By Hannah Beck
The process of applying to the LOREX program was certainly a rollercoaster. The opportunity seemed to appear out of nowhere, and I hadn’t even officially started my graduate degree when I learned about the program. I spent every day since the announcement with butterflies of nervousness and excitement warring in my belly. How amazing would it be if I could go all the way to Sweden and study their water! I would learn so much…. But, what if I’m in over my head? I’ve never even written a project proposal before, much less taken an entire experiment into a completely new environment. Besides, what could I possibly contribute as a first-year graduate student with no experience, my bachelor’s diploma still warm in my hand?
Looking back to my application process 10 months ago, I would tell myself one thing: Calm Down.
It’s true that it’s equal parts scary and exciting sending that first introductory email to a potential collaborator alllll the way in a different country. But calm down. Don’t lose that excitement, but this doesn’t have to be any scarier than reaching out to graduate professors here at home. Scientists of all nationalities love hearing that someone is interested in their research!
The same is true for writing the proposal. You only have a few months to pull it together, so calm down. It’s ok if you don’t read a dozen papers a day in preparation. No matter how thorough a literature search you prepare, you’re still going to stumble across that one perfect citation a month after the deadline.
And your experiment design will never be perfect, because you haven’t conducted the experiment yet. Calm down and trust your collaborator; whatever they saw in you when they said that magical “yes” is really there even if you don’t see it yourself.
The ASLO people who are reading and assessing your application know all of these things so calm down–your application will never be perfect, and that’s exactly where it holds the potential to improve you as a scientist and a dreamer.