The Scamp Finishes a Project

Today I finished the corrections for my PhD. I’ve spent the last 6 months in agony since the disastrous viva. I avoided the corrections for about a month and half, and then the pressures of a fulltime job got the better of me and I lost the motivation to work on it. When I went to California for Christmas, I spent three weeks writing like mad and managed to get quite a bit of the rewrite done. I was feeling pretty good about myself. That slowed and then halted when I  came back to Scotland, partly because I was back to work, and partly because I came back to Scotland feeling like I hadn’t actually had a vacation.

I’ve spent the last month fighting a battle between work, fatigue and these stupid chapters. The last couple of weeks has been me staying up late, ignoring my work commitments and completely isolating myself to get it done.

But I am finally done. I think this is a better piece of work. It was the thesis that I wanted to write 5 years ago. It is something that I am proud to have my name on.  I will submit tomorrow and hope and pray that the examiners have a heart and accept the corrections. I literally have no way of knowing if they will. If they don’t, I am not sure what I will do. At the moment though, I am way too tired to think about it. I’m also behind in my work. I was meant to be taking some days off starting tomorrow, but I think I am going to have to cancel the time off so that I can attempt to catch up. To be honest, I can’t travel, so I would be working on the marking and all the work that has piled up, so I might as well get paid for it.

The annual leave can wait until I can sit on the beach again.

Here are the dedication, acknowledgment and the abstract in case anyone is curious about what the work is all about and the people that really helped me through.

This thesis is dedicated to all the graduate students who lost their lives, in part, or as a consequence of pursuing a PhD.

You deserved the opportunity to write your own thesis.

May you always be remembered as part of mine

 

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This thesis has been a labour of love (and sometimes loathing), and there are several people that deserve much more than a few lines at the start of this work.

Thanks to:

  • Tansy Jessop for having lunch with me at the 2015 Assessment and Higher Education conference and making sure that my TESTA journey was a successful one.

 

  • David Carless for helping me refine the recommendations and pointing me in the direction of a strong definition of feedback.

 

  • David Nicol for saying to me, ‘You should be critiquing my model! It worked in the time it was written, but it is time for something new’. You will never know how much that bolstered my self-confidence.

 

  • Joan McLatchie, Velda McCune and Mark Huxham – thanks for taking a chance on a cat loving Californian.

 

  • The Llama Ladies- You are the best friends a girl could ask for.

 

  • Errol Rivera- You talked me off many a ledge and helped me outline many a draft chapter. I’m forever grateful.

 

  • Joe Ameen- A million thanks for the chats and life advice.

 

  • Dr Ana Georgieva- You kept me sane and reminded me to be kind to myself.

 

  • Martha Caddell- You are the best mentor a girl could ever want. I hope I’m half as great as you one day.

 

  • Anne Tierney-Because everything’s better with puppets!

 

  • Kelsey Austin- My travel buddy, my heterolifemate, my unwavering support. I love you and our many adventures.

 

  • Declan- you know why.

 

  • Mondo, Brandon, Jackson, and Matt- I love you.

 

  • Wombmate-You gave me nephews, you listened to me cry and you never let me forget that I am better than my anxiety.

 

  • My parents, Rick and Michelle- I’ll never be able to pay back what you’ve given me. Thank you for never squashing my wanderlust and for all the support. I love you to the moon and back.

 

ABSTRACT

 

In designing sustainable feedback practices, it is crucial to consider the kinds of learning that higher education is intended to cultivate. This research study investigates how a programme-focused approach to curriculum design affected a students’ feedback literacy. This research stems from the growing focus on feedback literacy and what that implies for student engagement with feedback as a learning tool (Carless & Boud, 2018; Molloy et al, 2019; Han & Xu, 2019). While the current research focuses on feedback literacy at the student or individual module level, this study investigates what features of a programme can help, or hinder, a student’s feedback literacy journey. In this context, feedback literacy will be defined according to Carless and Boud (2018, p.1316) as:

 

the understandings, capacities and dispositions needed to make sense of information and use it to enhance work or learning strategies.

