Just a small personal update on everything that’s been going this past month!
As I’ve mentioned before, econ PhD programs require students to pass these comprehensive, qualifying exams (at UCLA, we call them “comps”). Comps are pretty much the bane of any first year PhD student’s existence. These four-hour exams determine your fate and whether you get to stay in the program or not. You only have so many chances to re-take the exams to get that coveted PhD-level pass. In my program, it’s two strikes & you’re out. There are three subjects we have to test at a PhD-proficiency level - microeconomics, macroeconomics, and quantitative analysis (statistics and econometrics). I failed to attain a PhD-level pass for all three exams my first time around.
You can imagine how nerve-wrecking the second half of my summer was after I found out my exam results. I could have left with a Master’s degree, which isn’t bad by any means - especially at 22 years old. But I knew I wanted to get a PhD eventually - having a PhD is really the only way that I can do my own original research and study the topics I’m most interested in. So after putting in the work at UCLA, I really just wanted things to pay off so I could continue my degree and take advantage of the opportunity I had been given to study at a great school. I told myself that if I didn’t pass my exams at UCLA, it would just be a sign that I wasn’t meant to finish my PhD here. I would work, then return to school a few years later.
All of August, I studied extremely hard - basically 24/7. I took the last of my exams in early September. Sadly, I think I cried after every exam, just doubting myself and questioning if my abilities were enough. Then followed a gut-wrenching week of waiting for my results. When that fateful Friday came around, I was almost too scared to check my email. Luckily when I did, I got great news: I had passed all three exams at the PhD level!! I was so ecstatic that I cried a little bit. Then I called my parents, sister, and grandparents to let them know the good news and thank them for their support and prayers.
(So thankful for them :) we went to Yosemite National Park after my first round of exams to relax and have some family time. It’s getting more and more rare now that both my sister and I have been out of the house for a while.)
Anyway, ever since then, I have been in such a happier state than I was this entire last year. Now that I’ve started the new school year, I am finally taking my field courses, attending seminars, and teaching UCLA undergrads :P ! I’m busier than ever, but at least I’m happy and having fun with it. Now, my homework consists of reading papers and learning techniques to help me do the research I’m actually interested in. I finally feel comfortable with my program and like I’m working towards the career I want to have in research. And honestly, it’s the best feeling.
So that about wraps up my personal update. I also wanted to just talk a little about this advice my grandma gave me the other day. She told me that when good things happen to us, it’s important to give to someone else - to pay your good luck forward. Like karma, I guess. It made me wonder if some of the blessings I have experienced in life are a result of good karma. Either way, I thought it was a nice idea and wanted to share. I think it’s important to always do your best to help others, whether you are struggling yourself or feel on top of the world.
On that note, I’ve been learning a lot about how valuable improvements to health are - especially in developing countries. UNICEF works hard to help end the preventable deaths of children. Please consider learning more about how important this work is and how you can make a difference: