How I lost $15,000 NZD – my low point of the year

Accompanying song: Sara Bareilles – Get Over You

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing about my private affairs for a while. I love the idea of being a total professional and do value my privacy, but also realise we’re all human and all go through similar stuff. I’ve discovered that for myself though, much like some of the entrepreneurs that I’ve written about in research (see this link if you’re interested), that the private and professional domains of my life are so interlinked that separating them just draws an incomplete story, so here is my first private-but-public story, that explains where I am and how the plan for the remainder of my year has taken a huge turn.

 

The thing about low points is that they are often followed by a high point… well that’s what I’m telling myself this week. Ok… let me rewind and tell you about how I just lost fifteen thousand NZ dollars and why I’m not sure about what to do with the rest of my year.

Top student awards 2009

Throughout my final years in university I really applied myself academically, achieved top student awards, graduated in the top 5% of students and had a good academic position in the university which provided me with some awesome opportunities to partake in conducting interviews for research and be around others who are awesome at it.  Suffice to say when I applied for a scholarship in the university I was awarded it, and couldn’t have been happier. I was supposed to start my master’s thesis last year but my supervisor suggested I go directly to a PhD on the topic.  After some thought I decided that a Master’s thesis would be best for me as it was a more achievable commitment (only one year, compared to three+ )… but wanted to do some travel which didn’t fit with the scholarship term so needed to wait until this year to start my research.

A photo I took of the shoreline in Sri Lanka

I worked fulltime at the university before leaving to travel around Asia with my (then) significant other who I will call Alex, around June for a month. Somewhere between this point and now I changed. My perspectives became more global-minded and I started feeling more independent in myself. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not experiencing the side effects of any crazy drugs in Thailand… but I did do martial arts training and I’m pretty sure it had an impact on me. With the encouragement of one of my friends who is a constant inspiration to me (Michelle Goh), I took up Muay Thai around the end of 2009 at the Muay Thai Institute Wellington. I discovered that I loooved exercising. Although I never realised it before, my body craves it! I was excited each class and really valued it as a release from the frustrations of my relationship.

Me with the champions at Eminent Air gym, Bangkok. http://www.eminentgym.com/

The way Mark (MTI instructor) and students talked about the muay thai camps in Thailand made me sure it was something I at least wanted to try, so for a week during the trip to Asia last year I trained in a gym in Thailand. I can say with all confidence that it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I overcame the pain that my body was feeling after the 10k morning runs in the 30degree heat and did pad-work for however many hours following, twice.a.day. I felt like my lungs were going to explode, like my ears were going to start bleeding from the heat rushing to my head, and I could feel every muscle aching with each and every movement I made, but I did it, I did everything that was asked of me, and I felt the greatest sense of achievement in my life.

Me photographing at a fashion event for Snap Star.

When I got back home after the trip I wanted to experience more of the world and was no longer afraid to confront things that had been bothering me before I left. My five year plan was revised and I started becoming intolerant of the failings of myself and of my relationship with Alex. I knew I wanted more from my life but wasn’t sure exactly what that something was. There wasn’t very much work at the university at that time so I took a short-term contract for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, which opened my eyes to the big wide-world of enterprises and funnily enough, effective processes, which I had felt were in deficit in my university. At the same time my relationship with Alex was not getting any better and I was fed up of dealing with the same issues for the third year in a row. Therefore, I valued my full schedule with working full-time during the days and filling my evenings with marking postgraduate literature reviews on entrepreneurship for the university, photographing for a night life photography company and operating my own photography business in the weekends.

When my fulltime contract came to an end I took up a role with the university research team I had worked with previously where I got the great privilege of interviewing entrepreneurs all over the country for a commissioned piece of research. It was fantastic. The combination of all of this work experience made me realise that I didn’t care all that much about doing more research about people who are simply running businesses anymore. I wanted to be around people who were creative and innovative, and I wanted to discover what helped them be successful. The frustration in my relationship with Alex was still there when I came home from my travels for the project, so I decided to move out from living with him.

