Lessons from London

I am just one presentation away from completing my year-long MRes at Imperial College so now this is an appropriate time to pause for some reflections. I have learnt many things in just one year, I have certainly changed and hopefully matured a bit. I may edit this when new things come to mind but here are some of the things that I have learnt in London:

1) Drug discovery and development is a very complex process.

I was having a conversation with a friend a few days ago about the drug discovery and development pipeline and I realized just how much insights I have gained in this one year. In a way, it’s a really good MRes because apart from gaining specialized knowledge about my research project, I also managed to gain some perspectives about the big picture.

2) You need to know what you want and how to go about getting what you want.

Growing up in a culture that spoon-feeds its children, self-directed, independent learning is something that I am not accustomed to. At the start, I was more passive and I was waiting for things to happen and for things to fall into place. Now I am a lot less passive, I think about what I want to get, draw action plans and try to follow them to the best of my ability. I think this will be quite helpful in the workplace.

3) Emotions cloud judgement – try not to make important decisions/ conversations when you are feeling emotional.

I used to think that it is important to express my emotions especially to people whom I love because I think that they need to know how I am feeling. A year in London has taught me that emotions (especially anger and fear) cloud judgement so much so that more often than not, I use the wrong words and phrases. A quick generalization: when I feel strong emotions (e.g. anger, fear), I use strong words. Strong words are sometimes too much. Now when I feel the anger rising within me, I go on talking only when I have calmed down.

4) Don’t judge people based on stereotypes.

In London, I have met many different kinds of people and it’s so easy to associate a person with a stereotype. “Chinese people are materialistic, shallow, self-centered.” “Spanish people are lazy and bad with punctuality.” “English people are risk-adverse, polite and indirect.” Everyone is different and while we are influenced by the cultures that we grew up in, we also develop our own unique personalities because of our different experiences and circumstances. I like conversations when we talk about what people in general do in the country as part of an international relations/ social sciences discussion but I really don’t like people who judge and profile people whom they just met based on where they are from (e.g. countries, schools).

5) Communicate effectively, don’t be invisible, you got a right to things too.

This used to be very big problem for me. Whenever I need to say something in an assertive manner or when I need to get something from other people, I get quite nervous and I try my best to avoid these situations. Now I tell myself that I am entitled to things too, I am entitled to make my voice heard.

6) Less is more.

This is something that I am still learning. Sometimes I want to say many things, I want to “maximize” my experiences and I want to do many things. I am making a conscious effort to tell myself that it is important not to over-explain and to do less and take it slower but to be wholly present.

7) Don’t compare, stay happy.

I used to fall into the trap of comparing. I would think “Oh my god, he/ she is getting ahead of me” or “I think I travel better than him/ her”. Now I think I have become calmer and I have learnt to be happy and grateful. More importantly, when people whom I care about get what I always want, I am genuinely happy for them. 🙂

8) Respect that others are not the same as you.

This took me a long time to learn as well. I used to judge people based on my own standard and I used to get disappointed because people did not meet my standard. Now I am beginning to realize that everyone is different, some very different from who I am, and if I choose to grow close to that person, I need to respect and appreciate his/ her differences. The world will be a truly boring place if everyone is the same.

9) Given a choice, ask instead of assume.

I am still making a conscious effort to do this. I learn more from asking and I need to remind myself that people will not mind the questions so much unless I keep asking the same question.

10) There is something new to learn from everyone if you bother talking to them.

I am also making a conscious effort to do this. Sometimes I assume too much and judge people too quickly.

11) Smile is a universal language.

People are less defensive and more approachable when you smile at them 🙂

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