What I Wish I knew Before Starting my PhD

Five things in particular…

Dr. Furaha Asani
5 min readApr 23, 2021
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I defended my PhD in January 2018. During the four years of my research and writing up, certain things happened that were highly unexpected and unplanned for and these made life and my PhD experience particularly tough for me. The journey left me with five lessons that I keep applying in different areas of my life. My hope is that sharing them might give other intending-researchers a starting point, in answer to the often-asked question, “what should I know before starting a PhD?”

In no particular order, here are the five life lessons I learned from my PhD which I wish I’d known at the very start (CW: point 2 mentions mental distress; point 3 mentions death):

1.It is important to know your motives for embarking on your research (and a PhD programme in this context)

It became clear to me that my colleagues and I all had very different reasons why we’d all chosen to do a PhD, ranging from familial pressure to academic career aspiration, a case of the ‘next logical step’, and simply an opportunity to travel to a new country.

I think it’s highly necessary to be open and honest with yourself about what your motive is in signing up to projects. This doesn’t mean you owe it to anyone to tell them, or to explain yourself. However…



Dr. Furaha Asani

Migrant. Postdoctoral researcher. Teacher. Mental Health Advocate. Writer. Professional in the streets, loud on the sheets of paper.