Column Steven: A new chapter

‘The thesis has a whopping thirty-six study credits. Where do I start?’
Steven Snijders

Two new courses. A fresh start. A new chapter. Read the Course Guide, identify who is in my group, and find new lecture rooms. The first few days of a new academic period are crammed full with as many as a hundred new faces. Some of those faces can seriously impact your quality of life. The teacher’s. for example. Not just aesthetically but mainly didactic. The teacher has designed a well-thought-out course, which awards six credits. Classes with a beginning, middle and end.

At least, that is how things were. That is now over, forever, perhaps. All my courses are completed. All that remains is the thesis and internship. And the thesis awards a whopping 36 credits. On the first day of period 2 my Google calendar is completely empty. Instead of a day filled with appointments, I stare at a blank Word document. A new chapter. Literally. Where do I begin?

If I am to believe the accounts of the thesis survivors, it can be tough. Lonely. Complicated. The thesis is an insatiable beast that consumes all of your time, energy and creativity. Some tasks related to the thesis do not yield immediate results but consume a lot of time. Scanning scientific papers for relevance, only to reject them, for example.

If I am to believe the accounts of the thesis survivors, the thesis is an insatiable beast that consumes all of your time, energy and creativity

After working on my thesis for a day, I ask myself: am I on the right track? Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? Lacking anything with which to compare and having no programme for which I can check completed tasks, I tell myself: yep, Steven, good job today. Talking to myself, am I already losing my mind?

Content-wise, there is no doubt the thesis will get done. In addition to the thesis project, I consider these 36 credits my personal Project Sanity: keeping my mental health in order. Taking sufficient breaks and not economising on time to see friends or to work out. I vow to maintain a playful attitude. No need to get it right straight away. I will complete this thesis level of the game, and falling and getting up are all part of the experience.

How did you maintain your mental stability during your thesis or perhaps your PhD? Share your tips and experiences!

Steven is doing a Master’s degree in Economics and Policy and enjoys hitting the squash court. He is always up for a game of squash and a good conversation. You can email him here.

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