“Oh, we’re going to Shakey’s later to eat dinner . . . Then we’ll move to Starbucks to continue writing our thesis.”
“Oh, good luck with your defense tomorrow! Mine just ended yesterday. You’ll do great!”
“G ba, inom tayo tonight?,” “Can’t eh, thesis, bro.”
Undergraduate thesis season has just been around, and students were ever at work. I and my fellow graduates from the Class of 2021, one by one, underwent this last college ritual called the thesis defense; the last time, for many of us, we will ever present something in an academic setting. (After four years of college and one year of online classes, I’d think many of us are prepared to retire from the academic world.)
At Ateneo de Manila University, now my official alma mater (my final grades already came out and I managed to get first honors in my final semester!), the second semester of last school year was truncated, and an automatic pass for most cases was implemented, if I remember the details right. The (overly extended and mentally draining) quarantine had just started, and so everyone seemed to be at a loss for what to do. A friend no longer had to take his thesis too seriously because of the automatic pass. “We just did that for the sake of finishing it,” he said, referring to their less-than-50-page thesis.
Part of college life
This year, though, we did it all online, and we were expected to finish completely. Everything—from meeting thesis advisers to the collecting of sources—was done online. In my case, I had no real need to leave the house. I’d imagine that it’s different for others.
Expecting that a prim and proper thesis be done online might come off as quite harsh and promoting of uncertainty, but to be honest, what’s life without uncertainty? Not life, that’s for sure! And while it was draining, I’m happy I was required to still do a thesis and defend it. After all, it’s part and parcel of college life.
I actually only had one semester to finish my thesis. I started seriously thinking about it last February. My course in college, Bachelor of Arts major in Chinese Studies with a specialization in Arts and Culture, necessitated me to focus on a humanities-centered topic.
And so, I chose to focus my thesis on the English translation of the novel called “To Live” by Chinese author Yu Hua.
“To Live” is about the story of a farmer who lives through the events that have characterized China’s modern-day history: the Communist Party takeover in 1949, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. So, it’s a fictional story with real historical themes: A historical fiction novel!
(Personally though, I wouldn’t really recommend buying it because it does have explicitly vulgar language and I’m all for the wholesome things! I simply had a copy of the novel already at home.)
However, of course, the question with that is to what extent? Sure, “To Live” does have themes from real-life modern Chinese history, but to what extent did those themes actually shape the historical context of the novel? It’s still a literary work and not a history book. So, in other words, the thesis is a mixture of the worlds of literature and history, a combination ever so interesting!
Celebrate the wins
And to be quite honest, I’ve learned a thing or two while writing my thesis. First, and this goes for everybody reading this, kaya pala natin ito.
Though this pandemic has brought much hardship and adjustment for us all, we actually still have the capability to do great and wonderful things! Just a few months ago, I never thought I would be able to write a 16,000-word paper. Never in my life did I imagine myself publicly defending it, but all with the help of my thesis adviser, I did.
Don’t get me wrong: My thesis wasn’t at all perfect. Also, I still yearn for the return of on-site classes. The in-person university experience—with its fun and hardships—will always be my ideal.
But at the end of the day, I think we still have to celebrate the wins we experience now. What doing my undergraduate thesis fully online taught me is that despite the pandemic and the hardships it has brought, all of us—and I mean all of us—still have the ability to do great things in our own individual capacities. Great things don’t have to be big; simply learning how to cook a new dish is already great.So, let us be proud of our wins and celebrate authentic and holistic growth! —CONTRIBUTED INQ