 

Based on a review of the literature on feedback and feedback literacy, a survey was distributed to students across five programmes at Edinburgh Napier University. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the programme leaders as well as module leaders, and follow-up focus groups were conducted with the students who participated in the survey. Analysis of the findings found that there were five programme characteristics that factored into a student’s engagement with feedback literacy. They are:

 

  1. Staff attitudes to feedback
  2. Whether there is a programme-focused approach
  3. Students’ role in feedback
  4. Whether there is a sustained approach to feedback
  5. Institutional acceptance of the challenges of developing a sustained approach to feedback

 

 

On this basis, it is recommended that not only do programmes consider a programme-focused approach to assessment and feedback, but that in order to help further the development of the students’ feedback literacy, staff must first be feedback literate themselves. Further research is needed to identify whether a shift in programme structure has an overall impact on student engagement with feedback and leads to the development of a stronger feedback literacy.

The Scamp Gets Mad at a Virus

Today I was supposed to be packing my bags and getting ready for a week-long work trip to China. I’ve never been to Asia, and while it wasn’t a place I was dying to go, I was looking forward to exploring a completely different culture and spending the week working in a new place.

Today I rushed around the office preparing for a possible shut down amid the growing fear of Covid19. Needless to say, I am not going to China. Truthfully, I am glad I don’t have to go. The trip has been rescheduled, and I will happily go when it is safe to do so, but right now, I am so overwhelmed trying to get the PhD finished that I am not sure how I would be able to focus on anything else. My corrections are due in less than a week and my supervisors have gone missing. I do not have a complete draft as of now, and would not pass the corrections if I turned in what I have.

I’m panicked.

It also turns out I may have been exposed to the stupid Covid19. For most of the last couple of months, while the world has been monitoring the situation, Scotland has remained largely unaffected. I was concerned, but no more so than about catching the flu or other illness due to my immunocompromised state. Now that it has made it Scotland, and potentially to the university that I work for, there is a chance that those stupid germs could make it into my breathing space. At the moment I am okay. I’m tired, feel achy, but that it is just as much from the stress and the not sleeping. I don’t have a fever, cough, and at my last blood test, my white cell count was okay.

But given my luck, I will get sick and it will further derail my PhD completion. It has already been delayed for almost two years. I am not going to be happy if it is delayed further.

The bright spot today was my colleagues.  Everyone knows how stressed I am, and people offered to help me with my work all day. I talked to our media team about some image captioning, and even though one of the members did not think it was necessary, he offered to put aside his work to help me finish mine. Another colleague brought me an emergency cookie and offered a hug and some moral support. She is currently working the job of two people, but again, was willing to put her work aside to spend a few minutes letting me cry on her shoulder. The people that I share my office with have been the best support so far. They let me have a whinge about the work, they answer my questions, take breaks to chat about nonsense, and have made sure that I do not get too overwhelmed with everything that is currently on my plate.

It is times like this that I am reminded why I like my job (well beyond the obvious that they sponsor my visa and make it possible for me to live in Scotland).

Hopefully, the stupid plague leaves me alone. Hopefully, it leaves a lot of people alone. Hopefully, I finish my corrections so that I can finally get the PhD. Hopefully, the travel ban is lifted so I can still go on the holiday to Spain that I booked months ago so I could decompress from the PhD madness. I need that beach time. I mean, I really need it. I am literally white enough to be seen from space. This is not good for my self-esteem.

The Scamp Observes Some Teaching

One of the things I love most about my job is that every semester I get to do teaching observations.

I’m not always a fan of the observing part, but I am a fan of the chance to see all the different types of classes that are taking place on campus.

Today was a new one. Today the lecture I attended was in a church.

That’s right…..a church. The pews served as desks, a massive projector was set up in front of where the services are led (unfortunately I do not know the proper name…pulpit?) and a very nice man from the church was on hand to make sure that the mics worked and the students could hear the lecturer.

It was by far the oddest observation I have ever been to. It felt wrong to be sitting in a church learning about something that had nothing to do with religion, but since I am assuming the university pays the church and given that the person that I was observing does most of their teaching at the church.

I have to say, the novelty of going to a lecture in a church meant that I could ignore the fact that the lecture that I was observing was so over my head that it might as well been taught in Klingon.

I’m using this as a distraction to the fact that I have 1 month left to complete a rewrite of a thesis. I still have one chapter that needs to be written and still have lingering doubts that I am going to complete it on time, or that what I have is good enough for them to sign off on.

I am still hating the uncertainty of this nightmare PhD.

The Scamp Answers a Question

I’m still on the quest to write for fun at least two days a week. Fun is hard to come by right at the moment, so I am going to rely on an old set of journal prompts to get me thinking about something other than work…..except when I opened the document for the question that went with today’s date, that question was:

Tell me something weird about your day.

The thing is, there was nothing really weird about the day. Not a thing. If this question had come yesterday I could have discussed the fact that this crazy storm we are in the middle of has the weather all messed up. Yesterday was thunder, lightning and snow.

Yes, snow. I didn’t know it was possible to have a thunder/snowstorm. The thunder shook the whole building. It was just part of a day of weird weather. I was doing a teaching observation in the middle of the day. When I left my office there was a light flurry of snow, but nothing terrible. I sat facing the windows so I could see the lecturer and the students during the session….and that was a mistake. By the time the lecture started, there was a full-on blizzard. I’ve never seen it snow so hard in person. At one point between the wind and the snow, it sounds like the windows were being pelted by rocks. Not to mention that you could not see two feet in front of you. I was so distracted by the snow at one point that because of the lecturer’s accent, I thought he said murders and acquisitions rather than mergers and acquisitions.

I’m not going to lie, a class on murders and acquisitions might not be a bad idea.

I was able to sneak off a little early and make it home without any disruption to the trains, or anything more than just icy streets in Edinburgh, but compared to that, today was ordinary.

I need ordinary though. Ordinary is what is going to get me through the next month and hopefully allow me to finish the thesis and maybe, just maybe, pass and be done with a pretty shit experience.

The Scamp Needs Reassurance

I’ve already failed at the 20 things I want to do in 2020. I only managed one post last week instead of two. This puts me in a bad mood. I can’t keep to a simple plan.

Same with the diet right now. I’m terrified of what will happen if I step on a scale right now. I’m frustrated that I cannot resist falling into old bad habits.

I am feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders.

My PhD edits are due in a little over a month. At the moment I only have two chapters that are done. I spent three weeks in California and was able to write four chapters. I have feedback on two waiting for my attention. I have one chapter that needs to be written.

I am running out of time.

Last week I had a meeting with my supervisor about the feedback on my chapters. The feedback was good. It is constructive, it is detailed. It will hopefully get me on track to pass. When I told my supervisor that I was worried that I would not pass the corrections, instead of telling me that I would be okay and that I would pass, she told me that she cannot guarantee that I will pass. She did not want to give me any false promises and it was out of our hands. During the same conversation, she said if I pass the corrections then she has carried me through the PhD and deserves to be the one who hoods me at graduation.

Now, I want to qualify this. While I do feel a little undervalued and very much abandoned by my supervisors, I do love Joan. She has carried me through the process because I have given up. I spent four years being mucked about and because of that I almost failed. They told me the whole time they were not worried about me during the viva and no one expected me to have to rewrite the thesis. She is the only one who is helping me the corrections, the only one who was there on viva day and is really the only one who stood up for me during the process. I want her to be the one to give me my hood. I also know that she doesn’t want to lie to me, especially given what I went through in the viva, so I do appreciate that she is being honest with me.

But let me tell you how my brain works.

It does not work with a lack of reassurance that I will be successful if I make the corrections. It then immediately fixates on the fact that if I mess this up I don’t get the PhD. If I don’t have the PhD, then I am no longer eligible for my job. If I lose the job, I lose the visa. If I lose the visa, I get deported. If I go back to California, I will have no job, massive student loans and nowhere to live.

