Laptop on table with sky in background

How travel is helping me finish my PhD

No question, travel is awesome. Even though I’ve been a poor grad student with lots of deadlines, I’ve managed to travel during PhD things and wouldn’t want it any other way!

These are the last few months of my PhD before I have to hand in, and travel is helping me get there. How? Let me explain.

Any excuse to travel

While I’ve been lucky to have a major move between Singapore and London built into my PhD program, I’ve also taken opportunities to go to regional conferences while based in both places. When I didn’t have a PhD related reason to travel, I would try to go home to New York. Having a young nephew and niece, this was important for me so I wouldn’t feel like I was missing everything.

I’ve used up any excuse to travel: family, conferences, writing retreats, ultimate tournaments, etc. These were spread out over the past three and half years, so it doesn’t feel like I’m always trying to “escape” from my PhD. But by doing this, I’ve been able to get out and break up the monotony.

Bottle Beach on Koh Phangan, your typical touristy beach, white males included

Bottle Beach near Koh Phangan

How travel is helping my PhD

Flying off to another continent is a pretty hard deadline for life things like moving, and I’m using them as hard deadlines for my PhD too.

Last month, I had debated whether I should take 10 days in September to go home to New York to see my family. I spoke to a fellow student and she advised that I think about it more since it was so near my PhD deadline. I did, and I decided to do it. Leading up to the trip, I worked really hard to send some things off to my advisors. On the trip, I got some work done, but not as much as I had hoped.

Historically, I haven’t worked very well with deadlines until recently. My hand in date in January is a very real deadline, so I can’t “muck about,” as the Brits say. Although we’ll have to see how long my streak of productivity goes for, it’s been pretty good the past 2 weeks since I got back from New York.

T minus 3 months

There’s about 3 months left before hand in, and I have a few major trips planned.

Early November – Vienna
I need to finish analysis for all of my last few chapters by the time I leave for Vienna. I’m presenting a poster there and participating in a hackathon on climate change and infectious diseases. The chapter I’m presenting on is currently a little less than half-baked, so this is a big motivator to get more done and quickly.

November 22 (Thanksgiving!) – New York
I’m leaving my place in London and I’m moving all of my stuff to New York. I desperately want to have a full draft of my whole thesis done by the time I leave. This will let me relax for Thanksgiving and prep for my next conference in early December. Plus, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I had to miss it last year!

December – Melbourne
The first week in December will be dedicated to attending a conference in Melbourne. I haven’t been to that part of Australia before. Most of this month will be spent in Melbourne, Sydney and other random parts! I haven’t made many plans yet, but would like to do some outdoorsy things while also making some last changes to my thesis. Is this realistic? I have no idea. I’ll let you know after…

Drawing of pandas in an office

He say me have to work, work, work, work, work, work…

Repeatable?

This works for me, though there is no guarantee that it’ll work for anyone else. For me the major advantages to travel during PhD stuff are:

  • having something to look forward to
  • taking a step away from my normal working environment for perspective and refreshing the creative juices
  • inspiration (because nature and other people’s research)
  • breaking up time into manageable chunks
  • similarly, having milestones to distinguish the passage of time

To travel during PhD stuff might not be for everyone, but I find that it is well worth it. Some people might prefer to be in the same place for the duration, but I found that having one big move in the middle of the PhD was just enough change to re-energize and get a feeling for how much time has passed. (This is kinda important if you are doing a PhD, because you don’t want to waste too much time.)

Life after defense

Like I mentioned in my post on leaving London, I currently don’t have many plans after January 2017. I’ve applied for a few jobs, but ideally I’ll be somewhere where I can play on a good women’s ultimate team. After that, I’m sure things will work out somehow.

How do you travel during PhD research and writing? Do you think I’m shooting myself in the foot?

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Travel and my PhD

Scattered leaves on grass

Leaving London, life and moving on

That’s it, I’m done with London! Although my student visa for the UK goes until May 2017, I’m leaving London in 2 months. Not that there is anything wrong with London. It’s just not working out for me at the moment given life and circumstances.

