Of course, it's not entirely clear that I was more help than hindrance to the group until midway through my third year, but I certainly learned a lot and got a lot of mentoring you can't get via youtube and e-books :-)
I spent my first three years at university learning complicated sciencey shit until knew enough to be set free on real research problems; then I spent the rest of my time doing research.
There actually is a European Space Agency thing nearby, and an acquaintance DID work on satellites there for his PhD, so as I said, I can't really blame the system.
I guess the key thing for me is the cluelessness about how to go about reaching goals effectively. I still relied on the system to somehow stir me towards a nice job.