My story up on the PhD Career Stories Podcast

Kajsa is holding a mic.
Photo: OP studios

Do you want to know…. what a morning in my home office sounds like?

What I did when I wanted to quit the PhD program?

How activism and teaching are very good companions to research?

…and what I did after completing my dissertation and finally sleeping properly again?

Yes? Then what are you waiting for? Tune into my story on the PhD Career Stories Podcast.

I am attending Nordic Geographers’ Meeting #NGM2017

On Sunday, I’ll be in Stockholm for the 7th Nordic Geographers’ Meeting. I am excited to be presenting my work to a completely new audience – geographers, and a wider audience of social scientists – as I usually meet with Africa scholars or Migration scholars. The theme is “geographies of inequalities” which is almost a perfect topic to capture student migration out of the global South.

At the meeting, I hope to:

  • get some new ideas on how to take my work to the next level (Where do I publish?  What are others doing on students and migration?) and
  • pick up some clues on how I continue to do relevant interdisciplinary research. (What methods should I use?  Who can I collaborate with? Who else is interested in my work?)

I’ll be presenting two papers out of my dissertation research for the following two panels:

Session A3: Youth and Inequality: Perceptions, experiences, and aspirations. (PDF details)

Conveners: Prof. Katherine Gough of Loughborough University and Dr. Thilde Langevang of Copenhagen Business School.

Session description
Rising unemployment and sluggish economic growth are widely predicted to further widen income and wealth inequality worldwide. Young people, in particular, are being disproportionately affected with the OECD claiming that youth have replaced the elderly as the group experiencing the greatest risk of income poverty. This has widespread implications for the opportunities and constraints young people face as well as impacting on their aspirations for the future.This session will bring together papers which explore how young people’s lives and aspirations are being influenced by the inequality they experience and imagine both in situ and in faraway places. Papers are welcome from societies across the globe where young people are being affected by real or perceived high levels of inequality. Topics which may be explored in the session include, but are not restricted to, the implications of rising inequality at a range of scales for young people’ perceptions, experiences and aspirations of: Mobility and immobility /Education and skills training/ Work experiences and job prospects/Housing and home

Here my paper “Migration aspirations among university students in Ghana” will discuss my choices to focus on university students and not youth in general as well as aspirations and intentions and not migration per se . I also will share some results from the survey I did with university students in Ghana, in particular looking at social backgrounds of students and their view of migration. (20/6/17 1.15-3.00 pm. Room: William Olsson, House Y)

Session J7: The Politics of Movement. (PDF details)

Conveners: Dr. Nancy Cook & Prof. David Butz, Brock University.

Session description
The politics of movement  entanglements of power, social inequality and mobilities – is an abiding preoccupation in social geography and critical mobilities studies. Both scholarly fields identify mobility as a fundamental structuring dimension of social life. They also demonstrate that the capacity for movement under conditions of one’s choosing is a valuable resource that is unequally distributed in social contexts structured by hierarchies of power. In other words, movement is socially differentiated; it reflects and reinforces structures of power to configure inequitable social hierarchies. Critical geographers and mobility scholars are tracing the ways in which relations of gender, race, class, sexuality and citizenship shape discourses and practices of mobility that produce beneficial movement for some people and too little or too much movement for others.

For this session, I will discuss some thoughts around what a global South student really is in relation to mobility in my paper “Conceptualizing academic mobility and mobility exclusions from a global South student perspective”. Based on the data I collected for my dissertation research I will suggest some trends in the politics of movement from a student point of view. (19/6/17 at 5.15-6.45 pm in Room: U26, House U)

I am also looking forward to keynotes, especially with Dr. Brenda S.A. Yeoh who has a distinct global South perspective in her work and meeting new friends – and at least one old! I want to thank my good friend Michael Boampong who sent me the initial info on this conference, and who is also attending the conference as well as and my department at Ashesi University which made this trip possible.

Hope to meet you at #NGM2017!

Sunday Reads Feb 5, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. This Interesting article on the academic core task and the next generation academics by Andrew J. Hoffman on The Conversation.
  2. Incredible look into the future: Global digital identity – goodbye national passports? by Margie Cheeseman.
  3. The Neuroscience of Singing by Cassandra Shepard. I knew from experience singing is good for me, but not exactly how come…

Video I watched: The addictive The American People vs O J Simpson. The entire mini series. From beginning to end.

What I would have loved to read, but did not come across:

An article on corporal punishment in Ghanaian schools and what to do about it.

Tell me below what you are reading!

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

The PhD journey: the Viva

IMG_0267
PhD Viva. Photo: Jeffrey Paller

On Thursday 28th April in the morning, I did a 40 minute presentation of my dissertation “On a course to migrate? Migration aspirations among University Students in Ghana” and took questions for another 40 minutes or so. After a brief adjournment by the examiners, the verdict was in: I had passed.

