FIND YOUR VOICE!

FIND YOUR VOICE!

Usually I start a blog after going quiet for so long with an apology but this time I won’t! I am definitely not apologising for taking some time away to just figure things out. moving to Australia, while I thought it was going to be easy, was one of the toughest things I have done to date. While I have been away from home before, for 7 years while in university in South Africa, being this far away actually feels really different. Home is no longer 3 hours and 50 minutes away and the time difference is no longer one hour, so things are definitely different this time around. Honestly, a lot of things are very different, from how supervisors handle you to how you handle yourself as well. It’s been crazy just even trying to figure out, who I am as a person (hello imposter syndrome). I’m generally not one to just let things flow, my OCD and type A personality do not do well with uncontrollable change, so if I’m honest I have really been struggling to adjust. Everything feels so distant, even though it’s around me. I don’t know how else to explain it but it’s really been quite the adjustment for me. Who knew “starting over” would be this hard?!

 

One of the toughest things about doing a PhD in Australia, especially coming from an African education system, is this thing I keep hearing all the time… i.e. FIND YOUR VOICE!! in your writing, in your life… and all that jazz. So, my cohort is pretty much made up of international students, majority of whom are from less developed countries, where in academia there is a hierarchy. Basically, you have to pay your dues before you can even consider using your voice. Now don’t get me wrong we are still expected to write a stellar thesis, but your “superiors” technically are not interested in radical ideas or anything out of what they consider the norm! and then you get to Australia and everyone wants to know what you think, what you have to say and basically you are in control and your supervisors are there just to monitor your progress and pull you back in if you venture too far out of your area (this happens a lot BTW).

 

My point is basically, as an African scholar, a female and a young one at that, is that you move from “being seen and not heard” to being encouraged to sit at the big table and speak your mind! Man!! what an adjustment it has been and it still is. Basically, you move from listening to people and following their lead to being the one that people listen to. The transition is hard especially if you’re coming from a place where it has been conditioned in you that you are less than. My mind is still adjusting but I can slowly feel myself coming into myself. Lol. It feels great but it’s a lot to handle all at once! There’s still a lot to learn and I will be sharing those lessons here just in case someone needs some insight.

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to- do- list, PhD applications…

to- do- list, PhD applications…

Following up on my what they don’t tell you about pursuing a PhD post someone requested I write one on the PhD application process, which is definitely a tedious one. Firstly, I am sorry it took so long but I have finally gotten around to it. Feel free to ask about anything I need to clarify on or assist with. In all honesty, when I started doing my applications I wasn’t ready for all I had to do before hand, so my transition from a master’s degree to a PhD was not as quick or as smooth as I had wanted it to be.  Generally, applications to South African Universities are pretty straight forward, so I was not ready for all the tests and documentation that I had to produce once I made the decision that I would not be doing my PhD in South Africa.  I also didn’t know that many people who had gone through the PhD application process outside of South Africa so I was clueless and made a lot of mistakes along the way. As a result, I thought it would be useful to make a list of things to do early, when you are considering a PhD application, even while you are still doing your Masters degree, which is something I wish I had done.

I hope this list is helpful.

1. Research Proposal Prep

So, the PhD application process requires that you already have an idea or know and prepare a proposal for the topic you are interested in tackling. Unless you are joining an ongoing project, your first step should be drafting a proposal. It definitely doesn’t have to be perfect but it should somewhat indicate what your research interests and intentions are.

2. Finding a Supervisor

Once you have your potential research ideas written in a proposal, you should begin doing your research on the schools you intend to go to and finding potential supervisors in your research areas. Email your proposal and get conversations going. Now, some will not respond at all and others will give you constructive criticism to improve on your ideas without necessarily showing interest in what your research intentions are. That is okay, just take what they give you and move on to the next. The right supervisor for you is somewhere out there.

