A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Writing a thesis is stressful enough as it is, but to write one in a pandemic is even more challenging. Before the pandemic, I probably would have been writing my thesis in the University Library, taking frequent coffee breaks with my friends and overall having a decent sense of structure. While I technically could have gone to the library (with some restrictions), my anxiety has grown worse because of the pandemic. I would get stressed in public spaces and be afraid of everyone around me. Things just didn’t feel the same for me. I felt like if I can be at home, then I should be, and that I was doing something wrong by being in the library. But before that, the library was my home and where I did everything uni-related.
So I wrote my thesis from home, which was overall not too bad of an experience. I have grown more accustomed to working from home I think because I have my own office. I was very fortunate to have this as it really allowed me to concentrate on my work and not feel overwhelmed by the rest of my apartment. I also thought that working from home meant I would be free from distractions, but somehow they still kept popping up (cleaning the house, doing laundry, checking Instagram etc.).
One of the more challenging things about writing a thesis from home, however, is asking for help. I felt like asking my supervisor for advice online was more difficult than if I could ask him in person for help. I had to be much more structured in the questions I asked him to receive the feedback I needed. Further, working on my thesis from home made me feel quite lonely as I couldn’t work around other students because of my fear of being in public. Plus, staring at a screen all day at home, only to pause for eating and sleeping was rather difficult for me physically and mentally.
Another piece of advice is to try to speak to your supervisor in person if you can (restrictions permitting). This way, you can bounce ideas off each other more easily. You can even bring them a physical copy of your draft and have them comment on it. Knowing how to ask your supervisor for constructive feedback is very important. Some professors give you a clear structure My second piece of advice is to read other people’s theses with similar subjects for ideas surrounding structure and language. You can find theses from other Leiden University students here. Finally, make sure you create a manageable schedule for working on your thesis. This can be as simple as blocking out time in your calendar to write your thesis and take breaks. Make sure to take enough breaks because I noticed that if I spend too much time staring at my screen, I become less creative with ideas and lose a lot of my structure and motivation. I also created a stopping time to make sure that I didn’t overwork myself; after 17:00 I had to stop whatever I was doing and call it a day. This is good because it forces your brain to work a little faster and more efficiently if you create a deadline every day for working. You can choose your stopping time to be whatever works best for you. If you have more energy during the day, make sure to work only during the day and stop before the evening. And if you’re a night owl, make sure your nights are for working and that you don’t overwork yourself during the day.
If you are writing your thesis now or will write your thesis in the future, I wish you the best of luck!