Now there are some formal steps left, like making corrections in the final documents, and trying out a silly hat, but if they run smoothly, I am looking forward to graduation on July 23rd. This year!

The feeling at this point is one of great happiness and relief, pride and exhaustion. Happy to have completed well. On the day, I got into the presentation and just flowed, despite being nervous – almost cripplingly so –  the weeks and days leading up to the presentation. ( I did a mock viva two weeks earlier that I think I did not do well in, so I’d say I know the difference between flow and just making it thru). On the day, the questioning part also went well, save a few stumbling answers to unexpected questions.

I am grateful for all the people that have been supporting me in this transformative journey over the last 5 years. I am proud of myself for making it over all the hurdles and trying tasks. I am exhausted and try to be kind to myself.

I did it.

group
With colleagues and supporters in the graduate seminar room just after my presentation.

med dorcas
Relieved and happy after the viva with my student Dorcas who came to support me!

One Week at Citi FM: The Report

Last week I wrote about looking forward to my Grown Woman Internship with Citi FM:

I grew curious how they work behind the scenes – how do they prepare? How much time goes into each show? What best practises do they have to share as a successful team? How do they keep their enthusiasm when uncovering so much hardship?

Now (or rather last week, but an unfortunate issue involving ECG stopped me from posting it then), I have spent a week with the Citi Breakfast Show at Citi FM and I have to say I am the wiser for it. I did not get complete answers to all my questions, but I got a start and also many other insights. Before I get to my initial questions, here are my notes from the week:

Monday. Shocked by the chaos and the apparent ad hoc-ness of determining what happens on air. People who are coming on seem to be called the same morning or, more often, call in themselves. Learned the word “plotting”, that is planning the show by the producer of the show, Sanda. The morning was dominated by an accident blocking morning traffic into Accra and was it the man selling his girlfriend for ritual murder-story? I talked to Deputy News Editor Boakye about the news and his work schedule in the newsroom. I had a high pulse the whole morning. Talked to journalist/host Godfred over lunch. I was asked to do some research on “The real cost of Ghana’s brain-drain”.

Tuesday. Was going to be a show on values, but due to the Transparency International corruption perception index coming out, it became a show about corruption. Started to realize how much current affairs sway the content of the show. Production assistant Fred commented on my frequent tweeting.  After the show, TV program “Who’s behind” from ViaSat came to interview Bernard. That is after him spending 4 hours on air. He was still smiling. Had a talk with co-host Nhyira and production assistant/journalist Pearl.

Wednesday. Many of the institutions mentioned as corrupt had gotten in touch and the show was supposed to be a follow up of that, but a discussion on corruption in the media and an animated interview with the opposition shifted the topic. After having done extensive live-tweeting for a few days, I was asked to do twitter training with Citi people. Had lunch with a Canadian journalist from a Human Rights organization spending 6 months in the newsroom and turned in my Brain-Drain report. Hopefully, it will be the basis of a Citi Breakfast Show to come!

Thursday. We did not really know what topic to go on, the news was a bit scattered and did not provide a clear direction. I took part in the discussion. A news item on three young robbers started a discussion on the reasons behind very young criminals and a discussion on youth unemployment ensued. I quickly did some research and found  some statistics of youth unemployment in Ghana (65% in 2011 according to the World Bank) and some reasons according to academic research.  Within minutes those facts were read on air. I had lunch with two of my former students from Ashesi who were also interns at the station and compared notes. I partook in a Facebook training in the afternoon.

Friday. The morning started with a discussion on traditional practices stepping in where the state and judiciary system should be, I think a rape case in the news was the starting point of the talk. But then we compared notes and realized that no one had been able to make a call on MTN since last evening and the “plotting” turned to what we can do with this. Just complain? Bernard said he wanted answers and the producers started calling up the telcos. I started a discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #dearghtelcos and then things went crazy….People from #YaleConfGH stopped by to do promotion. At least two of these guests are on every day. As a cherry on top of my week, hosts Bernard and Nhyira did a mini interview with me on air. During the weekly Friday meeting for the team Co-host Nana Ama put a question straight to me, “Kajsa, you have been here for a week now, what do you think?” For the team to want my opinion was a golden moment for me!

 

Answers to my questions:

How do they prepare?

I learned in the reverse they “plot” on Fridays for the week, but then stay flexible to be relevant. They are four, sometimes five hosts in the studio and all of them spend hours every day reading news, features and books. In the morning before the show starts, they “plot” the show of the day, but frequently defer from it.

 

How much time goes into each show?