Then I have the constant barrage of questions about when I graduate when I’ll be done, why haven’t I finished. Not to mention the recrimination of not answering emails fast enough, not responding to things I cannot emotionally handle, and for not driving all over the state of California at Christmas to see people who really haven’t made that much effort to be my friend and support me.

I’ve just about had it. I cannot work without a little reassurance, without a little support, and right now, I am not getting it. I’m not exactly making it easy for people, but I do not want to have to do so much work to be supported. I also don’t want to hear everything is going to be okay, or that I am smart enough or that I know what I need to do. I need a hug. I need someone to take my debit card away so I can’t buy crap food to eat. I need someone to text me just to say hi how are you.

I need people to stop comparing their suffering to mine. I know that eventually, I will be okay and that there are a lot of people who are struggling a lot more than I am with a lot more difficult issues. Logically I know this. But I am tired and my brain does not work logically right now. I will be so happy when this PhD process is over and I can move on.

I saw a tweet the other day about whether or not a PhD was worth it. The woman who write felt like it wasn’t. Now that I have almost completed 2, I am starting to wonder if what she thinks is true.

I felt like I needed to put this out in the world so that I might be able to find the motivation to keep going.

But the next post. That one is going to be writing for fun….if I can remember what fun is.

The Scamp’s 20 things for 2020

Last year I only published four posts. Four. In 365 days I only managed to write for fun (well okay, not fun, mostly for therapy) four times. Almost a month into 2020 and I am not really feeling the fun writing either. I am 10 posts away from 500 and have had the Scamp adventures as my constant companion for almost ten years. Sometimes I wonder if I have run out of things to say.

Sometimes I wonder if the PhD killed my love of writing. Today I had a fight with FedEx. That fight and the frustration that comes from a week-long back and forth battle with them led me to lash out at the people around me and picking fights with people for absolutely no reason. One of those people has been a toxic existence in my life for the last four years. The thing is, I wanted to get rid of him a long time ago but I wasn’t strong enough. It is not easy to get rid of a manipulative sociopath when you are already beaten down emotionally by life.

The edits for my thesis are due in one month. I’m not done. I’m getting there, but not close enough to keep me from stressing. The final draft is due to the examiners by the 13th of March, and I have that marked on my calendar as the day my life begins. It is has been five years that I have been chained to the PhD, three of those in less than ideal circumstances, and two of those feeling utterly worthless and broken by the system. But on the 13th of March, I get to start living again.

I’m supposed to be on a flight to China that day, but with the given health warning, I am not sure that is going to happen. Regardless, I get to live again.

So, because I have not done things outside the PhD in way too long, I have decided to bring back one of my favourite things: making a list of things that I would like to do in during the year.  I did this before my 30th birthday and it was a lot of fun. It also gave me great pleasure to do the things on the list and cross them off. I love do love crossing things off a list.

In no particular order:

  1. Visit 3 new countries
  2. Present at an academic conference
  3. Solo author a paper
  4. Lose the 20lbs I gained in the last year due to bad choices and stress
  5. Do yoga at least twice a week
  6. Write at least one new post a week that has nothing to do with work
  7. Make a dent in my student loan
  8. Finally get my UK driving license
  9. Participate in No Screen Sunday and stay off my phone and all social media on Sundays (starting today because I have not done it at all this month)
  10. Keep the toxic people from returning to my bubble
  11. Ride in a hot air balloon
  12. Go camping
  13. Celebrate passing my viva
  14. Improve my Spanish proficiency
  15. Meal prep to help balance my diet (and to help with number 4)
  16. Get on an academic committee
  17. Officially change my name on all my documents without crying
  18. Go a full 48 hours without being negative
  19. Don’t cancel plans with friends once I’ve made them (especially not the day of)
  20. Finally get my artwork from California to Scotland (although not through FedEx)

I’m hoping that by writing the list down I can stay accountable and actually complete these things. I also hope that it means that I will be a lot happier in 2020 than I was in 2019.

