1st year MSci Physics with a year in Europe

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1st year MSci Physics with a year in Europe

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Horizons and Exam update

Horizons is a course designed to...wait for it...broaden your horizons... -_- They are generally optional, but not if your course involves a year in Europe. I tried to be helpful with a brief summary of the Horizons experience. In other news, exams are still a thing. Bleh.


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.

Briefly and in an as helpful as possible way, here are the main things I wish I had known/I didn’t expect/think of your own classic list title:

– Yes, this is a proper course. The lessons are two hours long and anything that lasts that long elsewhere in the course has a break between hours. There is also a lot to cover, so it ends up being rather intense with at least an hour of homework a week.

– There are exams and an oral assessment at the end, which are mildly important if you have to do the course. They are nothing too stressful, but some preparation would be good.

– It really is up to you how much you put into the course. There is always stuff to do in addition, if you happen to care and really want to learn the language. There is also not too much pressure to actually participate in the lesson or put much effort into the work if you want to chill through it instead.

– It’s another nice way to meet people you have things in common with. Joining clubs is more fun and less stressful, but yey, people.

Exam Update

When you arrive at uni, you hope to get a 1st. Around the wonderful Christmas test, you start thinking that a 2:1 might be okay. Now, we all just want to pass the exams and not fail problem solving. At least “we will all go together when we go”.

Current state: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeugh

People who I know and are trying to find embarrassing things to run my face in later will have hopefully got bored by the official stuff up there ↑ and stopped reading by now, so I can write more honest things. <secretwhispers> I feel that it would be healthy to be stressed about exams and it feels strange that they’re not bothering me that much. I don’t feel particularly homesick either, because I’ve been away from home a lot and I see my parents often. I don’t feel lonely, because there are always people around and there are at least some I could go to for complaining purposes. I just feel meh. Highly meh. I think I ran out of life. I feel like a Morty. Meh. </secretwhispers>




EUGHH *dies*


Most people seem to be starting their recent blogs with one particular phrase, so I shall follow suit: I’m still alive. Holidays began and things were happening.

Easter Tour happened and we paddled some rivers faffed around in France with canoe club, but this will be described in a separate rant.

I also visited my family back home, as most people do. Home being the one in England and not the one that involves flying away. I saw my sister and dog, aka the two best small creatures. My friend also took me to The Hobbit, where many hours of playing Articulate ensued. This was super entertaining and solved my post-tour slum.

Please note the utter lack of the word ‘revision’ in all of this. Mainly because I need to get my stuff together and stop being useless. I have at least started to understand some of the words mentioned in questions. Warning: no, this isn’t because the course is hard. My own laziness shall be my demise.

Sorry for utter lack of content. We should return to regular broadcasting hours shortly. Meanwhile have an image of my current mental state.


Living in halls

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 […]

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.


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?

Beit is probably the party hall, if anything just because it’s attached to the union. No, the union is not too loud, because the windows have two layers and when both are closed, the screams of happy students are only a distant nightmare. Then again, if you wish to join and scream along, you know you’re not pissing off your hall-mates and it’s not like you have far to go. It’s generally nice and friendly, though I assume all halls are going to be like that.

What’s been the best event at your hall so far this year?

Beitan’s got talent was really fun, but unfortunately under advertised in my opinion. It was a great night nonetheless. The karaoke nights were a particular hit with me, as a brave soul joined me in singing some Slipknot and, I would like to add, knew all the words and put me to shame. Free breakfast on Sunday mornings is an absolute saviour for those days when both our cupboards and fridge are hungry.

What’s your top tip for new students applying for accommodation?

Don’t panic, you’ll be happy anywhere. No hall is perfect and each has it’s advantages. For example, Beit is great, but my bank account is crying.

What do now know about living in your hall that you wish you had known before you moved in?

People will be messy, loud and annoying, but you’ll love it anyway. From time to time, you’ll realise that you’re being the messy, loud, annoying one and you’ll suddenly forgive everyone for everything!

What the best thing about living in your hall, and the worst?

Best: It’s just so damn close to everything! The union, sci fi library and club stores are all right there. The physics building (the building you want to be in) is on the other side of the road and you can see any red carpet events held at the Royal Albert Hall. Bam.

Worst: It is expensive. It’s the third most expensive hall for a single room, after Eastside and Southside. Along with those two, it’s located right on campus, so bearing in mind that it’s close to stuff, the price is alright. It is also rather loud, but as mentioned previously, one can deal with that.

How do I apply for accommodation?

You fill out a form online before you come, where you list the 5 you fancy the most. You unfortunately can’t give them any priority and they are allocated almost randomly, maybe based on some of the extra information you give. Who knows? I heard rumour that if you apply for any double room, you’re likely to get it.