Do I know this? I am not sure they even know themselves as, I was surprised to find out, for all of the crew,  the City Breakfast Show  (airing 6-10am on weekdays) is NOT a full time job. All of the hosts, including the main host Bernard have jobs at the station our outside. For instance Nana Ama is the Online Editor and Bernard the Operations Manager of the station.

 

What best practises do they have to share as a successful team?

  1. They start everyday with a meeting and end every week with a meeting. – I think this is important as it creates a frame within which they can be creative.
  2. They are experts in their various fields. – They find a way to efficiently mill through heaps of data and be up to date on many fronts.
  3. They are young. – The whole station seem like a very young workplace and the vibrancy of workers allow for high tempo and fresh thinking.

 

How do they keep their enthusiasm when uncovering so much hardship?

They have a mission to influence Ghanaians and change Ghana. They aim to make radio that get results and they are getting there. I found it interesting, that people in power call them every day to explain themselves! That in an environment where we complain there is little accountability! Privately, some of them have faith, others family to fall back on, because Chale every day, it is a new, horrible story.

 

What did I learn?

  • As always, you learn more about yourself than anything else when stepping out of your comfort zone. It was really nice to be at an organization without any money changing hands, formal agreement, I felt no stress to perform. Ahhhh.
  • I also learned, I love the news room pressure – that vibe, that “the deputy minister is on the phone”, “Wait, I have the police on the other line!”, “Can you get me numbers?”, “What did the Graphic say about this? Quick!”  – it is addictive!
  • I also found I quickly assert myself and participate. I had planned to “be a fly on the wall”, but discussions were just too interesting not to take part of.
  • Finally, I like how Twitter and Facebook also allows you into a discussion that might be held on air. On Friday, we saw how many “listeners” follow through social media when in 15 minutes 80 comments flowed in via Facebook. Clearly, there is much more to explore in the Social Media/Radio interface in Ghana.

One of my readers pointed me to this article on taking an internship at the age of 30. The writer suggests being an intern after a certain age “can seem like a step backward or even feel a bit embarrassing”, and I guess it can. But then again , why should we always step forward and upward? In the wisdom of Ghanaian folklore, “Sankofa” or “go back and fetch it” suggests that we have much to learn from that which lies behind us!

In hindsight, doing a Grown Woman internship with my idols at Citi FM was a great idea, an exciting week and absolutely a learning opportunity for life!

Migration and Development Conference in Accra

Tuesday and Wednesday, I went to a conference “Migration and Development: Opportunities and Challenges in a Globalized world”. It was a great experience in many ways – inspiration, networking and the personal growth that comes with sharing your work.

To me,  it is always inspiring to learn about research that is ongoing some favorite new aspects of migration involved gold scams in Ghana, changing migration patterns of unskilled labor to Accra (kayayeis, scrap collectors and others) and student migration out of the Congo finding new destinations.

The networking was superb – I met with many graduate students at University of Ghana – as migration naturally is interdisciplinary we never knew of each other! We have exchanged contacts and will meet up again soon. Also, in the main frame of the collage above, I met with a former lecturer to Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan!

Finally, the pressure that comes with synthesizing your work and presenting some aspect of it feels horrible, but I am convinced it is good for me. I presented a paper in progress about the migration policies of the north and their impacts on academe in the global south, naturally with a focus on Ghana.

Later this year, a publication from the conference will be put together. If my work meets the quality target (and I manage to submit in time), I will tell you  more!

See more of my photos from the conference here.

 

Migration Monday : Electronic Survey on Migration Aspirations

So right now I am working with the questionnaire that I was hoping to roll out this semester. After more than a year of library studies, I need data!  However, with less than a month left of the spring semester and the questionnaire + logistics around it not being ready, the prospects of that happening grow leaner each day,  foolishly, I remain hopeful.

I have decided to do an electronic survey for many reasons. Being able to ensure confidentiality  (which will improve the reliability of my study) and keep admin to a minimum (which will improve my personal economy) are the top two reasons. I am using an open source software, LimeSurvey, hosted on LimeService for my survey.

Last month, I did a pilot of the first version of the questionnaire. On a Friday, I walked into the ICT building, cleared my voice and asked the students that were sitting there to navigate to my survey URL and fill my questionnaire. 15 students volunteered. Now I am trying to understand what to do with the information I got. (Most of the responding students have not been abroad, however a majority wants to migrate, most for a graduate degree, only one imagines working abroad in five years time. Half of the respondents hold a passport, only one a valid visa, one in five have gotten a visa application rejected, a majority plan to apply for a visa as a student, a majority of those who indicate wanting to migrate say they plan to be away for a shorter period of time (less than 3 years) and most that they will  like to return ***Read this write up with caution as the sample is very small and not randomized or controlled in any way*** ).

