Thesis Report #1: The Master’s of My Domain

If you’ve read my profile, you now know both that I am a student and that I make poor-taste jokes about debilitating mental illnesses.  This post is about the former.

Here’s the rundown:  Three years ago, I was living in China pretty much hating my life, so I decided it was time to go back to school.  I began my search for Master’s programs in International Relations in Barcelona, which turned out to be a more specific request than I’d thought because I only found one school.  So I applied.  One month before classes were supposed to begin, I found out I was accepted. This being so close to the start of the school year though, I had pretty much figured I’d been rejected and had already gone with plan B – renew the contract for my job and waste away the rest of my twenties in a country where I was effectively illiterate.

So I decided to wait out another year in Asia and applied again the next year.  By the time I found out I was accepted the second time, I had been back in the States for about two months, living in the shackles of being broke and surviving off the generosity of my parents, while simultaneously trying to gnaw my leg off.  To me, my ambitions were clear:  Get into school.  Get the fuck out of the States.  Put off being an adult for another year.  However, my mom and dad weren’t about to let me gallivant off to another distant land just so I could throw heaping piles of money I didn’t have at a Master’s degree without first knowing what it was I wanted to do with my life.  So they “encouraged” me to stay with them a bit longer and try to build up a bit of savings before flitting away to Catalunya.  And good thing too, because I wouldn’t have met my husband otherwise, and that would have been sad.

Anyway, deflatedly (It’s a word. Shut up.) I decided they were right and figured a year in the States might do me some good before trying to tackle a bilingual advanced degree in a foreign country.  So I paid the deposit to hold my place for the 2010-2011 school year instead.  Which brings me (more or less) to today, seven months into a year-long program, preparing to write my thesis.

Now, though this is a very academically demanding program, it’s also very Spanish.  This means that we are ritually told things like “You have to do this assignment NOW!  It is the most important thing EVER! DO. NOT. TURN. IT. IN. LATE. You have two weeks, NOW MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!”  Then, two weeks later, as we’re scrambling to complete and turn in this great, terrible assignment that we just started the day before, realizing at the same time that, barring a sudden, dramatic change in the laws of physics, there is NO WAY we are going to turn this thing in on time, some of the brave few decide to ask for extensions and are met with responses like “No problem.  Tranquila.  Relax.  Take your time and turn it in whenever you get a chance.  And make sure to have a big lunch and long nap first to help you study.”

However, in the case of our theses, the opposite approach seems to be the preferred method for our school.  Administrators, in their attempts to alleviate our fears of thesis writing give us calming words of encouragement like “Hey, you have plenty of time to decide on your thesis topic, and it’s not due until next September anyway, so take your time and focus on your classes and school work first.  And don’t forget to have big lunches and long naps to help you prepare.”

Then, two weeks ago arrives this e-mail:

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Which basically means that after seven months of being told “chill”, “don’t worry” and “focus on your classes”, we’re now being told that we have two weeks to write up a 1,000-word proposal for the deciding factor of our entire academic venture here.  Which, as I’m coming to find out, is a difficult enough undertaking for those of us who actually HAVE thesis topics.

Fortunately, I am one of those people, and when we had our supervisor meetings, I was able to confidently explain my thesis idea to my supervisor – a  middle-aged professor from Spain named César, who I personally chose to assist me because of his specialization in my field… and because he was the only professor who seemed genuinely excited about my topic.  So, after three days of agonizing over research methods and case studies, I got stuck and decided to send the paltry contents of my abstract to César in the hopes he would be able to help move me along to the next step.  Instead, what I received was this:

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Seeing as how I have the whole summer to research and write my thesis, I may be overreacting a bit, but I find  this a tad disconcerting.

It kinda feels suspiciously like my professor is no longer interested in my topic.  Or worse, he’s not interested in the challenge of my topic.  Either way, it’s a bit worrying when the one person in the whole school assigned to guide me in the most important academic undertaking of my life has, instead of rising to the challenge, apparently chosen to crumble before the awesomnity that is my awesome amazing power to create a mind bogglingly awesome masterpiece of a Master’s thesis. In which case, he probably actually just wants to steal it for himself.  ‘Cause it’s so awesome.

I will admit that I’m reassured that I have options.  Granted, the Braddock Stubbornness Gene (This is a real thing.  Look it up.) will push me to do the topic I already decided on, but that’s not the point.  I have two options, where many people are still scrambling to get their first.  Now if I could just get the Braddock Motivation Gene in gear.