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How to Adapt and Integrate into Your First Year of Ph.D. Life

Starting a Ph.D. is an exciting and challenging journey. You have secured a position (e.g., full-funded, partially-funded, or self-funded) to pursue your Ph.D. students and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in your field of interest. However, you may also feel overwhelmed by the expectations, responsibilities and uncertainties that come with doing a Postgraduate degree like Ph.D. How can you make the most of your first year and set yourself up for success, it he first that everyone is considering? Here are some tips that might help adapt and integrate into your Ph.D. life.

  1. Participate in your research group or department. The first year of your Ph.D. is also a time to integrate into your research group or department. You are expected to actively participate in the activities of your group or department, such as seminars, meetings, workshops and social events. This can help you learn from others’ experiences, get feedback on your work, contribute to the research culture and environment and develop a sense of belonging [1].

  2. Get writing. Writing is an essential skill for any Ph.D. student, and it is something that you should practice regularly from the start. Writing can help you clarify your thoughts, develop your arguments, communicate your findings and receive feedback. You should write not only for your literature review, but also for your research proposal, progress reports, conference papers, journal articles and blog posts. Don’t worry about writing perfectly at first; just write something and revise it later. The more you write, the better you will get at it [1].

  3. Manage expectations. The point of a Ph.D. is to prepare you become a competent researcher, not to start out as one. You don’t have to know everything or do everything right from the beginning. You will make mistakes, face challenges and encounter failures along the way. That’s normal and expected. Instead of being discouraged or defensive, try to learn from them and improve yourself. Be open to feedback and criticism, and seek help when you need it. Also, be realistic about what you can achieve in a given time frame, and don’t overcommit yourself to too many tasks or projects [1].

  4. Enjoy! Doing a Ph.D. can be stressful, but it can also be fun and rewarding. Remember why you chose to do a Ph.D. in the first place, and what you are passionate about. Find joy in discovering new things, solving problems, creating knowledge and sharing it with others. Celebrate your achievements, big or small. Balance your work with other activities that make you happy, such as hobbies, sports, travel or spending time with friends and family. Take care of your physical and mental health, and don’t hesitate to seek support if you are struggling.

  5. Build your networks. The first year of your Ph.D. is also a great opportunity to connect with other researchers, both within and outside your university. Networking can help you find mentors, new collaborators, new friends and potential employers. You can network by attending seminars, workshops, conferences and social events, by joining online platforms and communities, and by reaching out to people who share your interests or expertise. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and introduce yourself to others. You never know what opportunities could stem from a simple conversation [1] [2].

The first year of a Ph.D. is a time of exploration, experimentation and learning. It is also a time of adaptation and integration into a new environment and community. By following these tips, you can make the most of your first year and prepare yourself for the rest of your Ph.D. journey.

By Shangjie Lian


[1] Master Academia. (2020). A guide for first year PhD students: Expectations, responsibilities, advice.

[2] Queen’s University Belfast. Pharmacy (PMY-PHD) | Courses.

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