I’m BAACCKK!!!!

And I come bearing a title: PhD Candidate!! Did you miss me? ūüôā

I apologize for the extended absence. Life was put on hold while I studied for my PhD qualifying/preliminary exam (aka prelims). Prelims determine whether students have the necessary background knowledge, research logic, and communication skills to be a scientist (didn’t I do that when you accepted me in the first place??? #imjustsaying). They usually consist of some written exam (a grant or objective test) and an oral exam (defending a project you designed). Prelims are the brutal hurdle that all students must jump to advance from PhD STUDENTS¬†to PhD CANDIDATES.

Before:

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After:

I am nowhere near the first to complete this process, but I also know I am not the last. This process was difficult and I didn’t have much support. I started this process way behind my peers: I was a whole year late; the semester prior, I was actively seeking a different lab; that didn’t pan out so I had to stay and work it out; the semester of, I was diligently generating data, but I couldn’t reasonably catch up to my peers; my position seemed impossible and some people had no problem reminding me of that.

At times, I found it very difficult to be motivated. I found myself taking comfort in the idea that if I sabotage myself and just don’t study enough, then I’ll know exactly why I failed; as opposed to studying my tail off and still failing because my committee collectively decided I didn’t know¬†enough.

But then I realized, “If I sabotaged myself and go home with my master’s, so what? So what if I know the reason. . .they still won!” And THAT just could not happen. So I prepared to fight. What little support I did have, I used them as much as I could. And with their help, I passed my prelims on the first round with ONE data slide! #ButGod #wontHedoit

For those interested in pursuing a PhD or currently moving towards prelims, don’t be daunted. Believe me when I say, YOU CAN DO IT. To help encourage you, I am leaving you with the 5 things that were crucial for me.

1. Give yourself time. Select your committee early. Start organizing your best data as soon as possible. Give yourself 2-3 months to write, review, rewrite and rewrite your proposal as well as study background and tangential materials.

2. Know your committee. Identify their area of expertise. Try to anticipate the questions they are likely to ask. My first committee meeting to approve my proposal shed A LOT of light on the focal points of each committee member.

3.¬†Know what is expected of you. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by the thought of HOW MUCH you “should” know to pass. Meet with each committee member to start an open dialogue about what you’re expected to cover. The best advice I received was, “If you can’t trace back to your project while you’re reading and studying related topics (i.e. how did I get here?), then you’ve gone too far.”

4. Practice the process. 4 weeks prior to my exam, I had mock exams where I stood in front of various lab members, collaborating mentors, or anyone who would listen and answered questions. This was brutal because I left each mock exam feeling defeated and near tears. But when the tears retreated, I set out on a path of redemption (and possibly vengeance because I know my stuff!). The mock exams toughened my skin, prepared me for criticisms, and offered teaching moments on how to better address curveball questions.

5.¬†R.A.I.N.¬†Recognize. Acknowledge. Investigate. Non-identify. When the actual exam is proceeding, it is easy to feel like you’re under attack. RAIN is a mindfulness meditation technique to help keep your brain clear and operating at its maximum while under pressure. When you start to feel the meltdown:

  • Recognize it. Be aware that you’re feeling emotional. This allows you to pause and check in with yourself to see what’s going on.
  • Acknowledge it.¬†This doesn’t mean you have to give in or react to it. It’s simply accepting that the feeling is there; it’s happening; you’re experiencing it. ¬†This allows you the potential to change course.
  • Investigate it. Pay close attention to your physical reactions and what they may mean, as well as your thoughts/interpretations. Tight chest = deep sadness = He’s saying I’m dumb. Ears hot = grief or tears = She’s saying she doesn’t like my project. Jaws clenched = anger = They don’t believe in me. (of course these are just suggestions)
  • Non-identify with it. This could be strictly mental or even physical. These feelings don’t reflect YOU. They merely reflect whatever is there. Sometimes taking a step back or grabbing a sip of water can help detach from the trigger. This frees you from the attachment and opens up space to let the triggers and feelings pass without incident.

I hope these tips are helpful and encouraging to those interested in taking this road. This road is less traveled, especially if you are a Black Woman. But it’s difficult for everyone. These 5 things saved my grad school career and I can proudly say I am a. . .

PhD Candidate

©2013 by Ayana Martin

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Estamos en camino!! We are on our way!!

Oh Em Gee! I know. . .I can’t help but gush right now. It is REALLY happening!

I apologize for the silence leading up to now. You must understand that planning this trip at the same time I am preparing for my PhD candidacy preliminary exam has been torture. But right now, it totally feels worth it!

