Day 4: Winter Blogging Challenge
I have decided to write about how I became Dr Getrude Gwenzi, affectionately known as Dr GG. I am not a medical doctor, but a doctor of Philosophy. I wish that meant that I was smarter than I actually am. But don’t let that fool you, I do know a thing or two about the sociology of childhood and families, which is what I specialised in during my doctorate studies in Sociology and Social Policy. Let me not bore you with the technical stuff, the journey is a more interesting story than the outcome.
The Journey to becoming the learned Doctor
In August 2016 I arrived in Hong Kong to begin my PhD. It was daunting and weird being in a foreign country and a whole new continent. I stuck out like a sore thumb whenever I took a walk during the first couple of weeks because there were very few blacks in the area where my university was located. I had never been to Asia before and now here I was, about to start my studies in a country where I don’t know the language or the culture. I was so scared, but I was fortunate to meet Uchechi, who blogs at ThinkingOutLoud1204 in the very first week. She is from Nigeria, but she soon became my sister from another mother and together, we braved the unknown world of grad school in Asia. It was quite a journey I can tell you that. I struggled with imposter syndrome, self-doubt, loneliness, mental health issues, heartbreaks, racism, discrimination; you name it. There was nothing that I did not experience while doing my PhD. There were days when I wanted to give up, but then I would think of my mother in Zimbabwe, who believed in me so much and expected me to excel. I braved the social isolation and having to experience people not wanting to sit next to me on the bus or train, people closing their noses when I step on the elevator, having to work extra hard to prove myself because I am a black woman from a third world country. Despite all odds and obstacles, on 26 June 2019, after presenting and defending my work of three years to a panel of examiners, my supervisor said, Congratulations Dr Getrude Gwenzi. And that was how I became who I am today.
I expected to feel different when I completed this journey, but I experienced short-term depression soon after. I wrote about it HERE! I just could not reconcile the new-found identity with what was happening in my life at the time. I felt clueless and it was kind of an anticlimax.
I graduated in November 2019 and I am slowly accepting that I do have a PhD. Yes, it makes people look at me funny when I mention it, and I now wear glasses which I never used to wear before I started spending so much time on the computer reading countless articles. But, I am happy to be here. I earned it and I can finally enjoy being called Dr GG. I had to grow into the title because it did not change too much in my life, but my name. I also had to make it fit into my usual identity and the status quo did not care too much for titles. But, who am I to refuse being called Dr so and so. It feels good especially when my mother says it.
My final words for anyone who is interested in studying further. Listen, go for it. Your dreams are valid. I studied on scholarship and never had to pay a cent for my studies. Yes, it means you will have to work extra hard, but it is so worth it in the end. If having a PhD is your goal, the sky is the limit. I would encourage you to really think long and hard before you study in a foreign country though because that comes with a whole set of adjustment concerns and if you are not made out of tough stuff, you might just quit before you finish. Do not let this discourage you, there are wonderful communities out there to support international students.
Let me know if you are reading this and this is something you have thought about doing. Maybe I can help you make up your mind.