The Horror Hidden in PhD Preliminary Exams

I have never known as much terror and horror as I am experiencing currently, trying to prepare for my preliminary exams! I can’t sleep without getting awakened every 30 minutes by the nightmare of a particular man in a tight suit chasing me with a cutlass. And no, this cannot be attributed to eating too much before I sleep because I can’t eat either! How can I eat when I am reminded every hour that I could rather chew on a piece of article written by a scientist with no hint of my existence whatsoever?!

Whoever brought up the idea of preliminary examinations for PhD students must be very terrible! Why would anyone try to test already stressed out students on knowledge that they have been trying to acquire over more than a decade of their lives? How can anyone really get prepared for this? Why would they even add salt to injury by allowing professors to get away with the very popular saying that they don’t know the questions they are going to ask until about a week prior to the examination date? Why would you subject students to this highly anxiety-filled, stress-prone, highly susceptible to heart attack and nervous breakdown ordeal?

I never seem to see the face of the tight wearing suit man chasing me in my dreams these days! Probably because at the back of my mind, I know which member of my committee this man is, and I don’t want to be sure. What really have I done to deserve a chase? Everybody I know seems to think I am stressed out and looking sickly. I want to retort that I look sickly because I get to run a race for my dear life every time I am brave enough to attempt to close my eyes in the name of sleep!

In the very near future, if I survive this ordeal and become a lecturer, I am going to work tirelessly to ensure that no student goes through this. I see PhD students fighting for racism, gay rights and gender imbalances with no one fighting on our behalf! This is very unfair! Someone should be speaking on our behalf!

The Black Girl and Her White Family

Totally crushed and helpless, holding on to the hope of surviving in a foreign land

Nightmares painting images of failure and disappointment, I reached out

With fears tugging at my heart, I met her in person

She, a mother hen cautious of her nest and eggs, in need of trust and reliability

And then me, the one whose accent scribbled ‘Doubt’ boldly on her forehead

Every step towards her heavy with the weight of my skin color, I approached her


Sitting at the back of the restaurant alone, with books and food scattered on the table facing her

She looked up at me with the kindest of eyes and no hint of disapproval of my dark skin

I could swear I saw a smile threaten to escape her lips as I introduced myself

Feigning toughness, she enquired about my life, hoping to find truth

Genuinely interested, she kept her eyes trained on me, as if daring to look into my soul

I could imagine her devouring my words, attempting to pry me naked with her questions


The sun loses her fight to the clouds, rains come down and freeze to white sand

All these changes whirling around us, and yet, her love for the stranger is unwavering

An unlikely pair, yet, we are intertwined by emotions indescribable

Connected by our differences, friendship dissolves, making way for deeper bonds

No need to find reasons for, and answers to why

Black and white, the native and the immigrant, become family