As of Wednesday 1st July I am officially on the road to a PhD – as expected this first week has been full of getting to grips with my surroundings (read: attempting not to get lost), trying to remember the names of people around me, and more reading than I could have ever imagined.
I’ve really enjoyed my first week but it was very different to what I’d expected, so I thought I’d give you a few ideas on what you should expect if you choose the PhD route:
This is very much a self-driven project
I knew that a PhD would make me more independent but I don’t think I’d realised just how quickly that would happen. On my first day I had a meeting with my project supervisor to talk through my project and the department, I came away brimming with excitement about what my project could develop into and a weird sense of ‘what now?’ I have a growing pile of resources to read through and then it’s up to me, of course my supervisor will be there to guide me through the process, but it’s me that decides when I work, where I work and what I work on. I only graduated from my undergrad a few weeks ago so this is daunting, but I’m firmly on the side of excitement rather than fear for now!
The right project will not feel like work (at least initially)
Throughout my undergrad the volume of reading was one of my least favourite things about the course – I liked reading outside of my studies so I didn’t really understand why I despised it so much. 3 days in and it’s crystal clear; an undergraduate degree covers a huge range of research topics, meaning you’re constantly switching topics and changing what you’re learning about, it’s hard to keep up and it’s very difficult to focus and really get to grips with the literature. This week though, I’ve loved reading the literature surrounding my topic, and it genuinely hasn’t felt tedious or frustrating like it did previously. That’s how I know I’ve chosen the right project – I want to know more, I want to learn as much as I can about my research field, and I want to add to it with my own findings. I guarantee there’s a PhD student writing their thesis shaking their head reading this – just to clarify, I know it’ll ‘feel’ like work at some point, but for now it really doesn’t.
Not everyone is as interested in your research as you are
I came home from day 1 and starting telling everyone who’d listen about what I could do to develop my project – I was met with a very puzzled looking boyfriend and a few ‘what does that mean?’ type questions. I’m guessing he had the same feeling as when he comes in from work and tries to explain to me what drilling for oil entails. I’m looking forward to finding my feet and getting to know the academics around me so that I can bounce ideas off them, they may not have identical research interests but they’re in the same field so I’m sure I can learn a lot from them.
Overall I’m really happy with how my first week’s gone, I’ve started to look for additional things that I can do to improve my skills and I’m getting to grips with my subject. Next week looks much busier, and will include my first external meeting to talk about my project – both nerve-wracking and exciting!