Kris à Genève

A Canadian living in Switzerland

My dissertation concluded with Paul Simon

with 2 comments

In the weeks following my last post in late May, I wrote like a madman to complete my master’s dissertation by the deadline of July 15. On the surface, it seemed I had ample time, as the institute limits the length of our dissertations to 15,000 words and there is no oral defence to prepare. But I chose to write in French and had learned from earlier seminar papers that I require two or three times as long to write anything well in French. As it was, I progressed slowly but with little drama. My supervisor, Prof. Christophe Gironde, was generous enough to accept a full draft from me and provide detailed comments – many of my colleagues were not so fortunate.

He also pish-poshed the word limit and let me submit 18,500 words or so. This leniency on words was helpful, as I found it difficult to condense my three months of research in Vietnam into 15,000 words – big surprise. I do not know how the word limit affected the students who wrote their dissertations based on secondary research, but my field research provided such comprehensive exposure to my topic that even ruthless, concise writing was insufficient to condense it all to 15,000 words, meaning I would have had to cut out core sections. For example, the subsection on the empirical papers related to mine finished at 440 words, a length that required some scorched earth writing given the substantial content in each of these papers. With the extra words, I was able to keep all of the core sections.

As for the experience, I enjoyed the in-depth research and long-form writing over six months. It seemed to be the perfect depth and length for me: enough to have a comprehensive understanding of the problem and identify key themes, all without becoming lost in the tangle of minutiae. I also enjoyed illustrating the text in the document with different media – photos, tables, graphics, etc. – as it provided variety in the telling and I think made it accessible to different kinds of readers. I could be happy at a job in which I wrote dissertation after dissertation!

Later in the summer I received a high mark for my dissertation, which increased my satisfaction with the experience. But it was also anti-climactic: after the involved process of researching and writing my dissertation over six months, it took me five minutes to read my mark and the readers’ comments and then realise that my master’s degree was complete!

Here is a copy of the final copy of my dissertation, entitled “Situation et perspectives du petit hévéaculteur dans la filière du caoutchouc de Binh Phuoc, Viet Nam.” It is in French, so even those few of you who actually wanted to read it are probably out of luck. But there are enough photos and graphics to read it as a picture book and catch the main points.

To celebrate, Eileen bought us tickets to see Paul Simon at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 14th. This was an amusing “surprise,” as Eileen bought the tickets way back in March or April, intending to lead me onto the train without knowing where we were going. But just a few hours after buying the tickets, she was too excited to contain herself and told me by email or Skype when I was in Vietnam. So the concert was a surprise that I had known about almost as long as Eileen had! Our friend Ben and Belinda joined us on the post-work train rush to Montreux.

The concert exceeded my expectations. I was a bit apprehensive, as the day before we watched a YouTube clip of Mr. Simon playing in Paris in 2008 and he looked old and tired. But perhaps that was just the poor quality of the video, as in concert he was full of energy and sounded great. Even though he is approaching 70 years of age, his voice seemed to have lost little of its quality. And he played with a big band of talented musicians, which made for a full, rich sound.

The concert was in a hall and most of it was devoted to standing room places. While I had a clear view over heads to the stage for the most part, Eileen’s view of the concert was limited to the big screen on the wall. It actually made for a very different experience, as the camera crew focussed mainly on Paul Simon and seemed addicted to fading one angle of him into another so that for the majority of the time, there were two Paul Simons on the screen. I still think Eileen enjoyed the concert, but she missed some of the interaction among the band members.

For some reason I could not find an English review of the concert. Here is one in French, with a good photo of Mr. Simon. He played to the taste of the mostly yuppie crowd, devoting 90% of the card to his hits. “The Obvious Child” is always one of my favourites and they also played a big version of “You Can Call Me Al.” Altogether a great concert and a satisfying way to conclude my master’s experience. Thanks Eileen!

On the following day, July 15th, we flew out of Geneva, beginning a busy summer of travelling for me. The pre-deadline stress fell away almost instantly, leaving a satisfied feeling that has lasted through the summer, as this photos, shot last weekend in the Alps, confirms.


Written by Kris Terauds

September 7, 2011 at 21:25

2 Responses

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  1. Great story. Getting final acceptance on a degree can be anticlimactic. I looked at the manuscript ….pictures anyways. You didn’t put any images from the condom factory. When is the english digest version coming???

    Stafford Reid

    September 8, 2011 at 04:02

  2. You describe the Alps as beautiful and I wish I could see them but, there’s a planet called a head in the way!!


    September 9, 2011 at 06:56

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