An important component of PhD students’ educational experience is to understand how they negotiate their practices and identity during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study explores a PhD student’s expectations and lived realities during their tough time through the lens of Bourdieu’s theory of practice. We found that doctoral students perceive the PhD journey as an all-consuming endeavor that is full of aspirations, motivations, commitments, and rewards. Even though, several students also experienced many hidden risk factors in a tough time, which evoked feelings of disappointment and may result in a lack of agency. Therefore, we want to further explore how different forms of capital are valued and exchanged in the field of higher education and respect the voices of PhD students within the academic field. The study offers recommendations for how doctoral students, academic supervisors, and institutions can provide cohesive practices to cultivate future scholars.