I've written my bachelor thesis in Microsoft Word (version 2003, if memory serves), and that was excruciatingly painful experience. It's not that I was new to Word, or that I can't find my way around a computer program, but it frustrated me to no end.
Word has automatic TOC creation and formatting, but there are occasions that you want to make it just right --- for example, trimming a bit a long section title to fit on one row (which in LaTeX is trivial).
As far as figures went, it worked mostly okay, unless you try to keep a figure on a specific page and manually try to adjust it to fit. Even the slightest change in the text moved all the stuff around, and I had to double check almost all of the figures again and again. Numbering worked okay-ish, though.
References.. Don't even get me started on references --- I had to manually format them all (30+ entries), and that Gargantuan effort took probably a better part of a workday.
Fortunately, I had a good equation editor (not the Microsoft-supplied excuse of a such), and that made writing equations a breeze.
Code formatting and pretty-printing was another thing I struggled with --- I ended up taking screenshots of the Matlab code from the editor, and adding those in the appendix. My nerves were seriously shaken and I didn't want to get through the painful manual formatting again.
So, just a few days before I finished the thesis, I went to complain about my miserable existence to my math go-to guy, and he showed me one of the exams he prepared for his students --- he was doing some black magic in
vi in a terminal, and he had some
Makefiles for additional stuff like automatic generation of the problems and the solutions, uploading them automatically to the server, and preparing a sheet with names of all students in which the results are to be published later. All this with a click of a button. To my jaw-dropped mug he said "Oh, it's just LaTeX". And then he explained some of the basic stuff, and gave me a book to read. (Knuth's, of course). That's how it started.
As for a personal LaTeX pride --- my master thesis is prepared with LaTeX, and I used quite a lot of functionality outside basic LaTeX --- subfigures, listings, ams packages, page margins, headers and footers, BibTeX, customized hyperref, plus more. I even made a
.tex template that resembled the one we had in
.doc format for thesis work.