Looking back to mid-May after finishing exams, it feels like a lifetime ago, but it also feels like it was yesterday. To say this summer has been a whirlwind would possibly be one of the greatest understatements I’ve ever made, not to be dramatic or anything. Having to write an entire master’s thesis during summer in one of the most eclectic cities in the world sounds incredibly daunting, I know, but it’s possible. This is a quick snapshot of my experience and what I’d do differently.
As with most people finishing up their graduate degrees at LSE, this summer has revolved entirely around finding balance. A balance between wanting to make the most out of summer in London and doing research and writing our dissertations – notwithstanding the stress of us all trying to figure out what the heck we’re going to be doing with our lives come September. We can’t forget that part.
What I’m going to say is this: it is more than possible to make the most of your summer and efficiently write your thesis simultaneously. I wasn’t even remotely perfect, but upon reflection, I’ve had a pretty awesome summer and feel in a very good place with my dissertation. So, if I can do it, anyone can – and not for one second did I have even the slightest version of an organized and planned-out life. Of course, there are many things I would’ve done differently to have had more time to relax, but that’s coming.
That’s the thing – for most of us, the chances are we’re only going to have one summer in London. Personally, that meant the last thing I wanted to do was look back on it in the future and regret not making the most of it. BUT, there is also a dissertation that needs to be completed, and that’s where the balance beam becomes harder to stabilize. In my case, I’ve been constantly on the go for what feels like the last six weeks because I’ve been trying to cram everything I can in. It’s been dissertation from 9 until 5 or 6, and then the gym and/or social time with friends until 9 or 10, then bed, then repeat. On weekends, I’m pretty sure the only times I’m in my room are to sleep. It’s probably not the healthiest balance, but I’m having fun and being productive, and also burning out slightly. Hence why this is the only blog I was able to produce this month. That’s where I’d change things.
Especially in the early months of summer in May or June, when the due date for dissertation was two or three months away, it was way too easy to cast aside as a “future me” problem. Then one week goes by, then two, then three, and then reality hits. For me, that happened in early June, thankfully, but I know it hit others much later, and that’s when the balance is lost, but I guess it depends on the person.
If I had one piece of advice from my experience this summer, it’s this: take initiative early. It doesn’t mean spending 40 hours a week in early June, but maybe a couple of hours a day. Anything is better than nothing, and a little progress is better than no progress – trust me when I say, your future self will thank you for it.
Although it may seem trivial and difficult to justify at the time, those hours put in earlier in the year during the dark depressing winter months will give you so much more free time to make the most of the surprisingly sunny London summer.
Once summer comes around, if you want to go to the beach, you can. If you want to go to Richmond for the day, you can. Do you see where I’m going with this? Instead of constantly being stressed about having to dissertation work all day every day, you’ll have freedom. Take it from someone who didn’t take enough initiative as early on as he should have and has been constantly on the go all summer trying to fit everything in…
It’ll be worth it.