Honours Thesis done and dusted!

So let me attempt to revive this dying space with my thoughts about thesis. Can't believe that the day that we've all been waiting for for the past year has finally arrived?!?!


And because I'm such a sucker for writing reflections and after-thoughts, let me pen it down here...

(Well, you don't have to read it, it's for me to take stock of my life moments HAHA.)

Pre-thesis thoughts
As always, a few concerns and questions before deciding to write a thesis. Basically two main concerns - will I be able to write 12,000?! Will going for an internship in the summer holidays affect my time for thesis?  I mean, ok, I guess all along I knew I was gonna write a thesis because I wanted to? I wanted to have the space and freedom to write about a topic that I was passionate about, and to link it to geography too. It was gonna be a challenge, but at the start of Y3S2, I guess I was very gungho and said - yes I'm gonna do it. And also partly cos the years in uni kinda made me feel that writing a thesis is the hallmark of final year school hahaha and so it wouldn't be 'complete' in a sense if I didn't do it. (I know that that's not true luh haha it's just my perspective LOL.)

Idea conceptualisation
I will always remember this fondly. I was on exchange in Y3S1, and I tried out Couchsurfing (CS) for the first time. I don't know how it happened, but I just suddenly had this idea to write about CS even before I started doing it on the trip! Hahaha. Though of course, the actual framework and all wasn't out yet, but I knew I wanted to write about this topic. And so, in all my excitement, I actually prepared sample questions to interview my CS hosts!! LOL indeed. But those were very basic questions luh in the end I didn't use it cos the target group wasn't overseas hosts haha.

Really thankful that I got to go on CS during my exchange, which really opened my eyes and heart to the goodness and kindness in humanity. It's really faith in humanity restored, to experience such generosity and warmth from strangers! This really touched my heart, and I became very intrigued by how such relationships on CS can be formed so fast and so genuinely? Well, of course it's not always all positive and there are unpleasant experiences that people face on CS. But those are the minority, and I'm grateful that my experiences so far are all very positive. It really transformed my travels and the memories I take away from the place. (Ok I feel like at this point imma breakout into an argument of my thesis so I shall stop LOL.) So yeah, those relationships were my inspiration for this thesis topic, and I link it to the geographical concept of place (i.e. place making, sense of place).

This is easily the most enjoyable part of my thesis journey!! Really super eye-opening and I was so, so enriched by the fieldwork process. I met up with hosts and surfers in Singapore and followed them around or joined them in the activities that were doing together. It need not be an outing per se, just eating at home counts too. The main point is to observe their interactions. Then I interviewed them separately.

Every fieldwork has its challenges, and I faced my fair share too. It was so hard to find hosts in Singapore who were currently hosting at the moment, and even if they are, it's also difficult to find a common time for all three parties to meet! Many, many last minute changes, and a lot of times we only settle the date and time to meet like, one hour before?! Sighhh.

But I really, really felt very inspired by the hosts and surfers. Their perspectives, their worldviews, their love for travelling. And they're so open-minded and generous, I feel like it was hard for me to be an objective researcher HAHA (positionality here). Lol but ok. The conversations that we had really broadened my perspective. That life is really not about studies alone (which made me feel a bit sheepish right there and then that I'm so stressed over my thesis). I guess I'm even more motivated to make travel a part of my life. It doesn't have to be career-wise, but to continue to live my dream of travelling around the world, whenever I can. (Of course, it made me even more resolved to continuously save up to fund these travels!!)

Needless to say, this is the worstttt part! It was very tiring and draining because... I was struggling with my conceptual framework. Ok I won't elaborate so much on that. But yeah there were many many times where I felt so inferior, like my capabilities are just too limited to do a thesis. To be honest, it got so bad to the point where I started regretting a little on deciding to even write this thesis in the first place... Why I so 不θ‡ͺι‡εŠ›, so persistent on writing the thesis and landing myself in this state... But of course, there needs to be a turnaround, and I cannot just wallow in self pity.

Post-thesis thoughts
And so today, I've submitted my thesis, and it's such a huge, huge, HUGE RELIEF!! It's been a very long and tough journey, but I'm very heartened and glad that I've learnt so much from this. I know, for one, that I'm not a good academic writer. But it was a challenge that I took up and I told myself not to regret this.

One thing about me is that I tend to be very affected by people around me, which makes me compare inevitably. It gave me a lot of stress, and I really don't like this part of me, and I'm still changing it. Really, I keep telling myself to focus on the important things, that giving in your best is enough. Don't compare to anyone, stop feeling so inferior. Everyone is different and everyone has different strengths.