Most universities require that the potential supervisor agrees to supervise you before you can send in an application. So, make sure that you keep all communication with a potential supervisor in your records, as some universities require that you attach the correspondence between the two of you as proof that you do indeed have someone willing to supervise you.

3. Find a University application agent if applicable e.g. AEC for Australian applications

In all honesty agents won’t really do much for you in terms of the application but they are very helpful in booking tests, visa processes, giving advice and following up on your applications for you.  At a fee, of course

4. Book your tests early

While you are still in talks with potential supervisors and working on your research proposal, (some schools require different formats or provide templates) get all the proficiency tests you require done. Most of these tests are valid for a year and need booking months in advance, so bear that in mind when you pick a date. Some countries like the States require the GRE’S, which are not easy BTW, so include some studying time as well. Others require an English test, which are pretty ok if you are already an English speaker. So, bear in mind that study time should also be included in your application timeline, even the “easy” tests are easy to flunk.

5. Start the application process early

PhD applications are pretty lengthy and require you to talk about your research goals and intentions among other things, so make sure you have enough time to do them and all your documents (recommendation letters, transcripts, I.D documents, C.V) scanned and ready so that it is a quick process. Also confirm with the different universities what kind of formats they prefer and if they have any templates that you are required to use for some of your documents such as your C.V etc.

6. Get your visa documents ready beforehand

Once your tests and applications are done and you have decided on the school you want to go to make sure that you get all your visa documents ready because everything goes pretty fast from there. Just be prepared!

 

Don’t be alarmed if the whole process takes longer than expected, some universities take a very long time to respond, I am still getting responses from other universities as we speak, even though I enrolled for my PhD in March. some application cycles just take a little bit longer than others. This is where agents will come in and assist or you could just follow up by yourself.

P.s. Patience is definitely a must have in this process.

Good luck with your applications

Love,

MasalaCurls

Ballin’ on a budget: conditioners that don’t break the bank.

Whether you are fully natural, transitioning and/or have relaxed hair conditioners play an integral part in your hair routine. Washing your hair can go from a hassle to an easy and enjoyable task based on the choices you make when picking out your conditioner. I am an avid believer that you can give your hair the best care without having to break the bank.

Ever since I moved to Australia I have been in search of a conditioner that works well, is cheap and easily accessible. Having natural hair in Australia hasn’t necessarily been easy, as all the products I used to access easily both in Kenya and South Africa are not readily available here. However, that does not mean that I have not been able to make it work!! The one thing I have to admit to loving in Australia is the fact that sales are endless. My wallet is quite happy about that and so is my hair.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been trying out different products just to see what works best and what doesn’t. As a result, I have decided to make the process easier for my Australian sistsas by doing a review of 3 price friendly conditioners that I have fallen in-love with. These products all work well with different hair types, natural, relaxed and transitioning hair. They are also available in Kenyan and South Africa as well.

RRP: refers to Recommended Retail Price

OGX Coconut Water Conditioner

Discounted price: AUD 9.99 RRP: AUD 17.99

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I have nothing but good things to say about this product!!! It has great slip and works exceptionally well to soften natural hair. I used this after I had shampooed my hair and it helped greatly with the detangling process. Shampoo’s generally strips hair of its natural oils, but with this product my hair instantly felt moisturized and soft. This conditioner is definitely the most nourishing conditioner that I have ever used, especially now that the cold weather makes my hair super dry.

I would recommend this for all hair types regardless of whether you are natural or not.

TRESemmé Cleanse &Replenish

Discounted price: AUD 6.99 RRP: AUD 11.47

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I have always been a fan of TRESemmé, from the naturals range that they had all the way the botanique range. However, the cleanse & replenish conditioner is by far my favorite. My hair was soo happy with this product that I went back and bought several bottles while the sale was still going on. I followed it up with a shampoo session and my hair was easy to detangle and remoisturised… just like product promised. Plus it doesn’t hurt that the quantity of the product is the most I have seen of any brand especially for such a price.

