When I was applying to university, I remember vividly searching for what uni life is actually like. So, I thought that giving applicants a little look into a week in my life as a 1st-Year Chemistry student at the University of York (UoY) might be helpful! Although, no two weeks look the same, and everyone’s experience will be slightly different, I hope this blog provides a helpful insight into what to expect!
Every week on a Monday, my lab group gets assigned a practical, and we spend 9am – 4.30pm (ish) working through the practical. We’re not just let loose, though! Our assigned graduate teaching assistant (GTA) – a PhD/post-doc student – gives us a helping hand.
Though it feels like it should be a highly stressful environment – and sometimes is because of the chemicals/procedures used – lab days are also very social, as you get to catch up with your lab partner and other students.
I’m usually pretty tired after lab days, so normally I have a quiet evening on a Monday. Often I spend it completing my post-lab work (eg, data analysis or questions on the practical), and catching up on notes from the previous week.
On Tuesdays, the other half of the 1st-Year chemists have their lab day. So my Tuesday is normally pretty quiet, except for a practical work lecture to help with the next week’s practical.
This week, I also had a ‘Structure & Bonding’ college workshop with my teaching college from 1 – 2pm. We went through questions in small groups and then with a lecturer. This is always really useful because you can talk work through with other people if you get confused, instead of just staring at your laptop screen!
I also designate a Tuesday as my laundry day because it’s normally my least-busy day. If I don’t force myself to do it, I’ll end up having no socks at the worst possible moment!
Wednesdays look a little different to the rest of the week for all uni students here at York, as classes usually finish before 1/2pm. This is for what most people call, ‘Socials Nights’ – people generally go out with a society, or to a sports game.
This week, I had a maths workshop from 9am – 11am, followed by an ‘Acids & Bases’ tutorial (teaching in a group of around five). Tutorials are a great opportunity to go through questions in depth with a lecturer; I find them to be the most helpful way of learning. Next, I had an ‘Atomic Structure & Introduction to Quantum Theory’ lecture from 12pm – 1pm, then I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on work.
I spent my early evening at a Debate Society training session from 5pm – 7pm. I find that doing a society that’s completely different from my degree really helps clear my head. It’s good to have a break from science sometimes, no matter how much I enjoy it.
Some friends and I went to Salvo’s (Club Salvation) for Socials Night, after doing pre’s (pre-drinking before going to a club) at Wetherspoons – thank goodness for their cheap pitchers!
Like most 1st-Year chemists, I have a full day of lectures on a Thursday most weeks. So after Socials Night, I rely on some coffee to get through the day, having got in so late that it was becoming morning! I recommend The Kitchen at Alcuin for a quick coffee that’s super close to the Department of Chemistry. This Thursday went like this:
- 9am – 10am ‘1st Law of Thermodynamics 1’ lecture
- 10am – 11am ‘Separation Science + Mass Spectroscopy’ lecture
- 11am – 12pm ‘Errors + Uncertainty’ lecture
- Lunch break!
- 2pm – 3pm ‘Errors + Uncertainty’ lecture
- 4pm – 5pm ‘Physics + Quantitative skills’ workshop
To recover from the previous late night, I usually spend Thursday nights chilling with friends (probably chatting in the kitchen or playing Smash Bros). Or, if I’m feeling up to it, I go to the gym at the York Sports Centre, or catch up on lecture notes.
Fridays are also usually packed with lectures for me, which I don’t mind as I have the weekend to catch up with notes for them. My schedule usually looks like this:
- 9am – 10am ‘Becoming a Professional Chemist’ workshop
- 11am – 12pm ‘Stereochemistry’ lecture
- 12pm – 1pm ‘1st Law of Thermodynamics 1’ lecture
- 2pm – 3pm ‘Separation Science + Mass Spectroscopy’ lecture
- 3pm – 4pm ‘1st Law of Thermodynamics 1’ lecture
I then always go to volleyball training with some other Alcuin (my college) Chemistry students between 4pm – 5pm. This is always a great stress relief, as you can hit something as hard as you can and not get in trouble for it!
Most Fridays we go out again; this week it was Flares. Although I would prefer to go to Kuda or Salvos, Flares provides the perfect opportunity to get a 3am kebab from Salt & Pepper (the takeaway shop nearby) so it’s worth it!
On a Saturday morning (or whenever we wake up), me and some friends normally go for a walk into town for a coffee and chat. There are soooo many cute coffee shops in town! We’ll then walk to get groceries (normally at Aldi). I take the afternoon to work out, do some uni work, and just generally chill.
I spent this Saturday evening doing pre’s at my friend’s uni dorm for their 19th birthday before going clubbing in Salvo’s.
Aside from volleyball training 12:30pm – 1:30pm, I normally keep my Sundays very chilled out to try to recharge for the week ahead. This often means catching up with any friends / flatmates / family that I hadn’t spoken to so far that week, and doing any work I hadn’t got to yet.
I usually do my lab prep for the next week on a Sunday, so I don’t forget what I am meant to be doing in the lab. I build in some chill time for reading or watching films. If the weather is nice, my best friend and I will often go for a walk to de-stress, which is always great before another busy week!