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Reflecting on My First Year as a PhD Student

As I close the chapter on my first year in the PhD program, it's time to pause and reflect on my journey—the highs, the lows, and the paths I plan to tread in the coming year.


  • Celebrating my first publication as first author

  • Secured a scholarship, an award, and a summer research grant.

  • Maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA.

  • Admitted to the Master's program in Applied Statistics.

  • Outlined three potential research topics for the future.

  • Gained confidence in discussing Causal Inference, enriched by courses STAT 333 and SOC 952

  • Became more proficient with R Markdown and LaTeX through ED PSYCH 711

  • Improved my ability to handle qualitative research, thanks to insights from EDPOL 850 and SOC 753

  • Developed a deeper historical understanding from HIST 160 and following events in Southeast Asia

  • Learned to accept and utilize feedback more effectively in EDPOL 701.

  • Maintained a healthy diet, avoided fast food, and managed my workload effectively to prevent burnout.


  • Encountered setbacks with a scholarship, a fellowship, and an award rejection.

  • Did not complete two targeted certificates and faced a review paper rejection.

  • Did not manage to keep this blog as updated as I wished.

  • Focus and Health Routines: Struggle with maintaining focus and did not frequent the gym or meditate as intended.

  • Still an introvert and found it tough to talk in large crowd

New Lifestyle Incorporations:

  • Planning and Reflection: Adopted Notion for better planning and the Zettelkasten system for book noting.

  • Health and Commuting: Included regular eye and back massages and increased biking to school.

  • Tech Enhancements: Invested in new tools like a screen extension and a Remarkable device for enhanced focus during reading sessions.

  • AI Assistance: Utilized ChatGPT for coding and grammar checks.

  • New Companion: Welcomed a Jelly Cat into my life.

Top Ten Highlights of the Academic Year:

1. Best Book: The Culture Trap: Ethnic Expectations and Unequal Schooling for Black Youth by Derron Wallace

2. Unexpected Learning Experience: Gender discussions in Nancy's class, sparking a new research interest and unexpected topics covered that put me in self doubt (most of the time)

3. Most Revisited Book: The Effect By Huntington Klein

4. New Fashion Find: Isabella Fiord - great handbag brand which was discontinued.

5. Best Tech: Remarkable - Awesome for reading and note taking

6. Favorite Album: Ha Tran's Nhung Con song ngon tay

7. Top TV Series: Blossom Shanghai directed and produced by Wong Kar-wai.

8. Favorite Song: "Tell the Kids I love them" by Obito ft Shiki

9. Memorable Moment: Moved to tears by Le Ly Hayslip’s narratives of the Vietnam War in Madison

10. Best lesson learnt: Just keep applying, you will at least get something out of the process.

Top 10 Lows of the Academic Year:

  1. Doubting Research Fit: Hours lying on the floor, questioning if my research question fits the current academic dialogue.

  2. Fertility and PhD Challenges: Trying to merge my fertility journey with my PhD path.

  3. Reflecting on Marriage: Quietly questioning the future of my marriage

  4. Sharing Too Soon: Learning the importance of not revealing my research ideas prematurely.

  5. Silence in Discussions: Struggling to find words or questions during classroom discussions.

  6. Physical Strain: Experiencing headaches, insomnia, and general body aches from stress.

  7. Facing Rejections: Enduring a week filled with multiple rejections.

  8. Missed Classes: Losing sleep and subsequently missing class the next day.

  9. Unfinished Readings: Consistently failing to complete required class readings.

  10. Feeling Disconnected: Feeling out of place and disconnected in the classroom environment.

Goals for the Coming Year:

  • Launch a Substack: To review books and share monthly education news updates from the Southeast regions.

  • Organizational Skills: Develop a more efficient system for file management on my drive.

  • Language Learning: Begin the journey of learning Chinese.

  • Be more serious with exercise and wellness

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