That Sinking Feeling in Dissertation Writing


Yes, we’re all at that point of year (well, some of us), when we prepare to get our theses/ dissertations/ research papers in and not like most, I was quite excited about having to write my very OWN piece of work which will probably be the most important piece of research I have ever done but as we know, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies – not just graduation gowns and distinction certificates; its sleepless nights and thoughtless hiccups.

But as I come to the completion of my work I have started to realise that the hardest part of writing one is not finding the right topic (which too is trick because it’s difficult to find the balance between inspirational and realistic) or the right supervisor (which too is absolutely essential) or the sources. Infact it is the moment when you start to write things in your study which are completely novel and new, which noone has yet spoken of, about or for. I love writing essays – I understand how to structure them, how to make them rock solid by having genuine sources etc – And this practice makes me scared when I start to write something which is not out of any paper, journal or book, for which there could be no reference but my brain. While this feeling is exciting and the sole reason what makes writing your own research project so exciting, at the same time it brings the feeling of self-doubt and fear. Sometimes analysing my results, I think to myself ‘I hope I am not being stupid’ and well it’s a bit unsettling of a feeling.

That apart, I couldn’t be unthankful, I got a wonderful supervisor, a reasonable topic and a smooth journey – hopefully I can finish it off in time and the effort is reflected on the grades and who knows what else!

Why take a break from academics?


Almost through my Masters’ degree, it is obvious to think of my options ahead. The process is tedious, especially as I went for my Postgrad right after the completion of my Undergrad, which means I got no full time work experience, even though I made it a point to be no less of work experience when I graduate so I capitalised on every opportunity that came along. Like many others I feel I belong to the academics and research, for my interest, aptitude and the practical aspects of it. So, whenever I was spoken to about my future plans, I said academics was what I wanted to pursue, but things are changing. Now when I am asked about my future plans, even though I know that I at some point wish to do my PhD, my answer is not the academics. Now I am thinking about what I want to do to make myself ‘ready’ for that and after coming across a very interested TED talk, my curiosity and questions were answered.

 

The researcher said, in order to create, you need to stop learning. Einstein discovered the laws of physics when he was suspended from education. So, may be you need to give your mind the space to think of gaps in the knowledge or to create something worth researching. But this is only the beginning of the list, there are so many other reasons why you need to go into the real world and get some ‘real’ experience, before contributing to creation of knowledge. And by ‘real’ I do not mean internships and work experiences. Having spent years in the industry you would know that life really doesn’t work by the book, and any theory/ research is only fair if relevant and applicable. I wonder what an entirely theoretical research would do for anyone’s utility? Also, I think the brains need a break from being ‘told’ and there is a sense of purpose in just knowing that every single day you contribute to something and make things happens in the bigger horizon. And if you work for long enough, you would have all the more reasons to come back to academics (they say you miss the student life!).

Beyond achievements..


It is ‘that’ time of the year, yet again. And probably the last one in a really long time, atleast until I start my PhD. Exams are not too far away but this time I have my research to work on, which makes it all the more interesting and stressful. I am although getting used to racing time every single day. Might not be my idea of the perfect life but it sure is challenging and exciting. It got a little bit more interesting when going through literature for my thesis I came across this book called the ‘Prosperity without growth: Economics for  finite planet’ and I remembered quoting this in my personal statement, when applying for this degree. At that point, I had no idea I would be writing or reading about this book again as it was only something that inspired me on personal level. Now this meant something (or I am just over-worked).

 

I say that because I was not among one of those who ALWAYS knew what they wanted to do professionally, however I have learned so much about myself and what I want to do as the time has gone by. So, knowing that something that inspires you, has actually been incorporated into the ‘bigger picture’ of your achievements and life is definitely a reassuring feeling. It lets you know that every little milestone has led to something true to your curiosities and motivations, and hopefully where you’re headed is too.

 

In my perspective being rewarded, influential and recognized for your achievements are the major factors that make your efforts worthwhile, but reassurance has started to mean more in this respect. It is good to know what you are doing has a positive influence externally and be rewarded and praised for that contribution but being reassured that it really is in line with your aspirations, concerns and desires is just beyond satisfaction. 

Wonders in Diversity


Image

There is no doubt that the notion of diversity in organisations, institutions and societies is the new ‘in’ thing, especially in places like London. The lessons of acceptance and humanity that diverse societies bring are invaluable and it maximizes our horizon of what is meant by cultures and values, primarily by the means of focusing on differences we see in different backgrounds. The word ‘diversity’ in itself originates from different, unique and variation.

But what I experienced of diversity today was very different from any of these mainstream ideas suggest. Undoubtedly, I do enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds which sometimes surprises you by the variation of kind of ideas people hold. But having heard story of my own limitations, values, ambitions and inhibitions from another fellow colleague from completely different background (which I never imagined to share the same problems and perks as me) made me realise how the focus of diversity only on ‘different’ is extremely unfair, biased and off-putting. In a completely diverse individuals in terms of backgrounds, I had found the exact ambitions and problems as mine, which I have to say are not very common even from the people that share the same background as mine.

It made me realise how the culturally and ethnically diverse communities not only allow us to look beyond the backgrounds and differences but also give us the chance to cherish what we have in common, the extent of which can sometimes surprise you!

While there is difficulty in adjusting with different people (along with excitement about learning from those differences), there is so much comfort in finding out so much that joins rather than what separates you. The most influential language that exists is of humanity and everything else including thoughts, values, wants, needs and desires can be built on that.

Payback on University Education: Perceptions and Reality


Having come to the completion of my undergraduate studies only about a month ago, it is inevitable for me but to think in real terms how worthwhile the investment of last three years, living away and tens of grands has truly been.

