fbpx En Route #13 — PCA

En Route #13


Choices Abound

Amidst the chaos that is finals prep, it can be easy to lose sight of some of the better parts of being a full-time student. My favorite thing about being a 4th year student, thus far, has been the luxury of choices. Luxury isn’t a word often used when discussing the average student’s life, but after 3 years of adhering to countless project constraints that are set for you, it feels like the height of luxury to be able to decide things for yourself. Senior year, as far as I can tell, is all about choices. We make choices every day, what we want for lunch, what we want to do on the weekend, but arguably the most important choices you make during college are mostly during your final year.

This can at times feel overwhelming. One of the first questions my peers and I were asked in our Senior department classes was simply: Who are you? This question alone can be enough to send students into an existential spiral, but it’s also a great chance to investigate this artistically as you finish out your Undergraduate years. One of the most important choices you will make your Senior year is the choice of a Thesis topic. Now there’s of course variation between departments, but in my case we were pretty much given free rein to pick whatever we wanted, whether it was directly related to art or not.

Now my main advice for choosing a thesis topic is twofold: 1. Don’t be too broad and 2. Do choose something you love but don’t know everything about. Bear in mind that this will be a topic you investigate first through a paper and then through a project. With this single choice you quite literally outline what your final year as a PCA student is going to be about. While this shouldn’t cause you to overthink things, it does mean that you should consider carefully what topic you’re marrying yourself to as the last thing you want is to wake up a month later and feel like you’ve made a mistake. Once the honeymoon period is over and you actually have to get things moving, you’ll be glad you chose a topic that you truly love and isn’t just a flight of fancy.

The first thing you learn about your Senior thesis paper is that it’s going to take a considerable amount of time. The quality of your eventual thesis paper is directly proportional to the amount of hours you pour into it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There’s a Donna Tartt quote I love in which she describes how she spends 10 years writing a book without getting tired of it. “In order for a long piece of work to engage a novelist over an extended period of time, it has to deal with questions that you find very important, that you’re trying to work out.” Now a year spent on one topic pales in comparison to a whole decade, but discovery is one of the most exciting things about the entire process. As much as this thesis is a chance for you to tell others about a topic, it’s also one of the few times you will be asked to pick a topic for the sole reason of learning more about it.

My thesis topic was not only something I loved, Fantasy stories, but also something I was deeply interested to examine in a new light through my own personal background and connection to the topic. In class this week, our Thesis professor commended us on our efforts thus far and mentioned how we’d all done a good job communicating our ideas, but also had learned something new about ourselves in the process. I think this is a thrilling way to view the choice of a thesis topic, as something you want to find out about yourself, something you want to stew in for a year and investigate hidden corners you’d otherwise overlook. I’ve enjoyed (almost) every moment of working on my thesis. Even the (slightly) painful hours of agonizing wrangling words and trying to decide what I actually had to say was crucial to getting where I am now. Past me would have rolled her eyes at this, but I can earnestly say that I am both a better writer and student for this experience.

After choosing your topic, the real fun begins as you no doubt remember tales of my frantic weeks of research, running from library to library reading as much as I could. Looking back, even just a month or so later, I see how crucial that time was to the work I’m doing now. In the age of internet information, it’s nice to go back to the source text and really dig into a subject matter from the roots. I felt slightly suspicious going into these libraries to take photos of certain pages and then quickly leave an hour or two later, but most librarians don’t ask you too many questions as long as you’re quiet. After research, then comes my favorite part, actually writing the thing. This is a new challenge as you have to make many more decisions about the exact lens through which to view this topic, and most importantly, what you have to say about it.

At this point in the semester, my classmates and I are in the last leg of our journeys. We’ve battled through bibliographies, conjured footnotes aplenty, and wrestled our papers into submission as we put the finishing touches on what will probably be the last in-depth academic paper of our college careers. It’s a hectic time, but I’m trying to enjoy the moment as best I can, knowing I’ll sorely miss this time in my life once it’s gone. This thesis paper is already something I’m immensely proud of, and I look forward to seeing my months of work solidify into a fully formed Senior thesis paper. While most of my week has been spent deep in the trenches of homework, I’ll have a chance to let my hair down and have a Friendsgiving dinner tonight!

Choose carefully!

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