Monday, December 06, 2021

SUCCESS STORY

Tigahna Bacchus

Meteorologist

University of the West Indies

Career Choice

At a young age I was always intrigued by things involving nature and the environment. Thus, it was no surprise that with my introduction to Geography at high school, I fell in love with the subject immediately. I remember learning about different coastal and river features and thinking to myself “hmm, this seems familiar.”  Sometimes on weekends I would walk down to the sea coast and small river course in my village of Golden Lane, just to identify some of those features I had learnt.  It was an exciting feeling learning something in the classroom, reading of it in a book and actually seeing it right where you’re from. However, my interest in the field of Meteorology peaked in 2004 with the passage of hurricane Ivan. As Ivan approached Tobago, my parents and older family members would speak of their experience of Hurricane Flora, which devastated the island in 1963. I remember saying to my mother “I real like hurricanes you know, I want to experience what you all talking about yes” and her response was “you crazy or what? Trust me; you don’t want to experience that at all.” The meteorologist in me however, couldn’t help but be excited whenever a storm formed and I was glued to CNN whenever major hurricanes would hit the US (I still do this by the way), brimmed with excitement seeing all the live reporting from within the heart of the storm. Even though the stories and images were frightening, simultaneously it was all very fascinating to me and this triggered me to do some research on hurricanes over the following years which ultimately captured my interest.  Thus, began my pursuit to become a meteorologist.

Unfortunately, I did not do adequate and extensive research into the requirements needed to study meteorology at university level. Initially I was of the impression that geography would be the main requirement, thus I exempted math and physics from my A Level studies. However, it was not until I was enrolled at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus that I was made aware that the study of meteorology actually involved mostly math and physics. As a result, I had to do a preliminary year of these courses which made my study a four year programme. I have no regrets of the path taken to achieve my goal and I’m now grateful that I can guide younger persons aspiring to become future meteorologist.

Support System

Family and friends back home were pillars of strength throughout my university life. My family group chat on whatsapp was like a gift and a curse at times. I was always kept in the loop about everything happening back home but at the same time it was hard not being 

there for many of the family “limes” and activities.They never forgot me though, and would video call and send pictures so I was a part of it from afar. I will never forget all the fireside bake and carnival peas soup I have missed out on, but not anymore thank the Lord. 

Additionally, I was very fortunate to have had three other roommates all from Tobago and with whom I formed a genuine brotherhood which became a second family. We all had common interest and were familiar with each other in different capacities back home, so it made it really easy for us all to get along. 

I went through the trenches of this meteorology course together with one of these brothers in particular. We had known each other since Bishops High School, did A levels together at Signal Hill then eventually took the same career path and the help we offered each other throughout the four years was immense and essential in being able to successfully complete the programme. We pushed and supported each other in high and low moments and I will forever be grateful to have had such a good friend to journey with. There were other fellow Tobagonians along with us, the dream team we called ourselves after graduating. We all suffered together but fed off of each other as well. I could always rely on these people for missed notes or help with anything I didn’t understand. Big up Dream Team! 

Funding

I’ve always tried as much as possible to relieve my parents of any financial burden where I am concerned. So, after completing my A Levels I decided to work for a couple years in which I managed to save some money to later help with my schooling. I also took a help loan from Republic Bank to start my journey and my parents also supported me with what little they had whenever I needed it.  Additionally, I am also grateful for the government’s GATE programme which took care of my tuition fees for the duration of my study. However, a huge portion of my financial support came from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), for which I will be forever grateful. I must say a special thank you to the late Miss Petronella Neptune, may her soul continue to rest in peace. She was there at the inception of our association with the Department of Advanced Training and Advisory Services (DATAS), a very kind and caring individual who would ensure every semester that I and my colleagues had all the necessary documentations to receive our funding. She would call personally or via email, remind and advise us on what we had to do and with every encounter she gave words of encouragement to keep up the good work at school. Always pleasant, friendly yet professional. Thank you Miss Neptune!

Difficulties

My years spent in Barbados and UWI were pretty good to be honest. The true difficulties were really with some of the courses involved in obtaining the degree, like Calculus and Dynamic Meteorology to name a few. Meteorology is not an easy field of study and required dedication and sacrifice which I was always prepared to do. Also, towards the end of most semesters was that feeling of home sickness, but that’s never too bad when surrounded by good friends.

I also turned to reggae music as a way of mentally taking myself back home. I grew up listening to reggae, as my father would blast it from his stereo almost daily and my entire family would dance to it at every function. 

Advice

Firstly, anyone interested in studying meteorology must be aware that the science heavily consists of mathematics and physics, thus it is very important to have a good foundation at high school level in these areas. As previously mentioned, meteorology is not an easy field of study and requires determination, dedication and sacrifice to be successful. Always manage your time carefully by balancing social life, social media and school work as best you can. Although it is difficult, meteorology is also a very fun and interesting field and when your mind becomes open to the world of weather you would not regret choosing this career path.