How I got here

I’m in a joint PhD program that allowed me to spend half the time in Singapore and half in London. I lived in Singapore for most of 2013 and 2014. In January 2015, I moved to London with the intention of staying through until I finished my PhD. I kept my mind open to the idea of staying in London, but wasn’t sure either way. Now a few short months from finishing, I had to decide how I would deal with my living and financial situation.

My sis and me at Big Ben

Why I’m leaving London

I decided over the summer that I would move back to New York right before Thanksgiving. This also happens to be right before my scholarship runs out. In New York, I can leave my things with my parents. Then I will go off to a conference in Australia before submitting my thesis in Singapore in January 2017. It seems to make the most sense this way, especially since I won’t have to pay rent anywhere until I’m more settled.

Also, I’ve found that I don’t enjoy living in the UK as much as I thought I would. London is too expensive. The ultimate scene in the UK is behind what it could be and is also quite elitist at the same time. As for food, I would love to live in a place where really great vegetables and fruit were both local and delicious. With this latitude, I get why it’s harder to get good tomatoes in London. But, if I can live somewhere else with better produce, I will try.

Besides growing tired of the UK, I can’t afford to stay in London without an income. With rent, bills, and food, I can barely save a smidgen of my monthly stipend. It would simply be impossible without an income. And if I can live rent-free in the best city in the world, why not?

Old school New York subway car

The good things

Several friendships have gotten deeper, and new friendships were formed during my time in London. I can’t be more grateful for friends and housemates who have filled most of my free time these 1.5+ years. Office culture isn’t so great in the UK (e.g. everyone eats lunch at their desks) or at least where I am, so I don’t feel as close to my officemates as other people in my life. But it has gotten better in the last year. The few fellow PhD students whom I have bonded with are friends I know I’ll try to keep in touch with afterwards.

I had a great time exploring Yorkshire, Wales, Cornwall, and other parts of the UK while I’ve been here. I may only have enough time left to explore Brighton and places nearby to London. That’s ok though. I’m also planning to come back to the UK for a friend’s wedding in July 2017. I can do more exploring then!
Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire

The plan. What plan?

I currently don’t have a plan for anything past January 2017. I know I will be in Singapore then to hand in my dissertation. But, after that, who knows? I may go back to New York until I have to defend (which would bring me back to Singapore). Or maybe I will hang out in Southeast Asia until then. Part of the problem is not knowing how long I will have in between submitting and defending. This might get sorted out in the next few months, but it’s currently unknown!

I may end up finding a job in New York, but I’m also looking at jobs in other coastal US cities. I would like to stay in the US at least for the next few years. A part of me wonders if I do get a job in New York, if that will be the end of it, that I’ll never live in another place ever again. It is possible, given that I’ve felt more drawn to be with my family the longer that I’ve been away. This doesn’t mean I’m leaving London, the UK or Europe or traveling forever. I’m sure I’ll be back many a time!

Leaving London too? What made you decide?

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Leaving London

Feet from above with blue shoes on

[Travel Gear] Iguaneye shoes review #freemyfeet

It’s been about 2 years since I’ve worn flip flops, and much longer since I bought a pair. I find they usually don’t fit my feet that well, and they aren’t so good for my feet in general. Until now, I had’t found something to replace them. This is my Iguaneye shoes review for an alternative to flip flops or sandals.

Iguaneye shoes

I’ve worn these in London, Singapore and New York this summer, and I’ve received comments from strangers in all of these places. These were a little bit of an impulse buy. I read this review on a fitness blog I follow, and thought they might be the shoes that I had been waiting for. And they are!

This video explains what are the major design points:

Here’s the Iguaneye overview video if you want to know more about the history of the product.

How I wear them

I’ve used them for:

  • everyday errands
  • lifting at the gym (deadlifts and squats)
  • commuting to and from campus
  • ultimate tournaments
  • walking around doing site seeing
  • going to the zoo with my nephew and niece
  • attending a relative’s celebration for 100 days of their baby in a somewhat fancy restaurant

Basically, I’ve been wearing these nonstop since I got them!

I’m going to be sad soon as the weather gets cooler and it’s too cold to wear these everywhere. I think I will keep them on campus at my desk for wearing around the office and to the gym, but I’ll have to wear other shoes for commuting.

