Erin, M.A.

It’s finally official. I printed my thesis on the proper thesis paper (no more than 20% rag content, please!), walked it to SGS, and submitted it along with my licensing, submission, and graduation forms. The woman who collected it uttered the beautiful phrase “you don’t have to do anything more to your thesis.”

The process of defending, printing, and binding has been weirdly exhausting: weirdly, because it only took a handful of hours to prepare a defense presentation, actually defend, visit the copy centre, and find SGS. But the process, if brief and mundane (especially the part where one stands by the photocopier while it prints away), is somehow laden with anxieties — about getting everything (including margins and page numbers) just right in the right space of time, and about conveying the sense that one’s actually learned something in the whole process. I spent at least three days before my defense thinking “right, what did I write on again? How many chapters did I have anyways?” The defense itself was fun (as expected), but I again find myself almost too exhausted to properly recall it.

Added to these anxieties was the oddness of starting a new program while I was — technically, officially — not yet done with the old. Following my defense I went straight to a speaker series — grad-like business as usual — and so didn’t quite register the event that unofficially ended my degree.

Having finally completed the final tasks of the thesis process, however, I’m happy to have gone through it.  The signing of forms and stuffing of five carefully labelled envelopes with individual copies of a thesis on properly weighted and watermarked paper emphasised the finality of things (and, very oddly reminded me of the ritual of the Thesis Submission: grad students around the world are signing and labelling and worrying over margins and pagination).

Most MA students likely have the same experience I had when finishing my defense and then going quietly about my other work: students doing coursework submit their final papers in mid-August, and then quietly disperse, back to their hometowns, jobs, families or new schools. But yesterday I had the satisfaction of walking into the SGS and handing in the culmination of a year’s worth of reading and typing, and being alternately delighted and frustrated with my thought process. At the very end, an official-looking (and smartly dressed) woman handed me  a copy of my receipt for binding costs (five copies!), and said, with a big smile, “congratulations on completing an MA.”

That kind of finality feels good.

24 September 2010 ~ Hamilton


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