Looking Back on a Convocation, Looking Ahead to the Future
November 10, 2016
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“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Just like that, my graduate program has drawn to a close. It only seems like yesterday when I sat through the introductory orientation for new teaching assistants, and in the blink of an eye, two years have blazed by, culminating in my walking across the stage to shake hands with the president and chancellor of the university after sitting through speeches about the route we took to arrive at this point. With this in mind, my past two years as a Master’s student was an exhilarating experience, and equipped with a rejuvenated vigour for learning, I finally feel ready to begin taking on the challenges that is real life. Looking back, the Master’s degree was much more valuable for the experiences that resulted, rather than any technical or practical benefits that further education confers — I thoroughly enjoyed fulfilling the role of a mentor to undergraduate students both as a teaching assistant and as a senior member of the research lab I worked in. Similarly, being in graduate school gave me the opportunity to travel; this is something I’ve longed to do since I finished my undergraduate degree, and several accepted conference publications allowed me to fly out to both France and Mexico. These are just two of many memories from the past two years, and convocation seems to mark a definitive milestone: from here on out, I’ll be a full-fledged member of society.
- For fun, here are some numbers from my graduate school days:
- Total size of files, not including Unity and Unreal installations and associated projects: 5.93 GB
- Size of Unity virtual reality project: 627 MB
- Size of Unreal cell simulation project: 2.07 GB
- Number of days spent working on thesis paper: 210 days
- Number of words in my thesis: 35982
- Number of papers cited: 96
- Number of papers read: 293
- Number of scholarships applied for: 15
- Papers published: 3
- Total amount of university money spent travelling to conferences: ~6000 CAD
- Number of unique poutine types eaten over course of degree: 14
- Number of (subtle) attempts by supervisor to get me to apply for a PhD program: 4
- It’s over at last, I tell myself, and what an epic journey it’s been. I’ve thanked my family, friends and supervisor for having helped me get this far in my thesis acknowledgements for putting up with my ceaseless bouncing ideas off them or complaining about compiler errors and insane deadlines during the course of my program. With that being said, it was quite awkward to thank my blog’s readers for also supporting me in the thesis (i.e. “the Faculty of Graduate studies rejected my first submission for doing that”), so I’ll express my appreciation in the appropriate spot that is this blog: thanks for putting up with anime reviews that have been interspersed with random remarks about what I was doing in my program at the time, and continuing to provide excellent discussion anyways!
Under the lights of the convocation venue, I vividly recalled walking across the same stage three-and-a-half years previously. Three years hence, I’ve got a better inkling of what my future entails, but much of it still remains a mystery. While I’ve no idea what will happen over the next five years (or next year, for that matter), I do know that I’m more ready now to address things appropriately as they happen, and that I wish most to explore avenues that were hitherto unexplored. The most important lessons learned from a formal education lie not in technical knowledge or memorised facts, it’s the mindset to continue learning and adapting. So, even in the face of an unimaginably complex world, I resolve to continue learning and draw upon experiences in order to contribute to society in my own manner. I’ve been working for a small company over the past few months, since I finished my thesis defense, and it’s an exciting business, to build software and ideas that are intended to do things differently. I imagine that readers might wonder, now that I’m done being schooled, what might happen to this blog? Rest assured, I’m not going anywhere. Writing is one of the two things I do for catharsis (the other is physical activity, like lifting weights and hiking): simply, I’m going to keep writing so as long as it’s helping me find relaxation.