A Week of Physics
I often feel hard done by on my course. In the mornings while I’m preparing for a long day of lectures, I’ll talk to the others around me who only have a couple of contact hours each day and wonder why I ever chose to do Physics or why it’s so much tougher than other degrees. Of course, the reality of it is that in Physics we have a lot more in the way of scheduled teaching (lectures, labs, tutorials, etc…) but we’re free of the burden of required reading and essays.
In the end it just comes down to different departments liking to conduct their teaching in different ways, some more independent than others. But, with that in mind, I did think it would be worth having a post up on the blog saying what a typical week is like for a Physics student (or this Physics student at least) so that’s just what this is.
Far from typical for a student on any degree from what I’ve gathered, I’m up at 06:33 every day. I like to be up early to make the most of the morning because I know that I don’t get much time in the evenings anymore. I use my mornings to either go for a run, do a bit of reading or just take it slow and ease myself into a day of work.
Whatever my plans are for the morning, I’m always up and ready for them. Once I’m on campus though, that all changes.
Mondays this term are by far my toughest day. I have three lectures in the morning, an hour break for lunch then four hours of labs followed by a 18:00 lecture in the evening. I’m torn when it comes to Mondays. I like that I get a good chunk of my work for the week done on the first day but at the same time, they are exhausting.
Fortunately, Tuesdays ease up a bit. We just have the one lecture around midday and then another lab session in the afternoon. This gives me the whole morning to catch up on any over ambitious targets I set myself for Monday and it’s chance to re-energise myself for the rest of the week.
Wednesdays are a little strange. I have nothing until 12:00 again so I often use this morning to go for a run and clear my head midway through the week. Then I have my one lecture of the day and have to hang around until 17:00 when I have my weekly Italian lesson until 20:00. These are long days but normally quite productive and enjoyable even when I’m struggling to stay awake at the end of Italian.
Thursdays are lecture heavy. There’s only the one in the morning again but then four back-to-back in the afternoon. It definitely becomes hard to keep my concentration up for four hours straight but I once again, get a free morning to be productive and get on with all those plans I’ve had throughout the week.
And finally, Fridays! They seem fairly easy on the face of it. I have a tutorial in the morning a lecture between 13:00 and 14:00 and then a two hour gap until my final lecture of the week. That two hour gap always seems to drain my energy though. I’m not sure what it is or if it’s just Friday-fever and my brain is already shutting down but the last lecture is always a struggle.
Of course, it’s not just academics that I’m trying to balance in every week. I try to make the most of university and get involved but it’s often a daunting prospect when I’m feeling tired at the end of the day to even consider going to an event. I have something of a structure now though.
Monday evenings I reserve for cooking if I can so that I can make sure I have pasta or something else easy to take onto campus with me throughout the week. Tuesdays I like to go the Astronomy society’s talks after my lab session. On Wednesdays, Italian takes away my evenings but I’ll often try and do something relaxing in the afternoon before it begins. I like to try and play squash on Thursday evenings but so late on in the week, I often find I’m lacking in motivation until I’m actually in the sports centre and on the court. And on Fridays I simply collapse.
The main changes that I’ve noticed between first and second year Physics are labs and problems classes. In first year we had either Thursday or Friday labs and it was a matter of going in at 10 am, starting an experiment and by 4 pm, we were finished and could put that experiment behind us.
Second year labs are a little bit different. We now have four hours sessions twice a week and each experiment is four of these sessions (plus any extra work you do in between sessions). I have to say, as much as I liked being done with an experiment after a single session in first year, having the extra time to really consider the experiment and get to grips with it makes labs much more interesting in my opinion.
As for problems classes, unless a lecturer schedules one on their own (which most do for the core modules this year) we don’t have that weekly session to go over issues anymore. It’s a shame if you ask me but it has just needed me to adapt my learning strategy and carry on trying to go through questions on my own.
So that’s it! It’s definitely a tough weekly schedule. On weeks when I do have lab sessions, my earliest finish is my 17:00 on Friday. I appreciate the regularity of the schedule but it’s worth knowing what you’re getting into when you take on Physics. It’s always rewarding but, just as much as any other degree, it’s going to be hard work.