OpenSUSE was the way I went because they have one of the most polished KDE implementations out there (Chakra, in my mind, is a close second). But much to my dismay, OpenSUSE did not have a lot of software choices and most of them involved installing unstable packages. Although it was a long term support 'Evergreen' version, I decided to shift to another KDE based distro.
At this point I decided on SolydK because it was based on Debian Testing and the staff test quarterly on frozen software for bugs, giving the newbie like myself a little more immunity from trying out vanilla Debian Testing (which is somewhat stable but tends to break). The install ensured that I had full access to the Debian software packages and also included non-free and contrib repos enabled by default. That way I'm spared of editing my Sources file and also to include backports. The Solydk install crashed halfway because my laptop overheated! After placing the laptop next to an airconditioner, I completed the install and promptly included the power management settings! Then I sat down and installed (grudgingly) Skype.. since no one wants to pursue Skype alternatives. Then I hunted down the proprietary software that I didn't want to use and uninstalled them, Flash included. SMPlayer has a Youtube player that takes care of that and the browser has a HTML5 alternative. Besides that I found a way to make VLC stream sites, so that's another issue sorted.
Finally came the issue of citation and bibliography management software, I had used the Endnote program at our library computers and I had luckily exported the library as an XML file. I installed BibTeX and JabRef and imported the XML into a fresh database. I looked up a free Wikibook on LaTeX and I'm off to learning the non-WYSIWYG options to article and dissertation authoring. It's a steep slope to conquer, but I guess learning one's way around a free OS like Linux with the options it gives is always more power to you and comes in handy when you need to get work done and going back to Windows is the last option.