With a fresh new class of IBHers learning how to transfer nematodes, reading their first scientific articles, and beginning to truly stretch the science part of their brains, I've been reflecting a lot on the past three years. It's hard to comprehend how much I've changed from a freshman excited but naive about biology to someone who discusses articles every week with friends (Fridays at noon at the Courtyard Cafe! Come!), presented a poster at a conference, is working on a senior thesis, and is preparing for graduate schools. I changed from an English major to someone whose 2011 has entirely consisted of biology. I'm finally reaching the point that when friends ask me random questions about biology, I can come up with an answer that isn't, "Check Wikipedia."
Entering senior year and looking at what's ahead, I feel... prepared. Completely. I'm nervous and occasionally doubt myself, but when I look at what IB Honors has given me, it's like taking a deep breath and closing your eyes for a moment. It's a building block I can push off from. Thinking of the current IBH students and alumni, I'm so inspired to dosomething with this world. IBHers have gone to receive Marshall scholarships, go to Harvard grad school, research primate conservation, give talks at conferences, found conservation RSOs, work at NASA, double major with engineering/anthropology/humanities, and so much more. I look up to the younger IBHers who start research as sophomores and are already geniuses. And I look up to the members of my class, who despite finishing the IBH core still find time to see each other several times a week.
Without going into too much detail, I'm currently applying for two fairly prestigious scholarships, the type that involve interviews at U of I and plenty of essay drafts. It's stressful, especially when seeing the accomplishments of past scholars. The last U of I student to receive a Gates scholarship (full ride for Cambridge graduate school) had a 4.0 in bio-engineering and seven publications by the time he graduated. Looking at his application, I turned to one of the academic advisors in the National and International Scholars Office and shook my head. "I have no chance," I said. She scolded me and said, "You're just as qualified as he is; you just don't know it yet." Heavy words, for sure. And now, staring at the scribbled comments on the fourth draft of my essays, wondering if they encourage every applicant even if they know they won't make it, wondering if I can do this, wondering if I should get my hopes up, glancing at the clock and thinking of the work for tomorrow, the immediate work versus the shot for my future....
It's stressful stuff, definitely. But at every step there's bits of encouragement. My potential advisor e-mailed me on Thursday and told me to send him my application before I submit it so he can make it better. After several months of revising my Fulbright application, I'm finally done and can help my friends with theirs. Every time I walk into my behavioral ecology class, I get that familiar rush that learning about animal behavior gives me. This feels right. I want to learn everything I can about it!
Outside of grad school applications, I'm considering non-profit conservation work. I did a work exchange for a few days in Costa Rica last semester, where I spent four hours a day composting, hackingHeliconia leaves with a machete, or digging dirt trails in exchange for a place to sleep at night. If a meal or two was thrown into the mix, I would very gladly spend a year or two volunteering with conservation. College is all about preparation for the future. Reaching the future and being able to draw from that preparation is an amazing feeling.
So, current and potential IB Honors students: hang in there! Keep working hard, push through orgo and engineering physics. When you reach the other side, you'll look at what you've gone through and feel amazing. The world is ahead of us... we just have to run through the darkness to claim it.
IBH students travel the world, publish research papers, and do all sorts of amazing things