1. Adding questions  – what gaps were left by the current questionnaire?

So far I have come up with that financial situation need better specification, year group (although second year students are targeted it would be interesting to see how answers varies, if at all, for the occational other-year-student) and maybe more questions about visa applications and why they were denied in so many cases.

2. Clarifying questions – were some answers ambiguous because of wording/answering options?

Here I have some work to do. Some questions allow for multiple choice (“check  all that apply” etc) others for ranking. I find that sometimes those answers were difficult to analyze. However choosing one option also hides interesting nuances. Hm.

3. Dropping questions – were some questions unnecessary?

I have a bunch of questions on “local” aspirations, coming from the idea that if local labor market opportunities are not advertised as well as the foreign options, the latter look like your only way forward. But as they are not mutually exclusive, now I do not know. Another idea was to similarly tone down migration as “the only option” in my study as to not get biased answers. Does it really further my study on migration aspirations if someone is knowledgeable (or not) about local opportunities? Cutting questions out also allows for space to put new more focused questions in and, even better, not replace all them as to make the questionnaire more brief.

One of the more interesting preliminary “results” is the pie-chart above. When  asking students if they had taken the first step toward studying abroad – obtaining information – two out of three students answered yes.

This tells me my study is looking at something relevant for Ghanaian youth.

This post is a Migration Monday post, taking you behind the scenes of doctoral studies in Ghana and giving me the opportunity to write about what I do in less formal language.

Student Mobility Book-Agony

Monday again! This week I am concluding my literature review rewrite. I have a lot of loose ends to tie up, so it will be a busy week. More importantly, I will have to find the book “Student mobility and narrative in Europe: the new strangers” by Elizabeth Murphy-Lejeune. Well, that is I have found it already, now I will have to find a way to read it!

First of all, lets look at what this book is:

  • A new key text in my narrow research field of student migration.
  • Key as in cited in 92 places!
  • Introducing the concept of student mobility that I think would be extremely useful for my theoretical frame.
  • a European case study, which in part could be very interesting to duplicate in Ghana.

Now, remember how I bought a Kindle, predominantly for these situations? Needing a book in far-away Ghana (far away from Internetshopping that is). Well, I never knew an e-book could cost USD 148! Really, Amazon and Routledge, really? It is almost painful when it is a book I would so love to read!

The Google books version only covers the introduction and not the much anticipated “Chapter 3: Student Mobility: a taste for living abroad.”

All help, or plain sympathy, is much appreciated!

This is a Migration Monday post with the double aim of sharing with you what my research is all about and for me to integrate my academic stuff with my blogging!

Emigration Out of Developed Countries

It is crunch time for an important presentation next week, but let me share with you an insight that came to me through text yesterday.

Emigration rates are highest not from the so called Global South, but out of developed countries!

Migration researcher Ronald Skeldon suggests in a overview of the migration and development debate in the book “Migration in the Globalised World” from 2010 that mobility is an integral part of development:

Migration is essentially a response of populations to changing development conditions and what governments need to do is to lose their fear of population migration. Migration needs to be accepted as an integral part of the development process, not feared as something unusual…Rising prosperity brings increased population mobility and migration. (p.156)

Skeldon further points at evidence of developed nations having high levels of migration (UK is mentioned as a case in point with 5,5 million citizens, or 9,2%, living outside the country ) and concludes that developed societies are “based upon systems of high mobility” (p. 157).

As a twist, when I came home the top news on the Swedish news site I follow was that Swedish levels of emigration is higher today than under the peak emigration years in the 19th century.

Point taken.

 

Using Google Forms for Research

Through my friend Edward, I recently got to know that Google Docs now offer forms for free.  The forms can be used to gather simple information such as “which of the following alternatives do you prefer?” and for more complicated forms. Forms can be embedded in emails or websites or you can direct respondents to your survey with a link.

I have tried it out for a draft of the survey I will use for data collection for my dissertation. Likely, the respondents to my survey will fill it out on paper, but I thought Google Forms could be useful for a trial version of the survey to easily be able to obtain feedback on the questions and structure. So far, the experience has been nice – except for the first time I filled the questions and realized after almost one hour’s work that I want connected to the Internet anymore and none of my changes had been saved… Otherwise, I found the tool very quick and intuitive.

You can add questions, select what type of answer you want (multiple choice, text, check boxes, scale etc), add headers and move questions around. The look is instantly professional and the backend allows you to see summaries of your questions with pie charts and percentages already calculated for you as well as the answers in a neat spreadsheet that is downloadable to Excel!

This tool opens up to so many opportunities, my mind just goes off thinking about all the cool surveys one could do!

You can see my questionnaire here – if you are a Ghanaian student, please do fill it out – and if you can remember to give me feedback on the questionnaire itself in the last section.

If you want to try this tool out, go to Google Docs, click on “file”, choose “new” and then “forms” in the drop down list. Happy research Monday!