"So what do you do in your research?" As a PhD student you will definitely have to answer this question, during a conference or even on a night out in the pub. The question might be asked by an expert or someone who belongs to a general audience and how you answer it can indicate what stage you are in your doctorate. Most early stage PhD students will fail to present the big picture of their project to a non-expert audience.
After a year of working on your PhD you will be able to adapt your way of talking about your research according to your audience. This is a skill you gain in the process of your doctorate, developed by the exposure you have to conferences and workshops, by talking to other PhD students and other people with a totally different expertise to you. A big part of your first year will be the literature review, reading papers and becoming more aware of the field that you are going to become the expert of in three years time. You will even be able to connect the names written on papers to the faces you see at conferences.
The biggest milestone in the first year is the confirmation report. An intense experience but a fruitful one as well. It will give you an idea of how a PhD thesis should look and will give you confidence that you can apply the methods that you will be following for the rest of your studies. The changes in you might not be obvious at first, but when new PhD students arrive in your group you will notice that you are being asked the same questions you were asking at the beginning of your doctorate. And you will realise that you know the answers to those questions now.
You need to be brave, grab the opportunities that come your way and the development of your academic skills will occur.