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Marine Biologist Sara MacSorley’s letter to her younger self March 14, 2012

Posted by Science Club for Girls in Letter to Young Self.
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Sara MacSorley graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology and minor in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies and is currently taking courses toward a Masters in Business Administration.

Dear Younger Self,

I’ve learned a lot about what is important to us and about how to deal with the stress that comes when things don’t go as planned over the past few years. I’d like to give you some tips on how to get through the challenges you will face.

First, follow your passion. I know we grew up in an area without a whole lot of focus on special science classes, but that is okay. Work hard in school, study, and put in the time to learn – don’t simply aim only to just pass tests. Ask questions, lots of questions! Don’t be afraid to ask them, even if no one else is speaking up. If something isn’t given to you, go get it yourself. If you’re excited about something, then it’s worth going after. There are tons of resources out there to learn more about science.

Even though we both grew up on the Chesapeake Bay, our high school didn’t offer any marine science courses to learn more about marine biology. Instead, in order to explore my budding interests in the marine sciences, I watched documentaries, read books and articles, and talked to people who worked on the water as scientists and educators.

Second, talk to the people who do the jobs you think are interesting. I can’t stress enough how important mentors have been in my life. Talking to people in the area you want to be in is a great way to learn if that is what you really want to do and how to get there. How do you get a mentor? Find out who does the jobs that you’re interested in and then let them know you admire what they do; this will start a conversation. Ask questions about their research or recommend a good book or documentary on shared topics of interest.

My mentors in marine science and education have helped me find a path to graduate school, helped me get jobs, and helped me network with other great people all over the country. Some have become colleagues and many have become friends.

Finally, know that your plans will not always work out the way you think they will. Don’t stress out or get too overwhelmed. Take a breath and figure out the next best alternative. It will probably end up being a better fit anyway.

I grew up thinking that I was going to become a research scientist studying marine biology. When I finally did an independent research project during a study abroad program in Bermuda in college, I learned that research wasn’t for me. I freaked out because I did not know what to do next. Luckily, I had some great mentors who helped me reflect on my interests and figure out my passion for science education and communication.

So remember to follow your passion and don’t stress. Everything works out for the best, even if the path forward isn’t the one you that you planned.

Take care,



Sara MacSorley is the Project Administrator for the Rhode Island NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research – an initiative to advance marine life science research and education in the state. Last year she was nominated to the National Project Administrator Leadership Committee after being with EPSCoR for 3 years. She is the editor for their newsmagazine The Current and has played a major role in improving communications between the 9 EPSCoR partner colleges and universities.

Prior to working with EPSCoR, Sara worked for the University of Rhode Island Marine Biology Program, the Office of Marine Programs, and the University of Maryland Horn Point Laboratory. Her professional interests lie in scientific communication and marine science education in informal settings.



1. jenn_brandt - March 14, 2012

Reblogged this on Jenn Brandt and commented:
Here is a great entry and initiative by my friend and colleague Sara MacSorley! Students in WMS 320, if you could write a letter to your younger self, what would it say?

2. Advice from women who have blazed a trail in STEM: “Letters to my Young Self” « Authentic STEM - March 14, 2012

[…] of questions! Don’t be afraid to ask them, even if no one else is speaking up.” – Sara MacSorley, Project Administrator, Marine Life Science initiative for […]

3. Advice from women who have blazed a trail in STEM: “Letters to my Young Self” | Educate to Innovate with STEM - March 15, 2012

[…] of questions! Don’t be afraid to ask them, even if no one else is speaking up.” – Sara MacSorley, Project Administrator, Marine Life Science initiative for […]

4. Brielle - March 21, 2012

This is such a good idea! This is my letter to my younger self,

Dear Younger Self,
Hey! Oh girl there is a lot I want to tell you and want you to avoid! But first, today you are a college junior who is on her way to graduating from the University of Rhode Island. Hell yeah! This road wasn’t easy but your doing it, so hang in there when school seems impossible. First, I want to tell you to get focused. High School isn’t a joke, you need to get your nose in those books and prepare for what’s ahead. Stop being the class clown and start paying attention. Second, appreciate your small group of best friends you have at this time, because some of them won’t always be there. People change, you will change, it’s okay but it can hurt sometimes. Don’t ignore the people who seem different from you, they will turn out to be the best people in your life. Finally, tell every single person that is important to you just how much you love them. There will come a day that you won’t be able to and you will regret missing the chance. Watch out for that jerk you work with, he’s going to break your heart. Don’t worry though, you will get over it and be so much better for learning those lessons. You are a good person, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Keep asking questions, challenge the norm and voice your opinions, though it’s very hard. Keep your head up kid, life’s awesome.

5. Maggie - March 22, 2012

Maggie –

– I would like to write this letter to the 21 year old self I am today, from the woman I hope to be when I have grown.

