First Term Done

As we make our way through January and well into term two, first year PhD student and blogger Rupika reflects on her journey so far.

By Rupika Gulati

My first term is already finished, and I am into my second term, but I am not even sure where the time has gone. Reflecting on last term, I have learnt many things that I will carry with me through to the end of my PhD. Like managing expectations of how long things take, and that it is ok to not hit the ground running from the word go. Even 3 months in, there is a lot of background content that I have yet to master and get to grips with which is a challenge for many reasons.

With all the trials and tribulations associated with any PhD, I need to constantly tell myself that a PhD is a marathon, not a sprint and if you treat it like the latter, you’ll burn out fast. This is where skills that I have learnt in my first term have been valuable and which I would not have thought a PhD would have shown me. Simple things like learning how to break a big task into manageable pieces that I could understand. I thought I knew how to do this but turns out it’s a skill that needs practice. I’m grateful that my supervisor was persistent in pushing me to find that way that works for me.

A woman with brown hair in pink trousers and a black jumper is running on a road.
Image Credit: Rosemary Ketchum.

Looking back at where I started, I did think I would be at a different stage in my research journey. Instead, there were things that I had not accounted for and underestimated how long certain other parts would take. Starting my PhD, I knew I had a mammoth task of learning certain parts, which comes with most interdisciplinary projects, as my background only matches the latter half. Working together with the other students in my group has been refreshing as they have all been willing to help me learn the ropes, which is an invaluable experience.

For my second term, there are a few things I’m trying to keep in mind:

  • Believing in yourself is critical and being persistent
  • Ask questions constantly, and that no question is stupid
  • Start writing my literature review
  • It is normal to doubt yourself

Well, the list is technically endless, but it is also a work in progress, and I’m taking it one day at a time. One critical point for my second term is preparing for my upgrade report, which is essentially the milestone that determines if you go on to the PhD route and not an MPhil route. So, with all of this in mind, I will be getting my head down and trying to go at a steady pace! 

Header Image: Pixabay.

If you’ve got an upgrade coming up soon like Rupika, take a look at our post on Five Top Tips for Upgrade Success. If you want to read some other musings from our bloggers, head to the Your Experiences page.

Where are you on your PhD journey? We’d love to hear your successes and help you through you struggles! Leave a comment below, tweet us @researchex or email us at

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