Posts Tagged ‘dissertation’

The time I made a speech

A few months ago, I got an email from my old tutor at the university where I did my undergraduate degree. It was an invitation to an end-of-year event for the current students studying at the school of social sciences, where I also studied.

After seeing it was an invite, I skim-read the rest then scrolled down to the details about where and when. I booked the day off work and made a mental note to figure out how to make my post-university life seem way interesting to my old tutor, who had had such high hopes for me.

On the day, I turned up a little bit late, thanks to public transport, so everyone was already inside the lecture hall sitting down. I sneaked in at the back and just leaned against a table. In the first tea break, I found my way over to my tutor and said hi.

“O! Hi, Laura. Have you seen Jenny yet?” he asked.

Puzzled at this, I mumbled that I hadn’t and wondered who ‘Jenny’ was.

“Come on, let’s go and find her,” he said, signalling that I should follow. I did, slightly confused.

We found Jenny and my tutor said, “Jenny, this is Laura.”

“O, hi Laura,” she said. “Come with me.”

Again, I followed, wondering what all this was about. We went down to the front row of seats as everyone started to file back in after their tea break. Jenny briefly introduced me to another girl but things were getting going again and I had barely said hi before we had to be quiet. I still wasn’t sure why I was sitting at the front.

Some students got up and did a little talk about their dissertation subjects and a few were really interesting. As I listened, Jenny turned towards me and said, “You two will be up after this one finishes.”

Oops! This is what comes of not reading emails properly! I quickly got Facebook up on my phone and found the message and sure enough, there was the request for me to give a 10 minute talk about life since graduation!

Ha! I thought, cynically. You do degrees upon degrees then come out and realise everyone else has loads of them as well and so you all end up waiting tables and making coffee!

But I did not say this. Instead, when we got up, I stood behind the other girl, waiting to see what she said and planning to take my lead from her. But she had forward planned, hadn’t she? She had made a PowerPoint presentation. O yes, she had. And the computer was having problems. So she said to me, “Do you want to go first while I sort this out?”

And there I was, no excuses, no way out, no preparation, looking at a lecture hall full of faces, all silent and waiting. And I gave the most shambles speech ever. It went roughly like this.

“While I was at university, I did my dissertation about how the quality of your lawyer at a capital trial affects the likelihood of you getting the death penalty. I interviewed two men on death row and one of them has an execution date next month. I volunteered with a legal charity for a few years and graduated from law school last year. There’s still a long way to go but I’m getting there.”

And then I just walked off and sat down. I didn’t mention the coffee, nor the long years of working in menial task jobs for companies who don’t care about me. I didn’t mention how much I love cooking and that I’m thinking of a career in food. I didn’t mention how I secretly want to be a farmer and have even considered becoming a lady of leisure (with what financial backing, I don’t know). I didn’t say that I often feel I’ll never use my degrees and that I think, unfortunately, we have become an overeducated generation without the job opportunities to use the education we have accumulated. No, I didn’t say that.

I stood up, said three sentences in a panic then sat back down! And of course, of course the other girl gave a well thought-out, PowerPoint assisted, interesting speech. She made a pack up about job opportunities in the charity sector. And she was fab.

I was a shambles.

And that’s what happens when you don’t read emails properly.

Figure this one out!

I had a slightly mental dream again, everyone. Get your dream analysis heads on and figure this one out.

So I was doing a dissertation in the dream. It was about migration and what encourages it, or something like that. I had printed the subject of the dissertation in big purple letters then cellotaped it into a lined pad that I was taking notes on.

Somehow, by who-knows-what genius on my part, I had organised an interview with Prince William and Prince Harry for my research. I met them in a little pub somewhere with one of my friends, I don’t know who. This friend had brought along one of her friends who just wouldn’t shut up, basically. She was rabbiting on about the environment and the state of the country and what were the princes going to do about it and didn’t they have a responsibility and blah blah blah.

At first I let her go on and on because I was hoping she’d give me a go. Eventually I just stopped her and got all stroppy. I was like, “Ok, could you give it a rest? I don’t know if you realise but I arranged this meeting. I’ve got a dissertation due and I need to interview them as part of my research. I mean, these guys don’t have very much time so could you let me get on with my stuff now, please?!”

Suitably admonished, she stopped talking but laughed at me a bit. The princes looked a bit surprised at my outburst but told me to start with my questions.

So I flipped to the page in my notepad where I had cellotaped the title of the dissertation and I couldn’t find it! It was my turn to talk and I couldn’t find, nor remember, the dissertation title! I knew it was something about migration.

I kept trying to ask them stuff from memory, I was going, “O, it’s about migration and how we encourage it in this country.”

They were going, “Immigration? O yeh, and the benefit system?” The loud mouth sitting next to me kept saying things about immigration and immigrants.

I was getting all annoyed but trying to be polite about it, given that I was chatting to the princes. I was going, “No. Not immigration. Migration. It’s not about immigrants as such, it’s slightly different.”