Dear younger self,

First, I want you to stop worrying. You ARE where you are supposed to be, you just don’t know it yet. Even if don’t think you have found your passion yet, YOU ARE CLOSE. Seriously, on the edge of the cliff… soon to be soaring. So stop worrying Maggie! You are forming your identity now with every class you take and interest you find. You have already grown so much from the girl you were in high school – still clinging on to her home and afraid of the change to come.
Now I want to offer some advice. Do not live in fear. Fear is the only thing keeping you from achieving your goals. Do not even go there! Be confident! I know how confident you feel when you are on that soccer field. Bring that confidence into every aspect of your life – you will be a force to be reckoned with. Now I know that you are still thinking to yourself that you aren’t where you are supposed to be. But let me tell you again, because I know you need to hear it, you are. This is only a small part of your life. Just know that later, you will feel blessed that you have had all the experiences that you did.
You are starting to know that connections are very important in this world. You are so right. Get over that shyness, Maggie, and start talking to people. Ask questions, show them who you are, show them that you are a viable candidate for any job because of the determination that is instilled within you. Keep talking and speak up, will you!? People will be interested to hear what you have to say, I promise.
Lastly, enjoy college, you only have one more year. It is the last year of your life that you have to experience college. Take in every day, because every day is a blessing. Learn from your mistakes. Move slowly. Stop wishing away these days, you are going to want them back! You will find future success. It is coming. So for now, just relax!

6. Casey Smith - March 27, 2012

I think that this is an awesome idea and that it should be required of all students graduating to complete this in one of their courses. I would like to write this letter to myself on this day March 27th 2012 when I am 22 years of age:

Dear Self,
I told you!! You did it you have an amazing life filled with great family and friends. All of the worrying and stressing paided off and you have chosen this path all by yourself. Sure other people have guided you in your travels, but you made every life decision on your own and no matter what you say the choices you made were once the choices you wanted. Mistakes are OK, they happen. Everyone forgets and no one is perfect. Surround yourself with positivity and never look down upon your life. If you feel upset, fix it. You are a grown up now and no one is going to look out for you, except YOU. I hope I become a great mother and I am able to guide my children through this crazy process one day. As I graduate college this year I look back and I have not only come out of this a more intelligent person, but a completely different person as well. Four years ago I was scared and lonely, now I am out spoken and love being surrounded by people. Sure I have made bad choices and sure I wish that some things did not turn out the way they did, but the past is in the past. So self I know you will continue to move on and change and grow, but please always remember your 22 year old self. The Journey is the Reward.

Love you forever
Me ❤

7. Heather Martin - April 11, 2012

This is an awesome idea! I actually in 6th grade wrote a letter to my older 12th grade self, but the letter was never mailed to me when I graduated high school. It would have been interesting to reflect on what my hopes and dreams were. But this is important for reflection on how I would’ve grown.

Dear younger self,

First, do not let anyone walk all over you. Just because you want to be a nice person doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to be taken advantage of. I realize that you are shy, but you really should vocalize your beliefs and ideas. It’s one step closer to meeting your goals. And allowing someone else’s needs to be more important than your own goals and beliefs will not do you any good. You need to believe in yourself, you’re not stupid or weird. You are a beautiful person who has wonderful ideas, and a genuine compassion for people. Express that. Be completely honest with yourself and everyone around you. You will meet some wonderful people who recognize that in you. Don’t be afraid to take charge.

I know you think Mom doesn’t have your best interests in mind and feel like she doesn’t care about your feelings. But look around you for a second look at all the things you have. Look at the food she’s cooked for you, and the birthday parties she planned. Look at how she takes you to school and works hard to make sure your taken care of. She does love you, and she does work hard to give everything she has to you. So instead of being upset with why she doesn’t understand and ask how you feel at every waking hour, try askin her. She needs your support more then you know. Also Mason looks up to you and loves spending time with you. I know he’s 16 years younger but you have a lot to enrich his little mind. You’ll soon see he’s a lot cooler then you thought.

Don’t take on too much to feel good about yourself. There will be a point in your life where you become so overwhelmed. Two jobs and school full time shows you are capable to handle the stress, but take time for yourself or you might drive yourself crazy. Most importantly, be active! There is going to be a point in your life where learning becomes something you want to do, and knowledge becomes valuable an essential to your happiness. Try new foods, read books that interest you. Go to the Dominican Republic and look at the culture around you. Try the food, talk to the people, dance to the music. You will miss those two trips more than you realize. And when you feel the need for adventure, travel a few towns over and explore. You’ll be happiest when you are out, the sun is shining and you are behind a camera lens. Take the time to do that. Take the time to love yourself, people and life.

8. Dennis Belanger - April 20, 2012

Dear younger self,
Looking back on the past 10 years and not knowing if graduating high school was going to be manageable, then exceeding that and graduating from CCRI, and now, six years after high school graduation I am about to end my undergraduate career! Many obstacles were faced in my college and high school years, but keeping up with the demands of school and life worked out and paid off. Actually, come to think about it, it was all very fun so relax and stop to enjoy it instead of always wishing it was over. Do not get caught up on simple things, they will only detour you from what should be a priority. By the way do not put all the eggs in one basket, you are still young and you could change your mind quickly on a career. Instead of only playing music through high school explore the other possibilities such because chances are you are going to change your major at least once, this is speaking with experience! Just think that one day you could become a model of change for society and impact people in positive ways. You are young but a lot lies ahead and you can take it on if you are willing to accept a challenge.
Be well.

Connie Chow - April 28, 2012

Thanks for the inspiring post!

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