I would recommend this for all hair types, relaxed, transitioning and natural hair. It is definitely the most economical of the bunch of conditioners I have tried over the years.

Garnier Fructis Nutri Repair 3 Conditioner for Dry, Damaged Hair

Discounted Price: AUD 3.99 RRP: AUD: 5.95

So this was my least favorite conditioner when I followed up a shampoo session. However I was pleasantly surprised when I used it as a co – wash it was nourishing and made the detangling process easier. The formula is also quite thick, which gave great slip when detangling. The price point is great for frequent use and it works well on its own. I also have a feeling that it serves well for chemically processed and transitioning hair.

I would recommend this for chemically treated and transitioning hair, the thicker formula works best for hair that has been chemically treated and altered. However, it is also a great co- wash for natural hair.

 

Love,

MasalaCurls

I let a Korean lady cut my hair!!

I let a Korean lady cut my hair!!

Since I moved to Adelaide 4 months ago, I haven’t let anyone but myself style my hair. Today though, all that changed! My hair has been struggling for a while now, mostly because of having to adjust to the different climate, more so now that it’s winter. I had also been ignoring the fact that my hair was not level. The left side of my hair was longer and slightly fuller than the other. I had told myself that I would just let it grow out and then deal with it when it’s longer but my type A personality could not stand the unevenness. So today I put on my bravery belt and let a Korean lady wash, straighten and cut my hair!! If you are a natural in Australia, and I speak for Adelaide in particular, then you know the struggle of getting someone who knows what to do with African hair, especially in it’s natural state!

I managed to get myself a discount with this particular hair stylist and chose to go with her rather than the one a friend had recommended (I still intend on trying this one out soon though). So we spoke over the phone before I went in for my appointment and I tried my best to explain what my hair texture is like. Now, English is hard for non-native speakers, so as much as I tried hard to explain, I was not sure that this lady understood what I was saying. Highly skeptical and seriously trying to convince myself not to go through with it I chose to walk by faith and not by sight.

So I got there at about 1pm and the lady welcomed me in. My first thought was that she looked really young and possibly didn’t have that much experience with my hair type. We had a consultation first and I explained what I wanted done and she seemed comfortable with handling my tresses. So we went straight to the sink where she washed and conditioned my hair. Now for me, detangling is where my hair appointment either starts or ends! I was pleasantly surprised though because first she did not try to detangle my dry hair, which a lot of hair stylists do. Second, she detangled from my tips to my roots. She had definitely PASSED level one.

Then we went on to the straightening. HAHA! This part was a little funny at first because she didn’t expect it to get bigger as it was drying. She looked quite frustrated at first because it was taking forever and my hair was just getting bigger and bigger. She had to alternate between several brushes, but she eventually got the hang of it. All in all the straightening process went okay, although time consuming. It literally took her about an hour to straighten my hair.

The last step was the haircut and honestly, the way she handled those scissors my heart was at ease!! She knew what she was doing! I was pleasantly surprised!! We did have a conversation after and she let me know that she used to relax a lot of African hair and this was her first time dealing with natural hair. I am so glad I had an open mind and I cannot wait to see what it looks like when I bring back the curls.

I am one happy camper!!

Love,

MasalaCurls

What they don’t tell you about pursuing a PhD.

What they don’t tell you about pursuing a PhD.

Granted that I have only been in this PhD world for just over a month, I am sure that my views will change and that what I will share later on in this blog will probably be less from a surface angle. Just a disclaimer though, this blog will only address my experiences and not that of every PhD student. My words, my truth Brah!

Tech – savvy? What is that?

Coming in from doing a Masters in South Africa, I was definitely not ready for all the technological advancements that are available and utilized in Australia. Now I consider myself somewhat tech savvy and my previous supervisor was also very technologically in-tune. We carried out almost all our interactions and feedback online, and via computer software’s so I considered myself pretty okay in the tech department. Especially considering the fact that some of my previous lecturers didn’t even send out emails, or hand over assignments online because they had not embraced technology at all, Hello Prof. Schoeman! However, when considering how many apps, software and online pages I have to keep track of as we speak I am starting to think that this is how my parents feel every time they have to deal with more features on their upgraded cellphones. I spend half my time refusing to read manuals and eventually giving in because I have come to accept the fact that I am not as tech savvy as I thought I was.

Now I know as soon as I get the hang of all this life will get easier. For now, life just feels like a big mess made up of synchronized calendars, overflows of emails, online inductions, app downloads, online tutorials, referencing clients, learning how to use windows again and trying to feel like I know what I am doing.

Stereotypes!! Please refrain from spreading those

When I first arrived in Adelaide, I was a couple of weeks late, getting my visa had proven to be quite the process. So, I basically missed all the orientation opportunities and introduction classes. I met most of my fellow colleagues in a research class that is for international students who are new to the university. What I did notice that first day is that a lot of the African students were formally dressed and male, actually so far I seem to be the only African female from this particular bunch. There is a particular idea based on dressing accordingly to the Prestige of pursuing a PhD in the African continent that does not ring true here. I have to admit that I love it because I don’t believe that things such as individual expression, reflected through the way that we dress, should measure intellectual capabilities.

However, that does not mean that these ideas immediately escape the African mind once you go through that thorough search at the airport once you touch down on Australian ground. I for one was not spared from the African stereotypes that believe I should be thinking about building a family rather than a career in academia. So patience is a MUST in this area.

You will be clueless 98% of the time

Granted that it is still early in my PhD career, I have been assured that with time I will start feeling less lost. Now the good thing about the university that I am in is that we have milestones, which ensures that we are working towards something. However, this does not guarantee that you will not feel lost. The fact that you have to work with new supervisors means that you are dealing with new personalities, new supervising approaches, new research management ideas, basically everything is new. Which could result in feeling lost ALL THE TIME. The other 2% counts for all the times I was winging it and will continue to, even when I know what I am doing.

Regardless of all this I have met some incredible people and thoroughly enjoyed my stay so far in this gorgeous city of Adelaide in South Australia.

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River Torrens
Torrens bridge
River Torrens
Henley Beach
Hahndorf, Adelaide Hills
Henley Beach
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Adelaide CBD
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Rundle Mall
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Rundle Lantern

Love,

MasalaCurls

…but I chose to use my heart.

…but I chose to use my heart.

Apologies again for going silent, it has been a tumultuous couple of weeks leading up to this blog post. However, I do have a good reason as to why I went quiet, I moved to Australia! So no, I am not here on a prolonged vacation or on some Huddah Monroe lifestyle things… I moved to Australia to pursue a life in Academia. I am hoping I sound like an academic at this point, as this is what I have been referring to myself as.

A couple of years ago at a time like this I was prepping for my final I.B exams, anxious to leave my school uniform behind and looking forward to finally clubbing without having to say I was going for a sleepover. HAHA! Most of my teacher’s thought I would be off to some performing arts schools either singing, acting or somewhere doing creative writing. Honestly, I also thought the same. I couldn’t see my life beyond the talents I was constantly nurturing. I auditioned and got selected to be a radio presenter on Homeboyz radio, just as it was starting up, while I was waiting to go to university. I was recording tracks in a studio, because you know, my music career was waiting for me and enjoying life after high school.  If you asked me then I would have sworn I was going to be in the entertainment industry.

Fast forward to 2017, I have degrees in Political science and Security and strategic studies. Such a contrast from the direction I was heading previously.  I am now pursuing a PhD in the media department and I honestly can’t help but feel like I have come full circle.  I honestly, never thought academia would be a world I would explore, not in this lifetime. I have to admit though, that I still stick out like a sore thumb in this world because my love for music, art and the entertainment industry are still so strong. The essence of who I am hasn’t changed at all.

