If we forget the fact that I still have one exam left, I have completed the main hurdle towards getting that all important piece of paper.
I’ve handed in my dissertation.
This was definitely the hardest thing I have done throughout my entire university career, and I wanted to be real with you, and tell you that university isn’t always marshmallows and rainbows. So, here is the story about my dissertation diss-aster. Hopefully you can learn from it, or relate to the feeling of hopelessness. If nothing else, it is a short story to read as you procrastinate while avoiding revision. You’re welcome 😉
Here I was, in a hallway, begging my old lecturer to be my supervisor.
‘Georgia, I don’t know how to tell you this, but It’s just not really within my realm of interest. I can’t supervise your dissertation. Sorry!’
I was pitching a dissertation idea about equal rights to an international lecturer with an interest in international oil conflict. That should have been my first red flag. But, I persisted. Not only is this lecturer a great teacher, but I consistently received my best marks from him. So, doing a dissertation with him seemed like a no-brainer.
After a definitive no, I was left with no option, and pretty late in the game by this point. In addition, I had even considered changing the whole dissertation idea, but by the time I did, his supervisory list was full. Along with nearly all other tutors.
My idea was based on political theory, and there was a tutor who specifically studied in this area. She is great, and I ended up going with her. I had some reservations however. Not because she wasn’t great, she definitely is, but I never performed well in essays with this tutor, and worried that she didn’t like my writing style, or what I had to say.
Initially, when I had pitched my idea, I had wanted to write about male and female equality and the fine balances between them within the realm of social justice. However, ‘we’ decided that this was too big an idea, and that I should narrow it down to talk solely about feminism. An interesting topic, which deserves great attention, but not what I had originally pitched.
Feeling a little bit deflated, I went on to plan three chapters around the issues which women face, and in the end, handed in a dissertation that I am genuinely quite proud of.
However, for one reason or another, my heart wasn’t fully in it. Which, FYI, makes for a very long and difficult writing process.
Sure, I was interested and passionate about feminism, but it had turned into a dissertation about women in the workplace. An important issue for sure, but not quite the expose on current social justice culture that I had wanted to write.
During summer, and Christmas, I planned a couple pages, and read a couple books. Nothing extraordinary, nothing concrete. I kept finding better things to do, or rather, procrastinating.
I had a couple of sporadic meetings with my supervisor, but I found that taking guidance was difficult as we seemed to be on two different pages of the same book. This was a running theme, one which I should have probably discussed with my tutor in more depth, but by this point I just wanted the dissertation to be over.
Throughout the rest of 2018, I chipped away at my dissertation, and by Christmas time/early January, I handed in my first chapter. This was a draft chapter, but it got a 2:1 grade back, which I was surprisingly happy with. This was both good and bad. Most importantly, it was good because it made me feel pretty confident. But at the same time it was bad because it made me feel overly confident. I decided that if my work was ‘that good’ I should just lay back and not try much harder than a few sleepless nights at the library. I never have been that great at planning.
By now deadlines were rolling in fast for my other module. This was hard to balance with the dissertation, which kept getting momentarily swept to the side while dealing with essay deadlines.
By February, I had handed in draft chapter two, I think I was maybe a day or two late for the deadline, because writing the thing felt like a slow form of torture. I was really sick of my own writing at this point, and every time I felt like I was getting somewhere, I would decide it was nonsense and start again. *I wish that I could go back and tell myself that I was doing okay, and give myself a hug.*
February 2019 – April 2019
With the deadline of April 3rd fast approaching, there was an immense pressure to finalise and finish the dissertation.
Meetings with my supervisor dwindled, because as much as I kept meaning to make appointments, I didn’t for one reason or another.
I had around 8 weeks to finish the last chapter and write the third, introduction, conclusion, abstract, and finalise the bibliography. All to make a 10,000 word piece which will sit in the library not being read for the next 20 years. But still, despite threatening to quit university every time I spoke about it, I plodded on.
It was now a week to the due date, and I still had managed a whole lot of nothing. There must be a name for it, some sort of phenomenon, because believe it or not I was in the library nearly every day and night working on it. I did quite a bit of reading and note taking, but no actual….writing!
As well as this, my chronic migraines had been throwing me through a loop. So, I had to ask for an extension, which I graciously received. 2 weeks and this thing HAD to be in. This was my last chance to prove myself, and I couldn’t quit two weeks before I had finished…right?
