My PhD Experience

I thought that I would speak a little bit about my PhD programme and how my life has changed now that I’m a research student.

The Backstory

Nine months ago I started a PhD at the University of Leeds and I’ll be done in 2019. 2019! I have never committed to something on this scale before and at the start it was very scary. I’m from Yorkshire so coming back to Leeds wasn’t too much of a change but being a PhD student is so different from what I imagined in both good ways and bad.

The Positives

Library shot PhD

Let’s start with the positives!

I was expecting my PhD to be quite a lonely experience: long days sat in the library alone. But that isn’t the case at all, I work in an office with lots of the MAs and PhDs in my department so there’s lots of chatting and joking around. So I have a big support network to perk me up when I’m having a stressy, rubbish day.

The biggest positive is that you get to spend the day working on something that you chose to do. If other people find the topic boring that doesn’t matter because you love it and I do!


The Negatives

But there have been days when I have wondered why I am doing the PhD. Days when I have called my boyfriend to rant and weep down the phone about how hard it is. This is because  I don’t deal particularly well with stress. Doing a PhD is completely self motivated and it is down to you and only you to get the work done. So, it can be quite hard and my supervisors expect a lot from me. But that is good too! I have got so much more done this year than I would have done if I was left to my own devices.

What’s Different?

The social aspect is a little different too. My undergraduate degree was amazing and I had a bunch of great friends; we were always going out or having chilled evenings together. A similar thing could be said for my master’s as there were lots of fun events to go to and I ate a hell of a lot of fancy dinners. My PhD cohort aren’t so much like that: it tends to be more occasional trips to the pub and I really miss having a more active social life.

Lisabeth Westwood champagne PhD
An afternoon well spent during my masters!

So there are some negatives but I wouldn’t swap my PhD programme for anything. I love spending the day researching and reading as well as working on my writing. One of the reasons why I decided to start this blog was to keep writing and get used to doing it regularly.

Lisabeth Westwood PhD
My masters graduation ceremony

Some Advice

What advice would I give someone looking to apply for a PhD:

  1. Choose your supervisor/s carefully. I have a wonderful group of supervisors but other people have had more negative experiences.
  2. Save some money before you start so you can have a couple of minibreaks throughout the first year – relaxing time is so important.
  3. Finally, choose something you love. It is hard work and if you don’t love it then it will be difficult to see it through to the end.



10 thoughts on “My PhD Experience

  1. I’m enrolled in a PhD programme too. My experience has been a really solitary one so far though. My supervisor is pretty hands off, which is a good and a bad thing.


  2. I guess it depends on what you need from your supervisor – their high expectations really push me beyond my comfort zone which is something I’d never do by myself. Are you enjoying the programme so far?


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