I’m Back! With a Life Crisis, Post-PhD Blues, and Blog Fatigue

Vacation is over. Work has begun. I am back.

However, the sweet hopefulness of new beginnings that surround each start of a new school year has this year eloped me. Sadly, instead of feeling triumphant and light about my submission of my manuscript, I now feel rather lost and blue.

I don’t know what goal to aim for.

I don’t know where to go from here.

I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life!

Is this the post-PhD blues people talk about? Or a full-blown life crisis?

I don’t even know what to blog about. Ghanaian politics seem more opaque than ever. Should I be more of a lifestyle blogger, perhaps? Showing you my (perfect) kids, my (well intended) DIY-projects, and my (always failed) herb garden? Or more like my fav academic blogger Chris Blattman, wittily summarising the interesting research debates I engage in, mixed with lists of links to great reads? Should I join other bloggers and start a podcast and simply talk to you, dear reader?

Well, for now I am lost. Or as it is put as the textbook chapter I happen to teach next week, I am “learning to wallow in complexity”. If someone out there has an opinion on what I should do with my life (or blog!), I’d love your input.

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Dissertation Completed!

 After eight years with this topic, five years at University of Ghana, countless notebooks, redrafts, and seminars, my manuscript is now finished, printed and submitted!
The feeling is indescribable.



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VIDEO: My Student Migration Aspiration Seminar from Institute of African Studies, Ghana

Now, my research seminar from March 5th, 2015 at IAS, University of Ghana, is available on YouTube for those of you interested in my research. In this one-hour-seminar, I talk about the rationale for my research and results from my e-survey among university students in Ghana.

You can also read more about my project here: studentmigrationaspirations.com

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My Only New Year’s Resolution 2015

…is finishing my PhD.

photo5 years in, two kids later, one pending extension of program, 100s of pages written and 1000s of articles read – this madness must stop so I can summarise what I have learned and move on to other projects.

This year it is therefore happening: I will submit my dissertation! And I am telling everybody! My family, my boss, my friends, now you!

You can help me by asking how it goes, offering to entertain my children and please just stop giving me “interesting stuff” to read.

I will be chronicling my progress weekly over at the blog for my research website Student Migration Aspirations.

What resolution have you made for the new year?

Read some other academic new year’s resolutions.

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My Blogging Year 2014

It has been a sad year in many ways. A year of death, disease and loss for me and many others. I have also worked hard on my four careers – social media, research, teaching and family life!

Screenshot 2014-12-30 00.14.03(2)
Sad moments
The year started on a sad note for me, my blog had gone missing. I learned to do more regular backups.

End of the Word?

Then people died. People that were amazing, successful and well-known or I just knew well. Komla Dumor died in January, Shirley Temple (who had a surprising link to Ghana I found out) in February, in April my favourite author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in August Emmanuel Okyere, in November my dear Godmother who had been sick for some time passed away. In December, I lost fellow obruni blogger Mad in Ghana. Ebola hit some countries in West Africa but affected us all.

Blog scoops
Getting to debate on Twitter with a sitting minister of state was amazing, although I was smashed pretty hard over the head by Hanna Tetteh, Ghana’s minister of Foreign Affairs in a debate about the tourism policy. Another citizen journalism highlight was when I broke the news on the hole in the Accra-Tema motorway on my blog.

Plenty Politics
Current debates in Ghana covered on my blog included if a government university should be allowed to charge a toll to enter its campus, the State of the Nation address, race, women in electoral politics, inflation, the world cup, power problems and corruption. Many times we laughed and cried at the same time at our issues…

I worked hard!
My work was covered on my blog as well. For instance, my writing process and a one month stay at the Nordic Africa institute, teaching social theory at Ashesi University College. I wrote an article about Nigerian political protests and tweeted in English from Almedalen in Sweden. I also attended a conference, seminars and a workshop.

BloggingGhana stuff
We had a fast year! We were mentioned in The Guardian, got our own office or hub, organised BlogCamp and BlogAwards…

I also branched out into Instagram and Pinterest and had the most active year ever on Twitter.
But most importantly, I became the mother of another girl! 

Thank you for reading my blog in 2014! I will be back in 2015 with much more…

See earlier yearly summaries: 2012, 2011
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Nordic Africa Days 2014: My Report

During the weekend 26-27 September, I took part in the Nordic Africa Institute biannual conference Nordic Africa Days. Here is my report!

