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  • Writer's pictureKristina Lang

I always chose the hardest path.

From an early age I tended to set myself challenges that were not easy and I often chose the hardest path to my successes.

In primary school, I learned all school assignments with ease and without much effort, always receiving excellent grades. I spent my time and energy on extracurricular activities, such as dancing, writing, reciting poems, playing and on various sports, the best of which were shooting and table tennis. High school had been incomparably more demanding, especially the last two years when I enrolled in one of the top two schools in the region. There were 36 top-mark students in our class, but marks were adapted according to everyone’s results so only a few could continue being top-markers as I did. The competition was agonizing, but I came out as an excellent student who, out of 17 subjects received the top mark 5 in 15 of them. In the last 2 subjects, physics and physical education, were marked as 4. Everything went very well for me, and even in high school it was apparent that I was good at everything, but slightly more talented in humanities than in natural sciences.


Despite that, I decided, to the surprise and protests of my parents, to study chemistry at the Faculty of Science. I decided to study chemistry because it seemed like a worthy challenge to me, not because I was particularly interested in chemistry at the time. "Why chemistry, it's so boring?" Dad asked me, "You're going to spend your whole life in a dirty lab coat, badly dressed," Mom commented. The first year was very difficult for me, but as time went on, I quickly established myself as one of the best students. In third year, I couldn't bear to get a 4 in one exam, which I was forced to accept after I rejected it twice and took the exam three times. I shared this frustration with everyone because I literally cried after the exam. I graduated from University in just 4 years despite the fact that the average length of study in chemistry at the time was 7 years. This was because in Croatia it was normal to repeat a year of study and out of my class of 120 students, only a dozen of us had no repeats.

As an excellent student, I was invited to stay and work at the Faculty, initially as an assistant and postgraduate student. In Croatia you had to have a job to do a masters and doctorate degree. Twice I turned down an offer to stay in the Department of General and Inorganic Chemistry, and two weeks before I graduated, my future boss told me: “Kristina, this is the last time I am offering you a job, if you can't decide, we will offer the job to one of our graduates.” At that time, in the former Yugoslavia, and even after that in Croatia, it was not possible to go directly from studies to a doctorate, as a master's thesis had to be done first. The anticipated duration of the master's thesis was 4 years, I graduated in 3. And in 1991, when I got a job at the university, my country fell apart in a bloody war. My master's thesis supervisor, a Serb by nationality, found himself in the USA on a sabbatical at the beginning of the war. He never returned to work in Croatia. I did not want to replace my supervisor and that was why my scientific work was conducted from America. I received instructions by fax. I was the only one, of the now late mentor’s, students who managed to complete their master's degree. Up to that moment, despite the war, I still managed to complete all my tasks on time and with success.

I had the help and support of my ex-husband in everything, but like my studies following my master’s degree, that is a story for another time. To be continued…


Kristina

Friday, February 19th, 2021


Uvijek sam birala najtezi put

Od ranog djetinjstva imala sam tendenciju da pred sebe stavljam izazove koji nisu bili laki I cesto sam birala najtezi put koji me vodio do mojih uspjeha.

U osmogodisnjoj skoli sve skolske zadatke savladavala sam sa lakocom I bez puno truda uz uvijek odlicne ocjene. Vrijeme I energiju trosila sam na izvanskolske aktivnosti, kao sto su ples, pisanje, plesanje, recitacije, sviranje I raznorazni sportovi od kojih su mi najbolje isli streljastvo I stolni tenis. Srednja je skola bila neusporedivo zahtijevnija, posebno zadnje dvije godine kad sam upisala jednu od dvije najbolje skole u regiji. U razredu nas je bilo 36 odlicnih ucenika koji nisu svi mogli ostati odlicni. Konkurencija je bila velika, ali I tu sam izasla kao odlikas koji je od 17 predmeta u njih 15 zavrsio sa odlicnim, dva koja su bile cetvorke bili su fizika I tjelesni odgoj. Sve mi je islo jako dobro I jos u srednjoj skoli se tek blago naziralo da sam talentiranija za drustvene predmete nego za prirodne.

Usprkos tome odlucila sam, na cudjenje svojih roditelja, upisati kemiju na PMFu. Kemiju sam odlucila studirati jer mi se cinila kao dostojni izazov, ne zato sto me nesto posebno zanimala u to vrijeme. “Zasto kemiju, to je tako dosadno?” pitao me tata, “Ti ces citav zivot provesti u prljavoj kuti, lose dotjerana” komentirala je mama. Prva godina mi je bila jako teska, ali kako je vrijeme protjecalao I tu sam se brzo isprofilirala kao jedan od najboljih studenata. Na trecoj godini nisam mogla podnijeti da iz jednog ispita dobijem cetvorku, koju sam morala prihvatiti nakon sto sam ju dvaputa odbila I tri puta izasla na ispit. Frustraciju zbog cetvorke sam podijelila sa svima jer sam se nakon ispita rasplakala, doslovno. Zavrsila sam fakultet u samo 4 godine usprkos tome sto je srednja vrijednost duzine studiranja na kemiji u to vrijeme bila 7 godina.

Kao odlican student pozvana sam da ostanem raditi na falultetu, inicijalno kako asistent I kao postdoktorant. Dva sam puta odbila ponudu da ostanem na Odsjeku za opcu I anorgansku kemiju I dva tjedna prije nego sto sam diplomirala moj mi je buduci sef rekao :”Kristina, sad vam posljednji put nudim posao, ako se vi ne mozete odluciti ponudit cemo posao nekome od nashi diplomanata.” U to se vrijeme u bivsoj Jugoslaviji, a I nakon toga u Hrvatskog nije moglo direktno sa studija ici na doktorat I moralo se najprije napraviti magistarski rad. Predvidjeno trajanje magistarskog rada bilo je 4 godine, ja sam zavrsila za 3. Te 1991 kad sam se zaposlila na fakultetu, moja se drzava raspala u krvavom ratu. Moj mentor za magistarski rad, Srbin po nacionalnosti, u vrijeme pocetka rata zatekao se u Americi na sabatikalu. Nikada se nije vratio raditi u Hrvatsku. Nisam zaljela zamijeniti mentora I moj je znanstveni rad bio vodjen iz Amerike, a instrukcije sam primala putem telefaksa. Bila sam jedini student, sad vec pokojnog mentora, koji je uspio zavrsiti zapoceti magisterij. Do tog trena, usprkos ratu jos sam uvijek uspijevala obaviti sve svoje zadatke u roku I sa uspjehom.

Imala sam u svemu pomoc I podrsku svog bivseg supruga, ali to je kao I vrijeme nakon magisterija sadrzaj za jednu od slijedecih prica. Nastavit ce se…


Kristina

Petak, 19. Veljace 2021.

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