A prayer for grad students

I freaking LOVE Jorge Cham. His grad school humor is just so spot on, all the time. I guess this means that the cultures of institutions of higher learning are fundamentally the same the world over.

And yes, I’m working on my thesis right now (just sneaked off to blog a bit *sheepish*).

Sanya, Hainan, China Day 5 – the Hilton Sanya and exploring HKIA

View from the Presidential Suite of the Sanya Hilton

Our flight from Sanya to Hong Kong was at 2pm, which left enough time for us to do a bit of sightseeing. As it turned out, one of my mother’s friends is the auditing head for the Hilton Sanya Resort & Spa and he was nice enough to offer us brunch and a tour of the hotel. Tito Jun was a bit late picking us up (he’d gotten lost as he’d never been to our part of Sanya before) so we decided to eat at least  some breakfast before leaving (I love the mini pork buns! :D). Incidentally, I found out that I’m capable of walking really fast while keeping a mini pork bun trapped between my chopsticks 😛

Tito Jun picked us up  in one of the hotel’s shuttle vans and gave a running commentary on the history of Hainan and the rapid expansion of Sanya’s tourism industry for the entire 30-minute ride. He was a veritable treasure trove of information, as he’d been in Sanya for 4 out of the 21 years he’d been working in China (he was part of the hotel’s opening team).

The pace of the tourism development in Sanya is just incredible. The Hilton is located in Yalong Bay and is just one of the five 5-star properties already operating there: the Hilton, the Pullman, the Sheraton, the Marriott, and the Ritz-Carlton. The St. Regis is set to open this November 2011. Each hotel has around 450-500 rooms (the Hilton has 492), catering mostly to tourists from mainland China. All of this development is just the tip of the iceberg.

I asked Tito Jun if he really thought that all the construction could be supported by incoming tourists and he answered with a resounding yes. As he said, we’re talking about more than a billion Chinese. Even if they captured only the top 10% of the population with money to spend, they’re looking at 100 million tourists a year. At present, they’re having trouble retaining staff because the hotels are pirating experienced staff from each other. Tito Jun did worry though that with the glut of hotels in Sanya, they’d eventually be forced to lower their rates to compete. However, that situation is several years away.

After brunch, Tito Jun took us on a tour of the Hilton’s different rooms. My mom specifically told me to take photos of the rooms and to show her as soon as I got home. LOL. The first stop was the Presidential Suite, a suite the size of four standard rooms (about 200 sq. m) that comes with a personal butler on call 24 hours. During the peak seasons (Christmas, Chinese New Year), the suite can go for RMB 80,000 per night (~PhP 536,000). Yes, we took a lot of pictures because it’s highly unlikely that we’d ever enter a suite like it again 😛 Continue reading “Sanya, Hainan, China Day 5 – the Hilton Sanya and exploring HKIA”

Sanya, Hainan, China Day 4 (June 11)

Sanya Bay's beach. Basically like Manila Bay, down to the sewer pipe leading to the water

Day 4 saw the students presenting their research to the panel. OH NOES!!! Gaaah. For the record, I hate public speaking (which really makes me wonder what the heck I’m doing in tourism). I find that I’m a much better writer than I am a speaker. Was fortunate enough to have the errors in my presentation corrected by Dr. Siringan prior to the actual event. Phew! Nothing I could do about the poster though. Since my thesis isn’t finished yet, I just presented the preliminary results. The interesting thing that came out of the data is that my actual results are contradictory to my expected results. While this makes a much more interesting story, this means that I have to do much more reading in order to find an explanation 😐 No photos of me presenting because it was dark up front and there were no nice shots to be had.

After all the presentations, we had dinner in the city proper (another Muslim-friendly restaurant) and finally got to take a (short) tour of the city proper. Continue reading “Sanya, Hainan, China Day 4 (June 11)”

Sanya, Hainan, China Day 3 (June 10)

The marine station looks so pretty and modern. Love the clean lines.

