At first, I apologise for painting a picture of a 4-legged animal in the readers’ mind — I cannot find other options for a perfect analogy. Probably because I have seen too much road signs saying “Reindeer ahead” in Norway. Reindeers (Moose) can’t decide if to cross the road and run franticly — almost what I often do myself.
Anyways, I was a sailor by choice — graduated from a state-run Marine Academy with a peculiar engineering degree. By peculiar I mean, a combination of a two-year semi-commando training and a one-year cadetship at sea — a total of 03 years studies — the only way to become a sailor in my country at that time. It was a fast-track entry to an exciting career for sure, but the degree was pretty much of no use other than for sailing at sea. To add comedy to a comic film, the shipping market took a nosedive just after our graduation. We hoped to fly like an albatross gliding over the peak waves, but in reality, the whirl got some of us. I was reluctant to continue like this and left the sea with a heavy heart.
After my fling with the sea, I started looking vehemently to top-up my peculiar degree with something utilitarian — but with no luck. Discovered Norway as a “no-tuition destination” that has a similar structure for the maritime bachelor’s degree (03 years) as my home country. Therefore, getting admission to a master’s program here was fairly easy.
I arrived at a small town in Norway on a late autumn evening with a big suitcase and a 14-hour jet lag. The sun was still shining from an awkward angle; a tiny little house with a small porch; 3-minutes’ walk from the beach — my tiredness blew away. The university is at a stone’s throw from my house — modern, tidy & a welcoming place — liked it too. I settled in, made new friends and rediscovered my lost knack for studies. Soon I found myself involved in different study groups, international student groups, research groups, and so on.
However, “no tuition fees” in Norway comes with a twist — a very high living cost. I simply could not afford to live here without a source of income. I used to commute back and forth by train to Oslo where I worked in a restaurant once or twice a week — did that for about five months until I was hired as a student assistant at my university. I also washed dishes every now and then for a couple of months at a nearby restaurant to supplement my income like most other students from a similar ethnic background. My first priority was to maintain a good result; so, turned down many high-paying odd jobs to save time for studies. Sacrificing study-time for earning a bit more doesn’t make sense to me as an international student — money flies away, credentials don’t. The strategy held ground and paid me off with successful graduation in time.
The journey was not easy but an enjoyable one. I was fortunate to be involved in multiple national and international research projects which supplemented my research training with a culturally diverse team. I wish to advance further and continue a career in academia. However, sometimes things move so slow that I started to feel like a Penguin as opposed to a Moose. Nowadays, I picture myself more happy standing by the beach and flapping my two wings in excitement seeing ships from far away than to work on it.
My quest “at sea” did not work out, therefore, “by the sea” it is…
PS: This piece is also available on ResearchHUB blog.