Sunday, November 21, 2010


I find myself today at a crossroad. On one side stands writing a thesis, on the other stands doing an internship. The university's rulebook states that I must do one of the two to graduate. And as I try to decide I think I'm stuck in some sort of infinite loop.

I'm quite sure you're familiar with the terms, if not the problem.
A thesis is your typical "write a thesis statement and set out to prove it." Basically, you work on the same project for a year, hoping to write something good enough about it to pass. I'm majoring in computer science, so "setting out to prove" something usually is making a computer program that shows it's possible.
An internship is "you are our company's lowest rung on the ladder; fix the way our whole company works." Again, after a year, you hope your description of your fix is good enough to pass. And again, being a computer sciene major, this means I'll have to make a computer program tailored to the company's needs.

Most people shrink at theses because they consider themselves poor writers (only to realize that working at a company requires writing more in memos and reports than any subject on the curriculum). As for me, I consider myself a good writer (students say this is why a thesis doesn't scare me).

When I found out about this disjunctive (I'm doing it again, aren't I?) I thought "when I get there, I'll choose thesis. After all, I'll be working at companies all my life after this; a thesis will probably be my last chance to do a project that comes from my initiative and is entirely my own."

So I thought of several ideas, picked three I was most excited about, tailored them so they would be doable in a year, and started visiting professors. "Wha– three?!? I have trouble thinking of just one! What are you trying to do, scare your professors into working with you?" Well, no. I was hoping that, if they were going to dismiss me on grounds that they weren't interested in what I was thinking, they would at least be interested in one of the other two, right?


At least one of them? "Let me think... No!"

Okay, fine! But I didn't know that when I started.

I went to some 15 professors, but they weren't interested in what I had to say. "Don't like it," they said. "Too general." "Too specific." "Too abstract." "Too concrete." "Sounds nice, but it's not my research area, and I don't work on things unless they're in my area." They were only interested in what they had to say. Their own projects. But still, only one actually explained what this "own project" was to me.

There was one other that was interested in one of the ideas, but said he didn't have the time available to coach me since he was already coaching an intern. He did ask me if I would be interested in starting my thesis in May, though. "That means he really was interested!" Okay, sure, but I need to graduate someday.

The thing about the thesis is that, the way our curriculum is set out, you need to take at least one other subject from the curriculum while you're doing it. You also cannot take any more subjects once you've done everything the curriculum, with the exception of a foreign language. "So? start in May and take a foreign language!" Oh, sure, easy for you to say. There's a minimum credit limit. If I start my thesis in May, I'll be doing two semesters under the minimum credit limit (the rules only allow one). "Take two foreign languages!" Aaaargh!



Aa– okay, I'm good now.

So, my choices are:
  • Starting now with the teacher who wants me on her project (and she does need the extra hand, let me tell you), despite it being very different to all the ideas I had originally
  • Waiting until May and doing my project, and then seeing how I sort out the rulebook for my last two semesters
  • Forget doing a thesis altogether, and find a company for an internship (with payment being a nice plus)
and, as I weigh the "pro"s and "con"s of these options, I get myself stuck in an infinite loop.


  1. Sounds like a difficult dilemma. Life is never easy, unfortunately. Good luck with deciding which option will serve you best.

  2. I'm going to go with "seek first to serve, then to be served." If I don't help that teacher out, she could lose her job. And, from what I've gathered, I'm practically the only one who can.