Friday, 17 June 2016

5 things I've learnt as an undergraduate

Well hello there! It has been a while, a very long while, but it's good to be back!
I've bid farewell to my three years at Queen Mary. From learning about the mysteries of the DNA, and meeting the amazing people I'm blessed to call my friends, to holding naked mole-rats, my time as  an undergraduate here has been exciting, challenging and inspiring. These three years have helped me grow, not just as a scientist, but also as a Christian, and I'm excited to share the top five lessons I've learnt...

Don't be afraid to look stupid

I don't like asking questions, due to the fear of looking stupid or exposing my ignorance. My final year project however involved a bioinformatics software which can only be understood and mastered by a series of trial-and-error cycles. It was an experience that humbled me and pushed me to seek for help, over and over again! It taught me to hold my pride and ego very loosely, and that it is okay to look stupid sometimes.
I am there to learn, and if I don't ask the questions that clarify my doubts, I will never find the answer, which would result in my knowledge being built upon a faulty foundation, which will one day collapse. It's better to look stupid during the learning process, than let it accumulate and result in something disastrous in the future.

A good friendship runs deeper than religion, world views and political beliefs

This lesson was a hard one to learn, because I form attachments easily! Our values are an important part of who we are; God fashioned each one of us with our little quirks and political preferences. It's not a matter of 'I'm right, you're wrong', but a matter of striving towards the same end through varied means.
I am a Christian, hence my world view is shaped by my understanding of God's Word, and this happens to be a weird concoction of conservatism and socialism. As my views often deflect from the consensus, I am very careful about sharing them with anybody and everybody. Therefore I've grown to really value those liberating friendships where we can openly discuss these topics, knowing that no matter how much we differ, our friendship is going to be as strong as it ever was. Bottom line, love the person for who they are, their political views and all!

If this is something you struggle with, I would really recommend you read, Confessions of a 'leftie' married to a 'rightie' by Becky Miles, it's great little article that offers much food for thought.

Pursuing a dream together, draws people closer

I'm referring here to those big dreams, where one pair of hands are just not enough. My friends and I had one such dream in 2014, to help rough sleepers in London. We decided to act on it together, and managed to set up a community project, Mary Christmas. It was a time that we cherished; it made each of us vulnerable and dependent, exposing our strengths and weaknesses. Of course there were times when tensions rose but we didn't let that divide us. When everything came together in the end, it was worth it. The feeling of accomplishment united us in a very special way, as it was not 'I' but 'We did it', that resonated in and through each one of us.
It is the logic behind those team building exercises in school or at work, they're not just designed to break the ice, but also to allow us to understand a person like we've never done before, and that renews our respect and our relationship.

God is faithful and He will always provide

My entire university experience can be summed up by the above statement. I can give you numerous examples but I'll stick to two...

First up is my naked mole-rat obsession! If we've met, it is inevitable that you've been exposed to my love for naked mole-rats. For my final year project, I had the privilege of working with a scientist whose work I've admired and followed for years, Dr. Chris Faulkes, the naked mole-rat expert! As my project was a molecular one which didn't require meeting these creatures, I constantly put off requesting to see them (also because it involved a variety of health and safety formalities). However when I finally decided to ask, it looked like it was too late and I was shattered! Within a couple of weeks however, Dr. Faulkes kindly allowed me to see and hold them without any of the required occupational health checks, thanks to a sudden naked mole-rat display at our open day! That to me friends, has God written all over it!

Likewise (while Mary Christmas is still fresh in our minds) in 2015, my friends and I decided to collect toys and books for child refugees in the UK in addition to our previous homeless mission. It was something I desperately wanted to see happen; we organised a collection, found the right contacts and committed to sending these gifts to two housing associations in the country. During our collection however, we had a lot of donations for rough sleepers but very few for children. The deadline for shipping soon approached, and we had 12 items to share between two housing associations, I was heart broken. Miraculously that night, my friend who runs a project for refugees in Calais, France (Convoy to Calais), received two massive cartons packed with toys; they had bounced back due to a lack of space in the camps in Calais. She kindly passed these on to me and we were able to send a substantial amount of toys and books to both associations. In addition, my mum's boss generously took care of the shipping charges. This friends, is divine providence!

The above scenarios are just few of the many times I've deeply desired or strived to attain something that looked far fetched. When all hope was lost however, God showed up, time and again, to sort it out in a way that far surpassed anything I imagined - giving me no reason to ever doubt or underestimate Him!

God plans coincidences

Finally, a lesson that excites me, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed learning!
It was by chance that I picked Medical Genetics. It was by chance that I ended up at Queen Mary. In fact, if you have a few minutes to spare, I'd love for you check out my testimony on how I ended up here on Facebook - it's a few years old so please excuse the weird hairdo, craziness and what not!

Looking back, I've had no regrets, instead I've had a lot of amazing experiences, some of which were deep desires I've seldom shared, others have been experiences that took me by surprise but I've thoroughly enjoyed. Yes it is cliché, but I've come to see that everything happens for a reason. Every person that has crossed my path, every situation I have found myself in, I attribute it all to the one who holds my life in His hands. God steers the rudder of my life, hence I am assured that He is taking me wherever He wants me to be, through the route He wants me to take, with the people He wants me to share the journey with, in part or in full!
There really is no such thing as a coincidence - even if life seems puzzling right now, a few years down the line, you will see how the pieces beautifully fit together.

I think this is an apt note to end on.
I hope these reflections have encouraged you.

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