Iguaneye shoes review

Iguaneye shoes review blue

The plus sides

1. Super comfortable

You might be skeptical about whether these are really comfortable. They look thin, so you might think you don’t get enough support. The cork insole molds to your feet. They give enough support so that your feet don’t hurt, but you still feel everything underneath the shoe.

They are so comfortable that a few times I had to remind myself that I was already wearing shoes! All 4 or 5 people who I have let try them on have all agreed that they are super comfortable.

2. Quick on and off

Once you get used to how to get them on and off, they are really quick to slip on and slip off. This was one of my major gripes about my Teva sandals. No straps, no tighting needed. Just slip your toes in and lower your heel in.

3. Minimalist

I like minimalist shoes, but haven’t gone so far as anything like Vibrams. These are pretty minimalistic but still feels like a shoe shoe. You can feel the ground beneath your feet but have some cushion and toe protection.

4. Support and promotes good form

My toes have enough space and my feet have enough support. I feel like my walking form is probably a lot better than it would be in flip flops. If you tend to be a heavy walker, you might feel a lot of pressure on your heels. I have run short distances in them, not at full speed, but fast enough to catch a bus or something like that. If you are a heel runner, you may need to adjust how much pressure you put on your heels so you don’t hurt yourself.

5. Cooling

The air slits are pretty small but effective. There have only been 1 or 2 days in the last 2 months where I felt that my feet were hot and sweaty. One of my fellow PhD students tried them on a hot day in London and immediately said they were much cooler than her shoes. I put them back on and could feel all the residual heat that her feet had left!

6. A multitude of color combinations

There are lots of colors for the insoles and the outer, which you can choose separately. Some of the outers may be out of stock, such as the grey one when I ordered. They didn’t tell me though, so I messaged them and ended up changing my order. I ended up going for the blue and I really like it.

7. Great traction

I’ve never had a pair of flip flops that had good traction. Some sandals have pretty decent traction, like my thin soled Tevas that I wore before these. But because these stay much closer to your feet than any other sandal that I’ve ever tried, it feels like the traction is even better. This is especially true around the toes and front part of the foot.

Iguaneye shoes inner side

The down sides

1. Break in period

I did have a pretty brutal break in period of 3 or 4 days where the entire bottoms of my feet were hurting. If you have sensitive feet, it might be better to break it up across a week or longer instead of trying to break them in all at once. Also, my right foot is slightly bigger than my left. The shoe felt tight on that right foot for the first week or so but since then it’s been perfectly ok. I usually wear a size 6.5 US women’s, and I got the size 36.

2. Keeping them on

I find it tricky sometimes to go down stairs quickly. The suction that is created with the outer loses its power when you curl your feet when going down stairs. It’s not a big deal, but just something to be aware of if you tend to go fast! Similarly, when I’m at the gym and trying to foam roll or stretch, the shoes tend to slip off from the back. Not a big deal, but can feel a little awkward.

3. Wardrobe malfunction

The bullseye piece that is at the back where your Achilles is pops out. So if someone steps on your heel from behind, it’s going to come out. I nearly lost it getting off the tube in London, but luckily it was on the floor of the tube car so I just picked it up and popped it back in. I eventually did lose that same one a few weeks later. The bullseye on the other shoe hasn’t popped out spontaneously yet. It doesn’t serve a purpose, so after I got over the fact I didn’t mind anymore.

4. Water

If there is any amount of water on the ground that is deeper than a third of an inch or so (half a cm?), your feet are going to get wet. It’ll come in through the ventilation slits near the front and the back of the shoe. That said, they never felt sopping wet. Since there are the ventilation ridges under the insole, your feet won’t be squishing in water inside of the shoe. Also, the insole is made from mostly cork, so it could potentially grow mold. This happened to my Birkenstocks when I lived in Singapore, so if you aren’t in a tropical country you might be fine.

5. Price

The price is a little high at about 67 – 76 USD depending on taxes and shipping for your country, but they have been worth it for me. If you consider similar sandals, these are on par for quality and cost less. I’m looking forward to wearing this pair at least for the next few years.

