9am, Monday morning. This is a situation dreaded by many, and to be quite honest, me too. My first lecture starts in an hour, and strangely the gravitational field around my bed intensifies ever so slightly at this exact time of the week. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the week, and decide that particle physics is not the worst way to kick it off, so I quickly get up and going, and make it just in time for the lecture to start.
On the agenda for the day are three more lectures and a problem class, making it quite an average day, program-wise. The other lectures today are electromagnetism, nuclear physics and solid state. This is where many of the new ideas and key concepts for the subjects are introduced. On the other hand, the problem class will involve working as a group to solve problems based on lecture content. About once a week, there will also be a tutorial, in which you have a chance to ask any questions you want and work through problems in a small group with a member of staff, making sure you understand the material fully.
The lectures today are pretty spread out, and since I live off-campus I decide to spend my breaks around the Physics department. In your first year, you are likely to live on campus, which makes it easy to pop home for a quick snack, or to do some studying (or take a nap in case you went out last night and haven’t fully recovered).
Taking a break
Having breaks throughout the day is quite convenient for getting some studying done. I find that spending around 3-4 hours per day in self-study keeps you up to speed with all the material. This can be either by reading for lectures, doing exercises, writing up applications for internships, or doing the weekly problem questions, which you hand in each Friday afternoon. Around the Department you will find several rooms with study spaces, and if you need some fuel, there is also a Costa next-door and the Library with a café just a 10-minute walk across campus.
Campus cafés are also great places to meet with friends to catch up and have a chat. Today, for example, I’m meeting with a friend I know through Model UN for a quick coffee before we both have to be at our next lectures, and sometimes I go there for lunch with my course mates. If you want to earn a little extra money on the side of your studies, you can even apply for a job at one of them!
Once your lectures are over, you still have an entire evening left of the day. Aside from the occasional night in, I like to spend my evenings doing activities with societies. Currently, there are around 200 societies, and plenty of opportunities for volunteering or doing sports.
The societies range from Debating Society to French Society to Wine and Cheese Society – you can find the full list on the Students’ Union website. So far, I have enjoyed going to events with United Nations Association, Scandinavian Society, and Physics Society. These all differ a lot: ScanSoc is mostly social-based, Physics Society has an academic aspect as well hosting nights out, and UNA facilitates debates and public speaking training. Joining societies is also a great way of making friends, and the socials provide a sort of no-strings-attached framework for you to hang out with others. To sum up, no matter what you’re interested in, and no matter what activities you like doing, there is something for you.
If you are the sports-inclined Physics student (yes, they do exist!), there are plenty of clubs you can join too. Some popular sports like netball and football have college teams for friendly games as well as University teams who play competitively against other universities. Other, more niche sports, are only played at university level, but all of them are very welcoming to both experienced players and newcomers. To give you the opportunity to get more involved, each Wednesday afternoon is dedicated to societies, and sports clubs use this time to travel to competitions around the UK.
If you are in doubt about what you want to spend your evenings doing, or if you want to find a new hobby, the Give It A Go weeks give you an opportunity to join taster sessions with different societies and sports clubs.
9pm, Monday evening. The gravitational field that is my bed is calling again, as a packed day is coming to a close. I am certainly still looking forward to the rest of the week and all the activities and exciting lectures that are to come. I hope that this little taste of life as a Physics student at York has given you an idea of why!