Through the Roof and Underground – How to Stay Afloat with Thesis Writing

Amidst all the student protests and the unhappiness expressed by people at universities across the country, one comes to realise two great privileges, being able to study and at that, do research on a post-graduate level. However, as best we may try to count our blessings every day, post-graduate work is no walk in the park and you have to keep your head above water despite the difficulty of juggling your work, doing general life admin, persevering with those tedious domestic duties, upholding pleasant and beneficial social interactions and paying attention to your hobbies (as to not lose your soul during the course of your research).

As a second year masters student, I have made two very important decisions: I will not easily ‘jump’ into a PhD (i.e. I will keep my distance as best I can) and I will enjoy myself during the last two years as a student (in my early twenties). To continue with the latter train of thought, I was quite ready to quit my studies last year in March as I felt like Atlas who just couldn’t get to shrug the world and its dirt off his shoulders. I had an ensuing argument with myself and the decision was made, to go to AfrikaBurn at the end of April for a period of 6 days. This might sound like the most cliché or rubbish story, but that week in the desert made me realise how very small and insignificant we all are.  I took that thought further and realised how small and insignificant my masters was in the bigger picture of life and that instead of considering it as this enormous challenge which will consume my final two years at Stellenbosch, I decided to take it in my stride and run with it as best I can.

So here I am in the second year of my masters, having finished my first chapter and starting with the second. I plan to go to AfrikaBurn once more this year to meet up with friends who have left Stellenbosch to pursue their studies and careers elsewhere. Furthermore, I try to attend as many interesting events and make plans to travel around the Western Cape as often as possible in order to keep my mind occupied with different thoughts and interactions. I am also busy branching out my research into the greater scope of my field (which is art theory/visual studies) as a means to extend my work past the narrow confines of the academic world.

Being a 7th year student I have bid most of my close friends adieu as they have consequently entered the world of work or taken the gap to travel to the far corners of the world (creating, for instance, Stellenbosch 2.0. in Hsinchu, Taiwan). Thus I am forced to step out of my (very cosy) comfort zone and try to make friends with the few post-grad students who haven’t slipped into the clandestine cracks of academic elitism (i.e. those who don’t take their age or their rank too seriously). As of late, that has been the most interesting and taxing experience of my masters. But I try take that challenge as a sign that this should (must/has to be) my last year in Stellenbosch (for now, haha).

The point which I am trying to make is that you should never force yourself into the dark corners of your mind (we all have them) and realise how amazing it is to be given the chance to do research on that which is of real interest and importance to you. You are given the time, space and opportunity to take 2 years (or more) to focus on something that really matters to you and/or that can benefit you in the long run. Make it yours as far as possible and please don’t forget to have fun. Use this time to your benefit and milk it for all it’s worth.

– “Be Bold and the Mighty Forces will Come to your Aid” – Goethe

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