Hawa Allarakhia, M.Ed. is a doctoral student at the University of South Florida in the Doctor of Education: Educational Innovation program.
When I was born at twenty-five weeks gestation, weighing 1lb and 11oz, my parents were told it was unlikely I would survive. If I did survive, my quality of life would be greatly diminished.
As someone who has Cerebral Palsy and a diagnosis of a Specific Learning Disability since elementary school, I learned at an early age that education was going to be the key to becoming a contributing member of society. It has not been an easy road. A great deal of blood, sweat, and tears has led me to pursue my Doctorate in Education. The road to the doctoral degree includes earning consecutive bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as working part-time as a graduate assistant for the last four years.
In all honesty, the hardest part about pursuing my doctoral degree has been maintaining my physical stamina. Now, some may question why this may be a problem when my degree offers a majority of courses online. The truth is that persons with Cerebral Palsy have to dispel three times as much energy as able-bodied persons. There are times where it takes me an entire day to write one discussion post or read an article and this can be an exhausting process. Some nights I cannot sleep because my mind will not stop thinking about all the work I have to finish by the end of the week. I fear I will not have time to finish everything. My mind goes blank at times from being so tired and sometimes the only way I can write anything is by talking to my editor while she transcribes it to the computer.
By all means, the stress, anxiety, and exhaustion does not take away from the pride and elation I feel at reaching milestones so far. Maintaining a 4.0 GPA has been a point of pride because this was basically impossible for me during my undergraduate studies. I experienced extra pressure living on campus and this was emotionally and physically draining. I finished, but it certainly was not easy and I did not achieve a 4.0 GPA. However, graduate school has been decidedly different.
Securing my doctoral dissertation committee was a wonderful moment. Two of the members had never interacted with me previously and their agreement to serve as committee members was based on their interest in my research. Completing my required course work this summer means I can focus solely on writing my research proposal. This has been a struggle while trying to do classwork as well. It is a challenge to divide time between multiple tasks.
People may wonder why I chose to pursue this level of education if I find it so taxing. The answer is simple. First and foremost, I enjoy learning, but the other reason has to with the fact that my career aspirations in the post-secondary arena in either an administrative or educational capacity calls for an exceptional amount of education. Along with fact that as a young child I did not recognize the limitations brought on by Cerebral Palsy and dreamed of following in my father’s footsteps and becoming a physician. So, the way I see it, earning a doctoral degree in the next best thing.
I might have to take two classes per semester instead of three. My qualifying exam may have to be completed in the span of two semesters. Gathering and analyzing the data for my dissertation may take a year.
At the end of the day that does not matter because I know my goal is going to be attained with the support of my family, editor, professors.