Updated: May 24
Up until recently I've always had my life figured out. It's always been simple: after high school I would go to university, get a job/start a business and live my best life! Except after four life changing years at UP I found myself not entirely sure what to do. You see here's the thing: although I loved what I was studying, my final year was the absolute pits (ask any Genetics student, I'm pretty sure they share the same sentiments). My mental health was shaky; and honestly, I didn't know if I could carry on in that direction.
In the same breath, I had seen far too many of my peers sit at home after finishing their degree because they couldn't find a job- that just wasn't the life I envisioned for myself. This was so frustrating because from an early age we're told to follow our dreams and yet when we do there are so many road blocks it just seems impossible.
So I caved. I went with what I considered the easier, safer option and I did my Honours degree in Human Physiology. But I wasn't happy. I had such an emotionally taxing time last year that I wanted to give it all up and try something new. And for the longest time that was exactly what I was going to do. I applied to teach English in South Korea (because I’m obsessed with K-dramas), passed my interviews and was a stone’s throw from giving it all up when I found a post about an MSc program which combined 2 things I was interested in at the time: genomics and bioinformatics! (You see, I've always secretly wanted to be a coder who wears sweatpants to work and arrives late- I feel like I'm halfway there #winning)
So I applied and went to the interviews not giving it much thought and within a few days I got in. Whoop Whoop!
For me this was so excited because I would, FINALLY, be doing something that I was sort of interested in. I think it was only when I started this year that I thanked the universe for giving me the most amazing MSc project I could ever ask for (There's so much I want to say about this but we'll discuss it later in a different blog post).
As grateful as I am and as crazy as my journey was in getting here (again, topic for another post), it still frustrates me the amount of hurdles I'll still need to overcome once I decide I actually want to start working. Case in point, I recently discovered that I'll probably struggle to work in a laboratory in SA after completing my MSc unless I'm registered with the HPCSA. "How does one register with them" you ask ? Well, one simply completes a 2 year internship that's probably not paid for; meaning another 2 years of not being able to pay off student loans and living off my dad (don't tell him this, poor Silverius might just have a heart attack). GREAT!
Honestly, it's the culmination of all these little things that no one tells you about that makes it so difficult to carve out a clear path for yourself, regardless of which area within the health sciences that you would like to work in.
That, and the fact that there are so many opportunities out there that people just don't know about simply because they weren't mentioned to us as possible options in high school because they "aren't big money makers". I mean have you heard of epidemiology... anyone?
I also don't like the fact that if I'm studying something research based I have to stick with it and go into Academia. Academia has never been a part of my plan- perhaps I might dabble but it's not the end goal for me and I feel like it's probably not the end goal for so many others just like me.
Clearly you can see this has really been troubling me for some time; and I've decided I want to write about it because I can be more than just a researcher. I'm allowed to have other interests like blogging, or maybe going into consultancy or starting my own business after becoming an amateur painter. I don’t know. I'm just spitballing.
All I know is that there are limitless possibilities and it would be a shame to confine myself to one set path. Maybe this is just another form of a quarter life crisis, or maybe- just maybe- it's an opportunity to really explore what else I'm good at and what else I like.
I just really wanted to share this and more with you and everyone else reading this. Because of how huge this task is, I knew I couldn’t just do it by myself. I remember hearing that human beings are social creatures who were never meant to work on things alone and so I've been incredibly fortunate to find individuals willing to work on this website with me to show others who have decided (or are still deciding) to dedicate their lives to the biological/health sciences that there are many options out there and we hope to help you find your niche in this vast field (see what I did there?)
The aim is simple: to create a website where people like you and me can go to find out more about the various career opportunities out there, to bring them into contact with people who’ve "been there and gotten the t-shirt", and to provide them with resources that will help them feel less lost before and after graduation.
It pains me to see so many struggling to find what works for them especially after the ‘rona has put a damper on so many of our plans. I'm not saying that we'll have all the answers, but we sure can figure it out together. As a collective. The way it should have been from the get go.