Where do I even start. The last couple of weeks have raced by, and suddenly I am looking back trying very hard to remember everything that has gone down in such a short time period. I must say though, I’ve surprised myself over how organised and routined I have been these last weeks. I mean, of course I had a few days where I didn’t want to do anything and just laid in bed watching youtube, but mostly I have gotten myself up nice an early every day around 7 or 8, gone to the library and done work until dinner time. I’ve been good and made my own packed lunch almost everyday, and avoided the trap of replacing coffee with sleep. I really enjoyed this routine actually, I even ended up with having a favourite spot in the library (the silent area on 3rd floor that faces out to the lake). When I first got back to Norwich I made a massive bulk of vegetarian spaghetti bolognese. A recipe I got off Emily, it was basically 2 tins of tomatoes, 1 tin of baked beans, 1 tin of kidney beans, 3 chopped peppers, extremely many mushrooms, red onion, garlic, red lentils, and chicken stock (so not quite 100% vegetarian). I’ve enjoyed the dish for almost the entire coursework writing period, served with yummy cheese and spaghetti. The reasoning was that I didn’t want to tire myself or even have to think about preparing food every day during an already stressful period, so I made it in bulk so I could just heat it up in the evenings, boil the pasta and sprinkle some cheese on top to ensure I had a decent meal every day with no effort. Secondly, I wanted to make sure I ate something both comforting and packed with nutrients and lots of vegetables. It worked a treat!
So last week, the beginning of the end finally started. On the Wednesday Emily and I handed in our science communication project portfolios into the hub before buckling down and getting our dissertation presentations ready for the next day. I almost didn’t have time to really reflect on the the Cley Marshes bird activity box project Emily and I had worked so hard on for the last couple of months before it was straight onto the next thing. We really enjoyed that project though. It was a lot of effort, we could have certainly chosen a less time consuming project option, but I found working for Cley Marshes and designing their bird incredibly rewarding and motivating. Writing the portfolio, explaining the ideas, design and execution of the various activities I found actually very fun and motivating. Science communication is definitely something I can see myself doing in the future, it felt right and purposeful. Throughout the writing it up I was even thinking about making it look at best as possible so I could potentially show a future employer my work, if I ever wish to pursue a career in it.
Some of the items for the box, including “what’s in my stomach?” matching game where you pair hessian bags with toy food items to the correct bird, “Build the perfect nest”, “Learn about skulls, beaks and feathers”, Food chain stacking cups, Bird migration “snakes and ladders” game, and “learn my wingspan” mat.
The next day was perhaps one of the most nerve wracking days I have ever had in my life, presentations of dissertations. I think I have never been so terrified to present a piece of work before, it beat my oral chemistry exam, any job interview I’ve ever done (so like 3 or 4 lol), my first day at UEA and my first day at high school. To top it all off, I was second to last at 12.30, which meant I had to sit through everyone’s amazing presentations for over 3 hours before it was my turn. When I wasn’t fully engrossed with my own anxiety though, I managed to enjoy everyone else’s presentations. Everyone was so brilliant, and I listened on with genuine interest. Nathan, Emily, David and Shawnee were all fab, and I was so happy for them over how well it went for them. When I had finally finished mine, I was also quite proud of myself. The adrenaline of being “on stage” gives you a weird sense of calm, and you just power through all your worries and focus on speaking and smiling. To my recollection I didn’t forget to say anything, I spoke fairly clearly and I remembered to smile and look at people in the room. I held my own during questions too, although I stupidly forgot the word “local council” and panicked, and although it was on the tip of my tongue I ended up going with “local people”. I’ve been told since that everyone knew what I meant, but maybe they are just being too kind. The rest of the afternoon Shawnee, Ellen, Amaia and I hung out at the uni pub before heading home and having an early night and a well deserved good night’s sleep.