To update you on happenings and emotions, check out some journal entries from Christina leading to TODAY:

Journal 4 
Last week on¬†Wednesday,¬†I had my doctor’s appointment. I woke up feeling uneasy¬†because¬†I have never had to go to the doctor’s to take a trip. I was told to get anti-malarials and a ‘cipro’ antibiotic (stomach meds), plus a checkup to make sure I’m as healthy as I feel. After dropping my daughter off at school, I head over to the doctors office. I am the first person in there. I do all the normal things — co-payment, tell them what I’m there for, and what I want. They call me up and ask me, “Am I only there to get prescriptions?” and I said, “No, I would like a check-up as well, but I’m mainly here for the prescriptions.” Then they told me that my doctor will not prescribe the anti-malarial meds. Huh?!?!¬†I didn’t understand why. I’m going out of the country and the place that I am traveling to has malaria. . .sooooooo. . . why don’t you want to protect my health?? I asked about the antibiotic and they told me that they didn’t know if he will prescribe that either. What the hell is the point of seeing him if I don’t know for sure that he will prescribe me these NECESSARY meds. I was so upset I canceled the appointment before seeing him AND asked for my $20 co-payment back (the struggle is real!). They gave me the money back, but too bad the story doesn’t end there. They advised me to go to Walgreens because they have “travel clinics” that can give me the prescriptions. So I left and went straight there. The Walgreen’s pharmacist told me that they can’t give me meds without a prescription from my doctor (DUH!). I asked about the “travel clinic” and they said that THEY ARE ONLY ON THE EAST COAST. #I’mDone I was so mad because I was already feeling like I was getting the run around. I called the doctor’s office back and told them what happened. They proceeded to give me a number to the “health department” and said that they will give me the pills. Too bad the “health department” ¬†was more like “health inspections” as I was informed that they only do kitchens inspections. -________- I was so furious. But I couldn’t help but laugh a little at this run around and I not being able to get these meds. I called the doctor’s office back AGAIN pretty much to tell them about their nonsense goose chase they sent me on. The nurse apologized and told me that she would call me back with other numbers that I could call. I just said nevermind. I was so pissed all I could do is work out. That morning was a disaster. And I couldn’t believe the sh!t that I had to go through to TRY and get the prescriptions for my trip. At this point all I can do is pray I don’t get eaten by mosquitos.

Journal 5

D. R. Trip

Woke up this morning and realized I have 4 days until take off. I am so excited, scared, overjoyed, nervous — just a bottle of mixed emotions. There are a few things that I still need to get for my trip that I am taking care of little by little. The one things that scares me the most is leaving my daughter for a week. I have NEVER been away from her for that long and that truly terrifies me. It is going to break my heart to see the look on her face when I leave. Just thinking about it brings tears to me eyes. But, I will be leaving her my laptop so that we can Skype everyday that I am away. Not only is leaving going to be so hard for me, it’s going to especially be hard on her as well because she won’t be able to call me freely. I have never been unreachable.¬†I will only be able to login to skype when I have internet access and most likely I will not have internet when I’m out on adventures. BUT even though we will Skype everyday that still won’t be enough for the both of us. I will miss hugging her, kissing her, laughing with her, playing with her, just everything about her she is my other half, she completes ME. I know my little one will be safe because she has the best grandparents and that gives me a peace of mind. But for my daughter there is nothing like her MOM so I hope my daughter will be fine without me.

Another thought that crossed my mind and tied up my stomach was flying into international zones. What is it gonna feel like??? Is it gonna feel like anything??? I feel like I am flying to Jupiter or something. I am gonna be on a plane FOREVER. I know I have flown across the country before, but I had a stop in between, so I have never flown 4-5 hours straight. What have I got myself into?? But I know it will all be worth it. An adventure for myself is an opportunity I have NEVER had. I know this trip will be life-changing, giving me a new confidence in myself and capabilities. This is something I will be able to pass on to my daughter, which makes me want to do it even more. I am beyond thankful to InsertVerbHere! Wow. . .4 days!!!

©2013 by Ayana Martin

Tick Tock. . .

We are embarking on the first Insert(VERB)Here organized trip in less than 3 weeks! The official FundRazr has ended and I am ecstatic about the turn out! We raised $571 because of YOU!! This may not have been 100%, but it made a significant dent! YOU raised enough to cover the cost of our lodging and 2 activities for Christina. YOU ROCK!!

Updates on the trip:

  1. All flights have been booked. Adventure begins on Day 1 of the trip. Christina is flying to Puerto Plata on her own and must navigate her way out of the airport. This may sound like a small task, but in Christina’s eyes it’s HUGE. She has to figure out where to get her tourist visa, how to get through customs, and find baggage claim. . .in a foreign language! Considering it’s an airport, there should be some bilingual people around to help her out – she just needs the confidence to ask for help ūüėČ You’d be surprised how many people are afraid of that simple task!
  2. The apartment is booked! We will be staying at SunCamp DR in the village of Munoz, right outside the city. Here we will spend time with the community members. Our volunteer activities include teaching arts&crafts, science, and playing sports (per our specialties).
  3. Christina has begun to journal about her feelings leading up to the trip! Check out her thoughts:

“It. . .is getting. . .real. I am extremely excited to go and experience this new adventure. However, with that excitement I have fears: boarding my first international flight, expecting the unexpected, the language barrier that I will encounter, and being away from from my daughter and family – OUT OF THE COUNTRY –¬†for this length of time. But I won’t let these fears stop me from experiencing the amazing things that I know are coming.

I was recently updated today with the next thing that I have to do: make a doctor’s appointment and get a few prescriptions. I need to get an anti-malarial and cipro antibiotic. So, today I made that appointment with doctor. However, when I read the email for my next step I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was like, “I have to do WHAT to go out of the country??? NO WAY! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” I couldn’t help thinking, “what am I getting myself into. . .this is crazy.” I have never had to do that the few times I have traveled through the United States. Anti-malarial meds are some serious meds and this scares me to think that I am going to a country where I can get malaria and¬†I have to take preventatives¬†for like 7 or so weeks. I can understand the cipro antibiotic because that is for traveler’s upset stomach. With the food (and standards) being different it makes sense to have the medication on hand. My doctor’s appointment is in 4 days….and just the thought of it makes my stomach turn more and more because that confirms that¬†things are starting to become real.

With that going on in my head, I have also been visually and mentally packing and deciding what clothes, bathing suits, shoes, and jewelry to bring. Not to mention how am I going to do my hair (because¬†I will need to change it up on the regular! #style). I realize I’m going to need to do some shopping for myself…*oh yes*. When I get paid, I hardly ever spend more on myself since I have to take care of my daughter. So it’s nice to be forced to focus on me a little more and what I will need to have for this trip. *Excitement*

I am extremely thankful for InsertVerbHere for making this trip possible. Dominican Republic, in exactly 3 weeks I will boarding my flight and on my way to check you out!”

©2013 by Ayana Martin

T-28 Days!

This is getting real! We have entered the 30 day countdown and it’s time to get the pieces together.

The first and most important part of this trip is Christina. Without her, Insert(VERB)Here would not have a mission to fulfill. She has accepted the offer and we have officially set the date of the trip: May 25-June 1! Exactly 4 weeks from today, she will be boarding her very first international flight. During these next 4 weeks, you will get to read about her emotions in anticipation of this trip.

The second part of this trip is YOU! Your support has been humbling and amazing throughout this process. There are still 3 days left in the official FundRazr to donate money specifically for this project. Past this deadline, general donations will be accepted at http://www.insertverbhere.com. All money donated to Insert(VERB)Here will continue to receive a reward.

The third part of this trip is travel arrangements! The internet makes flight searches fairly effortless. Most travel search engines offer fare alerts and price trackers that will watch ticket prices for you and alert you when deals are available. My top 3 favorite travel search engines are:

  1. Google Flights РThis search engine takes the cake for 1 reason: I can search several departure airports AND several arrival airports in a single search and Google searches all the combinations #atthesamedamntime. *cue heavenly chorus* Another pro is the stats info about cheaper travel days for you flexible travelers. The cons of Google Flights include lack of a mobile app for those impulsive urges, lack of flight alerts for the less flexible travelers, and lack of other travel conveniences such as hotels and rental cars (although in their defense this is Google Flights. . .)
  2. Kayak.com – This search engine scans all the other search engines to find the best price. It offers flexible travel, hotels, and rental car searches. It also offers comparison of other sites and fare alerts. The feature that stole my heart is their Price Trend stats. This feature advises you to wait or buy and includes a confidence percentage explaining that it predicts prices to drop or rise soon. The only con is that the prices are not very different from any other site.
  3. Tripadvisor.com – This search engine is great for all the same reasons as ¬†the standard search engine. The unique feature I love about this site is that it doesn’t stop at flight, hotel, and car searches. It allows vacation rental, restaurant, and destination searches too for the non-tourist traveler! Additionally, it offers a personal touch if you log in using Facebook. It shows places your friends (and friends of friends) have stayed and/or reviewed and offers reviews of other travelers as well.

Honorable mention goes to Cheapoair.com¬†for having additional booking deals and instant savings promos off the lowest prices. Who doesn’t love additional discounts?! These search engines have also made¬†apartment hunting in DR a breeze as well. I think I found our home away from home for this trip courtesy of TripAdvisor ūüôā Details coming soon.