The Scamp Reframes the Narrative

I’m struggling with my thesis edits. I’m struggling not just because I have to rewrite the entire thing in six months when the first draft took three years to complete, but because of what happened to me in those three years, what I had to endure there and then in the viva that have made it really hard for me to sit down and rewrite  my work in a way that is satisfactory to the people that control whether or not I get my degree.

This week the University and College Union called a strike at universities across Scotland over the rising cost of pensions and other pay and working conditions (this is the very simplified bare-bones way to explain it. You can find a more detailed explanation here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/). UCU issued a news update this week that I think really explains it well:

Guardian editorial said the marketisation of universities had seen a new breed of vice-chancellors emerge aping the language and salaries of a business CEO complete with an entourage of financial managers and marketing gurus. However staff had been left behind as their pay fell and an intellectual precariat was stumbling from year to year on temporary contracts wondering where the next teaching gig was coming from. While the Financial Times said that the industrial action carried wider significance than the fate of a disputed retirement plan, and had exposed the precariousness of Britain’s higher education system as it has become more of a marketplace.

So what does the strike and the fight for better pay, suitable contracts and fair working conditions?

Everything. See I am on one of those temporary contracts. I am paying a lot into my pension that could be helpful in paying my student loans. Full disclosure, I am not a member of the union so I am not allowed to strike even if I wanted to. But that is neither here nor there.  What I want to focus on is the last sentence in the paragraph from UCU. The working conditions of the UK’s higher education system.

See the thing is, it is not just the staff who are suffering. PhD students are also suffering. The expectation, the pay, and the complete disregard for the mental health and wellbeing of the students undertaking the role. These were battles that I had to face almost daily for four years and when I spoke up to the people that were in a position to help me, they either laughed in my face or told me not to worry. No one took me seriously. No one even acknowledged the possibility that my worries now may become actual problems in the future. At one point I was working on five different projects to scrape money together to pay my bills every month. I burned out twice. I cried every Friday with a therapist.

I made it all the way to a viva only to be told what I had done wasn’t even half good enough. I was failed by a lot of people, mainly my supervisors, and I could get in a lot of trouble for even putting that in writing. Yes, it is true that I could email my supervisors and ask for help. The thing is, I don’t even know what to ask for. The only one who would even respond would tell me that I know what I need to do and I just need to do it….and I really wish that was true. I have no idea what I need to do because I did what was expected of a PhD student, the examiners hated it, and now I am trying to do something that leaves out a lot of important information…..oh yeah, and I need to not mention the methodology that I used to collect the data because the examiners hated it.

It really hurts when people call me Dr Wilder….one because technically I am not, but two, because it is a slap in the face to be seen as an expert when I was told behind closed doors I wasn’t good enough, even though half the choices made were not made by me.

But dealing with that reality is not getting me anywhere. That attitude led me to not working on my thesis, making poor dietary choices, weight gain, ridiculous anxiety and my current (and starting to feel like permanent) grumpy state. So I am trying to refrain that narrative. But it’s hard. I want to go on strike and refuse to work under these conditions. I want to fight the people that put me in this position in the first place.

I want to not be afraid that I could lose my job because I cannot meet the needs of a system that does not care if I pass or fail as long as they get paid….and since they already got paid, there really is no reason to help me.

I am not really sure why I dumped all of this on my blog about being an expat. It isn’t fun. It isn’t happy. It isn’t even insightful. But I guess it makes me feel better to know that I am not incapable of writing. This is the most writing I have done at one time in months, and maybe, just maybe if I can go on strike against the conditions that I was forced to work in before and see this as an opportunity to really get a PhD with my work saying what I want to say and start helping university’s help their students with assessment and feedback. I think I am good at what I do. I think that once I put this nonsense behind me that I can continue with my work in an environment that supports me, encourages me, and is allowing me the chance to do things that I am good at and try to help people who want to enhance their assessment and feedback skills.

I am ten posts short of 500. I have no idea how I got to 500 posts, or what that special 500th post will look like, but I am excited that I am almost there. Maybe it is another sign from the universe that I can get the writing done and I can show the examiners that I earned the PhD that cost me a lot of blood, sweat, tears, friendships, and mental health.

