The Acknowledgments page is one of first pages in my thesis document. I looked at several other theses and practicums to see what other students wrote in the past. Though this section is not academic at all, I feel that this one of the most important pages in the entire document. I tried to squeeze all of the people who helped me in the past two years. I also apologized to my friends for when I had to turn down fun events to work on my thesis during the late hours of the day or on the weekend. Nevertheless, I think one of the most important lines is the first sentence on that page.
"The past two years have been filled with laughs, adventures, and a newfound love for Northern Arizona; I firmly believe that moving across the country to pursue my Master’s Degree in Applied Geospatial Sciences was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. "
Stepping back and looking at my accomplishments over the past two years blows me away. I remember when I applied to three graduate programs and feared that I wouldn't get accepted to a single one. However, I was accepted to all three, which made choosing rather difficult. I was very interested in the Planning, Recreation, and Sustainability courses that were included at the program at Northern Arizona University. Also, I was dying to go out West ever since I took Physical Geography my sophomore year in college. Deciding to move across country was exhilarating and also nerve-racking. I was leaving behind everything that I knew, and I was okay with that. Though "home" in Georgia isn't a bad place, I was ready to meet new people and see new things.
It's funny how people back home always complain how much they hate it, but they never leave. Why don't they leave? What's holding them back?
I was very happy to leave the small-mindedness of Georgia. I miss seeing the Appalachian mountains. I miss the biscuits and gravy. I miss the sweet tea that could give you type-II diabetes. I don't miss the prime definition of suburbia. I don't miss the racism or sexism. I don't miss driving a car. I don't miss driving an hour to get on a hiking trail.
That brings me back to Northern Arizona and why I have no regrets on moving here. I didn't know how much I would fall in love with Northern Arizona when I moved out here. I didn't know how I was living in a very unsustainable area. The fact that Flagstaff has their own urban trail system and bus lines blows my mind. People respect cyclists, and there are many miles of bike lanes! You can walk to places. You have opportunities to recycle. People use parks and open spaces for pleasure. People respect nature and their peers. People don't care what your wearing, if you have facial piercings or tattoos, or when the last time you shaved was. Being in a judgement-free zone is just so relaxing!
As you can see, one could get very sidetracked when trying to study but also take advantage for what Northern Arizona has to offer. For the first year, I tried to squeeze in as many hikes as I could. Mostly because I didn't know how long I would be here. Finding a job in my field in a small town can be difficult. However, I tried to keep a positive attitude that I would stay here after graduation, and to focus on my studies so I would graduate on time.
I switched my thesis topics three times. I changed advisors twice. It was difficult to pick a topic. After my internship with the City of Flagstaff, I decided to take the "easy route" and use the data that I collected for my thesis. What I enjoyed most about this thesis was that it was actually going to be used. I was doing a meaningful project that someone could look back on. Now that I'm finished with my degree, I would like to publish part of my thesis. :)
The last semester of my grad program was the most intense. Mostly because I had to write my document. I stayed at the office late. I had to make Subway runs when my Clif bars didn't fill me up. My thesis was practically fueled by Dutch Bro's Iced Cocomo and Starbuck's Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato. I read my document too many times to count. I asked my friends and committee to proofread it for me. Writing this thesis was probably the most difficult task I've ever done in my academic career. The project itself wasn't that hard-- it was like a large lab report. However, I wanted to make sure I had all the literature to back up my project. I wanted to make sure that I had a clear reason why I was doing this project and how/why I used the steps that I did. I tried to eliminate passive voice. I tried to talk in third person. I tried not to quote and to paraphrase to the best of my ability. I know I'm not the best academic writer, so that also made me very paranoid.
I took hours making my maps and formatting my document so it was perfect. I triple checked all of my references, to make sure that they were all included. I sent my document out to my committee, expecting the worse.
And then there was the oral defense. You talk about your project for thirty minutes and answer questions. I, once again, was expecting the worse. What if I couldn't answer a question? I'm suppose to be an expert on this topic since I did hours and hours of research on the literature. Once again, I over reacted, and I just had a few minor changes.
After the few changes, I submitted my document to the graduate college. It was accepted, which means I passed. I have a Master's degree. I have a Master's of Science in Applied Geospatial Sciences with an emphasis in Planning and Recreation. It took a lot of hard work, but I'm glad I completed it.
And what does that mean for me now? What type of advantages do I now have with my new degree? Higher paycheck with government agencies? Qualified for work at colleges and universities? Research opportunities? -- The list can go on and on.
Honestly, I did my Master's to buy myself time. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and I really wanted to try something new in my life. I would have never moved out to Northern Arizona if I didn't apply for grad school. If grad school wasn't on my mind, I would probably be working in the Atlanta area.
However, things worked out for me. I finished my degree, I've been working for different agencies, and I see myself with a future in Northern Arizona. I think the universe wanted me here.
This brings me back to the first line in my Acknowledgements page. Moving across the country to pursue my Master's was the best thing I have ever done. I got out of Georgia for myself. I needed to be around like-minded people. I needed be more involved with my community. I wanted to around more nature.
I now have my Master's degree, and I'm patiently waiting for my bound copy of my thesis to arrive on my door step. I am proud of my accomplishments. I worked hard for myself. And now, I wish to use my degree to give back to the community--whether it be through the City of Flagstaff, USGS, or Northern Arizona University.