Thesis was also a very individual and independent journey. You're the only one working on the topic, you're the only one who knows your topic/argument/structure inside out. There's no one else to turn to for immediate, direct advice. Not even your thesis supervisor can know your exact problem that you face, because sometimes you just can't quite put it in words. So what do you do? No choice. Just plough on. My brain has been wrecked up down left right many times feeling confused over what exactly I'm trying to argue for. I just had to cope on my own in various ways, to tide over the stressful and lost moments. 

I know there was already an acknowledgements page in the e-copy of the thesis. But of course, who and what I'm really thankful for cannot be squeezed into that one page. 

My friends have been very encouraging and helpful, both in helping me sharpen my framework, and also in the moral support. I really value your company a lot, because it reminds me that I'm not struggling in this alone. That I know that we're all working hard together, and we can and will celebrate on the day of submission. In December when stress levels peak and when day in day out was just writing and writing and writing, life was sooo mundane and my morale was rather low. But I'm very thankful for friends whom I got to meet up with and talk over a meal. I really look forward to meet ups like this because it's a break for me, and also forces me to not think/talk thesis. Well, of course I do end up ranting about thesis stress, and thank you friends so much for listening. You don't need to give advice, but really, your presence and company is more than enough for me.

My family has been giving me quiet support too. I'm sorry for the times where my bad mood infected y'all. But I treasure the simple things, like yummy homecooked dinners, turning the television volume down so that I can concentrate on my work (I don't like to close the room door cos it gets stuffy inside). I appreciate everything that y'all did for me to have a conducive environment to study. And most importantly, for the love and constant reminder that life is not all about grades. :) Yes mum, don't worry, I know that. :)

Being in a long-distance relationship added to the challenge of writing a thesis, and yet, writing a thesis was also strenuous for an LDR. Before Reuben flew off, I was worried on how I were to cope with his absence, given that I'm such an emotional person and I get stressed easily. So all these definitely isn't good for someone writing a 12k-word paper and having to manage her well being with her significant other being away. Kept telling myself to be that same independent Rachel that I was/am all along, to pace myself, to take things in my stride. But of course, there were so many times I just crumbled under the stress of it all. It wasn't healthy for our relationship, because I ended up passing a lot of unnecessary stress to Reuben. I even got tired of hearing those "you can do it" from him, because that same old line has lost its effect on me. Likewise, it affected my mood for writing too and it just made the task more daunting and seemingly un-doable.

But through it all, thank you for being so so patient, reassuring, and encouraging towards me. I feel like I don't deserve all this, because just as it wasn't easy for me, it wasn't easy for you either. I tried my best to support you as well while staying focused on myself, and I'm reminded time and time again that the world does not revolve around me/my thesis. I'm so glad that God pulled us through and kept us grounded the whole time. I'm really very thankful for your listening ear, for telling me to forge on and for always believing in me. And for reminding me that there is a concrete goal at the end of thesis to look forward to. And that made me work hard.

So I'd like to think that the worst is over for our LDR? Haha... The conclusion of this thesis is hopefully the start of another more pleasant and loving phase in our relationship. :)

I think one of my happiest achievement from thesis is that I really got to encounter God so much more. Sometimes you get so caught up with your own plans and own vision that you forget that God is sovereign over all. When fieldwork plans change last minute, I get frustrated, think that I'm doomed, and all sorts of negative feelings. But He always has a plan for us, to lead us onto pathways that are better for us. So many times I've been blessed by His intervention, and I really thank God for that.

This period has also seen me really trying my best to surrender to Him. Human beings can only do so much. I worry about this, worry about that. But all that is for nothing, because if you can't change it, why worry? Same thing, I worry about the potential shitty grade that I'm gonna get for my thesis, because I think it's not well written. While I was still writing, I kept praying for wisdom, for God to lead me in the right direction of developing my thesis and arguments and all. And now that it's submitted, all the more I pray that I'll be able to surrender it all to Him, for He knows what's best for me. Whether or not I do well for it, it's all in His hands.

Last but not least, since thesis is a very individual thing, many times I felt very lonely and lost. And what happens when no one can understand your situation? I pause, take a few deep breaths, and pray. To be aware once again that Christ is always beside me to journey with me, to comfort me, to be my guiding light amidst the darkness. To give me strength and courage to go on. 

So the past few months have really been a period of immense growth, both personal, and in my relationship with the people around me and God. I am heartened that I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and I will look back on this thesis journey with bittersweet memories. Till now, I still can't believe that the submission day has come?! First day of Y4S2, aka final sem, but right now I'm just... living in a happy bubble that I'm finally done with the most stressful part of uni life. :)

What's next? Let me enjoy my holiday first before I tune my heart and mind back to school. HAHA.