Image

Going back a few years, I remember when I was making my decision to pick the university I was told extensively about my employability, potential for reward and recognition AFTER my degree. The study period itself was portrayed as the ‘sacrifice period’ for making the investment of all sorts. The sacrifices undoubtedly exist but my experience of the payback has been entirely different from what I was told. What I found that the degree does enable you to signal the potential for getting hired or approaching advanced education, along with preparing you for it. And you do indeed make huge investment for it but the payback doesn’t start when you capitalize on this signaling and advanced education alone, infact the payback starts way before you graduate or land your first graduate job.

This is a view point I was not told and well not many people have this perception (atleast from the background I came from). For me, payback started the day I entered university in terms of academic, professional, personal and social grooming. I was already able to access so many opportunities I couldn’t do being a non-student in HE. As for the payback in real monetary terms, that started when I landed my first internship/ job during my study period so that by the time I graduated I had already recovered a proportion of the monetary investment of the degree. Also the value of non-monetary gains during the degree is worth giving recognition to, which includes personal growth, people I met, skills I gained, experiences I had, opportunities to travel, learn and think about what motivates me, drives and exploring my true strengths. These times shape how you think and what you do. I think the only reason I write today is because of the time I had to think about my interests and strengths and how things panned out for me during this time. This obviously most Pakistani institutions/ minds lack i.e. knowing the value of student experience, skills you learn, self exploration and the culture suggests one doesn’t start working until the completion of education, limiting the payback and achieving same things in times much longer.

So, I wouldn’t be wrong to say it is not just about the degree and what follows; the education is not completely a period of sacrifice. Instead it is these three years what matters the most and success beyond this is only determined by how much you make from this time as well. There’s really more to gain from every second of these three years than just a degree. If you graduated with nothing but only a piece of paper, it really wouldn’t be worth much and it is not just what you end up with at the end of three years but how you spend them. I realize this more and more as I see my other younger cousins and friends make decisions for their futures. No time should be spent only surrendering and sacrificing. If there’s nothing you’re gaining from any time in life, I ‘d say something not right. I know it is true for sure, because I had not known this perspective had I not spent the three years the way I have and enjoyed every bit of it.

* Plus I am feeling good as during invigilating for another business school’s exams this week I could solve all questions from exam paper. Looks like I learnt something academically too. Lol!

22 things to do before I turn 22


Image

The other day one of my friends spoke of this really interesting idea for making list of things you would want to have achieved, learnt or done by your next birthday and doing so every year (thank you Falak). So, here is my first list of things to do before I blow 23 candles on my cake next year (the years are going way faster than I would have wanted them to!):

  1. Ace my Master’s degree
  2. Visit my adorable little nephews back home
  3. Go on a euro-trip
  4. Organise a reunion for university/ high school friends
  5. Finalise a career direction for my next professional move  – Did I just plan to plan?
  6. Holidays or not, learn to abide by: early to bed, early to rise. Clearly, I need this one (blogging at 4:16am right now)
  7. Gather décor ideas for my new room
  8. Find an amazing research topic and the right supervisor for it
  9. Try a new look with the new university: (Brunette, bob & new winter wardrobe may be?)
  10. Go to a theme park in London (Once and for all!)
  11. Go sightseeing around London
  12. Experience the west end theatricals
  13. Learn some form of dance professionally
  14. Eat Healthier: More fruits, more water, less chocolates, crisps, donuts, candies … 😦
  15. Learn to do the waterfall braid on my hair
  16. Learn Photoshop properly
  17. Practice & experiment with my DSLR – Need to learn to make the most of what it can do
  18. Remember all the family birthdays/ anniversaries. This was never a problem for me, but it is getting more and more difficult with new additions in the family.
  19. Upgrade my watch: MK Rose Gold may be? I really need to find things I like that are not from MK.
  20. Buy a new laptop
  21. Battle my mathematically anxiety
  22. Write more often – it sucks how caught up we get working, studying, traveling, socialising …. that we don’t get to do things we love. Well, that’s exactly what I am going to work on. No matter what, I should take a break and try to write atleast every two weeks!

I am sure there are countless other things I am going to be working on this year and hopefully it has lots and lots for me to learn about and achieve but I hope this list would be a good start!

Milestone: Graduation Day


Image

It is unbelievable how fast the time has gone by, with days spent studying, some slacking, some laughing, some crying, some struggling, while other rejoicing. These three years have really been the best of my life so far. However, the best is yet to come- as said by my University’s Chairperson in his speech before the procession of the ceremony.

The day sure has marked itself down as an unforgettable and a very special day of my life. It not only highlighted our hard work, passion and talents but it was also a celebration and a reward for all the effort that has gone in to making us the people we are today, the effort by us, our friends and family; with whom I set farewell to the first degree of my life. It is not just this degree that the graduation day has bid a farewell to, but also the years of education that were spent towards getting a place in this degree and who made us capable enough to survive the degree.

The most magical moment of the day has to be when the names are called out and they announce… with First Class Honours – Maryam Sohail, you know at that moment that all the hard work, time and effort has been worthwhile. Until now, I had only been feeling the nostalgia for having to leave behind my university life and moving on to my Masters course, but today I felt the happiness and sense of achievement because I knew my milestones and its outcomes were being celebrated for and recognized.

Having the support and presence of my loved ones from family, friends and the family I had made at university only assured me that I had gained something more than just a degree from these three years of my life. More than the piece of paper, what mattered was the friendships we made, lessons we learnt, the knowledge we have, the memories we have shared and the days we have spent bringing ourselves closer to what we are today.

But this is only just a start. One journey ends and another begins and the destination for the first journey has been absolutely worth it. So, congratulations to the class of 2013 and hoping for future brighter and better!