I Survived My First Year as a PhD Student! | Recap & Reflections

Wheeeeewww! It’s been a hectic, successful, fun, and learning-filled first year as a doctoral student at Georgia State. The days felt long but the weeks felt short… I laughed, I cried, and I studied ’til my eyes crossed. Nevertheless, I survived.

Classes I completed:

  • Advanced Counseling Theory
  • Advanced Practicum
  • Seminar in Counseling Skills Pedagogy
  • Qualitative Research I & II (*personal favorites*)
  • Quantitative Research I
  • Advanced Group Counseling
  • Research and Publication
  • Leadership in Counselor Education
  • Adventure Therapy (*personal favorite*)

….And I ended my first year with a 4.06 GPA! (Although GPA doesn’t matter in doc programs, I’m still very proud of myself for maintaining stellar grades despite the challenges of transitioning to a new city all while seeing clients in the community and maintaining a life outside of school and work.)

While I was successful in my courses, I struggled with some intense feelings of rejection and inadequacy. I applied for three fellowships and was awarded none of them. I had to reiterate to myself that this does not reflect my character, my worth, or my life’s path. It’s just a part of my journey. I had a handful of other stand-out opportunities in my lap, and I just can’t win them all! And that’s okay.

However, one of my favorite things about being in the counseling field is all the exciting conferences I have the privilege of attending and presenting at across the country. This year, I attended/presented at:

  • The Southern Association of Counselor Education and Supervision Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC

My cohort members and I at the 2018 SACES Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC

  • The American Counseling Association Conference & Expo in New Orleans, LA

Presenting a poster at the 2019 ACA Conference in New Orleans, LA

Presentation entitled: “Exploring Contributors to the Perceptions of Multicultural Counseling Courses”.

  • The Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development Summit in Orlando, FL

Presenting a poster with a colleague at the AMCD Summit in Orlando, FL

Presentation entitled: “#Relatable: Exploring the Use of Memes to Foster Group Cohesion with Minority Adolescents”.

Of course life didn’t stop for me when I began my doc program. In fact, I made sure that it didn’t! I was very intentional about balancing in some social interaction and fun.

I went white water rafting for the first time…


Rafting in Tennessee with some of my classmates!

Climbed Stone Mountain…


Made it to the top!

I took a trip to Miami, FL with my best girlfriends…


My besties & me!

Found some serene nature trails nearby my new home…


Vickery Creek Trail in Roswell, GA

Experienced a real fall season for the first time… Wow! Colors! (I’m from sunny Florida, so this was super exciting to me!)


My friend and I pulled over on the side of the road to flick it up under this beauty of a tree!

Witnessed my mother earn her master’s degree…


She earned a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Florida State University.

Found a great therapist in my new city…


Visited Washington, D.C. with one of my best friends…


We had a blast exploring D.C.!

And I even got in a car accident that totaled my car.


My old car is on the left, T-boned. *ouch*

Thankfully, no injuries!

I also walked in one of my best friend’s wedding…


We’ve been friends since middle school.

Witnessed my partner earn his master’s degree…


He earned a Master of Arts in Counselor Education from the University of Central Florida.

And took a much-needed vacation to New York City and Paris!

It’s important to me that I don’t allow this program to take over my life in a way that all I know and see is school, because I am so much more than this program and this degree. Without this mindset, burnout and unhappiness might be around the corner for me, which of course I don’t want. I’m a whole person, and school is just one part of all that is me.

Moving into my second year, I’m excited to take on some new projects! Some of the things I’m looking forward to in my second year are:

  • Conducting my pre-dissertation study on generational trauma in African American women; a growing research interest of mine. In this process, I’ll be mentoring master’s students and helping them to prepare for doctoral programs.
  • Learning to become a supervisor for counselors-in-training
  • Taking courses in my cognate area: African American Studies
  • Teaching a Counseling Skills course to master’s students and teaching an undergraduate course in the counseling department
  • Serving as president-elect of my school’s chapter of Chi Sigma Iota International Academic and Professional Honor Society in counseling
  • Presenting at the Black Mental Health Symposium in Charlotte, NC; Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling Conference in San Antonio, TX; Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Conference in Seattle, Washington; and attending the American Counseling Association Conference & Expo in San Diego, CA and the Association for Specialists in Group Work Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Stay tuned by keeping up with me on Instagram: @CounselorAshlei. I look forward to continuing to share my PhD journey with you! Here’s to an even more amazing second year.

Have any questions about the doctoral journey? About the counseling field? Comment down below.

Be well.♥

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