I am so happy to kick off this series with some great questions! Naturally, as someone with a social media platform, I’m a pretty open book who loves sharing the things you want to know about my life and experiences. If I can give advice? I'm happy to! So this month, we’re diving into my thoughts on marriage outside my culture, finances, thoughts on my PhD so far, and more. May Q&A, here we go!
HOW ARE YOU?
While I have a lot on my to-do list, I’m very grateful for where I currently am in life!
DO YOU HAVE ANY SIBLINGS?
Yes! An older brother and sister and a younger brother.
HOW TALL ARE YOU?
Short - 156 cm or about 5’1”.
WHEN ARE YOU MOVING BACK TO THE USA?
Not any time soon. I can see me comfortably living in Australia long-term! I have all my stuff here, have good friends here, have my partner and his family (aka my ‘Aussie family’), am covered by health insurance, like the work-life balance I’ve struck up…
WHAT DO YOU MISS ABOUT PUERTO RICO? MEXICO?
I miss the family members I have in both countries, as well as the food and the culture. It feels a bit lonely dancing to Marc Anthony in the kitchen by myself, or speaking Spanish and no one really understanding you.
WOULD YOU EVER MOVE BACK TO PUERTO RICO FULL TIME?
There are educational, professional, and familial considerations that are hard to think about all at once that may affect my decision on how long I would move back to Puerto Rico. I wouldn’t mind spending a month or two there (and in Mexico) each year giving back to my community – be it helping run marine science camps, be a lecturer/adjunct professor, etc.
HOW MANY WEIRD DMS/EMAILS DO YOU GET IN A WEEK AND HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THEM?
Like a handful of DMs, emails, and comments in a week. Everything from men soliciting me, people telling me they don’t like what I’m doing, or weird bots. Mostly they get deleted or ignored. Some I block. Sometimes I respond because I’m petty AF.
HOW DO YOU STRATEGICALLY SET LONG-TERM AND SHORT-TERM GOALS?
For long term goals, I guess I’m ‘basic’ in that I use my birthday and the new year to map out what I want to do/accomplish.
For short-term goals, I try to think of them in monthly or 3 month chunks depending the context of the goal. I also use different categories such as personal (self care & fitness goals), relationship (maintaining, auditing, creating new family/friend ties, my relationship with C), academic (my PhD research), and professional (TV work, writing, public speaking engagements, etc.).
FAVORITE PREHISTORIC SHARK? FAVORITE DINOSAUR?
Edestus and stegosaurus.
DID YOU EVER PLAY THE VIDEO GAME ECHO THE DOLPHIN?
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU LIKE?
I'm a weird mix. I like Latin music, pop/hip hop, rock, classical, jazz... I was a band kid!
WHAT SHARK CONSERVATION PROGRAMS CAN I DONATE TO?
Here are some of my favorite: Minorities In Shark Science (MISS), GILLS Club, Shark Trust, Shark Advocates International, and Wildlife Conservation Society.
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC WAY OF JOURNALING?
What is currently working for me is writing about:
HOW CAN I MEET YOU? I HAVE SO MUCH TO ASK YOU!
I don’t meet up with strangers for a variety of reasons — lack of time, safety, the ongoing pandemic, etc.
This monthly Q&A will be where I answer tons of questions, I have the FAQ section on The Fins United Initiative and my Instagram highlights. Sometimes I respond to questions submitted via email (but my inbox is usually at 50+ so… yeah). Maybe in the future I can do some mentorship and coaching – I’ll look into an appointment scheduling system so I can help more people who need it. Is this something people would be interested in?
HOW DID YOU AND YOUR PARTNER MEET?
At work! I took time off between MSc and PhD and took up a temporary receptionist job. He was an employee there and we became fast friends… and then more, haha.
DO YOU LIVE TOGETHER?
We did together in Sydney! But since I’m in Perth for my PhD, we live apart right now. (I miss the room of our King-sized bed, but my Queen bed is more comfortable)
YOU GUYS SEEM SO HAPPY! HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN SUCH A GOOD RELATIONSHIP?
