

Results

I was in a very pensive mood yesterday after the examinations and all I wanted was to get away from that examination hall seating a few hundreds of people. I was so down, so upset and so afraid.

Context:

70+ First class mark. If you are a real Singaporean you’d be trying hard to be here.

60-69 Second upper class mark (2:1)

50-59 Second lower class mark (2:2)

I’d received unsatisfactory grades throughout the course of my entire degree. I remember them. I guess no one really reads my blog so hopefully it won’t become discussed in my course like what happened to other people in high school…

In my first year, my first ever assignment received an overall mark 55. Then a 62. Then a 72… hey are things becoming better now? Then a 64. Ouch.

I stopped aiming. Only two modules were graded anyway, and most of the examination modules were not. Overall I got 2 Firsts for my 8 modules, 5 2:1s and a last 2:2. I even laughed about the last one — I got 25 for an essay because I was writing a “right answer to the wrong question”. Who the hell gets 25/100 for an essay?!

There were tons of coursework submissions this year. 4 due on the 10th of January, 1 due on the 8th of Feb, 1 due on the 3rd of March, 1 due on the 22nd of March, 1 due on the 24th of March, and 1 due on the 24th of April.

For the January batch of coursework, I had gotten 68, 67, 66 and 54.

December to January was difficult. It was lots of learning of softwares in greater depth: R, ArcMap, MatLab, STELLA, all of which I had zero clue about.

During the whole December break I was also travelling excessively, and prior to the 3-week break, HT was here. I really had no time for coursework and I saw those as my priorities. Getting marks in the range of 66-68 was therefore quite pleasant for me, I would (and could) just work harder during the exam.

 54 was definitely my fault, I left myself with 24 hours for that coursework. When I submitted it through Turnitin at 11am I knew I was thoroughly screwed — my figures weren’t composed properly, I had hardly come up with proper location maps, and I hadn’t even linked my Discussion section to my Results section. I am just glad I passed for my horrendous submission, I was mostly upset because this was 90% and there was no way I was salvaging it. I also had some sort of coursework fatigue from having finished 3 prior to this and I was sick and tired of learning and using a new software. It requires time for familiarisation as well and I had no time for that this time.

I moved on from those 4 coursework assignments… to embark the 5 in Term 3. The results are coming back. I received 75. Then 80. Then 72 even when I pasted two of the same figures by mistake in my work… are things getting better? Am I on my way? I must be getting the hang of things now! I tried to read so much more beyond the recommended literature to get beyond the band of 66-68. Maybe they really want originality. I really am improving! I worked out my marks and coursework percentages here and there and found out that to possibly secure a first class eventually, I would have to play safe and get at least 5 to 6 modules with a First this year. I was not confident of getting a First for my dissertation in my final year — I know it won’t be that easy.

But yesterday I received a mark of 67 and I felt like I was going back to square one all over again. Another bye to a possible first-class mark. No, eventually there had been no improvement. Yesterday, too, I had not gotten lucky with the questions for a module I thought I could bag a First for. I told myself: I only needed one good essay and one mediocre essay to get a 70 overall. I prepared for 5 topics, and only one worked in my favour. How unlucky was I? Really unlucky. Most people prepared only 4, or less if you are not bothered about this exam. Essentially, I prepared a mediocre essay and another piece of shit, because the wording for the question I prepared for was really convoluted as well. Examiners probably saw that it would be a popular question. I felt like crying midway through writing my second essay. I was cooking up shit and I knew I was giving more marks away with every line I was writing.

I feel sad from the weight of my personal expectations. I don’t want to feel burdened over every unsatisfactory grade or terrible examination. I cannot be like this my whole life, there are so many more examinations I have to take and so many tests I must put myself through. How can I ever be happy this way?

“The part of me that only thinks being the best is acceptable needs to take a chill pill and realize that if I give something my best effort and end up with an average result that is perfectly fine and will only lead to a happier and healthier me. I will keep trying to do my best, but if an exam or a lacrosse game does not go as well as I had hoped, I am not going to ruminate on my mistakes. I will learn to use the bad as a life experience and move on. I will find peace in realizing that being average is okay, but I will take pride in knowing I will never lead an average life. I have long ago stopped expecting perfection from those around me, and now far more importantly, I will stop demanding perfection from myself.”

I will continue to strive, but I will stop being bitter about myself. I will remind myself that the leader(s) I respect the most had less than stellar academic achievements, but was/were extremely hardworking and charismatic. These “idols” of mine might even stab me if I told them about my woes.

I feel much better today after the lousy morning and terrible examination yesterday. I knew I was not going to do further studying after the shitty afternoon paper yesterday, and all I wanted to do was to go home and lie on my bed and Skype. We ended up watching a movie, and after that I slept at 10.30pm. Which means HT stayed up all the way till 5.30am to accompany me to save my shitty day. Thank you very much, so much love for you smiling to sleep last night :’) Thank you for never dissing my opinions even though you are less concerned about results and grades than anyone else. In my darkest of days I am glad you are always there, even though you are not physically present. I know I am in a much better position than people sleeping beside a familiar stranger, and I will be thankful for that. I try to steer clear of talking about HT too much because I think I should lead a proper life myself, but today I am so glad to have a boyfriend. Hehehehehehehe.