After I graduated from my Masters studies last year, I felt dejected. First, I found the unwritten rule of academia — publish or perish — intimidating. Don’t get me wrong, I do love research and teaching — a life without them looked so dull and bleak; but I found publishing and networking to be chores. Second, my masters thesis was not that
successful. Although my supervisor said that my work was okay (well, except for my English) and that I should pursue a PhD, I still felt that I was not competent enough. Feeling uncertain, I returned to my home country and took a long break. During the break, I got involved in some projects which required me to mentor high school students and teachers in doing research. Research in Indonesia was not popular;
and most people did not know how to formally do research. Therefore, my experience of researching in my masters study was valuable.
Watching the students researching allowed me to think clearly, bit by bit, about the importance of publishing and networking in academia. It reminded me of the advice my supervisor gave me when I graduated: “even the most exceptional research of the most brilliant person becomes useless if he cannot communicate his research”. Taking the first step, I learned to communicate properly — mainly in academic English. I came to find how interesting it was to write and to express my thoughts. However, I still had not overcome my feeling of incompetence due to mistakes I made during my studies. Then, while I was learning English, I came across an article in the internet about Einstein’s thesis. His thesis was full of grammar mistakes, yet we all know already that it didn’t stop him from becoming an exceptional physicist.
So, what am I afraid of? I have made mistakes, but it doesn’t mean that the world ends there. Admittedly, this thinking maybe naive and oversimplified, but I feel positive about the future, and this is what I need. Now I am more than determined to pursue a PhD, postdocs, and eventually to create my own research group in my home country.
Although I have been rejected tens of times, I am going to keep applying for PhD or research assistant positions. In the meantime, I am paving the way for my goal by staying involved with the academic community and nurturing young “researchers” around me. To conclude, sometimes it is okay to take a breath, a deep one if necessary: it might allow you to regain your lost sight, and push you further toward what you aspire. I might not have been successful, but my life as physicist has been rewarding, and I am positive it will continue.