In my first year of university (2014) I worked as a Catering Assistant at Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property outside Cambridge. I lived in a family house in Burwell in the countryside. That year flew by like a butterfly (fun fact: in Hungarian the word butterfly is derived from the word ‘momentarily’ which refers how quickly they fly away), got to meet amazing people and started learning about things I love most. I worked five days a week and on my off days I was at university. That year I could not really become part of university life (my last bus left at 5pm from Cambridge).
This year I received my very first scholarship and my dream to go to Africa came true. What a year!
In my second year I was ever so lucky to get a position at the National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NIAB, Cambridge) as a Field Trials Technician. This position has been a steep learning curve for me in the best possible way. As my team is well aware, I was not comfortable to have the Team Leader title. But as always I keep trying my best and I make up for my shortcomings by giving everyone lots of chocolate and cakes. It works.
In both years however, getting my degree is like a hobby, something that I do in every spare moment of mine. I absolutely love my course and I am going to be in debt of all my teachers till the rest of my life. I mean it. Most university lecturers would not put effort into a student who is not really showing up to classes and can only meet up with them out of office hours. But my teachers do. Whether it is the weekend, 6 am or 6 pm…
How many university lecturers do you know who would come to a student’s work place to talk about a fish dissection practical that the student wishes to run? To be fair, I just went up to my lecturer that it would be cool to have a fish dissection practical. In a couple of months I found myself making this practical come true.
How did I end up with sharks in backpack on the tube?
I took the very first bus at 0.20am from Cambridge to Stratford, London, went to Billingsgate Fish Market (the biggest fish market in London), and bought 70 fish including mackerels, rainbow trout, Indian parrotfish, goat fish, 5 huge skates, 2 starry smooth-hound sharks. All of this I carried back by myself in a suitcase, a cool bag and a huge backpack on the tube and then on the coach. I could not stop giggling at myself on the tube at 5 am. Makes you wonder what other people might have in their backpacks. I had sharks.
I carried everything back to university, along with some air fresheners. I know that fish dissection is not everyone’s cup of tea but if we are learning about them, seeing pictures on a screen ain’t the same thing as touching them. I wanted to also highlight that you can get these tropical fish and sharks in London, tons of them during the week… Is that right? If people passionate about animal rights did not show up, I am sorry because I think if they would have, they would have got a kick in the butt and perhaps would have motivated them to work towards stopping this.
The very first time I went to Billingsgate I was 14 and for the first 5 minutes I was so overwhelmed by the fact that I can have a closer look at all of these beauties. Then I stopped. I looked up and realised that I am surrounded by dead beauties. An awful lot of them. I wish students would not mind waking up at 2am in the morning and would come to Billingsgate just to have a look.
People might think that I love Billingsgate. In a way I do, I love flirting with fishermen getting away with discount because of being a blondie.. But it also puts things into perspective and gives a push to work harder so I might get into a position where I could do something about this.
Still, it is such an honour to be trusted by my teachers to allow me to do this. Let’s be honest, most people questioned my sanity when I told them about my plan of securing the fish. But when my classmates came up to thank me for organising this…
Made the sleepless nights so worthwhile!