My first year doing a PhD

My note since June 2023,

I finished my Year 1 PhD review examined. I passed!!! 😀

It is quite “sad” to realise that my first year as a PhD student at Horizon CDT has come to an end, since it has been an absolutely incredible journey. At times during my PhD studies, I simultaneously confronted two fears: the fear of missing my graduation deadline and the fear of graduating. Beginning in year two, I will relocate to the School of Engineering to conduct research in the Human Factors Research Group. To mark the beginning of a new phase of my PhD, I will have a new office. I will have a new office and start a new phase of my PhD journey.

Here are some words to describe the first year of my PhD journey.


Despite being enrolled in the same course, the research topics of my cohort members were entirely dissimilar. The variety of research topics and areas of study among my cohort and other CDT students broadened my perspective considerably and enabled me to see how different individuals approach the same problem. I gained knowledge regarding diversity. A person’s viewpoint may differ from mine; the individual to whom I am attending may possess knowledge that I have yet to acquire. Moreover, I am aware that the path to a PhD is not conventional. As I consider my place in a diverse community, I foresee myself progressing independently, in my own time and space, and I remain open to any future opportunities that may come.

During our first year, we investigate and generate ideas while constructing research proposals. It seemed quite peculiar to me, given my economics background and professional experience in the airline industry, to begin my doctoral studies at the School of Computer Science. I was impressed by multiple enabling technologies, as I had previously only encountered them in science fiction films (such as Spider-Man). CDT enabled us to gain knowledge and experiment with some novel concepts. I greatly appreciate these opportunities to cultivate my system thinking skills while also constructing a project that piques my interest. I am open to the beginning of any novel experience.


My PhD is a time for many fresh beginnings. When I first submitted my research plan, I received a lot of questions. I was nervous but today presenting research proposals is the most comfortable thing I can perform. I had my first experience preparing a 1-hour session, participating in a hackathon, studying in an Engineering class, working as a teaching assistant, and working in a British office… It was unusual and difficult at times, but that was when I stepped outside of my comfort zone. I am confident that I had previously worked successfully as an airline strategist, but the fresh experience and being a “amateur” made me humble and eager, just like the first day of “primary school”.


I am sometimes self-deprecating about my past experiences and skills, and an inner voice tells me that I am not enough. I’ve worked (hard) to improve myself. It was enlightening to realise that the appropriate location appreciates me in the right way. I no longer strive to discover myself in the wrong place and become angry, agitated, and miserable. When I first met my supervisor in person, he told me, “You are in your place” after I voiced all of my concerns. I said nothing, but that conversation meant a lot to me. Day by day, I gain confidence (at least in Nottingham). I am grateful to my supervisors, who always encourage me and tell me how well I am doing.


I believe that my PhD experience would be incomplete without my CDT cohort team and classmates. We enjoy discussing and sharing not only research methodology and abilities, but also life problems and other “inspiring” topics during gossip time =). When I first came, they showed me some essentials for daily living in Nottingham. They also protected me when I encountered unanticipated challenges. And even when I was experiencing mental health issues and despair, my friend simply called and said, “We can meet, just to cry together” =)). My friends and CDT give me a feeling of belonging as well as inclusion.


My big lesson is, “Just do it.” I believe that most of my depression stems from my tendency to overthink things. There was a time when I was doing my literature review and just kept reading and reading. I panicked when I realised I didn’t have a single word in my report because I spent so much time planning, prepping, brainstorming, outlining and doing nothing about what I should have done – writing. And then, as I started touching my keyboard, I realised that writing was easier than I had anticipated. Then I realised that I couldn’t fix the situation by sitting in panic mode and worrying about the future. I need to do something. Success is good, but even when I failed, I gained experience. I believe that is how I will grow up, and I see myself improving every day.

Nature is made up of four elements: air, water, earth, and fire. Similarly, there are four dimensions to the human being: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Thus, I believe that researching, learning, and being skilled and successful at work is only one of four parts of human life. I want to turn my PhD into a personal development journey. My supervisor is constantly telling me that the most important thing in my life is not my thesis, but me. So, in addition to studying and working, I care for my health, body, emotions, and spirit.


Studying abroad is not easy. This is my second time studying in the UK, yet the environment is constantly changing. Living in Nottingham is also quite different from London. PhD is also very different from Master’s. I am no longer a Chevening Scholar thanks to the dedicated support of the Embassy, Programme Officer, and companions. Going far away from home and out of my safety zone, I had my first experience dealing with things on my own (which is not fun when numerous difficulties arise at the same time). Yes, it stung and caused me more worry than the assignment deadline. I never imagined that an optimistic girl like me could have a serious health problem. But it occurred in conjunction with other unpleasant occurrences. Look at the brilliant sight. A challenging time provided numerous experiences and lessons. After all, I’m glad to see myself as stronger, bolder, and calmer than before. I continue to enjoy my interests of reading novels, blogging, and travelling to unexpected locations with my camera to shoot photos. These interests still make me happy and allow me to be myself.


I make my own nutritious meals every day after school (my mother is right when she says that knowing how to cook is a lifelong skill). I continue to lead a healthy lifestyle. Good health is essential for achieving all goals in life. Furthermore, since I’m a girl, beauty matters a lot to me. This is especially true as we get older, so I try my hardest to take care of my skin and grow out my hair (despite the myth that PhD research causes acne and hair loss).


After all, I’ve learned to stay mindful and avoid worrying about the future, even though I know the following three years of my PhD will be difficult and I’m not sure what to expect when I start doing real research. Nonetheless, with every lesson acquired in the past, I am confident that trials and hardships will teach me something worthwhile, and I am eager to learn them all. I believe that if I am kind, the world will be kind to me, and everything will get better.


Although pursuing a PhD is not a “fancy” endeavour and there are numerous obstacles to overcome, I am content with this uncomplicated student life of learning, exploring, attempting new things, and developing every day. Furthermore, I consider my happiness in the United Kingdom to be fairly simple. I just need to see the sunshine through my window in the early morning, that’s quite enough.

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