Look, no relationship is perfect but we are pretty damn happy together. We both have been burned in previous relationships and we really want this to work (cause we love each other soooo dang much) so we talked about our expectations and set up rules to get to where we are, such as…
C is probably one of my biggest hype people in my inner circle. Whenever I feel like I can’t do something, he cheers me on and motivates me to keep going. If I’m feeling down, he asks me first if I want comfort or solutions and then gives me whatever I ask for (including changing the subject altogether). When I’m overworking myself, he feeds me, makes me drink water and go on walks, reminding me to stop and take time for my selfcare. Since he is in HR he lets me pass emails through him before I send them, or reads contracts for me before I sign them (the pros of being with a kinda lawyer).
DO YOU FEEL GUILTY FOR DATING/MARRYING OUTSIDE OF YOUR CULTURE?
Not at all! I am with the right person for me and didn’t weigh ethnicity when picking a partner. While I do feel loyal towards my own culture and traditions, we share similar values despite coming from two different backgrounds (him being Australian and me being Mexican/Puerto Rican).
DO YOU WANT KIDS? IF SO, DO YOU HAVE THEIR NAMES PICKED OUT?
Yes, and yes! No, I won’t be sharing the names until they’re born, but I was very adamant about them having ties to them Latinx roots and so their first names are Spanish while their middle names are English. (To be honest, I was also hoping my grandmother would still be alive to meet at least one of my kids, and since she only spoke Spanish I wanted it to be easy for her to say.) Not sure what to do about the last names yet.
I REALLY WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU SURVIVE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP!
Look, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it: it is HARD. It was tough when we had 2/3 hour differences between Sydney and Perth because that meant nighttime talking was a bit tricky (since C has to, you know, sleep) but now that we’re 8-12 hours apart… it’s brutal. I didn’t even know if I wanted to do LDR because I had major trust issues from my past relationship where I was cheated on multiple times… while living with the person!
But I trust C and he hasn’t given me a reason not to. We message each other whenever we can, we always send good morning/good night texts, we have slotted date nights, and we talk about the future. The few times we’ve had conflict, we worked through it and reminded ourselves about the end goal: to be together.
Education & Work
HOW DO YOU STAY CONSISTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
I set aside a few hours of the week to plan out my social media content so I know what airs when. Some of it is scheduled ahead of time, some of it (like all the OceanX stuff) is right in the moment!
HOW DO YOU PREVENT BURNOUT AND KEEP YOUR PASSIONS FIERY?
I set parameters for how long I am on social media/how long I work for. Giving myself breaks - and occasionally stepping away for a time - helps keep me fresh. Be intentional with your actions and time!
WOULD YOU SAY YOUR ‘GAP YEAR’ BETWEEN DEGREES WAS BENEFICIAL?
Absolutely! I had never taken a break from school so it was really nice to pursue something outside of academia. If you think it might help you, I say go for it.
ARE YOU THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS DONE A PHD IN YOUR FAMILY?
In my immediate family? Yes. In my entire family? I don’t think so… I think a cousin has a PhD (in marine biology, funnily enough) but otherwise no one else.
HOW MANY PHD APPLICATIONS DID YOU SEND? HOW MANY APPLICATIONS LED TO INTERVIEWS?
At the start, I applied for 2 PhD positions and got a position at one (the university where I did my MSc, but it had no funding) and was told I needed publications before proceeding at the other. I created the current PhD project I’m on with the help of my three advisors.
CAN YOU MENTOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO NAVIGATE THE WORLD OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION?
I’m considering 1:1 coaching calls and creating a course for aspiring bilingual science communicators. Stay tuned!
IF I WANT TO WORK IN AUSTRALIA, WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO?
That’s a question for an immigration lawyer.
WHERE CAN ONE INVEST THEIR MONEY TO MAKE MORE MONEY? I JUST STARTED WORKING.
I’m not a financial advisor and I am just starting to get into investing myself... and boy is there a LOT of differing advice on what to/what not to invest in. My game plan is to just diversify my investments! (And I'll be dipping a toe into crypto soon, we'll see how that goes.)
ANY TIPS ON SECURING DOCTORATE SCHOLARSHIPS FOR AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT? I'M FROM [INSERT COUNTRY HERE]
This is such a specific question that would require a lot of Googling on my part so unfortunately I can't help. My advice? Check out the financial aid section of the university you are interested in and see what scholarships international students are eligible for!
THAT’S IT FOR May!
Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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