Ijeoma Kola posing in beige shirt and khaki shorts with brown handbag

April Q&A – Moving Back to America, Starting a Postdoc, Gender Roles & More!

With my recent big announcement and life update, I expected a lot of my April Q&A questions to be all about my decision to move back the the US with my family. I’m sharing more on that in this month’s answers, along with my thoughts on career satisfaction, religion in relationships, taking a break after studies, and a whole lot more!

Living in Kenya & Moving to the US

Q&A

  • When are you moving back to the US?

    This summer!

  • What are you looking forward to about moving back home?

    I’m looking forward to being closer to my family. I’m hoping that my son can spend some quality time with his cousins in the US in the same way he’s been able to spend time with his cousin in Kenya.

  • How is US daycare hunting going?

    I’ve got a massive list of options, and this week am planning to call them up and figure out cost and whether there are any openings!

  • What are your concerns about raising a Black son in racist USA and what are you doing about it?

    What are my concerns? What AREN’T my concerns?! I have to figure out how to teach my child about skin colors because I don’t want him to hear something about Black or brown people in daycare and not understand what it means. And prayer and therapy.

  • Will you miss Kenya?

    Absolutely, but the move isn’t final. We’ll be back and forth!

  • What will you miss the most about Nairobi and Kenya in general?

    The cost of living and easy access to childcare and househelp. Also being able to visit Dana on a weekly basis!

  • Will Jonathan lose his job with the family relocating back to the US?

    Jonathan works for himself, so no.

  • How will Jonathan’s start-up survive the move? It seems to be based in Kenya.

    That’s a question for Jonathan. But I also successfully ran a business that was based in the US from Kenya for 2 years so neither of us are the kind of people to not figure it out.

  • How will you manage your husband’s career progression with the move back to the US?

    It’s not my job to manage my husband’s career progression.

  • Do you have any plans to come back to Kenya?

    Yes! We’re keeping an apartment in Kenya and will be back and forth as much as we can, Jonathan and TKB probably moreso than me. But the plan for now is to come back unless God shows us otherwise.

  • Do you love living in Kenya? Do you see yourself being permanently based in Kenya?

    I really like living in Kenya. I shared more of my thoughts living in Kenya here. While I do see us comfortably living in Kenya long-term, there are educational, professional, and familial considerations that are hard to think about all at once that may affect our decisions.

  • Will you still be renting in Kenya?

    Yes. We decided to buy in the US and rent in Kenya for now since the financial returns on real estate are more immediate in the US.

  • How’s the COVID situation in Kenya?

    It seemed to be getting better right before we left and the curfew was eased and restaurants and in-person worship opened up again so hopefully we’re past the third wave.

  • How do you ship stuff from the US?

    Through DHL, SavoStore, Kentex, or iMail. I have yet to have a 100% positive experience with any option.

School & Education

Q&A

  • Would you say your two-year ‘gap year’ was beneficial? Would you recommend it for a PhD graduate?

    Absolutely! At least for me since I never took a break from school, I needed some time to figure out what I wanted without the pressure or expectations of anyone else. I don’t think someone who worked before entering grad school or did so when they were older would necessarily have to take a break afterwards, but it was extremely helpful for me.

  • I am a 24 year old African woman and I just got accepted into a PhD. Any tips?

    Congratulations! Too many tips and advice to share in a paragraph, but you should definitely join Cohort Sistas for a support community and listen to the Cohort Sistas Podcast where Black women who’ve completed doctoral programs share their advice and experiences!

  • Are you the only one who has done a PhD in your family?

    Yes. My older brother is working on his PhD now though!

  • What is one thing you wish you knew while studying public health?

    That most public health problems (like most world problems) are not solved in the classroom but on the ground.

  • How can I meet you? I have so much to ask you as a scholar before you go!

    I don’t meet up with strangers for a variety of reasons — lack of time, safety, pandemic, etc. But I do have this monthly Q&A where I answer tons of questions, and on occasion find some time to respond to questions submitted via email. I’m working on an appointment scheduling system where I’m able to provide more virtual availability.

  • Tips on how to make friends while transitioning from undergrad?

    This isn’t specifically about making friends after college but I’ve previously written about making friends in a new city, which probably also applies to your life post-undergrad. Congratulations!

Access more posts on school.

Postdoc & Career

Q&A

  • How many postdoc applications did you send? How many applications led to interviews?

    I applied for 6 positions, was shortlisted at 2 places, and rejected at 4. I interviewed at just one place and received the position (which was one of two).

  • Is your postdoc job a permanent or fixed contract?

