The usual reaction I get when I tell people I’m a chemistry student is “Wow that must be really hard!”. I’m not going to lie, chemistry is not an easy degree but that definitely doesn’t mean it’s not still interesting, fun and engaging! Hopefully, by giving you an insight into what a week in my life is like I can show you that a chemistry degree isn’t all studying and lectures.
Monday and Tuesday
For second year chemists, Mondays and Tuesdays are our big lecture days. Depending on the term and what point in the term you are at, there could be between two and six lectures on each day with one or two breaks. There’s always a ten-minute break between consecutive lectures so there’s plenty of time to move venues if you need to, or just to chat, go to the bathroom or have a quick snack.
My top tip: make sure you choose where you want to sit wisely. I like to sit pretty much in the centre of lecture theatres. Here, people are less likely to be talking, but if you accidentally zone out for a minute you won’t be directly in front of the lecturer to offend them! It’s also a pretty safe bet that you’ll be able to hear all of your lecturers and see the boards without craning your neck or squinting.
In the evenings, I spend a little bit of time copying up my lecture notes or catching up with any assignments from the previous week. Mondays and Tuesdays are also the days the student cinema often has showings so I might pop down to see a film with some friends! It’s a lot cheaper than going to cinemas in the town centre so always make sure you check out what’s on every term.
Depending on the time of year, you could have Wednesday completely free, but often we have a couple of lectures in the morning. However, everyone gets Wednesday afternoons off for sports and societies. I’m not very sporty, but sometimes I go to Yoga sessions run by the Yoga Society. Otherwise, I meet up with my friends to chat and study or head back to my room to catch up with work. For me, Wednesdays are a nice little bit of downtime in the middle of a busy week!
Thursdays are what my friends and I liberally call our ‘day off’. In truth, I still sometimes have workshops or tutorials on Thursdays, but rarely more than 2-4 contact hours.
Tutorials are a form of small-group teaching with four or five students and one academic. You get tutorial work assigned before the tutorial that is handed in and marked by the tutor. Typically you go over the work and some additional questions, but some tutors will do things a little differently. It’s a great opportunity to ask any questions you have about a lecture course and consolidate your knowledge.
Workshops are still small-group teaching but in bigger groups than tutorials, usually within your teaching college. In workshops, you work through questions set by the lecturer with the help of an academic. They’re more relaxed than tutorials and you can work on the questions with your friends.
On Thursday evenings, the York Inklings, our creative writing society, have regular sessions. As a member of the committee, I tend to be at most sessions throughout the term. We have a lot of fun discussing writing techniques and tropes and working on our own projects. The sessions are usually two hours followed by a mini social in one of the campus bars, which is a nice change of pace.
Even if you only commit to one, I would highly recommend finding a society you like and sticking with it. Having that time blocked out every week is a great reminder to make downtime for myself and hang out with my creative writing friends.
Finally, it’s what you’ve been waiting for; labs! Every Friday I’m scheduled to be in the lab from 9:00am to 4:30pm. Typically, we’re given one experiment every week that we prepare for beforehand and it’s up to us to budget our time appropriately. In first year it’s a little more structured and the experiments aren’t usually as long, but by second year we get to choose our own breaks and organise our own time for longer experiments. Depending on the experiment and how well it’s going for you, you could be done before 4:30pm, but there’s no pressure to do that. At York, we have a whole day for our labs to allow time for mistakes and for you to get your head around what’s happening. It is incredibly helpful!
Personally, I try to stick to a 9-5 working week, which usually leaves the weekends free for me. Often it’s when I catch up on laundry, go into York or see my friends outside of my course. If you can, try a 9-5 working week and see if it works for you. Having the weekends free is great, especially in a place like York. It can be easy to slip into a pattern of working all weekend without ever taking a substantial break and you really don’t want that! Burnout is not good so make sure you use your weekends to get involved in societies and enjoy your hobbies.
You might also like…
- A day in the lab, by Sofia