The next day I took the day off as I was quite exhausted from the intense couple of days I had just had. Shawnee, Ellen and Max joined me on my day off, and together we went to Grosvenor fish bar in Norwich for some sausage, chips and gravy. The fish bar is the darling fish and chips shop of Norwich, with the coolest underground bunker/converted cellar seating area with warm moody lighting and the friendliest staff. The owner, an smiley American man, is always so lovely to everyone and was on that particular day beaming with pride as he had recently been down to London and received an award for his shop, presented to him by Bake Off legend Sue Perkins. I had never had chips and gravy before, but I am so glad my first experience was with Grosvenor fish bar, because both their chips and gravy were a.m.a.z.i.n.g. and their battered pork sausage was next level tasty. After lunch Ellen and went for a little wander around the shops, and I ended up treating myself to a lovely embroidered floral bag from New Look. Honestly I know I can’t really afford this right now , but I decided it was a little dissertation gift to myself, as it was all coming to an end, and that I would instead make some very cheap meals for a while to make up the cost.
Before I knew it, it was back to work and finishing off my dissertation for the big day. I only really had one break on a sunny day to go see the bluebells, but I will write that up in a separate blog post because I took so many photos. The days flew by, and suddenly it was Thursday 4th and I was talking to my mum in the morning going through our last spell check telephone conversation of my undergrad, before printing it out, binding it and handing it in. I must admit, my shoulders are still feeling weighed down, I am certain I only will feel relieved when I get my mark back and it officially is completely over. I truly hope I do well, I have put unspeakable amounts of time, and worried uncountable hours over this piece of work. I would love to say I enjoyed the experience, but really I didn’t at all. But at least now I know that research in that sense is not something for me, I would much rather do something less “competitive” like environmental assessments or science communication. There definitely is an intensity about university research I did not enjoy, and the pressure to deliver was “yuuge”. I am so thankful that I had such enthusiastic and friendly advisors though, both Kris and Jenny made the whole experience bearable and at times even fun and uplifting. I can with my hand on my heart say I definitely grew a lot as a person from this experience, I have more confidence in my abilities and have really gotten to know myself through this project.
Afterwards the gang went for a barbecue by the lake in the cloudy windy weather. We had booked the barbecue space in advance and hoped the weather would be nice for the day, but unfortunately we had no such luck. We still had the best time though, and we just had to laugh over how British the whole situation was, standing around the barbecue determined to have a post dissertation sausage in some bread and some beers, no matter what the weather. I took a couple of photos, but you know how it is, there’s altways someone pulling the weird face hahaha. Oh aren’t they just special ❤
After a quick semi-nap back home I dressed up for the evening in my sparkly trousers and black top with purple make up. We pre-drank at Shawnee and Max’s, got extremely giddy and then headed to The Loft for one of the best nights ever. We danced our tired little hearts out until 4 am to the greatest DJ play-set I had heard in a long time (they played about 4 different songs from high school musical, just to give you and idea of how great it was) before getting the best fried chicken and chips in town at Piccolos around the corner. Shawnee fell down some stairs, we all spilled some drinks, we danced like we didn’t care about anything else in the world, swung from the stage, and were even so merry that we managed to make the security guard inside the club smile and join in for a little dance move or two to the song from Greece. We even attempted to sing Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl in the karaoke room downstairs even though we literally only knew like 2 sentences of the verse. It was a total fail but we were just so euphoric we couldn’t stop from just laughing and howling unidentifiable strings of words. Now if I ever hear that song I will always be able to remember this night when we couldn’t stop smiling, singing and dancing.
The next day I was extremely fragile, but I regretted nothing. My main comfort was reading all the incredibly lovely comments of congratulations on my Facebook post about finishing my dissertation. It really touched me that so many of my friends, family, old and new classmates and even exboyfriends gave me a thumbs up and commented such lovely things. I went through the list of the whopping 95 people who gave me a thumbs up (because the number itself I feel is irrelevant), and I was so touched to see all the names of people that were on there! People that I have met in my life, from all over the world from every chapter of my life. I really felt loved and supported and it goes down as the most moving thing that has ever happened to me online ❤