Iguaneye shoes outer side

Why I think these are great for travel

Durable

These will last quite a while! If the insoles get nasty, you can buy replacement ones separately for 20 euros (about 22.44 USD). I have noticed some wear on the outer where the balls of my feet are:
Iguaneye shoes after 2 months

Lightweight

Feels like you are practically barefoot. They can fit into small spaces and will definitely keep their shape. You can take the insoles out and pack them flat, and squish the outer in wherever they can fit. I stuffed them into the side pocket of my backpack when I came to New York this time.

Comfortable

See above. They lightly hug your feet and curve to fit you.

Versatile

Works for many situations and looks good pretty much anywhere.

 

A video posted by chewy travels (@chewbear62) on


 

I hope you enjoyed my Iguaneye shoes review! Do you have a pair or are you thinking of trying them?

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Iguaneye shoes review

Favorite Kickstarter Projects September 2016

I have a habit of checking Kickstarter every few months or so and backing some projects that I find useful or really like. In the past, I’ve backed some travel related gear, ultimate events, and a few food or water related equipment. Here are my favorite Kickstarter projects this time round.

Why I back projects

Different perspective

Instead of thinking of this as buying a product, Kickstarter promotes the perspective of “backing” a project. This means you are an investor, no matter what amount of money you put in. By backing a project, you are giving the creators a vote of confidence that their idea is a good one and worth the effort.

Insider info

I like getting updates on the progress of a project during the campaign phase and after it’s been successfully funded. You get a sense for what effort really goes into the process. Plus, you get to see each stage of the process, not just the end product.

Unique products

Many of the things I have backed are unique either because they are not offered elsewhere (at least initially), they are innovative technology that may not be available if not funded, or simply won’t be available after the Kickstarter.

Quality over quantity

I’ve become much more of a minimalist over the past few years, so I like to back projects that echo that philosophy. I prefer to have things that will last longer, and have great functionality.

What I’ve backed

These are the ones that I’ve backed most recently.

Performance denim

These look like a great alternative to traditional denim. Hopefully they are worth it! (Ending September 15)

Sketchy Notebook

This is a birthday gift for my sister. Don’t worry, she knows about it so this isn’t ruining a surprise or anything. (Ending November 5)

Lomo’Instant Automat Camera

This just looks amazing. I’m not a great photographer, but I’m looking forward to playing around with this. Seems like it won’t get here in time for my big trip to Australia though. (Ending October 5)

Hooray!

I recently received my Travelmore backpack, and should be receiving my Ably shirts and hoodie soon. I’ll write up a review of them after I’ve tried them out for a while!

Travelmore backpack

Do you like to back projects on Kickstarter? What are your favorite Kickstarter projects?

My fellow PhD student, D, at Rochester Park in search of coffee! My fellow PhD student, D, at Rochester Park in search of coffee!

[Review] A slow afternoon at Jimmy Monkey cafe

Cafes! I love me a nice cafe. Although Asian countries aren’t known to be full of coffee drinkers, but Singapore has more hip cafes every time I go back. Singapore cafes I like have to have a really nice vibe to it. This one does, and I would return!

It was a hot, hot day. I thought I could collapse on the walk to Jimmy Monkey, and it was only about 450 meters from where I started out for lunch just before.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but on the inside there were good vibes all around. They had a nice big communal table in the center of the room, with plenty of books and magazines around to browse through. The ceiling was high, with exposed fixtures. One large corner had a few windows and a few couches for lounging. Most of the other tables were small round or rectangular tables for a few people at a time. We took seats at the end of the big table, smack in the middle of the room.

Jimmy Monkey cafe

Tiny plant on the communal table at Jimmy Monkey cafe

My fellow cafe lover friend was with me, whom I’ve explored other Singapore cafes with, and the moment we sipped our coffee we felt relief. She asked me, “How can good things like this change your mood entirely?” or something along those lines, and I totally agreed. A nice cup of coffee can change a person! And in good company, it’s even better!

My friend D reading a book at Jimmy Monkey cafe

The coffee isn’t cheap here (5 SGD, about 3 USD, for a small cup), but it’s good. The food menu looked really nice too, but we didn’t have anything. Most food seemed to be Western style. Brunch items were in the 15+ SGD range if I remember correctly.

