As an aspiring master’s student, I had all the dreams and hopes that my semester abroad would yield fruitful results for my master’s study at the University of Tartu. However, as it occurred, humankind was struck by an event that compromised all travel plans. While steps were taken in the direction to curb the pandemic, the repercussions hit a setback to all plans for my thesis development and further learning.
I had heard from others that a supervisor plays a very important role in the development of a student’s technical skills. However, in my case, the support I received from my supervisor was not only technical but also the concern about my social and mental well-being, especially about keeping myself sane while being indoors. I was privileged to have experienced it first-hand.
The situation quickly dawned upon us that remote working was the way to go. Transitioning to the digital framework of meetings and development was fairly a new way to continue working. Exploring the different verticals of sharing knowledge online, accompanied with the tasks of maintaining a discrete work schedule, came with their own challenges.
The simplest, yet the most consistent, of the cases were dealing with the obvious introductory questions: “Can you hear me?”, “Can you see me?”, “Can you see my screen?” … and the list goes on.
Weekly meetings ensured that I stayed on track with my progress and to be honest, pursuing a topic in space technology required regular brainstorming sessions along with visuals that could appeal to scientific viability. Staying indoors with less distraction definitely gave me more time to think about the approaches that could make it possible, for in that closed room, I was exploring my own space.
Of course, as most of us suffered from the lack of social presence, I too felt cramped up sometimes within the same walls. Apart from the academics, it also became essential to stay active from the regular ‘eat-work-sleep’ routine. In-house exercises and regular breathing breaks helped me to maintain a healthy cycle. (Reminder: drink water!) This became increasingly beneficial during submission days when work hours inadvertently extended in order to finalise thesis writing.
Talking at home and catching up with friends with the knowledge of near and dear ones being safe brought some satisfaction to fight the advancing days of isolation.
All in all, the motivation to continue working was an amalgamation of positive thoughts, all-round support from my supervisor and family, hopes for successfully defending my master’s thesis and, as always, looking forward to better days.
As I look back to the past year, I have come to make peace with the fact that there are certain things that are not in our control. However, our actions that follow certainly pave the way to work around for what could not be achieved.
Yes, travelling abroad definitely could’ve been a whole new world of possibilities but as far as I know, staying back has offered me more than I envisaged when I first arrived in Estonia, nonetheless.
As a conversation with a friend went, “We need to be at a distance to understand the value of something near,” but staying near and pondering over what could’ve been lost if I wasn’t near – is also a thought that brings a smile to my face.
Well, I graduated my master’s with a cum laude distinction and continue to extend my work with the research group.
While academic success was a feat in itself, the episode has taught me the values of not only being prepared for things that might not go our way, but also to have a dynamic mindset and the positivity to tackle whatever comes our way.
I treasured all that I had – during the times when I actually had them. Isn’t that what everyone misses to cherish?
Wishing good health to all.