Last month I completed the final stage of my dissertation, where I sat down with the markers and tried to justify all the slightly dodgy decisions I’d made as the deadline loomed. Now that the worst of the details have been softened somewhat by the passage of time, I thought it would be a good idea to take a quick look back at what was the biggest thing on my mind this year, and let you know what you might be in store for!
My dissertation counted for 25% of my year, weighing in at double the size of most of my other modules. However, it certainly made up a greater share of my stress levels! Although I had weekly check-ins with my supervisor, it was up to me to make sure I got anything done. As it’s all on your shoulders, it’s easy to let it get the better of you; I’m certainly finding exam season less stressful than the closing weeks of the project! In theory, the project accounts for 300 hrs of my time over the entire year, so you do need to actually sit down and work once in a while. Having the weekly meetings definitely helped, as rocking up having done no work since the last would have been a bit unseemly!
I knew from the start my project would involve practical experiments in the wave flume, but it took a long time for me to solidify exactly what I would be doing. With hindsight, this is something I should have nailed down much sooner; once I had a proper understanding of what I wanted to do, it funnily enough became a lot easier to do it! Filling in vague sections of my project plan (e.g. ‘do experiment’ – so helpful!) with specific plans gave me a better sense of what I needed to do and made everything seem far more manageable. Next time I have a project of this scale, I’ll know to tackle this as a priority.
As the report deadline approached, it was easy to forget that there were other parts to the degree too! Though the Easter break thankfully separated the final stretch from the exam period, I ended up having to miss a couple of lectures in order to complete my experiments – luckily, all of my lecturers this year record their sessions and post them online, making catch-up relatively easy. I did feel as if the whole thing was draining my soul towards the end, though. The dissertation is what made my work-life balance the most precarious this year, and it’s important to make sure you’re okay as you push on through. My friends in a similar situation were a good stress relief valve, though I’m pretty sure we never want to hear about each other’s projects ever again!
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way things have gone, though I’m even more happy it’s over! I feel I’ve learnt a lot over the year – not just the specifics of my project itself, but also about how to work through something of this size and make it to the other side. For fourth year, I’ll have a group design project on something To Be Decided; I’m hoping my time this year will prove somewhat educational.
Until next time,