  1. Hi there! I'm on my way to #nad2014 @NordicAfrica &looking forward to meet tweeps @finnowl @ulrichtadajeu @JamaMusse http://t.co/meVFzTGvKW

    Hi there! I’m on my way to #nad2014 @NordicAfrica &looking forward to meet tweeps @finnowl @ulrichtadajeu @JamaMusse pic.twitter.com/meVFzTGvKW
  2. As I am the food for my small baby, she had to come along. She demanded we started with the Youth and Politics panel…
  3. In Panel 22 on Youth & Politics, Akin Iwilade challenged the notion of “marginalized youth” and who becomes a militant #NAD2014
  4. Next @nannajordt told us about "hustling" for environmental rights in rural Kenya #nad2014 http://t.co/KrjUEtSM3Q

    Next @nannajordt told us about “hustling” for environmental rights in rural Kenya #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/KrjUEtSM3Q
  5. My @Ashesi colleague Joseph Oduro Frimpong presents political cartoons & photoshop pics from Ghana #NAD2014 #Woyome http://t.co/CQMQFmVEZs

    My @Ashesi colleague Joseph Oduro Frimpong presents political cartoons & photoshop pics from Ghana #NAD2014 #Woyomepic.twitter.com/CQMQFmVEZs
  6. Q&A “It is easier critiquing power than formulating an alternative…does that distinction matter?”, asks panel chair Elina Oinas #nad2014
  7. How a two-month old fares at #nad2014? She is now asleep forcing me to stand up/rock gently in the back of the room.. http://t.co/YujTbzVwR1

    How a two-month old fares at #nad2014? She is now asleep forcing me to stand up/rock gently in the back of the room.. pic.twitter.com/YujTbzVwR1
  8. In 1,5h @Mo_IbrahimFdn will talk on “Why governance matters” #NAD2014 If you are not in Uppsala, follow @NordicAfrica or watch it online…
  9. The talk can still be viewed online. I followed it on Twitter from my hotel room while breast feeding!
  10. The first day ended with a lovely conference dinner in one of the old student clubs in Uppsala. Next morning the sun was shining…
  11. Sunny and windy walk to the conference venue (Yellow building in back) #nad2014 http://t.co/kqUOG6KPFc

    Sunny and windy walk to the conference venue (Yellow building in back) #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/kqUOG6KPFc
  12. My first panel is about African Studies in the 21st century: @wikipedia & open access hosted by @ASCLeiden #nad2014 http://t.co/zwdS3wICA5

    My first panel is about African Studies in the 21st century: @Wikipedia & open access hosted by @ASCLeiden #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/zwdS3wICA5
  13. Great tip for researchers to make our research more accessible: write abstracts of all your work and put online! #nad2014 #opendata
  14. Find @ASCLeiden repository with free downloads, among the most popular a book on Boko Haram,  https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/12483 … #nad2014 #openaccess
  15. Find @ASCLeiden repository with free downloads, among the most popular a book on Boko Haram,  https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/12483 … #nad2014 #openaccess
  16. @kajsaha >50,000 publications on Africa, mostly #openaccess from >90 repositories via  http://www.connecting-africa.net 
  17. @kajsaha Africa country portal ASC Leiden (in beta): portal to information resources on >50 African countries  http://countryportal.ascleiden.nl/ 
  18. “As a researcher you have to look at contracts and make sure you have the right to your own work!” – Jos Damen @ASCLeiden #nad14
  19. Information on what resources are available online for free for African researchers via @ASCLeiden  http://www.ilissafrica.de/en/howto/OpenAccessGuide.html …#nad2014
  20. Next came the keynote, I had been looking forward to.
  21. Now the keynote I've been looking forward to: @MJerven "Knowledge and Governance" #nad2014 http://t.co/ve379JXjFu

    Now the keynote I’ve been looking forward to: @MJerven “Knowledge and Governance” #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/ve379JXjFu
  22. Outline of the speech 1. Validity, 2. Reliability 3.Governance 4. Conclusion. I'm such a nerd to be excited! #nad2014 http://t.co/EtJFATFHmL

