Rebecca Maxwell Stuart is a PhD student at Heriot-Watt University. Her research examines student experiences of Heriot-Watt University’s transnational education initiatives by using action research. Her doctoral studies are being part funded by the University’s Academic Registry as her research will support the Global Student Experience Strategy. Before coming to Heriot-Watt University she was an elected student officer at the University of Strathclyde and she has just graduated from the Erasmus Mundus Masters in Research & Innovation in Higher Education (MARIHE) which was based in Austria, Finland and China. Rebecca has also been involved in a number of student engagement projects with organisations such as the National Union of Students, QAA Scotland, British Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

When you first start a PhD, you may feel excited or nervous. Most probably you feel a little bit of both, with a massive question mark hanging over your head. I have just completed my first week as a PhD student, and I felt the exact same way. This post will give you a few tips of what to do in your first week.


Enrol online

If you are starting your PhD at a new university, you will most likely have to do some sort of enrolment online to get your email address and login details, and possibly your student card. Before you start, check your university’s website to see if you can enrol before your start date. This means that from day one you will have your login details and can start using a university computer, WiFi, library resources and a whole host of other exciting essential PhD things!

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Seek Out Your Supervisors

If you do not have a formal meeting booked to see your supervisors on Day 1, it may be worthwhile finding their offices and saying a quick hello. Most likely some of the anxiety you have about where to start will be alleviated once you have talked to your supervisors. It’s okay to ask them where they think you should start. A good bit of advice I received was to Mind the Gap, meaning do a lot of reading and think of the gaps in relation to context, theory and method. Also, write at least 80 words a day and you’ll be sorted!


Download Software and Get Organising

If you are one of the lucky ones and have got a computer and allocated desk then you are starting from fresh. For example, there is something lovely about seeing a completely new and empty inbox of your new university email. So, it’s important to start organising and get some software that will be essential to your research during the first couple of weeks.



Most important part of starting a PhD is to enjoy the experience. It’s a new chapter in your life, with lots of adventures to come. Make the most of it and good luck!


Picture by uditha wickramanayaka under CC license.