Thursday, April 11, 2013

It Stands for Something

What they don’t tell you when you start writing a thesis is how anticlimactic it is to submit.

I started writing--really writing--my thesis at the beginning of the semester. I started developing the iPad app that would become the subject of my thesis in late August/early September. And I started the very, very preliminary work of actually experimenting with iOS and Android and figuring out what I could do with each platform way back last May, the week after I finished my junior year. So this 118-page behemoth has been a long time in the works.

So it made sense that my stomach was a mess of nervous flutters when I entered Atherton Hall for “Thesis Day,” as Schreyer’s calls it. Because I’m in the second half of the alphabet, though, it was actually the second day of Thesis Day, and let it be known that I was accepted into an honors college that has the ability to magically turn two days into one. Unfortunately it’s a skill that didn’t rub off on me...sometimes I wish I could do that!

Anyway, the sum of it is, they take the piece of paper you got signed by your honors team (for me, my adviser and a second reader), look through your electronic submission for glaring format issues, and then give you your tickets to the Medal Ceremony (which is what they call graduation).

All of this takes less than ten minutes. For the months of long days sitting at a desk, for the hours of debugging, the pages of proofreading, and all the times I wanted to throw the expensive iPad they gave me for testing across the cubicle, it seemed a little...disappointing. Surely there should be more than that?

Then you get to ring the gong. It’s a small gong, but it stands for something. I rang that gong, and even though the only person watching was a stuttering scholar in a stuffy suit, it seemed more than adequate closure for all that work. The deep brassy note that reverberated down the hallway rang of relief, accomplishment, and finality.

This is it. I’m done. In less than a month I will be a graduate of the Penn State College of Engineering with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. With honors. After everything that has happened this year, all the doubts about meeting requirements and keeping my GPA up, it’s really happening.

I couldn’t have done it without my adviser, my supervisors at work, and professors who were crazy, impossible to understand, challenging beyond belief, and/or fantastically willing to help students succeed. And, of course, my friends and family. They have celebrated with me in my successes and lifted me up after my failures. They care about my work, even when they don’t understand a bit of it. They, more than anything else, have gotten me here, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Like the anticlimax of my thesis submission, “thank you” seems inadequate. But, just like the gong, it stands for something. So, thank you.
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