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Colette Bourlier, 91, defending her theis.

20 March 2016

Taking Breaks, Taking Time To Get It Right

So French. The media reports that Colette Bourlier, 91, recently earned her PhD with “high distinction” completing a thesis she began 30 years ago.

As someone who always takes a long time to write anything, I can certainly understand how it took the French woman three decades to write her thesis. As Colette Bourlier explained: "It took a bit of time to write because I took breaks." She added, "I did the best that I could.”

The French believe breaks are necessary to restore and refresh. And as I have explained before, to most French, the amount of time a project takes is how long it takes you — not how long it took someone else — to achieve the results you envision. The amount of time you spend on a project should be how long it takes you to do it well.

Though it took her 30 years to write, Colette Bourlier’s thesis topic is important today. Perhaps more so than it was when she began writing her thesis.

Her adviser, Serge Ormaux, vice president of the Université de Franche-Comté, told the New York Times “Ms. Bourlier’s examination of the integration of migrants, in particular women who came to France from Algeria, Italy, Portugal and elsewhere in the 1970s, resonates today as Europe grapples with a migration crisis.”

And what was the retired geography teacher’s method of research? “Ms. Bourlier met regularly over coffee and cakes with the migrant women she studied to check on their progress.”

So French.

be chic, stay slimAnne Barone

image: Colette Bourlier defending her thesis. Credit Ludovic Godard/Université de Franche-Comté

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