Last post I left you with a cliffhanger!
After so much effort to get to England to study a Masters in Health Services Research with a specialization in acupuncture research, what did I decide? Did I stay, or did I go?
Check out the previous post, Acupuncture Research in York, England – Part 1, to check out this journey in detail.
And – I promised you photos of the city of York, England all dressed up for the holidays, so let’s rock and roll!
Towards the end of my first semester as a research Masters student at the University of York, I began to feel like maybe this degree wasn’t for me. As final exams and Christmastime drew near, I knew I had to make a decision.
After a lot of solitary, meditative walks around the historic districts of York, England, I decided to withdraw from the research program and go home.
I know. Not exactly the heroic ending people are looking to hear, right?
It was a difficult decision, and one that I made with a certain amount of sadness. I loved living in York. It’s such a beautiful city, filled with history, medieval architecture, and killer food.
And it was hard to admit to myself, and to all the people who had supported my move across the ocean, that I had been wrong. But I knew going home was right for me.
Even though I was fascinated by acupuncture research, I knew I wasn’t likely to pursue it as a career after graduation. I just couldn’t justify the extra debt and time to complete a degree I didn’t feel confident I would use.
I was ready to go home, live with my parents, and start a business from scratch, running an acupuncture office in Rochester, NY. It doesn’t sound glamorous, but it was what I craved, and where I felt I should be.
My flatmates helped me pack my England life into two huge suitcases, and I was prepared to go home after submitting my final papers. After one last midnight walk around campus with my friends (which included a visit to the library to return our favorite movie, Love Actually), and a sad 4:00am sendoff, I boarded my flight and was home in time for Christmas.
Before leaving England, I had found an ad on Craiglist for a wellness center in Rochester that was looking for an acupuncturist to join them. Once I got back to the states, I met with the owner of the wellness center, and they offered me the opportunity to rent space with them starting January first. Before I knew it, I was in business!
I’ve never considered my time in England a mistake. Are you kidding? It was the trip of a lifetime! Even though I only spent one semester studying research, I learned an incredible amount in a short period. I got to meet and work with some of the best acupuncture researchers in the world.
I learned what it really takes to put together a high-quality acupuncture research study:
Tons of planning, patience, plenty of number crunching, creative thinking, and of course, critical thinking and quality control at every corner. I have so much respect for the people who orchestrate research.
This experience also made clear to me that I’m obsessed with learning and being in an academic environment. After my acupuncture Masters degree, I simply wasn’t ready to leave and finally be done with school. Because of that, I decided to pursue something without critically assessing whether it would be useful to me in terms of the career choices I ultimately wanted to pursue.
I was banking on the idea that education is, in and of itself, a valuable enough reason to move across an ocean, take out more student loans, and postpone starting my own business.
I do think that education is one of the most valuable things we can attain, and that it has immense value on its own. Because whether or not we use our education in a practical sense, it still shapes us and makes us who we are.
But these things have to be balanced with the ultimate outcome. I had already had so much education, but hadn’t taken the proper time to use it and see where my first Masters degree could take me.
As for living in York – it goes without saying that it was remarkable. The way I connected with the city has not diminished over the years.
Now that I’ve had four years to assess the experience, what makes me feel like it was still worth every second? What can I say that I learned?
1. That even when we make an “imperfect” choice, that doesn’t mean it was the wrong choice. We learn from each step we take.
2. That education has value in and of itself, because it shapes us in ways we could never have imagined.
3. That acupuncture research (like all research) is complex, multifaceted, and requires sincere dedication.
4. That friends made in a short time can still be friends years later. I made friends that I still keep in touch with and hope to visit again someday, wherever they end up living in the world.
5. That certain places have a magical quality about them that sweeps you away, for reasons that are hard to define. But when you find a place that dazzles you, cherish it. For me, clearly, this is York.
1. That being an advocate for studying abroad will always be a passion in my life.
2. That I love learning and the unique environment that universities create. This eventually led to the revelation that I should work in higher education, to be immersed in it every day.
3. That I have the capacity and flexibility to adapt to graduate school and a different style of learning in another country. Remembering this gives me confidence when I’m feeling uncertain of myself.
Four years later, I still regularly dream of returning to York. Just to walk those streets again, in sunshine or snow, would make me batsh*t crazy happy!
And I still want to get another degree. I’ve realized that will never, ever change. I may never be content to stop learning, to stop pursuing the dream of more and more education. I think I might be one of those irritating life-long learners.
But now, after spending time thinking about what I really love to spend my time doing, I know that if I pursue another degree, it would probably be an Masters of Business Administration (MBA).
I learned from my time running an acupuncture practice that I love management, administration, and marketing. Weird, right? I know. If I had taken the time to get to know myself (i.e., given myself a little more time to grow up) before diving into another degree, I might have gone to England to pursue the right degree, one that I would finish and be excited to use in my future.
From this experience, I ultimate lesson that I carry with me is that it’s okay to change your mind and to make what might originally be interpreted as a mistake. Because ultimately, what you learn from those experiences shapes who you are, how you see the world, and how you move forward. And when is that kind of introspection and growth ever really a mistake?
– Master of Applied Health Research degree at University of York
– Complementary Medicine Evaluation Research Group at University of York
– Recent Acupuncture Research Projects in the Complementary Medicine Evaluation Group
Have you traveled abroad to study? Have you worked on or contributed to acupuncture research? Have you spent time in another country during the holidays? Tell us all about it!