What options of contract length are there?

All contracts are however many weeks means you’re there all year, other that the summer holidays. Obviously, yes you can leave during Christmas and Easter, but you still pay.

When and how do I pay for my accommodation?

You receive an invoice well in advance and pay online. The payment is due the day after student finance comes in. I had a problem with my Santander account, as the overdraft can take up to a year to increase from £250 to £1500. My loan is small and my fee is big, so I was really just ending up with -£600, hence really needed that overdraft. I basically had to ask to pay later and wait until Santander let me use the overdraft the account actually came with!

What do I need to do before moving in?

Make sure you know what to bring. You don’t need lamps, a laundry basket or a mattress, but you do need pillows, duvets and sheets. There will be a list of what is already provided. I suppose that’s really it. Pack your stuff, don’t forget documents of sorts.

Features of Beit

There is no closed and locked bike storage area, but there is one just behind the Physics building (i.e. not far). There is a bike shelter, but it’s in the outdoor land of the quad.

As in all halls, to my understanding, there is a laundry room, which has recently been equipped with Circuit machines. This means no change and online top up.

Aaand the single rooms have sinks in them. What else must one know?

More kayaking!!!

A great trip for the end of term, which allowed us young'uns to practice some leading and run some nice stuff. We stayed in an extra nice hut, ran 5 rivers and had a jolly good time.

I’ve lost all control and can’t stop going on trips. It was was meant to be to Devon, but ended up heading to Wales almost last minute. This worked out pretty well as we got lovely, all be it expensive, accommodation with a cute old couple that gave us food and actual real beds with actual real pillows! Bam.

A few experienced people went off to paddle some nice grade 4, called Nantygwyryd…or so we thought. They returned displeased and it turned out to be a lovely grade 4 scrape. Apparently they actually had to exit the boats and walk a few times. Once we reached put in, pretended to be a rollercoaster, pretended to be Gazolphins and generally had some great merry times, we met a lovely lady, who warned us about angry farmers and gave the whole group a rather unimpressed glare when we mentioned what the morning mission consisted of.

The river Seiont (usually a grade III with a pleasant grade IV rapid, but more a III-(III+)) was initially just pleasantly bouncy and contained a few nice drops, but ended up presenting us with a damn good view of Caernarfon Castle. Due to the flat water at the end and the fact that paddled 11km, we were rather ready for chili. Taking boats out by climbing out of them directly onto a ladder and then heaving them up with a throw line was also oddly fun. I think an important addition to the level of pure funbags was the fact that my typhoon drysuit was still functional and kept me pretty warm.


dang pretty

We were off the water with plenty of light left and popped for a quick shop, because apparently we didn’t have enough mushrooms. The evening was the usual blur of chili, card games and *hot chocolate*.

The next morning was slow for most of us, as the two experienced ones went off to lose their glenginity i.e. paddle the Fairy Glen (a grade V(V+)). A few exciting things did occur while packing up though, as the owners locked the drying room with a bunch of kit still contained within it and promptly left. There is absolutely no way that we had to open a window and gently climb into the drying room. We decided to meet the glenginity losers at the Betws y Coed train station, where we found them enjoying some proper breakfast. One of them managed to obtain a mildly impressive cut on his eyebrow, which had luckily stopped bleeding before they ate food and met us.

Eventually, we decided to paddle the Ceirw, which began with a death gorge i.e. a compulsory portage. We decided to get on the river after it, so we got a lovely look from a bridge and path alongside the river. It looked like pure, never ending, beautiful death. After finding the appropriate put in, we made the decision that 2 miles is a ridiculously short paddle, despite the fact that we were 2+ hours later than we really should have be. Hence, we decided to paddle past the confluence with the Alwen. This was also a short paddle, but contained a pretty fun weir adventure. We approached a rather smooth looking weir, though remembered the guide book mentioning one to portage. Luckily, we did get out and look at it, which allowed us to see the disgusting tow back on the second drop and the fact that getting out in between the two drops was not likely to be easy.

It was overall a really good trip, as it contained 5 rivers and the ones I got to paddle were just lovely. Unfortunately, the next trip was cancelled, but not only was it okay to leave paddling for the term on such a high, but it was also replaced by a half-trip to Lee Valley. This means that I will finally get a Legacy assessment in two days, making me less incompetent 🙂

Interview madness

I still remember stressing about my interview and worrying for a month afterwards. Another outlook tends to be useful on days like these so bam here!

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. Also, I’ve done some of these tours since I came here and they are really fun, interesting and rewarding, but frankly awkward if no one asks anything.

