2013 was a busy and challenging year for me. In terms of academics, I took my first PhD core courses and did well in them. The first course was game theory, which I took in the spring with four other courses (including an English course and a half-semester seminar) while planning for my Uganda project.
My summer in Uganda was memorable. Designing and carrying out a survey on my own is probably the biggest (academic) challenge I have experienced in my life. Reading through the household surveys others have done in developing countries is one thing; going to the field and conducting your own survey based on local conditions is another. Living in a village in Uganda, I learned much more about the reasons for underdevelopment than I ever thought about before. As the only survey enumerator, I experienced the difficulty of collecting a random sample and acquiring personal information through face-to-face interviews. This field experience also trained me to have a critical eye with respect to household survey data, which will be invaluable in my future research endeavors.
The following are my goals for 2014:
1. Get admitted to a PhD program that will help me become a successful labor and development economist. I have submitted all my applications and the results will be out around March. Compared with myself two years ago, I am a lot more prepared and confident.
2. Train my ability to do research. Frame a question clearly and look for methods to tackle it based on available resources.
3. Read more about economics, other social sciences, literature, and science. Attend seminars at the statistics department that are interesting to economists. My interests in statistics has been growing since I came to Duke, thanks to Prof. David Dunson‘s Bayesian statistics course.
4. Write at least two well-structured blog posts each week, and look for ways to improve academic writing. Clarity and conciseness are essential, but I want to make my papers interesting to read as well.
5. Keep singing, and keep running. A looser schedule should give me more time to go to the music rooms and pick up my singing skills. I hope to learn more about exercises with equipment and develop a personal toolkit for effective fitness training.
6. Manage my relationships well. This is at least as important as academics. A loving relationship is a long-term project, and I still have a lot to learn.
In the next semester, I will take only 2 or 2.5 courses while continue working for Prof. Daniel Xu on China-related projects (including some interesting surveys which I’m already getting excited for). I am looking for internship opportunities in mainland China and Hong Kong in the coming summer that will benefit my future academic career.