Graduation Assignment in the Netherlands, What Is It and How to Survive It?

IK BEN AFGESTUDEERD (I have graduated)! Oh the sweet, sweet 3 words I have been longing to shout out during these past months... After being as busy as popcorn on a skillet for 1 semester, I have just passed my graduation thesis and defense (wohoo)! With euphoria that is still running in my veins, I will be sharing the tips&trick to survive the last phase of your study year in this post.

Posted by Angel Tania at Jun 19, 2017 07:47 PM
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For those of you who are not familiar with the term, Graduation Assignment (GA) or thesis project is one of the requirements to graduate in most of the universities in Holland. Mind you, I am writing this from a hogeschool (university of applied science) graduate point of view. Other university students might face a slightly different circumstance but can still benefit one or two things from this post.

Let me start with a brief description about my GA. Hogeschool normally requires the student to do their GA in a company, since it is a more practical form of university. I did my GA in TNT Express, one of the biggest delivery service companies in the Netherlands. You might wonder what did I do there? An internship?

No, a GA is more than just an internship. I was asked to advise the company on an issue they were having, and to write it down in a form of research report. I didn't do any regular work except interviewed, observed and wrote down my research findings. Some people might need to work a little bit, but it shouldn't disturb the time needed for the research. That's the difference between internship and GA. The end result of it? 121 pages of a research report for my school, and an awesome solution to solve the company's problem. I did it, I killed 2 birds with 1 stone.

TNT Graduation Thesis

I'm not gonna lie, the process was such a roller coaster ride; gruesome at some point, and awesome at some other time. If I were to borrow Churchill's expression during his speech in the first year of World War II to describe the research process, then it would be: full of blood, sweat, and tears (of happiness). Well, I might have exaggerated it a wee bit, but you get the point.

At the end, my graduation assignment turned out to be such a great learning experience to perfectly end my study program, and it came down to these several points I am able to share with you to ease your research process:

1. Have the persistence and curiosity of a journalist.

I was blessed with a quite complicated research topic in my GA, and one of the things that helped me a lot in analyzing the issue was by asking a lot of questions. The Russian language has a very interesting word for it: "pochemuchka", a person who asks a lot of questions. And boy, was I being such a Pochemuchka! I did more than 40 interviews (and observation) just to understand the real problem. I was not afraid of driving people up the wall because I explained to them that my questions will bring them benefit anyway. I was curious, I explored all things that could possibly be related to the problem. If it turns out to be irrelevant, I scratched it out. If it turns out to contribute to the problem, I include it. After all, you are new to the organization, and the best thing you can do to start off is by asking questions.

2. Don't be afraid to be perceived as dumb.

Yes, you are expected to be knowledgeable and capable of providing astonishing solutions for the company. Yet, it shouldn't hinder you from asking simple questions about how things work, and to ask for some information. If you don't know yet, admit it. Otherwise, other people won't be able to help you. Remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question. When you don't know about something, don't feel embarrassed to admit it. It doesn't mean that you're silly, it just means that you need to find out more.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

I said that 3 times, didn't I? Yes, simply because I'd like to emphasize the importance of it. Facing a confusing situation is completely normal in your research process, or in my case, it was a writer's block case. I had no clue about what to put in my blank pages, or what to do next. The solution? It is to regularly update your company coach AND your academic tutor from school about what you've done so far, and why are you having such confusion right now. Consult it also with your peers who might be having the same problem. I did that, and it helped me big time!

Another sweet benefit you can reap from communicating regularly is to satisfy the requirement from school and company. When you are doing the research in the office, the problem might suck you in like a quicksand. You have to always remember that it is also one of your objectives to graduate, and that means fulfilling the school's requirements. Through constant communication with your academic tutor and company coach, you will be able to get everybody in the same wavelength and it will ease your research process!

4. Get organized!

I am eternally grateful that my academic tutor and company coach are very organized and prioritize schedule & planning over everything. Most students often perceive planning lightly, and that is a wrong start. The "planning" section in your research proposal actually plays a big role. List down the activities you need to do, and make short-term targets. In my case, I set my own personal deadline 1 week earlier than that of the original schedule from school. That way, you will get more time to revise. If the situation and circumstance allow, arrange a weekly review with your company coach. It will keep you on track and it shows that you are a pro-active person with initiative.

5. Theoretical framework.

Now, this is the tricky part. Being a hogeschool student, I was not familiar with extracting the relevant theories and putting it in my report in a perfectly academic way. During the process, I figured out that by having the right supporting framework and relevant theories from the very beginning is like having a solid foundation for your entire research. I promise you, it will ease your entire process and give you some clues on what to do. Make sure you use the right theory that can help you find the solution, and communicate it with your teacher! One of the tools that might help you on this one is a website called iris.ai. It is an artificial intelligence system that can help you find credible journals for your research.

6. Language & Grammar.

This aspect shouldn't be neglected. After all, your report should be presented in a professional way. Submitting an original work is also essential since you should never ever plagiarize. Having said that, writing citation might be irritating. Fear not, since you can use citethisforme.com to help you generate an automated citation in a handy way. Regarding the grammar, grammarly.com can help you with that, it feels like having a personal editor!

All in all, even though you might feel helpless during the process, you will be reaping huge benefit afterward. Not only academically, but also professionally. Some of my soft-skills were also significantly improved during the process! It is challenging indeed, but also a great learning experience.

P.S.

Do you know that the Dutch people have a unique tradition about graduation? When a child has graduated from school, his/her backpack will be hanged in front of their house along with a banner saying "ik ben afgestudeerd". Funny, isn't it?

I hope this post can enlight you with useful tricks in surviving your GA. I want to hear your research story as well! If you would like to know more about it, leave me a comment and I will write a more detailed review in my next post!

Remember, people; this too shall pass!

Posted by Angel Tania at Jun 19, 2017 07:47 PM
Category: ,
Susi says:
Jun 22, 2017 07:36 AM
Hi dear...read your story above, such a gratefulness moment of you, I felt it. It will be a good guidance for Ravly, so he can get ready when the time is come.
Once again, Congratulation and Wishing u success in your future career. Keep writing because you will share your experience to others.

Sharing is Caring. Take care and GBU
Angel Tania says:
Jun 27, 2017 01:04 AM
Thank you so much for the lovely wish, Tante Susi! It is my pleasure to share... GBU too
Farzaneh Hamidi says:
Jul 01, 2017 11:21 AM
thank you for sharing your experience.. you know we read a lot about how amazing is to live and study in such countries but no one really explains how it goes.. thanks for saying it with such details:)
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