The fourth part of this trip is health and safety. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers health information to travelers such as disease outbreaks, safety concerns, and advice on packing smart to stay safe while traveling. They offer a list of useful items to pack in a travel first aid kit.

Now that we are 4 weeks away, action time is now. Starting today, I will getting our ducks in a row to pull this trip off. So while the internet searches for the best flight prices in the last 3 days of the FundRazr, I will put together the travel first aid kit. Wish me luck!

©2013 by Ayana Martin

Strength in numbers!

How many believe that? It only takes $1 to make a difference. If everyone gives just $1, how much do you think we can raise?!

I believe we can do this! Please take a little time to check out the fundraiser. If you have it to give, I thank you tremendously in advance. If not, give a word of encouragement! Christina is nervous, as this is her first trip abroad (read about her here); I’m balancing travel planning with thesis writing; the universe is testing the strength of the Insert(VERB)Here team. . .encouragement would be DEEPLY appreciated ūüôā

All gifts in any form are a blessing to me that I will pass on to others through Insert(VERB)Here! If you have any questions/comments/concerns, feel free to voice them! The open invitation still stands (see previous post)!

©2013 by Ayana Martin

Meet our Rookie Traveler!!

We have reached our $300 mark!!!! As promised, I would like to introduce you to our Rookie Traveler!

Meet Christina!

Christina
John Witherspoon was on one of my first flights! This MUST be a sign!

“My name is Christina S. I am 25 years old, the youngest of 4, and new to travel.¬†Growing up, I was terrified to fly because my dad would always say that he hated flying and it installed so many fears in me. My family took many vacations, but no matter how far we went, we ALWAYS drove. I was 22 years old when I got on my first flight and that opened my eyes up to a new world! It made me realize that my parents choice to not fly didn’t have to influence my choice to fly. However, I still have a slight fear of flying out of the country for the first time. But I am excited for this opportunity. I bought my passport JUST FOR THIS TRIP!

This opportunity means so much to me for a couple reasons.

Reason #1: I am a young mom. I was 17, fresh out of high school, and having a baby. This caused me to drop out of college after only one semester in order to find a job to support my daughter. I love being a mom, but single motherhood has brought on many challenges that have caused me to sacrifice many opportunities.

Reason #2: I am out of touch with my heritage. My father is African American and my mother is Honduran. My mother has never taken me to visit Honduras, probably because she has not gone back herself. But she had no desire, so I had no desire. But, it’s worse than that. . .My mom, her extended family, even my two oldest siblings speak fluent Spanish. I have tried for many years and taken many classes, and yet I still¬†am unable to speak the language.¬†Although this trip is to the Dominican Republic and not to Honduras, it is a culture that will make me feel that much¬†closer to my own.

To all of the current backers and future backers of this trip, THANK YOU SO MUCH!! You’re truly changing my life.”

We still need your support to make this trip happen. Every dollar helps and will be rewarded with a gift from Insert(VERB)Here! Check out the video and details in the donation site to learn more. To donate to this project, click here.

©2013 by Ayana Martin

You Are Cordially Invited

You are cordially invited to an open conversation with me, Ayana Noel Martin – Founder of Insert(VERB)Here. I received a lot of positive feedback 2 weeks ago when I announced the first project “Verb: HELP me give a trip away!“. I am deeply grateful for the help I have received thus far. But the action behind the positivity¬†seems to have waned a little bit, and I would like to address that.

You may see the project and think “It’s a great idea. A cause wanting to help other people, trying to change the world. Noble, but clich√© noble.” I get it. I’m one more pawn in the game…except I’m not. I’m the little engine that could. I believe in this more than anyone else, as I should. And when I get to the Bridge of Deliverance, I will cross it and deliver the exact message I wanted to make in the first place. I am dedicated to this mission and will be as creative as possible to make these ends meet.

You may also see the project and think, “I really want to help, but my contribution wouldn’t be anything significant so it won’t matter” or “Other people will help, so what difference will one person like me make?” I know those thoughts all too well. But I have learned that one person¬†can¬†make a difference. If research science has taught me anything, it’s that even a small difference can be statistically significant! (Shout out to the math, stats, and science majors who can appreciate that p<0.05!)

BARELY SIGNIFICANT

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credit: whatshouldwecallgradschool.tumblr.com

Since we are not dealing with the objective numbers, but rather subjective feelings, EVERY one makes a HUGE impact. So when I say, “I need YOUR help“, I mean that personally.

So let’s start an open conversation. Ask me any questions you’d like! I am willing to be an open book to prove to you that you can bet on me! Whatever it takes to assure you that this is a great (not just good, but great) investment. So ask away! You can post questions here on the blog, on Facebook, or Twitter (@_insertverbhere). I look forward to your questions!

©2013 by Ayana Martin