One week before the deadline
This was around the time I started to really panic, while watching Netflix and occasionally writing notes. I knew I had to write it, but I kept putting it off because;
‘Aggghhh. I don’t have THAT much to do. Really. When you think about it. Basically just 2500 words. That’s like…an essay…maybe two days of writing. Tops.’
BOY WAS I WRONG.
24 hours before the deadline
By this point, I had drafted a third chapter, give or take 700 words. I was simultaneously panic fixing the first two chapters also.
I made the mistake of giving it to my partner to have a look through, and let me know what he thought.
Cut to about 80 correction suggestions.
I asked my partner to rush me to the library to try and salvage this dissertation.
Cue my first genuine, not even one nap, watching the sun rise, sitting in a blanket at 4:30am crying all-nighter at university.
I sat through 2 lovely porters shifts and nearly went mad correcting and adding more and more references to the first two chapters. This was easily one of the worst nights of my life, and despite being over a week ago, my sleeping schedule has yet to recover.
The day of the deadline
I was basically delirious by the time my partner came to check on me at 7:30 am, having dropped me off at 8pm the night before.
He came in, and all I could do was burst into tears. Four hours before the deadline and I was nowhere near being finished. Worse still, the computer in the library self-locks after 15 minutes, and I had lost a good chunk of work on the third chapter by not saving my work.
So, here I was. 8am, bawling in the library, knowing that no matter how much work I crammed into the next few hours, I was in no fit state to, nor was it was now impossible, to finish this dissertation in time.
I waited until 9am, called the Politics department, and despite trying my best to hold back tears, cried for about 4 minutes to this poor women, before explaining the situation. She was lovely, and very understanding. The reassurance was comforting, and she told me that she would have my tutor call me to see what we could do about extending the deadline.
By this point, I had been taken home. Just as my head hit the pillow, my phone started ringing at 10:30. I really didn’t want to answer it. I was more disappointed in myself than I had ever been, and I did not want or need to hear how disappointed my tutor was in me. I felt like I had let everyone down.
We discussed the whole situation on the phone, and she told me to get some rest.
By some miracle, I ended up getting another chance. It was my fault that I walked away without realising the computer would lock and lose my work, and I was honest with my tutor about this. In addition, she advised me to push the binding appointment to the next day, rest, and then finish the work that I hadn’t managed to.
The day after what should have been the deadline
After staying up until 4am again to finalise the dissertation, I got a couple hours of rest before the final edit at 9am.
I went into university to have my dissertation bound at 2:10, for the 3pm deadline.
I handed it in, and nearly forgot to submit it online. That was a fun 2 minutes to the deadline panic. But I got it in, so it all worked out.
I don’t quite know why I felt the need to tell this story. In fact, accounting the worst few days of my life so far has been almost as emotionally exhausting as the real thing.
I have learnt a lot from this process, and I wanted to share my mistakes with you, so that hopefully you could maybe learn from them. If anything, I hope that this stressed you out enough to put in effort when writing your dissertation!
Here is what I have learned during this process;
- University is hard. Mentally, emotionally and physically. But, it is great for building your resistance to difficult situations which I am thankful for
I am not, I have not, and probably never will be ‘academic.’ And that’s okay
- Writing about something you don’t want to write about, is nearly impossible. Try to avoid it wherever possible
- You see some strange things at 5am in a library, and the most amazing sun rise you will ever witness around 6:05am
- I have the best support network, and I urge you to thank everyone in your life who has been there for you throughout difficult times. You were snappy and mean, and they deserve a hug
- Ribena is great, but not if that is all you are drinking for 24 hours. Mix it up a little. Throw in a bottle of water and a choccy biscuit to keep your spirits up! (Click here for some great study snack ideas!)
I get surprisingly famished around 3:15am for no apparent reason and the cookie was 100% justified
- When you are drifting off at your desk, go get some fresh air. It most definitely wakes you right up
- Chat to whoever is on duty in the library. Sometimes, you might even get a pep talk, and it doesn’t cost to be kind!
You will get through whatever difficult situation you have in your life right now. You are strong and worthy. Have a cuppa and take a breath.
- It may not sound like it, but I tried my best. My very best. I cared, deeply. I probably wouldn’t have soaked through my hoodie with tears had I not. So, be easier on yourself. If you tried your best that is literally all you can do. So no matter what the result, know that you did your best.
I hope that you learned something, and I wish you all luck with your exams, essays and dissertation’s coming up! As long as you do your best, that’s all that anybody can ask!
Make sure to check out my new YouTube video below!
Lead writer for The Lazzzy Student x