The inside of Jimmy Monkey was a little dark for my liking. It seems it turns into a bar of sorts in the evenings, and serves a nice brunch menu, but for daytime goers I felt that it could be a little brighter inside.

Other than that, I don’t have any real complaints! We went on National Day, so it might have been a little quieter than normal, but we were able to chill there for a few hours and not feel like we were taking up space. It did seem like they had WiFi, but we didn’t ask for the password.

My latte at Jimmy Monkey cafe

If you are looking for a nice place to have a good coffee or splurge on Western food (when those cravings hit!), then this is a nice place that is tucked away from the main malls and busy streets.

Jimmy Monkey's logo on the saucer

Singapore Garden Festival 2016

[Photo Journal] A garden festival in Singapore

I went to the Singapore Garden Festival while I was there for about 2 weeks recently. I hadn’t been to a Singapore festival until then! When my friend had discounted tickets, I had to grab the chance. It mostly consisted of a maze of indoor and outdoor floral displays throughout the Gardens by the Bay, which usually has many beautiful flowers anyway.

The displays

Some of the fancier displays:
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The flowers

I saw these flowers around the festival and in some of the permanent areas of Gardens by the Bay:

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As part of our ticket, we got to go in the Cloud Forest too! I hadn’t been in there yet, but had heard good things. It was nice to escape from the heat and hang out by the waterfall!
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There was also a market as part of Singapore Garden Festival, where you could wander through the stalls and buy new plants and accessories from different vendors. I so wished that my Dad could be there with me; he is a total orchid fanatic! It was there that I saw this planter with several orchids arranged in a very fabulous array:

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I think my dad would have loved to attend this festival, as orchids are his favorite plants. Having never stepped foot in the tropics, though, he only has seen what he can find in markets or orchid shows at the Botanical Gardens in New York. I think he would have been shocked at how cheaply you could get a nice sized orchid at this festival!

The next Garden Festival won’t be back for another 2 years, since it is quite a big production. You could tell a lot of sweat and tears went into it. OK, maybe not, but probably a lot of soil and toil. Hehe. If you are planning to be around Singapore in 2018, I’d put it on my calendar!

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SG_gardenfestival_PT

Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark

3 days in Copenhagen: walking tours

Copenhagen is a popular touristy harbour city, with quite a price tag on it despite some cheap flights from other parts of Europe. After my short trip to Warsaw, I couldn’t wait to plan my next 3 day trip and I picked this Nordic city to spend another few days struggling with my thesis. This is a Copenhagen short trip!

On this trip in May, I went on 2 walking tours and spent the rest of my time working in the hostel or in cafes. These walking tours were run by Copenhagen free walking tours, which works on a donation basis.

Christiania walking tour

The first walking tour was to Christiania, the freetown that is known for pusher street where weed vendors have open stalls displaying their wares.

Freetown Christiania main entrance

Freetown Christiania

Freetown Christiania

Leaving Freetown Christiania, entering the EU

Classic walking tour

On my second day, I went on a more classic walking tour that took us from the city hall area, to the famous Nyhavn, and lastly to Frederick’s church.
Town squareWhile on the walking tour

Statue of Absalon

Nyhavn

Frederik's Church

All in all, I really like walking tours and these were no exception. On this Copenhagen short trip, I didn’t have much time. You do have to accept that you’ll feel like a tourist walking around in a big group with a guide, but you’ll get a lot of knowledge from it and you’ll get to see many parts of the city at the same time. If you are short on time, it is a good way to get a feel for a place before exploring a bit more on your own.

Tips for food and other things to do

Since it was quite an expensive trip for me, I didn’t do as much but tried to take advantage of any opportunities to save some money.

  1. To save a few dollars, check if your hostel has any deals or special events going on. Where I stayed, they did a free dinner every night for a limited number of seats. They also had a buffet breakfast, where you could pack some makeshift sandwiches for later if you wanted to.
  2. Walk! If you don’t have energy to keep walking after a walking tour, you can also rent a bicycle to get around. I found a nice cafe, that didn’t have any tourists in it all, but it was a little walk away from the main areas of attraction.
  3. Copenhagen street food market is a great place to get a good meal for less than what you’d pay in a restaurant. There’s a lot of different cuisines to choose from, and some really tasty things like an egg wrap filled with pulled pork. I paid about 80 Danish Krone, which is about 12 USD. Plates in a sit down restaurant may go for over 100 DKK.
  4. Hostels or walking tour companies often host pub crawls or drinking specials. My hostel gave us wristbands when we checked in that gave us a discount at the hostel bar. The walking tour pub crawl also came with wristbands for discounts at specific bars.

