2014 in review

Happy 2015!

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of ringing in 2015 with a great group of people in Auckland, New Zealand. I’m here visiting long-lost family friends from Serbia, who I haven’t seen outside of Skype for north of 15 years. Our “doček nove godine” (Serbian for “the wait for the new year”) celebrations included a festively decorated carport, a barbecue, and plenty of champagne and tequila. At midnight we took a break from our conversations to watch the fireworks display from the SkyTower which, at 328m high, is the tallest freestanding structure in the entire southern hemisphere. Though the official fireworks display was a measly five minutes long, we were well-prepared for more firework antics and kept a steady stream of them going for 30 minutes. We held most of the fireworks in our hands (don’t do this at home, kids!) and sometimes yelled Harry Potter magic spells like Expecto Patronum and Expelliarmus. Towards the end, whenever there was a short pause between fireworks, we heard neighbours yelling “more! more!!”. Just after midnight, I got a surprise phone call from my mom who set her alarm to wake her up at 5:55am on December 31st in Toronto just so she could call and wish me a happy new year. It was a really fun night with amazing friends and I’m happy that’s how I rang in 2015.

Throughout new year’s eve, I was thinking back on 2014 and what’s happened in my life this year. My proudest accomplishments of 2014:

1. I earned my Masters of Science degree, which included writing and painstakingly editing a 140+ page thesis document and a 30 minute defense presentation and 45 minute Q&A period afterward by a faculty panel. It was exhausting, it was nervewracking, and it was self-empowering to realize what I could do if I chiseled away bit by bit at a massive project.

2. I moved to Brisbane, Australia to start my PhD in a completely different topic than my Masters research. I hit the ground running and dove into the literature, completing my initial thesis proposal document and starting up on some exciting research after learning tons of new techniques. I went to three conferences and although I obviously didn’t have data for a poster yet, they were good learning and bonding experiences. On top of the work itself, I met “heaps” of new people and got to know a new city and its surrounding area. I also learned a lot about Australia and Australian slang!

3. On the fitness side, I ran a half marathon and completed it in less than 2h30m! Although I’ve never been overweight, I have never been a great athlete (nor am I one now) but with my training for this event I again reminded myself what can be accomplished if you work on goals in small increments, and focus on what you can do today to reach an ultimate, seemingly-unachievable goal.

Other events and accomplishments:
-celebrated my champagne birthday with the greatest housemates anyone could have, with a breakfast of mimosas, tea and Sabletine baked goods followed by a night with many of my good friends including old friends that came from out of town
-planned and hosted a variety of events for the Biology Graduate Student Association as the social convenor, including a trivia night, a Euchre night, a skating event, and department coffee hours
-visited Boston for the first time with my partner and his family, and got to spend a great two weeks with him while he was on holiday right after I finished my degree
-published my first first-author scientific paper! This was huge, and I found this out while sitting alone at the airport in Auckland, New Zealand on my layover on the way to Brisbane to start my PhD. Although it had already been accepted weeks earlier, it was really nice to see it there published on an official scientific website after two flights including a never-ending 13-hour one!
-Brad and I celebrated our two year anniversary over Skype, like we do most of our celebrating for now. We also booked our plane tickets to see each other in 2015 and I can’t wait!
-I got to spend time with relatives and family friends who live all the way across the world — because now I live there too. It’s been like finding something that was long lost, and I’ve really been enjoying my time with them.

Overall, 2014 was a great year and I wish the best to all of you for 2015!

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