For those of you who have been following my posts since the inception of this blog, you’ll know when I began the journey of my Master degree. I bet many would have forgotten about it or thought I had given up. You see, the average part-time students take about 3 years to complete the course. Here, I took double the time frame to complete it (3 years in “hibernation”). I avoided sitting myself down to tackle the thesis. Instead, I used my wakeful hours for work, PTA activities and family. I tried, yes I did, to put aside 30 mins each day to look into my thesis but I was just too tired to lift a finger. I also tried to read at least a journal, half a journal, erm…… a page a day but it’s just not gonna happen. Sigh….
Looking back, I attended 10-hour weekend classes without fail, passed my finals each semester and completed my 10 courses on schedule! That was done during busy period of my life including travelling to Singapore almost every other week! I was amazed that I did it after all! Thereafter, the last lap…writing the thesis. Without completing and passing the thesis, I can’t graduate. Without that, all effort and time I invested into this course will be flushed into the drain, negative return to that investment. Not just monetary loss but those that can’t be bought by money, for instance, my personal time, time supposedly spent with my family, time that can be used to do other productive things and the damaged cells caused by accompanying stress (LOL!).
Let me share this with other students reading this. Selecting a supervisor for the thesis must be done carefully. Supervisor-Student relationship is vital in deciding the success in completing the thesis. It is a norm to hear students changing supervisors, not once but several times. The same goes to changing topics for the thesis. Selecting and engaging the right supervisor for the thesis is of utmost importance because the lecturer is expected to provide guidance, advice and offering valuable inputs into writing the thesis. The right supervisor will ensure that your goal is achieved no matter how long it takes. The one goal is to complete the thesis and graduate.
One particular lecturer has earned his reputation in our uni for being the most stern but brilliant lecturer. He knows his subjects very well that there is not way to fool him. Everyone cringed in fear when facing him for viva voce as he will ask questions which many face difficulties in answering them. When I finally met him for a course which he lectured in my class, I found that he is not that fearsome after all. He explained his lessons well, crystal clear but his expectation for post-grad students is rather high. Without given much thought, I proposed to him to be my supervisor for my thesis and he agreed! I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I felt that learning from a perfectionist has more pros than cons. Now, I can validate that statement after seeing the end results.
Next, selection of the topic for the thesis was more challenging than selecting the supervisor. Preferably, a topic which is not widely written about; considering how my thesis can contribute to the community/industry or future researchers. It must have a good size of sample to test on. Once the topic was established and accepted by my supervisor, the reading of scholarly journals began. I love to read but not scholarly journals. I dozed off many times while reading them. I was advised by other lecturers that to write a master thesis, one has to read between 50-100 journals. The more the researcher reads, the easier it is to write the thesis. When I read up to the 25th journal, I felt as if my brain had long gone into coma. All financial journals looked and sounded the same. The only difference was the types of sample used. Findings were mostly inconclusive!
Writing thesis is all about self-discipline. There isn’t any classes compulsory to attend or exams to sit for, so the student is literally left on his/her own with occasional communication with the supervisor, if at all. I discovered from my own experience that when we don’t set and lock that time aside to read a journal, make notes, write a sentence/paragraph/sub-chapter/chapter, we will fall into lazy mode or dancing around the thesis all the time. Lame as it may sound, simply because there is always something else which is more important to be attended to. It could be meeting deadline for your work, preparing that presentation slides for a client, write that report for your office, attending to children, calls to your social works, etc. The thesis will eventually get pushed deeper into the stash of work/stuffs that are best left unseen and forgotten.
That was exactly what happened to me when my thesis ended up hibernating for 3 cold years. Office work would always take priority because my clients paid fees for my works. Sometimes it involved travelling out-of-town to their offices to meet with the rest of the board members for presentation and discussion. Then, there’s the PTA. I was and still am an active member and for someone who is a almost-perfectionist and would do her best for anything and everything, it was hard to turn my back on matters which require my attention. Serving thousands of students, teachers and parents has always been challenging but I enjoyed doing it alongside my committee members, teachers and parents. The same passion I placed on my advisory works, working closely with clients and their family members or board members. Concurrently, being there and enjoying private moments with my family members especially the growing children – studying, chilling and travelling.
