Being a Doctoral Mom

"Creative Corner" contribution by Ji Ma, Georgia State University


Being a doctoral student, 

In the United States,

Majoring in language and literacy,

Is her dream,

Until the pandemic starts...

As an international student, 

She felt the pressure of 


Visa restrictions,

Job limitations...


She was in fear of

Getting sick,

Losing funding,

Losing her parents...


She is 

A non-traditional student,

Studying abroad in her 40s, 

In a new country,

With uncertainty, 

Financial instability, 

Family responsibility.


She is also

A mother,

A translator for her family,

A caregiver of two little children,

The primary source of family income,

An educator who loves learning, teaching, languages, and cultures.


She questioned,

Why language education is less valued than STEM majors.

Why tensions between countries change people’s relations.

Why the curriculum discusses diversity but excludes international students’ voices.

Why her spouse is not allowed to work, to contribute his values at the best of his lifetime. 

Why her alien kids are excluded from affordable insurance.


She wondered,

If it was worth quitting their jobs, selling their house, spending their savings, leaving their parents to pursue her education.

If it would be easier to quit and do what they told her to do, “go back to your country!”     


Then she realized,

She can either endure the pandemic and social movements with fears and tears,

Or she can use the time to reexamine and position herself with reading and writing.


She will not see herself as a guest, an outsider,

A checkmark to represent diversity, equity, and inclusion of an institution. 


She saw her responsibility as an international educator,

A mother with beliefs, a wife with courage, and a student with commitments,

To advocate equity,

To promote diversity,

To persist and carry on,

Because being a doctoral student is her dream.

Because the pandemic is only part of life’s journey.

Ji Ma.jpg

Ji Ma is a doctoral student in Language and Literacy at Georgia State University. She had 15-year teaching and educational leadership experience in China before she came to the United States to further her education. Her research lies at the intersection of language learning/teaching and intercultural communication, which reflects her experiences as an English language learner and educator, a non-traditional and international Ph.D. student, and mother of two young children who speak two languages. Currently, she studies female Chinese students’ overseas experiences, U.S. pre-service teachers’ cross-cultural teaching practices in China, and Chinese teachers’ intercultural competence development in the dual-language immersion programs. Her goal is to prepare linguistically and culturally competent students and teachers.