It’s 7:00 AM in the morning and nothing is better than a hot cup of coffee which warms up your body and soul in the cold morning of Waterford. The vibe of today’s morning is very similar to the chilly mornings of Islamabad where my Pharmacy school was located in Pakistan.
I was always an anxious kid who wanted to know what is going to happen next, and it has always compelled me to plan ahead. During my university days, I decided to pursue my further education from abroad. For some of my friends, it was ‘too early’ to be stressed about the next phase of life, whereas the anxious kid in me would not let me settle down.
When I was in my final year, I received an acceptance letter for the master programme I was dreaming to get in to, with a fully funded scholarship. While I was nearing my graduation, I started my visa application process but then life had a different plan for me; my visa was rejected.
Sometimes we underestimate our potential and try to settle for less, but God has its ways of telling us, ‘You deserve more’.
I started working as a junior lecturer at my alma mater and began applying to master programmes again, but this time it was different; I was now applying to more competitive programmes; because giving up was not an option.
It was April of 2017 when I received the selection email from Erasmus Mundus Joint master degree in Nanomedicine for Drug Delivery. Finally, the hard work paid off, and luckily this time, I was issued a visa too. Moving out of your comfort zone and travelling to a new country is not easy, especially when your French is limited to ‘Bonjour’ and ‘je ne parle pas français’, but as Kelly Clarkson says, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. Studying in different European universities was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Not only the scientific exposure which I gained was invaluable and helped me to evolve as a student of science, but I was also able to develop myself as a person who could work in a team of people with different cultural backgrounds.
After completing my master degree, I decided to take a break for a few months to reenergise myself before moving to the next phase of my life, but I had to cut short my ‘sabbatical’ because I was missing going back to the lab.
This also answered a very vital question that kept bugging me throughout my master, which was, “do I really love what I do?” and the answer was yes. I did not only love my work but also I could not stay away from it for long.
The next step was to choose a programme to apply for. ORBITAL caught my particular attention because of the extensive nature of its team, including, scientists from different backgrounds, clinicians and industrial partners. I wanted to choose a programme which could train me as a scientist with an insight of industrial needs.
It was early 2020 when I received the news of my selection in ORBITAL and I reckoned that the difficult part was over, but it was just the beginning of a very emotionally challenging time. The world stopped due to a virus and the only thing that became of prime importance was our own and our loved one’s well-being. It was the first time ever, when the anxious kid did not want to know what is going to happen next, rather the only thing that mattered was everyone around him was safe. Although this pandemic has incurred damages on many facets, it has also made us realise that nothing is bigger than life. It has made us more appreciative of the things we took for granted; be it a cup of coffee with a friend or going to a cinema.
Thankfully, I arrived in Waterford when there were no Covid restrictions applied (we are currently under a second lockdown as I am writing this) and I was able to explore the city and meet my colleagues at WIT. I felt myself welcomed in the research team where everyone was extremely supportive and aware of the fact that it is a hard time for everyone.