    Outline of the speech 1. Validity, 2. Reliability 3.Governance 4. Conclusion. I’m such a nerd to be excited! #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/EtJFATFHmL
  23. “Scholars are mistaken when they trust @worldbankdata, but not, say, Sudanese state data. It’s the same!” – @MJerven #nad2014
  24. “There is an unhealthy academic divide: accepting GDP data at face value vs. dismissing the measurement” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  25. To illustrate 'poor numbers' @MJerven uses Ghana's entrance into middle incomes status on Nov 5th, 2010. #nad2014 http://t.co/Y7R41tMaRZ

    To illustrate ‘poor numbers’ @MJerven uses Ghana’s entrance into middle incomes status on Nov 5th, 2010. #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/Y7R41tMaRZ
  26. On governance: “in order to have evidence based policies you need…some type of evidence” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  27. Next @MJerven critiques the #MDGs as they take away from national data collection resources. #nad2014
  28. “It’s not so much about tempering with statistics, but more ignorance of the importance of statistics” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  29. Then an interesting debate started on Twitter.
  30. @kajsaha how come it doesn’t feel like we’re a middle income country? Or it’s not about feelings eh? #Ghana 🙂 @MJerven
  31. @nas009 @kajsaha @MJerven I guess it’s about paper feeling. Good in books, worst in reality.
  32. @kajsaha @nas009 @MJerven @BloggingGhana #Ghana is not poor neither is it a middle income country!
  33. @kajsaha @kofiemeritus @nas009 @MJerven @BloggingGhana Its not. The poorest is one who can’t afford to laugh. Take a good look at Ghana.haha
  34. Back to the keynote.
  35. “Presidents are elected based on delivering jobs, but there is no data on the labor market!” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  36. Wrapping up with constructive ideas 1. Data can come with warnings if based on guesses @MJerven #nad2014
  37. 2. Development agencies coordinating not just goals, but data collection as well #nad2014
  38. 3. Incentives and human resources in statistical offices #nad2014
  39. Multitasking mother and researcher @kajsaha frequently tweeting from the Key Note Speech #nad2014. @NordicAfrica http://t.co/FH7TuVeg1F

    Multitasking mother and researcher @kajsaha frequently tweeting from the Key Note Speech #nad2014@NordicAfrica pic.twitter.com/FH7TuVeg1F
  40. Final panel was my own. My topic was “Have you ever seen a plane seat before?” Migration narratives among university students in Ghana.
  41. ooohhh Godd luck! RT @kajsaha: Wish me luck! Panel chair introducing me! #nad2014 http://t.co/klV7yrWRTU

    ooohhh Godd luck! RT @kajsaha: Wish me luck! Panel chair introducing me! #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/klV7yrWRTU
  42. In my panel Tekalign Ayalew talks about Ethiop-Eritrean Migrants to Sweden. #nad2014 http://t.co/fEolENrWn9

    In my panel Tekalign Ayalew talks about Ethiop-Eritrean Migrants to Sweden. #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/fEolENrWn9
  43. Last panelist at #nad2014 is Viveca Motsieloa who is presenting a self-reflective paper on being mixed-race in Ghana. http://t.co/mLYetMOPu5

    Last panelist at #nad2014 is Viveca Motsieloa who is presenting a self-reflective paper on being mixed-race in Ghana. pic.twitter.com/mLYetMOPu5
  44. Then the conference was officially over! Hope to come back in 2016!
  45. Chairs are stacked, whiteboards are cleaned & people in prints are discussing where to have drinks. #nad2014 is over! Thanks @NordicAfrica !
  46. This drink is for @ulrichtadajeu! Next time you'll join us in the flesh! http://t.co/RhHPSNrwa7

    This drink is for @ulrichtadajeu! Next time you’ll join us in the flesh! pic.twitter.com/RhHPSNrwa7
  47. A cool think was the Camerooninan student that was following the conference on Twitter. He got this (photo of a) beer from me for dedication to academia!
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Research Thoughts

…are the thoughts I am having right now as I am a guest researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute this month. Much goes along the lines of:

  • How do I operationalize my messy theory section into something that can be tested?
  • When do I find the time to re-read a methodology book like VanderStoep and Johnson 2009?
  • Should I move Chapter 4 to just after the introduction?
  • Do I need to redo my focus group coding in Dedoose?
  • What is a (free) alternative for SPSS? (PSPP it turns out. Tried SOFA too and loved the interface, but cannot do regressions with it?)
  • Where did my morning go?
  • What exactly should I put across during my research seminar on June 25th?

