A Letter to First-Year-Self – Züleyha

Every PhD is a journey and sometimes it is nice to take a moment to look back and see how far we have gone. Read the letter Züleyha wrote to First-Year-Self and let us know if you would like to share yours. 🙂

Dear My First-Year-PhD-Self,

I know that you are not sure whether you will succeed PhD while waiting nervously now in front of your supervisor’s door for your first ever supervision. Yet… Here you are now, having finished your doctoral studies, and turned back to your country…So, let me tell you a few things…

Yes, you will be taking a long, long route. There will be times when you lose your motivation. You won’t even want to look at the screen of your computer. You will have sleepless nights, during which you will feel extremely distressed with worries…On these moments, first allow yourself to panic a bit so that you don’t supress feelings! Then, slow down, relax and breathe until you calm down. Don’t let the stress to take your control so much so that you can’t even think properly. Focus on consistency in your work. Even if you do smaller amounts of work than what you originally plan to do, keep doing your work. You will see how little things make a whole PhD thesis in the end.

Photo Credits: Pixabay
Photo Credits: Pixabay

Yes, there will be other PhD students around you, and some of them will have many more achievements than you do. Stop comparing yourself with others! Everybody is different, we all have different paces, and everyone’s research has unique features of progress.

Yes, doing a PhD means that there will be lots of new things in your life…You will have to establish new relations to be able to complete your research. Lots of new people, new settings, new plans, and new questions will enter your life every day… Being unexpected will be the major feature of all these new things. Be patient with the unexpected. Try to see and hear what each of them has to offer you to make your PhD journey a great success.

Yes, you are perfectly perfectionist! You spend hours thinking about how to write one sentence. You spend days thinking about how to start your analysis. You spend weeks thinking about how to review your chapters. I don’t object to any of these necessary processes of developing your PhD-self. Yet, don’t delay your opportunities of receiving feedback on what you do by focusing too much on presenting the perfect piece of work! Of course you need to respect people’s time and own responsibilities, but make the most of being a novice researcher and be open to getting feedback along the process! Cherish being a “learner”!

Above many things, yes, your life is very busy, and you sometimes feel like PhD is taking all of your time… Never lose your touch with people around you, but not for creating research networks only, but for making ‘friends’. Make friends! Talk to people, listen to them (even if you find yourself constantly listening to others rather than talking to them), and have coffee breaks with them. Never lose your touch with life. Keep exploring cities, taking pictures, watching movies, and reading books you enjoy.

You will see that you will eventually reach the finish point. Until then, enjoy being a PhD student.

Best wishes,

Your Dr.Self,


Züleyha Ünlü has recently completed her PhD studies at the Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick. Her research interest is centred in the analysis of academic context and she investigates how linguistic, social and institutional components shape the discourse of academic context. During her doctoral research, Züleyha Ünlü investigated one-to-one teacher-student classroom feedback interactions on English for Academic Purposes writing

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