What’s the damage?

In the end for this Copenhagen short trip, I spent about 165 GBP or 235 USD for the whole trip (3 days, 2 nights) including the flight (20 GBP/28 USD) and accommodation (68 GBP/97 USD). Next time I’m there, I hope I have a real job so that I can do/eat a lot more!

Any tips for Copenhagen on a budget? Would love to hear them!

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3 days in Copenhagen

Photo by Patrick Tomasso

PhD: the final six months

This month marks the start of the half year of my PhD that I have left before my submission deadline. Since it’s pretty much a hard deadline, I have to take this time seriously. This is where I scream and pull my hair out.

Actually, no! I’m not going to do that.

Instead I’m going to tell you about what I’ve been thinking about lately about the whole PhD thing and how I’m going to tackle the last bit of it! I don’t know if all will go according to plan, but it never does anyway! The important thing here is that I’ve kinda figured out how to deal with it and I haven’t been freaking out about it.

What the deally yo

My perspective on the PhD has changed quite a bit since the beginning of the year, and I think it’s going in the right direction. The urgency of the deadline forces you to stop “navel gazing,” as they say, and start doing things with a different mindset.

I’ve turned a corner in the last few weeks. I’ve stopped worrying as much, and starting taking more action. I’ve been pretty good about stopping myself when I start to worry and ask where the worry is coming from and what would actually ease it. I ask myself, what is it that is actually worrying me or bothering me and how can I fix it. I know there is much to be done, but worrying about that fact isn’t going to make it any easier.

I think a lot of PhD students worry about their progress, and I think this is our downfall. There aren’t clear ways to measure our progress, and so we end up trying to compare where we are with where others are. But PhDs are inherently unique. One person’s situation will be miles apart from the next person. There is no easy way to measure how you are doing and know if you should be speeding up or slowing down.

This kind of thinking inevitably leads to more worry and more self-doubt. In the end, you have to realize that and say to yourself, this is my PhD, I know it best, and I know what’s going on better than anybody.

The next half year

The time I have left will be mostly spent on analysis for my last data chapter, and writing it all up. I have the first 2 data chapters mostly written up (though the second one may need a little extra work). My first data chapter is currently under review at a journal…exciting! Even though it isn’t a great journal, I’d still be happy to get it out the door and published!

Through all of this, my main priority is still to get my health back in order and try to keep it there. A side aim is to do more traveling that I would regret not doing when all this is said and done.

Rough plans for finishing PhD:

Be awesome at my last data chapter
Get my first 2 data chapters published!
Explore next options and make some life plans

Health goals:

Continue no wheat
Do better at no garlic or onion

If you are interested in knowing more about my health goals, let me know. I haven’t talked about it here specifically, but I’ve been dealing with some gut issues for the past few years and I’m in the process of sorting it out.

Travel plans:

2 weeks in July and August – Singapore
I’m planning on going back to meet up with my advisor there and my lab group there. I’ve been a bit out of touch since I moved to London, so it’ll be nice to spend a little time with them.

September – Edinburgh
I’ll have 2 friends living in Edinburgh in September, so I must make it up to Scotland! Though I haven’t seen that part of the country yet, it should be a fun adventure.

October onwards
Not sure yet. I might stay in London, or move around before I hit up a conference in Australia. Hoping to finish a final draft of my dissertation by the start of November

December – Australia
There’s a big conference in Melbourne at the start of the month, and then I hope to visit friends around there and in Sydney. Maybe I’ll pop over to New Zealand while working on edits for my dissertation.

Onwards and upwards

The best part about finishing up soon is thinking about possibilities for what’s next. I’ve been keeping an eye out for opportunities that would interest me, such as postdoctoral fellowships and other jobs. (e.g. It’s still a small dream of mine to work at Wired magazine.)