I didn’t take the breakup with Alex too seriously (certainly not as seriously as I should have, as I later realised what he meant to me) as I was just focusing on the fact that I was relived to be away from all the friction, and simply  focused on the things I might want to see and do with my newfound independence. Before the semester started I meet with my research supervisor and discussed my proposed-research as well as my idea of writing the thesis from another country. Everything looked good. All I needed to do now was choose a country, get clearance from my scholarship committee and pay for my tickets. My (then) flatmates were from Chile and told me great stories about the country and one (“R” who I do most things with in Chile, aka pololeo) also offered to host me because he was going to be studying there at the time also. I got in contact with some fantastic guys from a Chilean university, got permission from my scholarship committee to spend six months abroad and booked my tickets!

After working for a month on my research proposal, and then finally getting a meeting with my research supervisors to discuss it, they told me that my research proposal needed work before we could proceed. Realistically the changes they wanted me to make didn’t fit with very well with my interests, and my interests didn’t fit with the literature. By this time the year had already started ticking on, and I realised that if I wanted to actually get moving with the research then it would be best just to change topics and to utilise the opportunities that Chile offered (which suited with my new research interest even more). I quickly made a small research proposal and they agreed that it would be a good idea to proceed in making a full proposal, as did my awesome hosts at the Chilean university.  I also realised that it would be better to have a different supervisor who is experienced in researching this new topic, thes put in place a request to make this happen. I worked for three weeks on a new research proposal (which requires a full literature review, which takes the majority of the time), taking into account the academic arguments and my personal research interests. I submitted my proposal and then waited just over a month for my supervisors to provide their feedback. Then, Sunday night I got their (my supervisors were the same) feedback… the scope of the research is too large, it needs a stronger theoretical framework and as it has commercial value they would need to go through a full ethics approval (which can take anywhere up to 3 months) before I can collect data, in sum they did not like my proposal as it is too commercial and not academic enough (p.s this is a master of business). Therefore I have been told that no matter how I proceed, it will miss the necessary deadlines and therefore my scholarship committee have been notified and my scholarship will be revoked.

This means that the eight thousand dollars I have used so far for living costs while working on my research this year will all need to be paid back (reasons why I wish I secretly had thousands of dollars saved)…. and I will receive no further money. [Ok, I crossed out some of this after publishing because I have an update… an awesome update, they have decided that I don’t have to pay back the money that I have already received!! Such a big relief! I’m so happy about this! Thank goodness that behind the front of big scary bureaucracies there exists wonderfully reasonably people! 🙂 ]

This whole situation is a tad annoying from my perspective, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t say the local gym is receiving the sum of my frustrations, but as one of the most fantastic hosts you can imagine at the university here says, “sometimes a problem can become a great opportunity”. So I’m taking it as an awesome push to get out and get a real job…  As for carrying forward this research, I’m convinced that I want to do my master’s at some point and I certainly want to do it on something that has real value, so at this stage I guess I’ll revise my research proposal to get it to the standard neccisary and look for research supervisors who are also passionate about the same things I am, and undertake the research either part-time, or at a later stage with the help of another scholarship.

For now, it’s job hunting and visa status changing time. I’m actually really excited at the prospect of working in Chile! Fingers crossed for me!

This is a pretty long post, sorry! Kudos to anyone who actually got through all of my babbling!! P.s I’ve been a little offline lately while working on making progress on my research (haha, irony), but I can’t wait to hear how you guys are!

2 Comments

  1. I stumbled across your blog and as I caught up with events in your life was reminded of the wonderful spirit that makes up the special person who you are. You’ve made some tough decisions, all within a very short time, and I just wish I had been there for you in some small way at least as you navigated your way through some of the challenges. You made a big difference for me in my journey, Amanda . . . thank you. I look forward to hearing more of the exciting path that you’re on. Please don’t stint on the blogs. xx

    Reply
    • Mary!! It is so lovely to hear from you! Your words are so touching, and incredibly kind! Thank you!
      I would really love to hear how everything is progressing for you! ox

      Reply

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