Day 3 saw us doing field work in Sanya Bay. We split up into three groups: Group 1 on the boat to collect water samples from various parts of the bay, Group 2 to dive and collect the sediment traps set in front of the marine station, and Group 3 to snorkel and get a general picture of the area. We ended up in Group 3 because Zoan and I wanted to use the snorkeling gear we brought all the way from Manila. Continue reading “Sanya, Hainan, China Day 3 (June 10)”

Sanya, Hainan, China Day 2 (June 9)

I'm here somewhere.

Day 2 saw the formal opening of the workshop. We got talks from Dr. Thamasak Yeemin (Thailand), Dr. Fernando Siringan (Philippines), Dr. Gi Hoon Hong (Korea), Dr. Hui Huang (China), and Dr. Gangjian Wei (China). It was both thrilling and intimidating to be in the same room as these experts. Needless to say, my hand ached after taking several pages of notes throughout the day. That was the only time I envied Zoan with her iPad. Continue reading “Sanya, Hainan, China Day 2 (June 9)”

Sanya, Hainan, China Day 1 (June 8)

My first time in China! Yahoo! Well technically, I’m here for school, not fun, as I’m attending the 2nd IOC/WESTPAC Training Course: Water Quality and Impact on Coral Reefs here in the Tropical Marine Biology Research Station of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Sanya, Hainan. One of my professors in MSI is part of the organizing committee and he encouraged me to apply to attend the conference. I was lucky enough to get accepted and have the organizers pay for my airfare, board, and lodgings for the conference. In exchange, I’ll have to prepare a poster and give a  5-10 minute presentation on my master’s thesis that will be scrutinized by coral reef experts from all over Asia (China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, and Vietnam). Gulp.

The view from my window

Continue reading “Sanya, Hainan, China Day 1 (June 8)”

To the potential graduate students out there

Every semester, the Marine Science Institute asks one of the students who graduated the semester before (preferably a PhD but usually a Masters) to give a speech during the orientation for the new graduate students. The speech is usually inspirational, full of “I had an awesome time and you will too!” anecdotes and “Grad school is hard but you’ll pull through if you do A, B, and C!” tips. Seeing as I won’t be graduating anytime soon and that I highly doubt they’d ever get me to give the speech once I did graduate, I’d like to take this opportunity to share something I’ve been composing in my head for the past month.

The non-academic, non-scientific things I learned in graduate school:

1. Don’t go into grad school for the wrong reasons. The wrong reasons include (but are not limited to):

  • You’re bored with your job.
  • You hate your job.
  • You don’t know what to do with your life.

Speaking as a science major, the only reason to go into grad school is if you want to do research for the rest of your life. The purpose of grad school is to teach you how to do independent research. If research will not be your life’s work, then there’s no reason  for you to spend years of your life  (2-4 years for a Master’s degree, 4- 8 years for a PhD) of your life learning how to do it. If you’re bored with or hate your job, then either get a new one or set up challenges for yourself within the framework of the job you have now. If you don’t know what to do with your life, then get a mentor who can guide you. Going into grad school without a clear goal in mind will just make you even more miserable.

2. Once you’ve made up your mind to go to grad school, do your research (pun intended).

There are lots of different graduate courses in lots of different schools. Do the work and find the course that will satisfy you both intellectually and emotionally and will help you get to where you want to be in life.

3. Once you’re in grad school, surround yourself with people who will support you.

This isn’t anything earth-shattering but it needed to be said. Grad school can and will be hellish at times. You’ll doubt yourself, your capabilities, and your purpose. You’ll feel lost. Dismayed. Inept even. It’s necessary to have someone believe in you during the times you don’t believe in yourself.

4. Don’t be afraid to take a break.

The world nor your life will end if you graduate a little behind schedule (unless you’re on a time-sensitive scholarship with lots of strings…). Take a break. Re-assess. Your physical and emotional well-being are worth the extra semester or two.