Rise From Failure – Discover Your True Calling (Episode 4)

JOAN LI

BSc (BIOL), HKUST

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Introduction:

“Your major doesn’t define your future and you can do whatever you set your heart on”. We might have heard of this phrase numerous times. However, this statement has been overused to an extent where it becomes nothing but a cliché.

Following “A Day for Failure at HKUST”, we are going to share five science alumni stories on how they live out this statement, especially on how they picked themselves up after overcoming their limitations, and then went on to accomplish what had been deemed impossible.

If you are someone who has always wanted to follow your dream but never gained any traction, we hope that their stories could inspire you to search for your passions!

What major did you study at HKUST?

BSc in Biology

What are you doing now? 

A marine biologist and diving instructor in a 5-star resort in Maldives.

When is your defining moment in your career?

My first diving experience was a birthday retreat with my friend. Amazed by the stunning underwater world which covers 70% of our planet’s surface yet we seldom have access to, I just wanted to dive as much as possible. When I started diving in 2016, the underwater world completely changed me and made me think out of the box – is there a unique job that combines my knowledge and my passion for diving?

Have you ever had moments of tough times, failures or adversity in the journey of pursuing your passions? How did you handle that and move on?

At the time when I graduated, all my friends were applying for graduate schools or jobs in banking, consulting and other industries. I felt lost after trying a few jobs, and wanted to reconnect with my passion for the ocean. Without any prior field experience, it was very difficult to get a paid full-time entry position. Instead, I lowered my expectation and joined an internship program on marine conservation in the Philippines. During my internship, the exposure to marine conservation and working underwater were exactly what I wanted.

In order to further pursue a career in marine biology and the diving industry, I joined a few Facebook groups connecting to people with similar interest. I later found that some resorts were hiring marine biologist with qualification as a diving instructor. Working in the paradise of the Maldives was a very attractive proposition. Having said that, it was not easy to leave my family and friends behind, let alone start a new career in an unfamiliar country. However, I decided to let my passion take over the wheel. I went on to get certified as a diving instructor and I was ready. Nothing could have stopped me.

Now I go to work every day in a paradise underwater with my beloved corals in the Indian Ocean.

What advice would you give to your fellow classmates for pursuing their goals and dreams?

The motto written on my Instagram is “Keep looking for”, and indeed it is. I was so struggling during my senior year back in HKUST. I didn’t feel right with the options I had at the time when I graduated. I had tried a few things before I found my passions on diving and marine conservation.

Sometimes I still do not think I am well-equipped with proper tropical marine conservation knowledge and I am considering going back to graduate school. For sure I know that a second degree will not guarantee me a promising career path. But nothing will.

Keep looking for your passion and go for options that make you feel happy. I promise you would not regret doing so