Hello readers, sorry I’ve not updated much lately, but I’d had a few problems with my health and the health of my loved ones, so this post comes kind of late this time! So I apologize for my lateness. My first full term as a chemistry undergrad is over, and it has been a tough but an enjoyable learning curve!!
Before I started university I was told that university is a lot easier than A-levels, which I can say now is majorly untrue! There is a big jump between university and A-levels, and it can be difficult to make that leap. Many people think that going to university is, to coin the phrase, ‘a doss’, but nothing can be further from the truth.
Over the last few months, my days have been awash of lectures, notes, lab reports, coursework and phase tests! Chemistry is not an easy subject and shouldn’t be taken lightly! However give it the respect and work it deserves and you will find that it reaps great rewards! (This is true with any subjects at university level in fact).
Presently, I attend university three days a week as a full-time undergrad, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with Tuesdays and Fridays as my days off. I have lab sessions, every week, in which we are given a set experiment we preform, we gain data, and write up in a report for the following session. Lab sessions take up a full day, at the moment, my Mondays, where I am in the lab for six hours. On a Wednesday we have lectures in organic, inorganic and physical chemistry, each lasting an hour each, followed a tutorial session, alternating between lecturers depending on the week. We cover extra work, worked examples and discuss coursework techniques. Thursdays we have a three hour analytical chemistry lecture, as my chosen chemistry course is heavily grounded in analytical chemistry, and applications in the work setting, which was the main reason I picked my course. Analytical chemistry was a subject in chemistry I had never come across before, and of course before I started I was quite nervous of this fact. However, analytical chemistry wasn’t as difficult as I thought, essentially, it is the application of each area of chemistry and its application in the laboratory, admittedly though, it does require some lateral thinking and further reading.
Though I am only in university three days a week, this does not mean this course is any easier than any Russell group university! We have staggered coursework, meaning that we often have a piece of coursework accounting to our final grade each week, as well as our weekly lab write ups. Although, we have up to three weeks to complete each piece, which is needed if a piece is particularly long or challenging!
During the first year, we do not have Christmas exams; however, we have miniature tests, accounting to our final grade in analytical chemistry. Known as phase tests, these are 45 minute tests taken under exam conditions roughly every three weeks and covers any work that we have covered leading up to that particular test.
Also, as part of the course, we are required to set up and run our own e-portfolios of our studies, and the work we do within and outside the university. We include our own self-evaluations, action plans to improve ourselves and gain further work, and physical evidence of our work or achievements. This part of the course, also requires us to attend workshops, to improve our employability skills, these can include workshops on how to improve your CV, how to write an effective covering letter, or how avoid pitfalls in interviews.
All this work isn’t including the notes and the further reading needed to be carried out before and after each lecture!
I hope this doesn’t make your head spin readers!
So as my second term looms round the corner, what advice do I have for prospective students, and current undergrad students?
Clearly, preparation is key, you are your preparation, and nothing is worse than that last minute cram! If taken steadily, it can all be achieved, with time to spare to spend with friends and family, if you can balance both the work and your downtime. Balancing this ratio is the hardest problem faced by all first-time undergraduate students! Secondly, if all of this isn’t for you, then say so! There is no shame in admitting when something isn’t exciting you as much as it did before. It has happened to me in the past, and if something isn’t making you happy, then what is the point of forcing yourself to pursue it? As my mother always says, ‘there are ways and means around every problem’, and if a course isn’t for you, but you fancy being a forensic pathologist, then by all means change your view and try something new! Not enjoying what you used to love doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means you have grown into another branch a subject that does interest you! Thirdly, and ultimately, keep calm; everything may seem to be piling up on top of you, exams, coursework, applications, etc. but by retaining a level head and not panicking means your brain will be clearer to think and you will generate more ideas and be able to concentrate more on the tasks at hand!
So if I haven’t scared you all off with the honest amount of work that needs to be put in with a university course, I hope to catch up with you all soon!