The main difference between writing a project report and reflective analysis was that there were loads of ideas, concepts and methods of doing the project, there were some direction by the professors regarding the design and layout of the project report. But there was no idea, concept or a method of writing the reflective analysis. The information provided was very vague or just beyond my understanding. The worst part was that no one (students) knew anything about it but they were pretending to be the masters. I asked many of my friends that how to prepare the reflective analysis but the common answers were; Just write the whole story, It is very simple just write your feelings about the project or it is just a self analysis. These answers were probably right but I knew that even before getting these obvious answers from my friends. I kept asking similar vague and unclear questions to my classmates and they kept giving me same answers. Then I realized that problem is not in their answers but it was with my questions. I had to ask more specific and to the point questions. Then I broke down the whole problem of writing the report into small parts, such as deciding the format of the report, key areas to cover and analysis of the raw information like experiences, thoughts, feelings and views. Then I decided to divide the report into three parts.
Situation Analysis: Before starting the project
Experience of doing the project
Self development and learning: After completion of the project
2. Situation Analysis: Before After completing the tiring and cumbersome: I felt the pressure and the stress of the AMP for the first time when I saw the message regarding the AMP on BREO. I was tensed about it right from the beginning of my course. I used to normally avoid every discussion regarding the project. I was never able to convince myself that I could do such a massive project. There were many rumors regarding the time available, tutor allocation, plagiarism and results of the seniors. Everyone was having a different and more dreadful version of the story. There were few self-created opinion leaders who seem to be working on the mission of threatening every student. After getting notice on the BREO and knowing about the AMP week dates, everyone was just talking about AMP. Even during the exam days, the group meetings held for preparing the projects were used for discussing about the AMP project.
The first day of the AMP orientation week was very useful, my fear and doubt were almost eliminated. I realized for the first time that it is possible to create a project of 15000 words. The module coordinators were more focused on motivating the students than discussing about other things. As we did in most of the assignments, we had to form the groups of up to five students. I decided to stay with my old group mates with whom I had proper understanding. We knew the strengths and weaknesses of each other. But I was not fully sure about the logic of forming the group. In next few days I attended the lectures of some of the highly experienced tutors, they were just too good. I am really upset that why those professors were not teaching us during the MSc. They shared their experience and also gave us many valuable suggestions and advices for doing the project. They covered every bit and piece of the project. People were raising their queries which were properly answered to their satisfaction. It was surprising to know that there were loads of people working behind this part of academic exercise. On the third day we were allotted the topics, my topic was "Effect of financial crisis on the economy of Africa". The first impression of the project was very bad. Two things suddenly came to my mind, first was that I would have loved to do the same project on Asia instead of Africa and secondly I felt the same old school days' pain of difficulty in understanding geography, I don't know why I was making such a silly correlation of a business management topic with the geography. I had no other choice except working on it. My sadness very soon turned to be my happiness because even the google was full of the information, data, and statistics related to my topic. The outcome of the research is fully dependent on the availability of the data, since AMP has to be based only on the secondary data, the data availability is more important. But the next problem was to select the most suitable and relevant data out of such a large pool. The best part of the AMP orientation week was the opportunity to talk and discuss with the tutors who probably will be doing the assessment of our work afterwards. Our group was fully charged to take the maximum benefit from the valuable time of the professors. We asked them many questions and clarified every doubt. At the end of AMP, we all group members were fully motivated and enthusiastic about the project. We decided to meet at least twice a month to discuss the progress of each other.
3. Experience of doing the project: When I actually started working on the project, I realized that it was very easy to do planning of project than actually doing it. My motivation and enthusiasm was nowhere with me, I was full of doubts and confusions. Till then I had a feeling of having properly utilized the AMP week but suddenly I realized that I had literally wasted that precious time, then there were so many experienced people around me to help me in solving the problems but I failed to exploit that time. I wasn't properly sure regarding, where to start from, what to read and what to write. I decided to read as much as possible for the first 10 days. I went through many governmental and non-governmental publications. My understanding about the topic was increasing by reading every publication, blog, article, book, newspaper and magazine. It made me aware about the key issues of African economy that ultimately helped in designing the structure of the report. The format of the report was given in the BREO as well as handbook but there was small information regarding the contents of the broad headings of the report. The maximum confusion was regarding the 'Literature Review' and 'Analysis and Discussion'. Literature review was the toughest part of the whole process of preparing the project. The main concern was that I wasn't finding any previous researches, work of authors or the journals about the topic. There were many about the recession and the African economy but nothing about the effects of the financial crisis on the African economy. There were loads of data, figures and governmental publications, but the views, thoughts and researches of other experts and researchers were not easily available. It was the most frustrating part of the whole process. I was totally struck at literature review for almost a week. Lastly, I found few of the research papers with very useful references which helped me in finding the required literature, articles and journals.
As per the planning we held the first group meeting in the University campus. We met after almost three weeks, but surprisingly everyone was confused, and demoralized. Almost everyone was just struggling to start like me but I realized that reading the topic for two weeks was my best decision because I had more knowledge about the topic among my group. We discussed the things like, how to start, chapter wise word allocation and contents of every broad heading. The outcome of the meeting was not very satisfying but it gave us a very unique feeling of relief because everyone realized that he/she is not alone in the trouble. I adopted the method suggested by one of the very senior professor that we should divide the whole project into small parts in order to stay focused and motivated. I divided the topic in the five separate units; introduction, research methodology, literature review, analysis and conclusion. Then I allocated words for every unit and made a time plan for the completion of the whole report. Once I started the report, it was just flowing; I was going exactly as per my plans. Barring few hiccups such as unavailability of relevant literature and writing the reflective report everything went through smoothly. It was great to be in every team meeting, there were many useful suggestions and advices from the other group mates. Another big concern was to stay on the right track, the topic was so vast that there were many things which could have been included in the report but choosing the most relevant information was really very important.
