When people ask me whether I am done with graduate school, some part of me wants to say yes, but I know that I have a huge dissertation looming over me and I can’t say I am fully done yet. Just saying the word dissertation overwhelms me. In retrospect, I know that I have the whole summer to work on my dissertation and all of the readings and work I have done over the year have prepared me for the possibly daunting writing process ahead. I am glad we have a couple months to work solely on our dissertation, yet, I feel conflicted to be working while the summer has been beautiful. I have spent a summer in London during a study abroad program and it has never compared to how perfect the weather has been lately.
Initially, I treated my dissertation like a job. I would lock myself in my room or desk in the library and work on it at least 10 hours a day. One can say that this was productive, but I felt miserable seeing how people were enjoying their summers. Some days, I find myself facing a huge writer’s block and am tempted to give myself a long break or vacation from the dissertation. Sure, a huge chunk of time needs to be dedicated to my dissertation, but who says you can’t take breaks to enjoy yourself? Living in Central London, there are still many things on my bucket list. Since I am doing fieldwork for my dissertation, I have ventured out to parks and outdoor cafes near my fieldwork sites when writing my dissertation. I have also added some London places I have always wanted to go to for an added reward for reaching a goal or feat in my dissertation. To keep the creative juices flowing, I have brought creative note cards with notes from some of my qualitative data for my runs in the gym and trips in the tube.
I have learned that you don’t need to be working on your dissertation 24/7, but it is good to always have your dissertation on your mind and to never lose focus. Even though I have spent most of my summer reading and writing, it is never a bad idea to think of creative ways to mix up your dissertation schedule. Maintaining a consistent and structured schedule for the summer can be extremely helpful to stay on top of your dissertation. We, as graduate students, hope we can turn in a dissertation that can contribute significant findings to our field. In order to do that, there needs to be a balance of work and relaxation. It is always good to add some breaks or fun activities to not overwhelm yourself.