I've been studying for my PhD in Sweden (I moved from the UK in January 2014). It's been alright. I've had difficulties before, and I've thought of quitting it, but I pushed through. I don't speak the language, but I'm in an academic environment where everyone speaks English anyway. I've got on with people here, but being back with my parents for Christmas has made me realise just how much I miss things here.
I can't afford a city apartment abroad, so I live with a family as a lodger in the countryside. I can never quite relax there. It's an old house with thin walls and easily damaged doors, so I have to take care with everything. I have a small room and I don't quite feel comfortable expressing myself around somewhat-strangers. We get on, but I never feel comfortable speaking with them, and they don't really know me. I can't really move out either, since I would be moving on in six months as per the program, and would it really be worth it to find a new place for that amount of time?
Folks at work are nice, but I've never felt completely comfortable around them either. We just have different interests and are different ages. They're nice, but I've felt the urge to prove myself and do well and that's isolated me. There is a LOT of support available, but somehow I still find things difficult. Socialising outside of work is very hard due to the language barrier, the distance from the city (which makes weekends abysmally dull unless I want to spend all day on a trip to the shops) and the way things are organised there. It's not impossible, but it takes great effort.
It's not necessarily the work which is getting me down, but I've realised that I've gotten by this year by devoting myself to work. I've made many mistakes (not all of which can be cleared up), but my supervisor doesn't really mind and still thinks I've done well enough. He's probably right, but as I'm so focused on work I notice all the possible small mistakes, and when they could come back to bite me. And that sucks. I do dread going back to work, as I will have to finish this project somehow, and it won't be as good as I had hoped it would have been. But I will finish it.
Some of the later projects (in my department we work on several different but related papers for a PhD) so seem better, and I can usually get back into things, but I don't have a burning passion for the field. I took the PhD because I was struggling to find a job, and I was considering academia. The PhD was related to what I considered that I wanted to study in the future, and my old masters supervisor recommended it.
As I've said, this isn't the first time I've had doubts. Last year I had a very bad period when I wanted to quit too, but it passed when I felt like I was doing better. Every time I'm back in the UK for a few weeks or longer I feel even more rubbish going back, because things are so much easier here. I know my way around, I speak the language, I have friends I can easily relate to and family nearby that loves me... And it'll only get worse when I have to move to Australia in six months for the next part of my PhD, as the PhD is jointly hosted with another uni in Sydney.
I really feel like I want to come back to the UK. I'm not even sure a PhD is right for me; sometimes it feels okay, but it never quite feels wonderful. It feels more like a job than a life. I'm already on medication for depression/bipolar, and I'm autistic too, if that makes a difference. I get the feeling that I just want to be around folks who get me, which for me seems rare to find over there in an environment so devoted to work.
I feel so lonely right now. I have such an empty life, and it sucks so much. Even this kind of work feels kind of wrong for me too: I don't want to be stuck in an office doing facts and figures forever, especially not for four years. I always thought it was what I wanted, but now I feel like I'd much rather go out and help people somehow as my life's work, or find a boring-but-menial job and focus my life outside of that. Even without my work problems, I've felt like this for at least six months. My PhD seems like a temporary thing to me now, and after it I hope to do something else. But four years like this? I'm not sure if I could handle that.
My passion for my work has gone, I suppose.
There are other things to consider too: I'm transgender, and still struggling to get hormone replacement therapy. Sweden is supportive, but they're told me it'd take a year to begin due to the necessary psychological tests. Which I've already done in the UK. Every time I go somewhere else I have to start the whole thing again.
I am scared that I just feel this way because I'm afraid of how my project will turn out. I'm going to go back and get it done, and see how I feel then, but even then I think I'm afraid I'll just slip back into feeling generally miserable again.