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Today was a big day: I started my PhD!

Today was a big day: I started my PhD!

Today was a very big day: I started my PhD!

I decided to write a quick post about how my first day went to give other readers some idea of what to expect if they’re due to embark on a PhD; after all, there’s nothing worse than having that awful ‘fear of the unknown’ feeling! 

07:00 AM

As I often do when I have an important day, I woke up with butterflies and nausea. I then carried out my usual morning rituals and packed my bags with notebooks and textbooks which I think may come in useful.

10:00 AM

Arrived on campus! I’m living in Bristol and studying in Exeter, so I had quite a long drive; luckily I have sorted accommodation here for two nights a week so I can minimise how often I have to commute. I fully recommend using Spare Room or Airbnb if you’re ever looking for a reasonably priced place to stay.

I prioritised collecting my Unicard and sorting a parking permit so that I could access everything I need at the University.

10:30 AM

I arrived at the building I’m going to be based in feeling very nervous and sweaty after hiking up a few of the hills found on the campus at Exeter. I was greeted straight away and given a building induction; this put me at ease immediately. I also met a few fellow PhD students, and was shown my office space; I am sharing with just two other PhD students, and it’s a lovely big room that’s only just been refurbished so I’ll definitely be happy working here! I think it’s quite rare to have such good resources, some other universities don’t even offer their postgraduates a permanent desk.

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Needs jazzing up a bit, but this is my new desk!

11:30 AM

Had my first supervisor meeting. I was most nervous about this part of the day; would they expect me to know a lot about my research subject already? Would I be put on the spot? Would I make a fool of myself? The answer is no! It was a relaxed meeting to ease me into the working environment and to discuss which modules I’d be auditing this year (this is really cool, I’m being paid to attend and learn from lectures I’m interested in and I don’t have to complete any of the assessments; amazing!).

1:00 PM

Forced some lunch down whilst setting up my computer and filling in more forms.

2:00 PM

Collected an induction pack containing lots of information about the University. Now that I know my timetable and how often I need to be on campus, I decided to book lots of train tickets in advance to save some money; honestly, it’ll save you a fortune if you book these things in advance!

4:00 PM

Finally had time to start doing some reading on my subject area; I’m so excited to get my teeth into the project, which I think is a good sign!

I plan on working ‘typical’ hours where possible to keep a routine and maximise productivity. I’m also writing a weekly checklist of things I need to do.

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Conclusion - Today has been much less stressful than I expected.

Top tip: Don’t stress about your first day, it’s most likely going to be admin-filled and you’ll have plenty of time to settle in!

One of the great things about PhD research is that you manage your own time, so don’t force yourself to do more than you can manage during your first few days.

I’d love to hear from other PhD students about what their first days were like, I’m sure everyone has a slightly different first day depending on the University they’re working for and on their supervisors!

If you’d like to read about how I prepared for my PhD, you can read my previous post here.

Charlotte Chivers is a PhD researcher at the University of Exeter/Rothamsted Research. This story was published on October 3, 2018, on Charlotte's blog, Rural Jaunts (available here) and has been republished here with her permission.

Charlotte Chivers


I am a PhD researcher studying diffuse water pollution from agriculture. I am using an interdisciplinary approach to investigate how under-utilised resources could be used to improve farm advice provisioning. I am passionate about the living environment and use my blog as a platform to raise awareness on some of the issues we're facing today.

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