A typical week in the maths department involves lectures, seminars, problems classes and possibly a practical.
This term I am taking 5 different modules, all of which are ones that I have chosen. In first year, everyone does the same modules so that you can get a good introduction to the main areas of maths – pure, applied and statistics.
The course content is delivered mainly through lectures. This is where I make notes which are my main resource when it comes to revision. For each module we have 2 or 3 lectures each week. Lectures are different to classes at sixth form but you are able to ask questions and speak to the lecturer at the end if you didn’t understand something. Alternatively, you can email them any questions you have.
Problems classes are like lectures except no new content is given. The lecturer goes through examples and these examples often help you with your assignments. Most modules have one assignment to hand in every other week. You then receive feedback on your assignments in seminars, which is where a group of about 20 of you go through the assignment and try some questions together. In a typical week, I usually have 2 problems classes and 2 seminars.
If you take a module that involves coding you will have practical’s. In these, you all work through a problem sheet on computers with the lecturer there to help answer any questions.
In a typical week, I usually have 2 or 3 assignments to do. Assignments usually take me 2 hours to complete but it depends on how many questions we have to do. Doing the assignments is a great way to check how you are progressing with the module and for most modules, they don’t count towards your final mark.
Sometimes I can’t do the questions, so I work through them with my friends or hand in my best attempt since I know we will go through it all in the seminar. Working through maths as a group is a good way to tackle problems because you can bounce ideas off each other. It’s also a great way to make friends if that is something you are worried about!
Before I started my degree, I found the work quite daunting. But once I arrived and got into the weekly routine, it became more manageable. Also, every student is assigned to a supervisor (a maths academic) and you see them twice a term. It gives you a chance to ask questions about the course and look at how you are doing.
Independent learning – study spaces on campus
One of the big things at university is that there is a lot of independent learning and you are given lots of time to work on assignments.
My favourite place to study on campus is in the Fairhurst building of the library. There are lots of tables where you can either sit on your own or with others. The whole building is a ‘studious buzz zone’ which means you can talk to other people and eat food. There are also quiet study zones if that is what you prefer, as well as sofas that have fold-down desks, booths that have tables for group study, rooms you can book out … the list goes on! Basically, there are lots of places to study and there is something for everyone!
So, that is the main structure of the way you learn in a typical week doing maths at York! However, there is also lots of time to do other things, as well as study.
Life outside of the lecture theatre
Coffee and Calculus
Wednesday afternoons are kept free from academic work – this is a time where you can get involved with sports clubs. Since I’m not the sporty type, I used to head down to ‘Coffee and Calculus’ which is run for first year students by the Mathematics Society (MathSoc). It is a brilliant way to meet other maths students and work through problems together. Then if you get stuck you can ask a fellow student rather than having to ask the lecturer.
Nowadays I go to Soup & Prayer in the More House Chaplaincy building on a Wednesday afternoon then get some work done.
Other than getting involved in sports teams you can also get involved in any of the 200+ student societies at York. In first year I tried lots of different societies but now I attend two. On Mondays, I go to SAGGY (Scouts and Girl Guides York) where we do different scout/guide related activities. Then on Wednesdays, I go to Christian Focus. We sit and discuss different areas of our faith and eat a lot of cake!
Outside of the university environment, there is also lots to do. York is a lovely city with lots of history and a pretty good nightlife too. They say there is a pub for every day and a church for every Sunday!
I now live off campus but in first year, I lived in Goodricke College. Goodricke is on Campus East whereas the maths department is on Campus West. Some people prefer living nearer to their department, but I wanted to have a separation between where I lived and where I worked.
Campus East is just a short bus journey away from Campus West (buses run frequently and are free between campuses) or a pleasant walk. So it was close enough that I could quickly get there when I inevitably overslept but far enough that I didn’t feel like I was spending 24/7 in one place!
I have lived in York for nearly 3 years now. It is safe to say that I am nowhere near being bored of this city or the university. There is always something new going on but there is also lots of space to avoid the madness that can be university life.
It took me a while to choose to come to York but I have not regretted that decision once. I feel so at home here and there is a strong sense of being part of a community. People are genuinely interested in the maths they are learning and how it relates to the real world.