So, it’s finally arrived, the day that seemed at first infinitely far in the future, and in the last year crashingly close every day. Yesterday, I submitted my PhD thesis. And after completing around half-a-tree’s worth of paperwork and forms, after four long years I finally find myself at somewhat of a loose end.
To say the feeling is weird, would be an understatement. Certainly for the past year, if not two, I’ve woken pretty much every working day with a slight feeling of incipient panic that I need to be doing SOMETHING. Yet, there’s also been that feeling that I’m forgetting something, that by doing Task X today, Task Y is being neglected, while hidden away from sight, Task Z lurks…waiting to trip me up when it suddenly becomes Task Right Bloody Now!
I anticipated yesterday was going to be a long day, I perhaps didn’t count on how long. In at 9am to spend three hours nurse-maiding a printer to run off the required submission copies, and running afoul of my university’s not well articulated format settings. Spotting some minor errors that upon correction necessitated junking a copy of two as they utterly threw off the page settings. I tried not to give into feelings of panic either, as the minutes ticked by – knowing the print unit closed around 2pm, and that I also required to get a physical signature off my supervisor for the submission form. While he’s a great guy, my supervisor can prove hard to track down physically at times, and is also very forms-phobic. I’m with him on that! In the second decade of the 21st Century, why the fuck I need to collect a physical signature and submit physical thesis copies is maddening. I have to submit an electronic copy anyway, as well. Just one of many, many niggles about the university administration I’m coming away from this experience with.
Having bound the thesis, and following a long walk and a tram ride, tracked my supervisor down in the city centre campus (I’m based at the out of town campus). Signed form, multiple abstract copies and bound thesis in hand I strolled to Stalag Luft Graduate Office. Or Doctoral School. Or Graduate School…or honestly whatever name they’re calling themselves this week, they’ve rebranded about four times while I’ve been studying. They’re also hidden away, on the fourth floor of an anonymous building, with a reception point…behind a security locked door. Really weird that last one, you have to know who you want to see and ring to be allowed in…almost like the staff don’t want to interact with us students. As up-front-customer service paradigms go, it’s not a winne. Odd really, as when you do meet and talk to the staff, they’re lovely. Perhaps they’ve had one shouty student too many over the years.
The hand in moment was…beyond anticlimactic. Over four years of my life and thousands of hours of labour, dealt with in an exchange lasting less than thirty words. Most of them me asking about viva arrangements. And then it was all done, bar the viva of course.
Afterwards my supervisor took me for a pint, a chat about next career plans (I’m flexible, I’m available, I’m not sure I’m staying in this country) and initial viva tips. My personal favourite “You know all those articles that tell you how to pass a viva? Don’t read them!” It was, to say the least, a really useful and enjoyable chat.
And then, all the Nottingham trams stopped due a traffic incident and I was stranded 5 miles from my car. Okay, I could have caught the bus but I had a) no idea which bus to catch and b) no idea where said bus went from and c) really hate riding busses during flu season. So, I walked the 5 miles across town, moor, riverside and express way in the gathering gloom and fog to my car, to drive home to the next phase of my life.
What exactly that’s going to be…I just don’t know for sure. I do hope it involves less sitting in a cold, dark and somewhat damp house for hours on end on my own!