Call Me Dr Scamp

That’s right. I am now a doctor. 4 years of blood, sweat and tears. 4 years of edits, research, interviews and data analysis. 4 years of projects, jobs, networking and conferences. 4 years of hard work. I’m not sure how I did it, but I survived the process and might just be a better person for it.

The viva was a gruelling process. I had gotten sick the week before and went through the viva with a fever and no voice. My examiners hated my thesis….and I am not exaggerating. They told me it reads like a jumbled, confused mess and it was hard to figure out what my original contribution to knowledge was. They did not understand the way I positioned my work in relation to the literature. They told me I have six months to rewrite it or they have the right to change their mind.

I am not ashamed to say that I cried in the middle of the viva. I was horribly ill and felt like crap, but I was also so upset that all of the things that the examiners hated about my thesis are the things I battled against with my supervisor….the same supervisor who was not in the room to hear that he had screwed up my work. The same supervisor who decided that I was not worth his time when I sent an email saying that I was upset that his lack of planning for the scheduling the viva could cost me my job. I was also very embarrassed. The examiners don’t know how badly I struggled. They don’t know how much of the thesis was dictated to me by said horrible supervisor. They only read the product of a less than stellar time….and the only name on the work is mine. I am the one who looks like I turned in horrible work. I am the one who now has to rewrite it in 6 months.

That’s not to say that the examiners were wrong though. That work is a jumbled mess that is a product of my experience. The feedback they gave me will make my thesis a better piece of work. It will also allow me the chance to discuss my work in the way that I want to. I have a better message and have really good things to say, and now I get to say them. My due date for resubmission is on my grammy’s birthday. I am taking that as a sign of good luck.

The only downside of this is that I still have a lot of work to do, more so now because I have a full-time job. I am having a hard time separating my bitterness about the last four years and the rewrite that I need to do. It has been more than a month and I have barely made any progress. That, in turn, is stressing me out….which is not helping the writing.

On the bright side, finishing the PhD means that I was able to book a ticket back to California for Christmas. I get to see my favourite people for a whole month. I am thinking that the change of environment and the time with my family will help me tackle the PhD as well. I have not seen my family in almost three years or been in California, so to say that I am excited about this is an understatement. I cannot wait to see how my parents have changed the cabin they now live in, I can’t wait to finally meet my nephew in person, and I cannot wait to sit around a table with my siblings while we play games, drink beer and tell each other to fuck off while we laugh so hard our sides hurt. I can’t wait to drive a car again.

I can’t wait for all the yummy Mexican food.

And mojo. Hopefully, I can find my mojo. I’m still looking for it.

The Scamp Took a Break

I have not opened this blog since May. I had writing fatigue and for the most part, felt like I had run out of things to say. This blog has been part of my academic life since I moved to Scotland. I used it to chronicle my life here and the novelty of living abroad. Tomorrow marks four years living here full-time, and I am not sure that living abroad is novel anymore.

Now it is just home. It is my new normal. It is exactly what I wanted for the last eight years….and I love every minute of it.

The thing is though, writing is no longer giving me the pleasure it once did. The PhD took so much out of me and made me feel like I wasn’t a good writer. I have a lot of papers and a book chapter to finish and I have zero motivation to sit down and do them. I stare at blank Word documents and can’t seem to figure out how to put my fingers on my keyboard. I’m not sure why. It is starting to stress me out though. Stress used to make me lose weight. Now stress makes me neglect my diet and gain weight in places that are unflattering (thanks 30s.). That in turn makes me feel bad about myself and then I tend to stay on the couch rather than go for a walk or do some yoga.

I recently took four days off and sat by a beach in Spain. I went there because I hadn’t had a holiday in a year. I went there because it is time to close the chapter on my academic life and my horrible time at Napier and figure out how to get back on track with my health and focus on my career. …I ended up meeting a group of Welsh men having a lads holiday and did nothing that remotely looked like helping myself make a plan for the future (but that is a story for another time, including the details of the Star Wars themed live sex show and hoverboards).