The princes were waiting for me to tell them what it was about but I was flipping through and through my notepad and couldn’t find the dissertation title.

Then they had to go and Prince William took out a notepad and jotted down his expenses, paying for everyone’s drinks, then they left.

And then, on the floor, in a pile of papers, I found the dissertation title and I realised it wasn’t specific enough. It didn’t really have a clear focus. I started to worry about the deadline being in April as it’s March now and there’s not much time and I didn’t have anything written yet.

I text my friend Sophie (who was in the last crazy dream) to ask the due date then I heard someone calling my name and it was another friend Bianca, by some chairs. She waved me over and everyone I went to uni with was there, plus one girl I went to school with. Everyone looked a bit upset and sniffly as it was our last day at university but I just kept thinking about how my dissertation didn’t have a focus and what on earth could I write about.

By the chairs but a little way off was a policeman looking stressed. I started imagining his thought process and decided to write my dissertation like a diary of the policeman’s thoughts. Then I realised that’s more a story than a factual investigation. I played with a few more ideas but couldn’t settle on any.

Then my alarm went off. For the first few seconds, I thought about what I could write for my dissertation. Then I remembered I finished studying last year, there was no dissertation. Phew!


Any ideas, people?

An inconvenient birthday

About three years ago, I was in my final year at uni and my dissertation was due three days after my birthday. I was planning to let my birthday go by and then celebrate when my dissertation was finished.

I’d had a bit of a bust up with my flatmate, which consisted of her telling me that the flat was too messy and me agreeing but saying I couldn’t do anything about it at the time as my dissertation was due. I was therefore holed up in the library the majority of the time, trying to avoid more confrontation.

I had been to America the previous month, doing research for my dissertation, so it was really important to me that I did well. I hadn’t eaten or slept properly in days. Or changed my clothes. I just needed to get it done.

In the midst of all this, a friend said to me, “O, let’s go out for dinner for your birthday.”

I was like, how oblivious can you be? I’m clearly way too busy right now. Just hold off until the weekend and then I’ll be free.

In the nicest possible way, I kind of said, “I’d prefer not to.”

But he was insistent. “Yeh, let’s go for dinner for your birthday.” Another friend was there, looking at me expectantly.

I then kind of tried to say in a nice way, “Ok, but it needs to be really close by so that I can come straight back to the library.”

But no! He wanted to half way across London to Paddington. What. On. Earth! This is ridiculous. And really annoying. Why would you go all across London when there’s plenty of places for dinner near uni and you know I’m busy.

“It’s a great little place which does Lebanese food.”

I’m sorry, pardon? Lebanese food? You’ve brought me all the way across London to a random little restaurant, right in the middle of working on my dissertation and not being in a good mood after having a bit of an argument with my flatmate…. For Lebanese food. I mean there’s nothing wrong with Lebanese food, its nice, but it’s not like I’m a well known Lebanese food lover. Italian, yes. French, ok. Thai, I’m there. But never in a million years would I choose a Lebanese restaurant myself.

“Just go into the pub next door for a quick drink while I make sure everything’s ready in there.”

What. On. Earth. I need to eat and leave ASAP. I don’t need to be hanging around ‘having a drink’. I was on the verge of saying, “Thanks for the effort and everything but I’m going to go now. I’m trying not to offend you because I see that you’ve made loads of effort but I have to do my dissertation.”

Anyway, I go into this pub with my other friend, while the organising friend goes to the restaurant. We go in and there’s a bar upstairs that I’m told to go to as it’s quieter.

Up the stairs I go, into the little bar and….

“SURPRISE!” shout a load of my friends. I look into the room, see everyone looking at me and walk off…..

Not the traditional response, I realise. But really now… A party all the way across London, three days before I’m due to hand in my dissertation, my final peice of work for my degree, the culmination of three years of hard work. Really?

I sat in the toilet for about 20 minutes assessing the situation while another friend convinced me it would be fine. Eventually I chilled out a bit and rejoined the party. And it was lovely. Of course it was lovely. It was fabulous to see everyone in the same place. And I had a great time after managing to force myself to forget about the deadline. But I’m not going to lie, it was extremely badly timed.

The same friend who organised it also got me a nice dress (to wear to the party, but when he tried to convince me to wear it, I gave him a look that said I was not pleased). A few weeks later, I decided to wear the dress somewhere. I put it on and it was faaaaar too big. He had bought me a dress two sizes up from what I wear. TWO sizes up! How can you guess a dress size which takes someone from an average size to a definitely quite large size?

You know sometimes when you’re like ‘Are you EVER paying attention when I speak or do anything?’ That was how this incident felt.

How does a person sitting in a library day in day out for about two weeks, three days away from handing in a peice of work which really matters to her, make you think, o I’ll throw a surprise party right before her hand in date?

And that is my one and only experience of surprise parties! No-one else has thrown one for me since. I think I know why…