There’s just something about Eckerd’s science program that I can’t put into words. Late nights in the James Center with chemistry tutors inching your way through problems, afternoons spent on the water in Boca Ciega Bay competing against your classmates to capture the most marine invertebrates, even splitting a paella with your professor in a local restaurant in Havana, Cuba are just a few examples of the whacky, unique experiences I have had the privilege to have throughout my undergraduate science career here.
You’ll find your own moments that you’ll remember. Maybe it will be collecting plants for your marine botany herbarium, trudging around mangrove forests to find the plants you need. Maybe you’ll present a poster at the student research symposium, standing in the halls of the science buildings all dressed up, explaining to passersbys the significance of your research. And maybe it will be screeches of frustration in the computer science building as you attempt to understand a physics problem after writing all over the white boards only to come up with the incorrect answer.
There will be ups and downs. You’ll want to drop out, give up, surrender. They make it hard for a reason, and it’s because they know you can do it. They want to push you, prepare you for the real world where you’ll have to do research, solve problems, manage a team, collect data, do statistical analysis and so much more.
Who is “they”? They are these wonderful people, your professors, who may seem so out of reach and unrelatable behind their closed office doors. But, in reality, your professors are just people, who may or may not be just a little bit smarter than you. They want to talk to you, they want to help you. Check in with them, wave to them in the hallways, use them to your advantage. You never know when you might need them. And trust me, you will need them. You’ll need them to get you where you want to be.
But to get there, you need to do some work yourself too. Don’t spend all your time reading your textbooks or writing essays or even watching documentaries or listening to podcasts. You have to get out there and get the experience yourself. There is always something going on that you could be doing, so get involved.
Don’t limit yourself to just being a science nerd. Step out of your comfort zone and audition for the play, go wakeboarding, take a painting or a creative writing class. You may find new passions, something that will drive you to get that experiment done in the lab so you can get back outside and get back to doing what you love. And I don’t mean sitting on your bed playing video games.
Ask questions and search for answers. Push boundaries to explore areas that you want to know more about, and start your own research project if you want to. Don’t limit yourself to what is only happening on campus, but there are also plenty of options as long as you search for them.
Take breaks, and take time for yourself and your friends. You have more time than you think to finish those assignments, so go enjoy some sunshine. When you need it, ask for help.
Appreciate the little moments of joy. Laugh when your professor pulls up a song about sea cucumbers in your marine invertebrate class. Get excited when you look through the microscope to find all of these tiny critters in a small container of water. Take a moment to enjoy the breeze as you sit on the front of the beach cat boat, letting the salt spray splash your face.
So, take your time. Have fun in this special place. Be proud of yourself and all you’re doing. You can do this.