Featured ‘Day in the life of’: Becky, Masters student studying Forest Science in Mexico.

Day in the life of Becky (Masters student):

Hi friends! I’m Becky from the Middle Of Nowhere, Canada (formerly known as Lethbridge, Alberta until I called it “the Middle Of Nowhere” just then). I’d like to give you a concise summary of my past and future career goals here, but tbh I’m just winging it and hoping for the best just like everybody else in the world. I’ve worked in medical research, taught after school science programs, was the mascot for my local professional hockey team for a while and competed to be Miss World Canada once! Let’s just say I prefer science.

More recently, I studied hummingbird foraging behaviour at home in the Rockies, and did four field seasons with a scientific expedition company: one in Peru and three in Honduras. During my time in Peru and Honduras I developed interests in herpetology and entomology, and my fluent Spanish also allowed me to do science outreach work in the elementary school in the coffee farming village of Buenos Aires, Honduras during my time there.

I’m now doing my Masters in Forest Science at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León based out of Monterrey, Mexico. I decided to come here because of 1) tacos, 2) significantly less snow, 3) YOLO why not (see above re: winging it), and 4) a full scholarship making all expenses courtesy of the Mexican government, #blessed. I will be studying the response of Lepidoptera communities to wildfire in habitats in various stages of succession in the nearby Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range.

I have no idea what the future holds, but I am passionate about science communication, environmental protection and political engagement. My current dream is to one day work for Parks Canada because have you seen Canada?! Parks Canada reps if you’re reading this, call me! I am also pretty active on Instagram so if you’re into wildlife and real talk then let’s be IG friends: @becky.outside. Now, join me on a magical adventure that is a day in my life!

1

8:00am – Morning selfie. After sweating my face off every day during summers camping in the rainforest, wearing the same shirt for 8 days straight and avoiding the shower’s icy Honduran mountain stream water as much as possible, I relish the remaining days of the year with regular access to a mirror and being able to choose how to present myself to the world and to myself each day.

2

8:10am – Walk three blocks to the bus stop to get to the faculty. In those three blocks I pass a burger shop, a copy place, a kindergarten, a laundromat, a doctor’s office, a tortilla shop, a grocery store, a funeral home and a high school. I wish all cities were as conveniently laid out with accessible services as Mexican cities! Take note, Lethbridge.

3

8:40am – Arrive at the faculty on a private school bus. I have heard many convincing accounts of political and economic corruption in Mexico which I largely believe but despite that, Mexico has a public post-secondary system which is quite affordable in most states, and ours is well-funded enough for us to get bussed to school every day.

4

9:00am – Dendrochronology lab. Tree rings can tell so much about the past climate and disturbance events in an area and in a lot of cases, this information predates modern meteorological records which makes it an incredibly useful tool in understanding ecological history. Nature absolutely blows my mind every single day. I guess I’m in the right career!

5

1:00pm – Committee meeting. Studying in Mexico requires taking all my classes and exams in Spanish which I am able to do despite only having begun to study Spanish five years ago, but I am so unbelievably privileged to be able to give this presentation in English because of English’s wide use in academia internationally. Think about it, if a Mexican student at home asked to present to their committee in Spanish they would be laughed out of the room. What did I do to earn this perk? Absolutely nothing, my great-grandparents just happened to prefer pioneer Canada over pre-WWI central Europe. Privilege – check it.

6

4:30pm – Walk past the local cathedral on my way home from the bus stop. Remnants of Spanish colonial rule are ubiquitous across Latin America, such as the central Plazas de Armas where Catholic cathedrals are found in every Mexican town. Plazas de Armas, or town squares, represent the areas in colonial settlements where soldiers would meet before going to a raid or battle against indigenous groups. They’re beautiful, but it gives me chills remembering this sobering tidbit.

7

5:00pm – Call bae. He’s just started his Masters too, but in England. Because of the 6-hour time difference, 5pm is about the latest I can call him and still have time to talk. Despite the distance, we’ve been making time to talk when we can at 5pm for about a year and a half since we first got together in Honduras. He’s an absolute gem and for now the distance thing kind of works because he’s always there to talk, but not always around trying to wrestle/gossip/seduce me/gush about wildlife/otherwise distract me from my work. For now it’s okay to save those things for the time we do get together. I imagine he feels the same way <3.

8

6:00pm – I need some ingredients for supper, but I have to get them before dark. I live in a relatively safe town, but even in the safest areas in Mexico it’s a huge risk as a woman to be in the street after dark, even to walk 4 blocks to the grocery store. Plus, being a light-skinned immigrant here makes me stand out even more than normal. I don’t even wear shorts here despite 35°+ temperatures because it makes me look too much like a tourist. It’s fun to experience a new way of life as an outsider in Mexico, but this isn’t my country and I can’t my personal safety for granted.

9

7:30pm – The only exception to the shorts rule is during a soccer game! I play with the Faculty of Forest Science Deer (it sounds cooler in Spanish trust me), and I scored a goal once even though I still don’t fully understand the rules of soccer. The lack of ice or snow confuses me.

10

9:30pm – After taking care of some homework in the hipster coffee shop next door (because my studio apartment is too small to even have a kitchen table to work at), it’s time to turn in for some pre-bedtime R&R. Tomorrow is another day!

 

I hope you enjoyed Becky’s day! Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram!

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