Edith Shum: 5 ways to take advantage of every opportunity

Make the most of your academic experience here at JCU!

“Get more experience, stand out, do something that gets you one step closer to that dream job” are phrases we’ve all heard before. But where do you begin? Being overwhelmed is an all too familiar feeling when you aren’t the only one who’s looking for some related experience. But being here at JCU- one of the best schools for marine biology, I knew I had to take advantage of every opportunity. There’s honestly no better place to get more experience. I’ve always learnt best by doing, and I think many of us can relate to that. Those field trips outside a classroom setting are the ones we remember the most. So why not strive for more of those experiences?

Here are my top 5 tips to get you started:

1) Do your research early

Start looking at opportunities early because we all know that once school gets rolling, it’ll get increasingly more difficult to motivate yourself to do more. I took advantage of the first two weeks of the semester to really sit down and look through what JCU had to offer. One thing I found was the internship program offered by TropWATER (https://research.jcu.edu.au/tropwater/research-programs/estuary-and-coastal-wetland-ecosystems/jcu-marine-biology-aquaculture-internship-program). This program is offered at the beginning of every study period, and the application for it closes quite early (another reason why it is a good idea to start early!). If successful, the internship will match you with a mentor depending on your skills and interests. It’s an amazing opportunity that I highly recommend everyone to give a try.

2) Know what you’re interested in

If you’re going to be taking time off your already busy schedule to be helping out someone, you’ll enjoy it much more if it’s actually something you are interested in. It doesn’t have to be specific, but when you do your research, and you get excited by just reading their work, you know you’re on the right track!

3) Just ask

This is an important one. It never hurts to ask. Be honest with what you are looking for, and reach out.
PRO TIP: send an email to phD students working under the supervisor you would like to do work with- they tend to be less busier and are more likely to respond! From personal experience, I can assure you that asking will not only make it easier for the next time around, but it will also make you feel more accomplished, because at least you tried and that’s something to be proud of.

4) Be prepared to do mundane tasks

Don’t expect to jump right into what you want to do at the start. Be prepared to scrub or siphon tanks, clean equipment, or enter data. It’s all about getting your foot in the door, and showing that you are committed to do whatever is necessary. Your supervisor will definitely appreciate it. Keep an open mind, and when the stars align, you jump at the opportunity!

5) Talk to your professors!

This one is definitely a hard one. Sometimes we forget that professors are human just like us. They know we’re nervous, a little awkward, and maybe a little too ambitious, but you have to remember they were once in our position as well. They understand what you’re going through, and once you realize that, you’ll be surprised how much they are willing to help!

And to all my fellow marine biologists, don’t forget about all the opportunities at Orpheus or Lizard Island, AIMS, or programs like Reef Check! Join Facebook groups such as JCU College of Biological, Marine & Environmental Sciences (BioMES), and you’ll have opportunities flying left, right and center before you know it!

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