So now I am trying to find my mojo. I thought if I put a little bit on the page and cleared my mind a bit that maybe I would get back into the swing of writing everyday. I’m also still on the quest to get to 500 posts and am about 20 or so away, so I will need to think of some good things to share.

If anyone has seen my mojo, please send it to Edinburgh. It missed its curfew and it is time for it to come home.

The Scamp has Some Feelings

I have long neglected this blog. I didn’t mean to. In fact, I started this blog to be the exact opposite. It was my safe little corner of the world where I could work through being so far away from my family for the first time, and be able to share what it was like for this little Scamp to live abroad.

It then morphed into a way for me to process my grief and my reverse culture shock. From there it become my coping mechanism for the horrors that I went through with CSUF. It was a place to share my gratitude and voice my fears.

I am not sure what it will be now. I haven’t sat in this space for a long time. I was too emotionally drained to even try and write for fun. I was too much of a zombie to try and be witty and pithy and admit to the world that my life was reduced to writing, stressing about writing, and trying to get all the work done for all 47 jobs that I took on….or that I failed the UK driving exam for the second time.

Today I handed in my PhD. A month ago I started a full-time job. I commute almost two hours one way, work from 9-4ish and still sort of worry about money. Soon I will have viva prep and hopefully by October I will be a full fledged doctor. My travelling and adventures will now be limited to preset times during the year with prior approval from my boss (who I love and will give me the time off).

Today I ate two cupcakes.

Today I saw a photo of a woman I went to high school with at her sister’s graduation. Standing next to them was the woman that told me I was a cheat and a plagiarist and that if I didn’t apologise for being white I’d never be a good academic.

Today I text an ex who used me to cheat on his gf and (I’m pretty sure) is a complete sociopath. I knew that if I messaged him I could justify feeling crappy about myself and pretend that I was not upset by seeing a photo of the woman that all but broke me.

Today I should be happy about finally submitting my thesis….and I was. Then I spent a little too much time overthinking and creating a plot of misery. So, in order to not waste my first time back in this space by sharing the acknowledgement page from my thesis. It is but a small gesture to the people who refused to let me fail. There were a lot of people who did not make it to the list, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them or appreciate them. Here it is, exactly as it looks…complete with a thanks to my supervisors that I am still on the fence about. This means I can end this day with feelings of gratitude rather than feelings of self-loathing.

This thesis has been a labour of love (and sometimes loathing), and there are several people that deserve much more than a few lines at the start of this work. Thanks to:

• Tansy Jessop for having lunch with me at the 2015 Assessment and Higher Education conference and making sure that my TESTA journey was a successful one.

• David Carless for helping me refine the recommendations and pointing me in the direction of a strong definition of feedback. • David Nicol for saying to me, ‘You should be critiquing my model! It worked in the time it was written, but it is time for something new’. You will never know how much that bolstered my self-confidence.

• My supervisors, Joan McLatchie, Velda McCune, and Mark Huxham – thanks for taking a chance on a cat loving Californian. I know that I have tried your patience a few times, but we got there in the end.

• The Llama Ladies- You are the best friends a girl could ask for.

• Errol Rivera- You talked me off many a ledge and helped me outline many a draft chapter. I’m forever grateful.

• Joe Ameen- A million thanks for the chats and life advice.

• Dr Ana Georgieva- You kept me sane and reminded me to be kind to myself.

• Martha Caddell- You are the best mentor a girl could ever want. I hope I’m half as great as you one day.

• Anne Tierney-Because everything’s better with puppets!

• Kelsey Austin- My travel buddy, my heterolifemate, my unwavering support. I love you and our many adventures.

• Declan- you know why.

• Mondo, Brandon, Jackson, and Matt- I love you.

• Wombmate-You gave me nephews, you listened to me cry and you never let me forget that I am better than my anxiety.

• My parents, Rick and Michelle- I’ll never be able to pay back what you’ve given me. Thank you for never squashing my wanderlust and for all the support. I love you to the moon and back.