    It’s a one-year renewable contract with the expectation that it will last two years.

  • What research will your postdoc focus on?

    I’ll be refining my dissertation, which examined the intellectual history of asthma in Black urban America. I’m ultimately working on a book manuscript that will look at asthma in the Black urban diaspora, and doing a research project that explores the rise of asthma in select subSaharan African cities.

  • If I want to work in America, what protocols do I have to follow?

    That’s a question for an immigration lawyer.

  • How important is it for one’s career to be fulfilling? Can financial incentive be enough motivation?

    I think that’s an individual decision. For some people, a career is a way to provide for themselves and their families. For others, a career is an integral part of their life purpose. Depending on what your priorities are, that will determine to what extent your career pursuits are rooted in passion/fulfillment vs financial gain.

  • Why do some influencers blow up more than others (get international deals)? Is it consistency? Or what?

    There’s no secret formula to “blowing up”. But based on my 10 years experience as a content creator, the most successful influencers are the ones who consistently create interesting content and approach their influencer work with a business mindset — having systems in place, clear operational guidelines, and having professionalism to secure new and maintain existing industry relationships. That said, since influencing is in many ways an image focused industry, some influencers whose image aligns with societal/cultural values of beauty and success often have a leg up in the game. So influencers who are more thin, lighter, with looser curl textures, and who are more wealthy, tend to progress further more quickly (at least strictly based on follower count) than others.

  • Where can one invest their money to make more money? I just started working.

    I’m not a financial advisor and I don’t handle the investment side of our finances, but I know there’s a LOT of different advice on what to invest in. I think regardless of what you invest in, make sure you diversify your investments (don’t put all your eggs in one basket), and if an investment sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

  • Can you mentor someone who wants to navigate the world of blogging as a mom?

    I’m focusing my mentorship right now on women in doctoral programs, but I’m considering creating a course for aspiring bloggers.

  • How can I volunteer on Cohort Sistas?

    Of course! Email info@cohortsistas.com to chat further.

  • How did you overcome doubt and not believing in yourself in your career?

    I talked about how I became more confident in my personal life here and that personal confidence translated to professional confidence!

Get more career content here.

Relationships, Marriage & Motherhood

Q&A

  • Any advice for a mixed faith couple (both Christians but different denominations)?

    Jonathan and I were raised in different denominations, but denomination isn’t important to our faith for both of us so it’s never created an issue. Long and short, nope, sorry I don’t have any advice.

  • Do you conform to any gender roles in your household?

    I wouldn’t say we conform to gender roles because the word conform to me implies lack of interrogation of a norm, and we’ve discussed our various roles and responsibilities in our household. Based on our convos, I do the majority of the cooking — which is traditionally a woman-led gender role — but I don’t do it because I’m “supposed to” but because I like cooking and my food tastes better lol.

  • I really want to know how you survived a long distance relationship all that time? You mentioned it on the blog, but what about the hard times? Sometimes not talking daily or going months without meeting – how does it work?

    It was HARD. If more than 2 days went by without us talking I pretty much flipped out since I had major trust issues from past relationships. But whenever we had a conflict, we worked through it and reminded ourselves about the end goal. We also maximized every minute we spent together! Linking the long-distance relationship tip post in case you haven’t read it yet!

  • How’s baby Kola?

    He’s great! More like toddler Kola now. Running everywhere and letting us know he’s the boss.

  • Did you manage to continue cloth diapering your son? Any tips?

    When my nanny changes him, she uses cloth diapers, but when Jonathan changes him, he uses disposables. I rarely change diapers (lol going back to the gender role question), but what I do depends on my mood. I think we need to strip our cloth diapers because they’ve lost absorbency, but because I’m not super involved in that process I kind of just let everyone do what they’re most comfortable with.

  • What’s one thing that you hope your son will always feel and know as he grows up? Besides the fact that you love him.

    There are so many things I want him to know — that he was created and is loved by God, that as a man he has an obligation to recognize and call out misogyny and female oppression, and that he comes from a long line of hard-working and ambitious but caring and community-centered people on both sides of his family.

  • Did you tear or get an episiotomy during the birth of the Kola baby? I’m almost due and I’m so freaked out!

    I know how you feel! I had a 2nd-degree tear during my vaginal birth but didn’t feel the tear happening or anything. And I didn’t feel like I had a particularly difficult recovery. Tearing is the last thing on your mind as you’re actually giving birth! Good luck!

  • How do you feel about pre-natal supplements?

    I think they’re important! I didn’t keep up with them after the baby was born because I felt like my diet was well-rounded but I took this pill and this DHA early in my pregnancy and this gummy later on in my pregnancy when I started to be more forgetful and less interested in pills.