In between thinking such thoughts I drink much coffee, wander in the Botanical garden outside my window and talk about the same stuff over long lunches and dinners with friends.

Yes, life could definitely be worse.

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My Writing Process

Yesterday, I was happy, humbled and surprised to find that Anna Leonhard/Room To Grow had featured me in her post on her own writing process. This is what she wrote about me:

Screenshot 2014-06-11 09.44.25I was immediately inspired to write about my writing and pass on the torch to others. The format is four questions and features of three other writers, who then are encouraged to do the same. Here we go!

What am I working on?

My writing has always been manyfold, since I learned how to write – I keep some kind of private diary (currently through the app Gratitude Diary), I write for the world on kajsaha.com, I write for school – just now on a one-month-research-stay at the Nordic Africa Institute on my dissertation on migration aspirations among Ghanaian University Students, I write in my work, most recently comments on 110 final papers. I always have a creative writing project going as well, but currently it is not my focus.

 How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Does it? I do not think I aim to be different from anybody else, however I feel my blog covers a lacunae in the blogosphere by topic as very few blogs (although now in their 100s ) are written out of Ghana and the Ghanaian experience.

Why do I write what I do?

I live by writing! One of the most uncomfortable things for me is being somewhere without a notebook. As soon as I learned how to write, I have been a prolific producer of texts. I can’t help it.

How does my writing process work?

I live to write, which means all the things I do can end up on a screen or paper. This becomes a lifestyle and documenting that lifestyle is my writing process. I write during the day, a little bit in the evening and I dream of my writing projects and take notes for them 24/7.

For work/studies I do a lot of rewrites (but almost never for the blog) and for some odd reason keep all my drafts. I also keep a dedicated file called “killed darlings” for all projects as I loathe deleting anything I have written. Moving it to a “killed darlings” file seems easier to me.

I am passing #MyWritingProcess on to three creative writers in Ghana, all working on book projects at the moment – I want to know how to write a book!

Fiona Leonard


Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah

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One Month At the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden

Today was my first day as a guest researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden. I have been given the opportunity to stay for a month and will be spending the time writing on and thinking about my dissertation.

My first day was great and hoping to get a lot done!



In the first photo the NAI Director and administrator with my PhD colleagues in the park just outside our building, the second photo an interior snap shot from the lunch room!

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PhD Update: Seminar Season

Supposedly, I am in my last year of my PhD-studies. That means trying to write up, conclude and present, present, present!

It is scary and taxing to display your work, try to explain three years of thinking and researching, including mistakes and weaknesses, but I feel it is absolutely necessary.

I have already had some aha-moments when rushedly going over my work again to prepare. As my brother aptly put it, it is like cleaning your house before the guests are coming.

Suddenly, it all comes together.

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Research Update – Winning Choices or Hacks for PhD Productivity

Research collage

As readers of this blog knows well, I am a PhD candidate with the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana currently doing my data collection for my dissertation. My research moves very slowly, but this semester, I can see I have gotten over the “what is it really that I am doing?”-stage and entered “this is what I am doing!”-stage of my research degree. The feeling is swell. Some of the winning choices I have made this year includes:

  1. taken help from research assistants Ibrahim and Esther (and maybe Seth). They need to learn about the research process, I need admin help. They could use some extra cash, I could use some more hours in my week. Win-win.
  2. spent many more hours in the UG Balme Library as graduate students now have a lovely Research Commons there. The space is just so beautiful, I am collecting for a photo post on the sublime building that is Balme library.
  3. transferred my research library onto Zotero (finally! it took me three full days and it is not 100% yet, but just going through my readings was useful!)
  4. thinking about my research every day. In the car, the first 30 minutes in my office in the morning or after dinner. Solutions only come after much thinking.
  5. grabbed every opportunity to publish or present. I decided to do this as the main purpose of doing a PhD is to learn the craft of research, however when feeling slightly overwhelmed with just your regular work – extra stuff seems…crazy! But it is not, in new constellations, be it with conference participants, abstract reviewers or a taxi driver, I have learned more about the craft.

What good choices have you made in your career this year?



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