You have your undergraduate degree, you’re about to finish your masters and you aren’t sure what to do next. Get a proper job or maybe become an eternal student and apply for a PhD? I opted for the latter and so far I don’t regret (ok, I do regret sometimes, but more about it later).
Doing a PhD is something between studying and working, which surprised me. I expected a similar experience to my previous degrees. I thought I would still study, just the subjects might get harder and more detailed. I was so wrong!
If you want to pursue a PhD in order to explore your area, then I’d discourage you from this decision.
Soon you’ll be studying in the UK, but English isn’t your native language. If it’s something you’re worried about, this article is for you.
First of all, if you’re able to read this text without major problems (and dictionaries), you should be fine. To study maths or engineering you don’t need tricky sentence constructions or sophisticated vocabulary. Communication is the key! As long as you can read a textbook and take notes during your lecture (not necessarily understand it, because the content might be the obstacle, not the language itself!), you shouldn’t struggle too much. It doesn’t mean you’re not encouraged to improve your language skills!
Firstly, a disclaimer. I am in no way trying to slander Imperial College London and the Physics department. They are being very supportive and understanding of my newly developed situation. This is more of a personal account of what’s been happening in life, because answering the question ‘Hey, you’ve not been around…what’s going on?’ gets tedious a hundred iterations in.
Around June, I had my last two exams of first year postponed to the September re-take period. I spent a healthy chunk of the summer revising and felt on track to do just well enough to be ready for second year.
You can find the official stuff on horizons here, but I’ll try to give an idea of the experience behind it. Either way, I’d recommend the course, as it’s a nice non-course-related thing to do with your life.
Background: as part of the Year in Europe part of my degree, I have to study the appropriate level of the appropriate language (as well as a special language course which I’ve mentioned elsewhere). For me, this was level 4 German, since I had studied it up to A-level. The course outline, assessment details and learning objectives for this particular course: bam.
Everyone has questions about accommodation, so here’s another cheesy helpful extract answering questions you may or may not care about the answers to. For background: I currently live in Beit hall, in a single without en suite. I pay £192 a week, £2 of which are for hall activities, like karaoke, Netflix & chill nights and Beitan’s got talent.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE THAT IS, MAP WILL BE YOUR GUIDE
So here are questions stolen from places, provided by the union and invented by my brain.
Every hall has a different atmosphere; how would you describe the atmosphere in your hall?
Before my interview, I called anyone I knew who had anything to do with Imperial and read every student blog that even mentioned the word. If that’s why you’re here, hey. Hopefully an extra insight will prove useful.
Outline of the day
This can obviously change between subjects and years, but the general outline is likely to stay the same.
The general idea is that you get a tour of the university from a student, along with a lunch, before meeting the human that decides your fate interviewer. This is the opportunity to ask questions about student life, stresses, work load and living in London, which may be more helpful answered by someone freshly going though it all.
Having finally finished the lab cycles, I can talk about them in a much less bitter manner. They are split into three sections and there is a lab guide flying around the internet if you wish to see what actually goes on, but I’ll just go over them briefly through the filter of my opinions.
Measurement and Uncertainty
This isn’t really a lab cycle, just an introduction to the pain of error propagation. It’s an unfortunately useful pain and actually clears up some confusion from A-level. I always asked why we calculated errors in one certain way, when more than one appeared to make sense and heard “because they are all valid, but OCR only accepts this one”.
Working on weekends kills the relaxation aspect that they are associated with, so I’ve adapted to consider Tuesdays and Wednesdays as the weekend. Mainly because they contain clubs, so since I have things to say about them, here’s a general overview of the clubs you should go join.
Juggling and Circus- This used to be just juggling, but I wasn’t around in that era. It now consists of people standing in a room playing with various crap – perfect. There’s a bit of poi, staff, diabolo, uni cycling, rolla bolla joys and balls flying around. Outdoor sessions also involve a slackline, until the guy I borrowed it from remembers that I have it.
Now that I’m a chunk into term 2, I finally understand enough of term 1 to talk about it. This is due to my own stupidity and laziness, not the difficulty of the course, so don’t be put off much. Here’s an overview of what happens in the first bit of 1st year Physics. I’ll include the not-particularly-physicsy bits and everything to do with the year in Europe and Theoretical courses too. If you are reading this because you want to study this stuff, do remember that you may have different lecturers and some of the aspects may change.
The first term contains five lecture course, none of which span the term, though I believe mechanics comes close.