I’m super excited about finally finishing PhD things, my future, whatever it holds in store for me!

PhD: the final 6 months

Photo: Patrick Tomasso; dan carlson

Street art in Praga district of Warsaw, Poland

3 days in Warsaw: My first shot at a self imposed writing retreat

I haven’t traveled as much this year as I was hoping to, unless you count the short trip home to New York to meet my niece. One of my biggest regrets after finishing this PhD would be not traveling more around Europe while I had the chance. To remedy this, I’ve been planning short, 2 night trips. Last month, I went to Warsaw, Poland, with my laptop and some writing targets!

About Warsaw

The Nazis destroyed about 80% of Warsaw in World War II. There are only a few areas that were left relatively untouched (~30% destroyed), some of which I saw on a walking tour of Praga:

They rebuilt much of the old town according to paintings to try to recreate how it was before.

Surprise! Vegan places all around!

I didn’t spend that much time exploring, but did get to taste a bit of hipster vegan food culture in Warsaw. This was a welcome surprise. I didn’t think about food in Warsaw, even though I do have some dietary restrictions at the moment. I was floored to find all the delicious and hip options for vegan food.

Why a writing retreat?

Sometimes it’s nice to get away for a few days to get a chunk of work done. By dedicating the entire trip to specific targets or goals, it might be easier to focus and you’d literally be taking yourself away from the usual physical distractions that you might have on a daily basis. It can break up the monotony of a routine, and also impose a more real deadline than just an arbitrary date.

Day 1

I flew at around 8AM from London. I did a some work on the plane, then after I got into town, checked into my Airbnb and went to a nearby cafe to get some work done. I had a great vegan burger for dinner and headed back to plan the next day and get to bed at my usual bedtime at around 11 PM.

Day 2

I got up at 8 and took a nice 30 minute walk to a cafe across the street from a park and near the University of Warsaw. There were great big windows, so all the natural light could come in! Then I went for a 2 hour walking tour through the Praga district across the river.

Day 3

Went to a cafe after checking out, got some delicious lunch at the bistro next to it, and went back to Cafe Kafka. It was definitely my favorite cafe on this trip! Then I got the bus back to the airport.

How’d it work out?

I found that the week leading up to the trip was just as important as the trip itself. I had to get things done by the time I left so that I could do the things I was planning to do while on the retreat. As for work, I did get quite a bit done, arguably just as much as I would have if I didn’t leave London. It was nice to have a different rhythm of going to cafes to work. I was so happy that it was working that I immediately wanted to plan my next retreat!

Next stop, Copenhagen!

Tomorrow, I depart for my second writing retreat this year. I’m going to Copenhagen! Unfortunately much more expensive than Warsaw, but I’m very much looking forward to the world’s best coffee and another great city to explore on foot! This time around, I am hoping to finish up the writing for my second data chapter…

This PhD thing is lonely and difficult, but I think I’m getting over a big hump now. Hopefully I can keep chugging along at a good pace!

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3 days in warsaw

ShouldYouMoveToSingapore

Should you move to Singapore? (A decision tree)

Moving to a new country is never an easy thing. I sometimes think about how both my parents came to the USA with no English, and very little resources. I don’t think today that I would ever do that! Are you thinking of whether to move to Singapore? I hope this helps!

My parents moved because they knew there were opportunities in the States that they would not have at home in China. So, whatever your reasons are for thinking about for a move to Singapore, remember that it’s your unique situation and your own decision to make. And of course, if you are bringing your family with you, that also changes things. (One thing to be aware of is that Singapore has weird visa laws regarding children born in Singapore. If you don’t earn above a certain pay grade, you’ll have to constantly renew the child’s visa until something more long term can be worked out.)

Should you move to Singapore?

This diagram is just an aid to help you along with perhaps considering a few things that you may not have thought of on your own. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

ShouldYouMoveToSingapore

Thoughts

The main thing is knowing what you would require and what your main priorities are. If you’ve never lived in Asia, or never lived in a similar climate, give yourself a test period to see how it goes for you.

If you are looking for more information about life in Singapore, check out these posts: