The Friday that just passed was filled with a whirlwind of emotions. I had been waiting a whole week for one particular email to come through when I heard the familiar ‘ping’ of my Macbook email notification and knew that it was finally here. The email subject read “DISSERTATION MARKS” and I suddenly went into meltdown realising what I was about to open. My body has never shaken so much in my life, I was both excited to find out and nervous as hell, but I proceeded to log into my uni account with jittering fingers and open up the grades section.
To my absolute astonishment, I did it! After checking over several times that I was in fact, not dreaming, or losing my inability to read, I realised that I achieved Distinction in my dissertation. I was overwhelmingly amazed and in a somewhat state of shock, and to put the icing on the cake, I had the sudden realisation that this meant I had also achieved Distinction (First Class) in my Masters degree overall. I was gobsmacked.
If I am completely honest, from day one of my Masters degree I wanted to achieve only the best grades. I felt like I had let myself down a little in my Bachelors, and in a way, I saw this as an opportunity to show my capabilities. However, once the stress of the workload set in and and my peers’ intelligence became known, I was only full of doubt and a lack of confidence. Opening my results at the end of semester one and seeing that I had received a majority of Distinctions came as a real shock, and kind of a slap across the face. I realised that, if I can achieve highly when admittedly not working to my full potential, then what could I achieve if I really worked my ass off?
So, that’s what I did. Semester two came around very quickly, we got our teeth stuck into some new and interesting modules, completed several assignments and our dissertations were well-underway by the early months of 2016. I am not going to sugarcoat it, I found the workload intense. I remember sitting and thinking to myself so many times about how badly I wanted to give up, about how it wouldn’t be so bad if I simply passed the degree, but every time I fell into this hole of self-doubt, I picked myself up, brushed myself off and got back on the horse.
My dissertation, in my eyes, was an opportunity to show my skills and dedication to the degree. I didn’t take the easy route, I didn’t scribble down some half-hearted questionnaires and hope for the best, I really went to town with my methods. I uniquely combined ethnographic observations with qualitative interviews and also incorporated elements of audio and visual methods to add support to my findings. It was a challenge, no doubt. Given the lack of time, resources and finance it was safe to say that I was perhaps making it a little more difficult than necessary, but in the end it was worth it and I am so thrilled that I came out the other side feeling stronger. When I submitted my masters dissertation, it was one of the first assignment submissions in my entire academic career where I truly felt like I had done the best I possibly could.
I guess what message I am trying to convey is that it doesn’t matter how filled with doubt your mind may be, you always have the strength to achieve your goals. It sounds a little dramatic, really, when I say it like that. But there is no greater feeling than achieving something that you worked so hard for, and gaining the recognition you deserve for your efforts. In the end, I actually achieved the Dr Rees Powell Prize for Best Dissertation, so it just goes to show what that little spark of faith can do. Self-doubt can be a tricky thing to overcome, but sometimes in life there are times that you can really give yourself a pat on the back, and for me, that time is now. I am proud of myself, I feel very at peace with my achievements so far and most of all, I am looking forward to the next challenge ahead.