One step at a time

4th Year: Take the Plunge

4th year has been a crazy year, but I love it. I am the one who chose it to be crazy, after all.

First of all, on my dissertation. I chose to study process control for my dissertation project. I knew it’s going to be tough and many of friends thought I am a bit crazy. I can see some people do an inner cringe when I mentioned that I am doing process control for my dissertation, which is then followed with, “ohhh that’s hard”. Some people thought that this is a project I am assigned to, not a project that I wanted to do initially. I told them truthfully that I chose the project and I chose my supervisor too. At which point most people can only say “oh” and change the topic of the conversation.

Secondly, on my course. Basically, I have 2 choices: CAPD which people think is crazy hard and ion exchange which seems to be more familiar and easier (long story short). Most of my friends chose ion exchange, and my CAPD class is filled with MSc students who don’t have any option. In the beginning of the semester, I made the decision to take the plunge and do CAPD, knowing fully that this semester will be filled with lots of tears, blood and swearing.

And it did. I lost count of how many times I asked myself why did I choose such a hard subject and why I chose process control. There are times I throw my books on the floor and had to take a short walk outside just because I couldn’t take it anymore. But I didn’t regret my decision. I am happy that I took the plunge. Why? Because I like both topics! Don’t ask me why I like process control and why I like optimisation in GAMS. I also don’t know why. Maybe because how practical and versatile they are and how closely they are related to my life. But it’s like asking me why I like soft pink colour instead of black. I can’t explain it. I just like it. But they are hard, and it deterred some people from them. Some of my chemical engineering friends might wrinkle their nose hearing this, haha, but hey, that is what it is.

I’m not condemning my friends who chose to not take some subjects because they are hard, by the way. Maybe they don’t like in the first place, maybe they like the other subject more, that’s absolutely fine. I’m not talking about anyone else. I’m talking about myself.

But I want to encourage you all – if there is something that you like, something that you love, don’t make difficulty a reason to not do it at all. Things do get difficult – that’s just life. But the whole point is that you have the ability to overcome those challenges. Many times we don’t get a second chance. If I don’t get to study this module now, maybe I don’t have another chance to take the module I like (let’s not count self-studying later in life). It might not be important at this point, but maybe there are things that would come up later that would be more important.

For my juniors – take those interesting yet difficult subjects now while you are still studying at the university. Now is your time to practice. No one will die if you make mistake now. No one is going to sue you at the court if you learn from your mistakes now. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn. I was once concerned that I would not pass the module or get a lower grade. But seriously, I got one of my highest grade on the entire degree on the most difficult subject I have ever had (UoM ChemEngers, that’s MHMT). I got a decent grade for my design project too on designing one of the most complicated equipment in my group. I’m not trying to boast. I’m trying to let you know that your concern might not even happen. I don’t know why it happens, but maybe when I knew it’s going to be hard, I put so much effort into it because I’m afraid that I might fail the entire module. Hardwork pays off, most of the time, and hence I get better scores on difficult modules and strangely enough lower scores on the easiest course that I was so confident I could get a full mark on an exam.

So yes. That’s it. Take whichever module you want, no matter how difficult it is. Volunteer to become the chairman of your favourite organisation even though you think it’s going to be difficult. Plan to run a 10K even if you can’t run more than 30 seconds now if you want to run more. It’s possible. The only one making it impossible is your lack of action.

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