Lessons Learned from #PhDYear1

May 3rd, 2017. The day that I completed my FIRST year of #PhDLife. This year has simultaneously been one of the shortest and longest years of my life. It’s been an academic year of torturous celebration.

At the end of my second semester, I wrote a post, 10 things that I have learned so far on my #JourneyToPhD. Now that another semester has come and gone, those 10 lessons absolutely remain.

Yet, I have learned a few more lessons that I would like to add to my #BlackGirlPhDSurvivalKit.


I enjoy tweeting (@brilliantblkgrl). A LOT. I REALLY enjoy tweeting when I have a lot to do (procrastination, much?). But more than that, I tweet for my own sanity. I tweet through research ideas, dreadful conference presentations, less-than-woke lectures and generally…all things #blkgradlife. Even if no one responds, I can still get my thoughts out in the moment, as they come, unfiltered.

Sometimes I tweet instead of answering my phone or responding to texts, and it’s not personal. I’m coping and will respond when I can.

Lesson 2: Conferencing is EXPENSIVE!

Since August 2016, I presented at 3 conferences and attended 6 total. While I’m grateful, I only received partial funding for ONE of the conferences where I was a presenter. Registrations alone can run around $200. And that’s without flights/travel, lodging, and food during your stay. I was not very strategic about my conference choices this year and paid the price for it (literally).

DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR FUNDING! I didn’t really know that this was an option until it was too late.


I’m sure you’ve heard this already. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll reiterate. So much of this #JourneyToPhD is about how, why and what you choose to write. Writing is an art that requires diligence and practice. Try to write something everyday, even it’s just for you.

Just keep writing!

phd meme3

Lesson 4: You are going to burn out. REST.

I wrote about the importance of #selfcare in my “10 things” post, but it definitely can be repeated here. I thought this #JourneyToPhD was all about being proactive and not burning out, but I was wrong. YOU ARE GOING TO BURN OUT. It’s impossible not to with all that we have going on! What is important here is to listen to your mind and body and REST when you need it.

Exhaustion is coming. Be prepared to recharge.

Lesson 5: Weight gain (or loss) may happen. It’s okay.

We know that stress shows up in different ways. I get really anxious when presenting/performing, so #ConferenceSeason was nerve-wrecking. Busy days/nights in the airport lead to my weight gain this year. However, I’ve returned to eating real food again and it’s all going to be okay. I’m okay.

Lesson 6: You are NOT an imposter!

#ImposterSyndrome is REAL for a lot of folks in academia, especially for scholars of Color. However, I resist this trope by reaffirming my abilities and right to be in academic spaces.

I am NOT an imposter. I am BRILLIANT. And I deserve to be here.

Lesson 7: Stop explaining yourself.

This one is really hard for me. I’ve written (briefly) about over-accommodating for friends/family while being in school, but it hasn’t fully gone away. I encourage you (and myself) to just say NO when you need to without any qualifiers.

Whether it’s with faculty, classmates, family or friends, state your boundaries and stop explaining yourself (myself).

Lesson 8: If you have a good advisor/mentor, cherish them.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about #AdvisorsGoneWrong, but my story is a little different. Due to an influx of programmatic changes, I don’t have a stable advisor, meaning I navigated all of #PhDYear1 on. my. own. And I must say, I’ve done a pretty good job! So if you have a good advisor/mentor, cherish them!

Lesson 9: Academia wasn’t built for you. Resist anyway.

The ivory tower doesn’t love, respect or value Black bodies. Yet, Black scholars, particularly #BlackWomenInGradSchool, continue to create and improve structures and programs to enhance higher learning despite receiving minimal (if any) credit for our efforts.

Resist anyway.

phd pic2

Lesson 10: Busy-ness doesn’t reflect your brilliance.

Last, but certainly not least, while I have worked extremely hard to produce quality papers this first year, I cannot help but to be discouraged by the busy-ness of academia. Being given assignments with little to no practical, political, personal nor professional meaning can be infuriating. This is especially true when you have other passion projects that you could be doing, but your professor insists on a 3 page reflection paper (insert dramatic eye-roll here).

Know that busy-ness does NOT reflect your brilliance. Get what you can out of the assignments that you are given, even when they seem pointless. You (the scholar-academic), will be better for it.

#PhDYear1 is HARD, y’all. It is exhausting and time-consuming and isolating and…hard. But we can do it! Keep fighting the good fight. One day, it’ll all be worth it. Congratulate  yourself for making it this far!

PhD pic

Until next time,



3 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from #PhDYear1

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