Through it all I have learned to embrace the idea that being different does not mean that you do not belong! I guess what I am trying to get at is that just because you do not fit into preconceived boxes, does not mean that you cannot create your own space to thrive!!

I know it won’t be  easy, but I am looking forward to the ride.

Adelaide CBD
University of Adelaide, North Terrace Campus
University of Adelaide, North Terrace Campus

 

Love,

MasalaCurls

Heena treatments.

Heena treatments.

For the last two weeks or so I had started noticing that my hair was shedding A LOT!! I partly blame this on the fact that I haven’t given up on shampoos that may contain some sulphates, the weather and the fact that sometimes your hair just needs that extra TLC. So just to give my hair a bit of a break I decided to go into protective styling, since protein treatments were just not giving me any visible improvements.

Then it hit me, HEENA TREATMENTS!! I hadn’t done one in over a year and using chemical free products is always the way to go in healthy hair management. So I went to town and picked myself a pack of henna and vowed to do a henna treatment once I undid my protective style. The day finally came yesterday and I was ecstatic to finally get my henna treatment in!! Before I get into the procedure of my henna treatment I thought it would be great to list some of the benefits of using henna (natural henna and not henna dyes) on natural hair.

Some benefits of henna for natural hair:

• Stronger strands, even when my hair was relaxed henna treatments definately made my hair feel stronger.

• Less breakage, the shedding that I am experiencing just has to go!!

• Balances hair porosity, I have low porosity hair which has difficulty with retaining moisture but henna helps with this

• Dandruff reduction, I really don’t have a problem with dandruff, but the anti fungal properties of henna help eliminate dandruff.

• Smoothens the hair cuticle and gives natural hair a shiny and healthy appearance

• Thicker hair, I can attest to this!!! Volume on volume.

• Promotes hair growth due to antibacterial and antifungal properties, which makes the hair healthy from both inside and out.

To be completely honest though, not everyone has such a pleasant experience with henna, so it is important to do a strand test beforehand just to make sure your hair is feeling the henna. Plus henna does dye your hair, so if that is not what you want or are interested in I suggest you give it a pass.

So this is how I went about my henna treatment:

Step one: Mix henna, I used the full packet because I have a lot of hair, and about half a cup of black tea together (you get double the benefits by mixing the two together). The black tea reduces shedding, strengthens the hair and makes it softer.

Step two: add about 3 tablespoons of a moisturizing treatment; I used Lory’s garlic moisturizing treatment for this. Henna acts like a protein, strengthening the hair, so adding a protein to henna will most likely lead to brittle hair.

Step three: mix all three ingredients together until desired consistency.

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Step four: section hair, wear some gloves because it gets really messy and you really don’t want orange hands, and apply to each section from root to tips, concentrating mostly on your ends.

Step five: cover hair with a shower cap and a scarf and leave it in for about and hour or however long you prefer. I kept mine on overnight and rinsed it out the next day.

The results:

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The last time I had a henna treatment was a year ago and I had about four inches of hair, so rinsing it off was easy. However, I now have hair that is almost at shoulder length and to say rinsing the henna off was a task would be an under statement!! LOL

It took forever to rinse everything off so I suggest doing a henna treatment when you have plenty of time on your hands. After rinsing it off I did co-wash with some tressemme moisture rich conditioner and then assessed how my hair felt.

First and foremost, it felt really soft, had lots of volume and I swear I think it grew a little (ok maybe I am exaggerating) but my hair did look fuller and more vibrant. Plus it enhanced the darkness of my locks, which a lot of people think I dye black to achieve my dark hue. I shed very little hair while I was washing my hair and I was happy about the results

The only thing I disliked about this whole process was the mess that was my bathroom… I spent almost 20 minutes just trying to clean up all the henna from the walls, the drain and the floor. HAHA!! That is why it will take me another year just to do this again.

Love,

Masalacurls