  • What birth control methods do you use?

    Chile right now we’re operating on a hope and a dream lol and using condoms and ovulation tracking. Before getting pregnant I used an IUD and though there’s no firm evidence that it impacted my fertility, I’m more comfortable not using any hormonal contraception until we’re done having kids.

See more on love & marriage and motherhood.

Hair

Q&A

  • What’s your current hair routine?

    I answered that last month.

  • Did you ever decide on a ‘signature’ hairstyle and color?

    Yes, this current color and side-parted fro is it!

  • What does this new hair color mean? Transformation?

    Hmm, I didn’t really think about that. I think it signifies a return to pre-baby me. Cuz the black hair really wasn’t me.

  • How do you prevent split/dry ends wearing your hair out all the time? I haven’t seen this in your previous hair posts.

    My hair doesn’t get split ends because I don’t manipulate it so much. I do put moisturizer on my ends every once in a while when i wear it out, which helps address dryness. Funny enough the dryness I’ve been experiencing lately has been scalp dryness and not hair dryness.

Want to read more on hair? I’ve got you.

Balance & Productivity

Q&A

  • How do you recommend planning a wedding during grad school? (Balancing time, etc).

    Try and be as organized as possible, ask for help, and optimize your weekend time! I don’t think planning a wedding during grad school is any different from wedding planning while working. You just do stuff on your lunch break, evenings, or weekends.

  • How do you strategically set long-term and short-term goals?

    I use my birthday and the new year to think about long-term goals, and for short-term goals I try to use a 3 month/quarterly system. I also think about my goals in 3 buckets: professional (right now this is Cohort Sistas & Ijeoma Kola), academically (postdoc and research), and personally.

  • What do you like to do to help when you feel stressed or anxious?

    I often channel my stress and yell at Jonathan for things like breathing or walking too hard, so clearly I’m not the best with stress or anxiety management. Working out does help regulate my stress, as does sleeping better and eating cleaner. But sometimes shutting down my phone and computer, eating a Snickers bar, drinking a glass of wine, and watching Girlfriends does the trick of resetting my mood before the next day.

Check out more content on balance and productivity.

Personal

Q&A

  • How are you?

    I’ve got a lot on my mind and to-do list but I’m grateful for where I currently am in life!

  • You recently captioned in one of your posts that you’re tending to your inner garden. What does that entail?

    I just meant that I’ve been doing a lot of inner work — mindfulness, reflecting on my past, present, and future, trying to be more well, more present, less anxious.

  • How can one ensure that they don’t become religious to the point of losing touch with reality?

    Hmm, I don’t know. Maybe don’t exclusively live in a religious bubble such that you don’t interact with the real world? Being able to have humility and understanding of the world is essential to showing love that almost all religions call for.

  • How many weird dms/emails do you get in a week and how do you deal with them?

    I probably get a handful of weird or annoying DMs, emails, and comments in a week — either men soliciting me, people telling me they don’t like what I’m doing (I get the occasional stop showing the back of your kids head), or people outright asking me for money. I mostly delete and ignore them and block when necessary, but every once in a while I engage because I’m still working on my petty.

  • What’s your biggest friendship regret?

    In college I alienated an entire group of friends because they tried to tell me that I was in an unhealthy relationship. I wasn’t ready to hear what they were saying so instead of listening, I cut most of them off. Their intentions were pure, even though I still don’t agree with the approach, but I wasn’t able to repair most of those friendships and even though they may have fizzled out eventually, I regret that I let a relationship compromise my friendships.

  • How tall are you?

    Without the fro, 5’6 and a half. The half is crucial!

  • What are your views on plastic surgery?

    On other people, it doesn’t impact me, so I don’t care. For myself, I’ve had the idea in the deep deep crevices of the back of my mind to get a boob job at some point, but I probably won’t.

  • Have you always been confident?

    Nope. Confidence video here and three tips to improve your confidence here.

  • Summer plans? Vacay? Especially since the world has opened up (sort of).

    My summer plans involve moving twice in two different countries so no summer vacay, but I’m going on a family vacay in a couple weeks!

  • Just want to say you’re awesome and I think you are meant to be a leader. You give of yourself and you open your heart to people.

    Thank you so very very much!

Access more of my personal reflections.

That’s it for April! Be sure to keep up with my Instagram stories towards the end of May to get your questions in for the next Q&A!

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Comments

  1. I love the format of this Q&A! That question about blowing up in the content creator space – your response was on point! There are so many factors that affect the size of your online following and those factors are often outside of our control.

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