At the final extension of my course, I had only one last semester to complete my thesis or I fall out. With no other choices, either I make it or break it, I had to force myself to do what was necessary to ensure that I complete the whole thing and graduate this year, 2018. If not, my son will be graduating before me or I won’t be graduating at all after 6 years of effort, time and money involved. Nah, I told myself…I can’t just give up or I won’t be able to face my children. Can’t imagine me saying to my kids, “Mommy can’t’ make it cos it is tough. So many things to juggle. I just can’t do it!”. I’m sure as you read the simple line, you’d say…excuses, excuses, excuses! I would too. And, what kind of message would I be sending to my children? Give up when the going gets tough? We always advise our children not to give up so easily. When we start a race, we must finish it even if it means crawling to the finish line! I have to go on one way or another. I have to change something to get different results this time. That was the time, in late 2016 when I gave up my job so that I could free some time for the thesis.
Besides, I am most grateful to my supervisor who guided me all these years, patiently at that, making things look clearer and simpler. That helped in motivating me to move forward. Being assured that you have the right coach gives you the peace of mind to do what is required of you. Fewer worries mean clearer mind to think and write. I can’t thank him enough. Dr R is one lecturer who doesn’t give up on his students, no matter how lousy (moi!). He is most understanding and his approach is more of encouraging than pressing. Simply brilliant!
Finally, in April 2018, I completed my thesis (to the satisfaction of my supervisor and the Board of Examiners) after attending my viva voce. I was glad that my presentation went well. My thesis had to undergo reasonable amount of amendments to “perfect” it. Once the thesis was bound in the black cover hard copy accompanied by CDs, my heart was bursting with great joy. I DID IT! Finally, I said to myself…after all I had done and gone through for the completion this journal. It felt like I have just conquered the mountain! The feelings can’t be put into words. Feelings of relief, happiness, freedom and….lost! One biggest challenge in life has been conquered. What’s next? hahaha..yeah! Before the ink dries up, my mind has started planning for the next project.
While waiting for the final results (marks) and convocation, I get my new plans in gear. Learning a new language, Japanese, since I’d be visiting Fukuoka this year-end, I hope to be able to converse in Japanese with the locals.
Next in line, is to attend an academic writing course. This is to prepare me for what’s ahead. It at all possible, I plan to continue with PhD in 2019. In my master plan, I wish to become a lecturer at the next career stop.
Besides, activities at the school and PTA will fill up my calendar as we will be having our PTA project in July; silver jubilee celebration thereafter. There is always something going on every month. Now, we are planning for the year 2019 to 2020! I will pave my way for the incoming president next year. It is time to pass the baton to someone else.
All in all, year 2018 is quite an exciting and meaningful year. The best birthday gift is the completion of my master degree before I turn the big 5-O and attending my graduation ceremony after my 5-O birthday. To me, it is a great achievement!
For students reading this, everything is possible as long as you continue to believe in yourselves. One cannot work alone. You need to have positive people supporting you, around you. They lift you when you are down; they celebrate every little progress you make along the way. I have such circle of friends whom I call the MM Group. We celebrated or simply to cheer or motivate one another by gathering for a good meal, chats and laughter to de-stress. I owe them big time and they showed me what friendship is all about…everyone is busy but they make time to go to you, to be together even for a couple of hours.
For adults reading this, if you have been thinking of continuing higher education, at whatever age you’re at, go for it! I’m not the oldest student graduating from a master degree. I was told that the oldest master student in my uni was a man in his 60s! There is no age limit to continuing ones education. I will not stop till I obtain my PhD at whatever age. Let’s hope I can do it in this life…hahaha…
It is not the paper certificate which matters. What matters most is actually the experience and the journey while seeking the knowledge. It opens my mind, sharpens my thoughts and most of all, it reveals that I can do whatever I want to if I persist and work very hard on it. Never lose sight of the goal and it’ll get you there.
I hope you get to learn something from my experience. Have a great weekend, folks.