The first year of my PhD was probably the best and worse at the same time. I remember sitting the first week at my new desk with a somewhat reliable pc thinking this is good...now what do I do? For me that was the hardest part, where to start, I had been given an office, a pc, even a filing cabinet and shelves, but I had been given no direction what to actually do. I didn't have my first supervision meeting until four weeks after registration so I was slightly underwhelmed at becoming a PhD student. Then I felt like I should know what to do, it must be my fault I'm at a loose end, realising that other PhD students looked to be actually doing stuff. So what I did was organising, PhD students become excellent organisers because it's a good excuse to pass the time: - putting journal articles alphabetically - ensuring the calendar is positioned correctly - sorting books by height order. Yes this was my way of doing something until I got direction, I should probably have just asked for direction but when I did not want to appear 'stupid' so just smiled happily sitting at my exceptionally organised desk.
Eventually the work kicked in, the usual read, read and read some more, and then write about everything you have read! At the time this appeared really boring and I just wanted to get on and do some fieldwork (my attitude change by year 3!). I had the added pressure of getting married 7 months into starting the PhD, so whilst I was trying to get my head around what I was actually writing about, I was also organising my wedding. A month before my wedding I still didn't have a formulated, workable research question, my principal supervisor decided not to supervise me anymore and all I wanted to do was go on honeymoon!
My first year was a hard one and I considered giving in almost every week. I got a new supervisor who was interested in my topic area but I felt that I was no further forward than when I started. I was working from home a lot, which probably didn't help, I would feel isolated and get distracted very easily by anything that wasn't PhD related. I took a month off for my wedding and honeymoon (which was fantastic) and during that time I thought long and hard about what I had got myself into, whether I was even capable of doing a PhD and what my other options would be. I was very close to leaving but instead I went to my supervisor and told her - I'm not happy, I don't like the research idea, I don't know what I'm doing and I need help. I had finally done it, I asked for help. So I got together with my two supervisors and we talked, a lot, until we came up with an idea I was happy with. The 10 month review was put back by 2 months to allow me to rework my literature review with the new focus and I finally became content with what I was doing.
By the end of the first year I got a new pc so started working from my shared office more often, being social with colleagues in the department and taking on teaching to give me some time out from the PhD. Talking to other PhD students made me realise it was normal to feel a bit lost and confused in the first year and almost all of them had made changes to their research too. Support is the best thing you can have during a PhD, my husband didn't really understand at this stage what I was going through, my parents hadn't a clue what I was doing, but my fellow PhD colleagues knew all too well and they helped me realise that with a little self belief it was possible. It ws my goal to prove to everyone I could do it, but more so it was a challenge to prove it to myself and that mattered the most
The feeling of giving up and giving in, never left in my 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th year for that matter, but instead I look back on that as a snowy hill: a struggle to get up and many times I slid back down, other times I needed a break, but little by little I made progress on that hill, and got to that two year stage.