Almost every other students were focused on the number of words, the most common question was, "How many words you have written so far?" No one was even concerned about the quality of the work. I did the same in the beginning and I used to write 700-800 words a day but after 4-5 days when I reviewed by my work then I realized that I was literally writing a crap. Then I altered my strategy, I decided to collect the relevant material on one day and then to write on the next day. Although my speed was really very slow, there were few doubts in my mind that will I be able to finish within stipulated time. I kept my cool and continued at very slow but steady pace. I was able to finish the report and reflective very comfortably within allotted time and there was no last minute rush.
4. Self Assessment: After completion of the project: Every academic exercise or a learning episode contributes in the development of human beings, but effectiveness of the learning episode can be judged from the extent to which humans are benefitted. There is a visible change in my personality after completing the AMP report. I have become a better time manager, good planner and more knowledgeable management graduate. The AMP is not just a difficult academic exercise but it is a test of many personality traits of an individual. It challenges mental strength, creativity and individuality of every student.
The self assessment after completing the project is presented under the following headings.
4.1 Slow and steady wins the race: Just opposite to my basic nature, I decided to do the things very slowly. Initially I read the existing literature for the two weeks and then I used to collect the material on one day and write the project on next day. This strategy was good for ensuring the quality of the report but it carried a big risk of being too slow and failing to complete the project within time. I kept monitoring my performance in regard to the available time and finished everything well before time. I had enough time for reviewing my work after the completion. But on the other side many of my other friends who were going very fast in the beginning were left short of the time in the end and there were many doing the last minute rush on the submission day.
4.2 Commitment: I had gone through many examinations, presentation, interviews and group discussion both at academic and non-academic levels. But none has ever pressurised me as much as by the AMP and nor I was as committed in any other activity as I was in the AMP. There was a unique negative motivation of being failed which kept pushing me right from the beginning till the end. I spent many sleepless nights and restless days while working on the project. There were few moments where I was fully demoralised, depressed and unhappy but my commitment and drive kept me going even in those adverse mental situations.
4.3 Individuality: For almost a year, UK has been teaching me a strong lesson of individuality. I was in big shock when I came here, I had to do everything including cooking, washing, cleaning, studying and working at my own. In the university we were given the same assignments and everyone was asked to present their own original piece of work. Even the best friends were not sharing their work and every individual was responsible for everything on his own. Similarly AMP project was the last academic lesson of individuality where we were required to write the lengthy report without any help or support from any experienced persons. Most of the times, the group mates had the similar and limited knowledge. I planned, managed, evaluated and worked on my own.
4.4 Time management: The time was the main scarcity in the project. The submission date was exactly like the countdown timer of the bomb where there was very short time left for the explosion and everyone has to save his/her life before it explodes. We had to write 15000 words in almost two and half months; roughly 200 words a day. I spent first two weeks in reading about the topic and then planned for write the report only on the alternative days. I used to work day and night only on the project. We used to assess the progress of other group mates and friends by comparing the number of words written by them. I used to be at the bottom in the terms of number of written words. I divided the number of words with the number of days left, in order to find the daily target. I maintained the required pace and finished the project even before the planned time.
4.5 Team Effectiveness: In the beginning of the project, I wasn't convinced with the idea of having the group for creating an individual report but after completing it I feel that the best group work can only be done when the stakes are not common. Every suggestion or comment was fully welcomed by the group mates unlike the other group assignment where everyone tries to impose his/her own way of thinking on the whole group. For the best results from the group in AMP, it was necessary for everyone to contribute in the discussion. I worked on many suggestions given by the group mates and it was really useful to have someone to help and motivate you when you are finding it difficult to move.
4.6 Organising: Another big lesson being taught by the AMP was to organise the things. It looked like an impossible task to write 15000 words in the beginning. It was unimaginable for someone like me who freaks out at the small assignment of 3000 words. The lecturers made it very much clear during the AMP Orientation week that we had to plan and organise the project properly. Dividing the whole project in small parts and working on every single part as a different assignment was my main organising strategy. I used to read and collect information only about one unit at one time. I created time targets separately for every unit. It helped me in increasing my focus and also in monitoring my progress properly. I used many other small organising strategies to achieve the desired target of creating a project report of good quality within the provided time period.
I was never convinced with the syllabus structure of my MSc till I finished my project. I was a big critic of the idea of giving so much academic credence to the AMP and criticised module coordinator for creating the project requirement of writing 15000 words. But after finishing the project, I have different views for everything. No academic exercise of my life has ever put that big impact on me. I had learnt management as a main subject for two years before MSc, but I never felt compelled to actually apply the management concepts. I made plans, worked on the plans, monitored my performance and altered my ways as per the requirement of the task. The pressure of completing the project within time and as per the expectations of the tutors was much higher than the pressure of completing my monthly sales targets of my previous job. I felt big change in myself because instead of criticising the module coordinator, University and the tutors for giving such a big exercise, I was searching for the positives in every single aspect of the AMP. I am thinking that not allocating any particular tutor was also an advantage because it gave us more freedom and space for the innovation and creativity. After completing the project, I feel as more confident business management graduate, who is ready for every upcoming challenge.