After that you meet the interviewer and get a tour of the department, which is there to show you what the university can offer you. You get a brief look at the facilities and an idea of where and what you learn.

The actual interview is then there for you to show what you can offer the uni. Achtung: no, the interviewer does not directly decide anything! They make a comment/recommendation and it is one of the things considered when taking you into account. Basically, the interviewer could hate you, but you still get in, and vise versa.

How to prepare

– Bring the correct documents. You’ll be told what they are before the day. Don’t be the one that forgets them.
– Make sure that if anything in your personal statement isn’t true, it becomes true damn golly fast!
– Even if it is true, go over books you’ve read and projects you’ve participated in, to ensure you can talk about them comfortably.
– Be fairly up to date on what you’re learning, as problems to solve may involve such knowledge.

What you’ll be asked

WHO KNOWS? It’s just a massive mystery. Some people on my course only got asked about their personal statement and what they’d done before. I was only asked to integrate for 25 minutes and explain some assumptions I had made.

– Be prepared to answer questions like “Why physics?”, “Why Imperial?” and any about your personal statement in case it goes like not mine.
– Be prepared to use your prior knowledge in case it goes like mine.

What to wear

This is pretty much the least important aspect that has the least effect on anything, but people seem to care. Feeling comfortable on the day is naturally important and feeling like you’re dressed out of place may of course ruin that entirely.

Something comfortable, professional and simple is the best. I wore a black and white skirt with a navy blouse. Partially because it’s the only smart-ish clothing I own, but also because it sort of fulfills the criteria.

After the interview

Just don’t stress. Whether Imperial is your first choice or not, just concentrate on the other bits of life. Good grades always come in handy, so working on those may be best anyway.

I was stupid enough to stress out about the interview for ages, so when I got the offer, I had to suddenly start preparing for exams again.

General tips

– Sometimes the correct answer is “I don’t know”. I was asked for examples of an event that doesn’t exist.
– Don’t panic and make sure you know where your towel is. (If you don’t get the reference, then you’re silly, but please don’t actually bring a towel to your interview.)
– Try to talk any thoughts out loud, as it shows that you can think through a problem, which is important.
– You’ll be fine.


PICOCON 33 and I got older

Just an update about life, since my birthday passed recently and Picocon was an awesome event.

Picocon 33: Origins has now happened and the SciFi library has stopped looking like a frantic booklet folding factory. For those who aren’t aware, Picocon is a tiny ComicCon, i.e. a mini ultimate nerd fest organised by ICSF. It included talks from guest authors, silly games, readings and viewings of hilariously terrible content with the chance to bid money to make it stop and destruction of dodgy merchandise with liquid nitrogen and big hammers. The one thing that most certainly didn’t occur was a fish duel and I most definitely did not have salmon stored in my fridge, stinking out the kitchen.

Overall, it was just a lovely day filled with happy, quirky people and unnecessarily purchased books, 5 of which are now on my endless reading pile. If anyone is reading this in just under a year, Picocon’s about to happen, so you should go 🙂


super cool logo

In other news, I’m less small now, though still the baby of most societies. I received a surprisingly large bunch of food from a combination of parents and friends and a slow cooker from the former. Work was also lovely and got me some cute lights for my bedroom, which don’t suit the way I tend to act but confirm that I’m secretly domesticated.


JET is cool

I went on a tour to look at JET and it was golly cool. I don't have much to say other than go see it if you get the chance!

PhysSoc is a free society, which you automatically become a member of by studying physics. It organises many a thing, such tours for students. Many of them are proper trips, which cost the moneys, but a free one came up and I wanted to look at a TOKOMAK.


absolutely what a tokomak contains

JET is the Joint European Torus and the largest plasma confinement experiment in the world. It is the predecessor of ITER and DEMO, which should be efficient enough to not only break even, but keep up a self-sustaining fusion reaction (as long as you keep feeding the plasma.)


nom nom

The idea of creating fusion in our humble non-sun environment has been around for a long time and many of us probably learned about the poor unfortunate who was certain he had achieved cold fusion, although he was measuring background radiation.

JET uses magnetic confinement to compress plasma. It then heats it up additionally using neutral beams and radio waves, which cause the precessing particles to resonate, hence gaining more kinetic energy.

Due to neutrons flying around, a lot of the reactor is radioactive enough that generally putting people into it is not the best idea. Hence, a system called MASCOT was developed. It is a remote handling system, controlled using model arms and an advanced feedback system, which allows you to feel the pressure of the item you are pushing/ twisting/ pulling/ generally annoying.


a mascot simulation

Moral: a cool thing happened and cool things are generally likely to happen because physics



A lovely trip with little faff and many fun. Much happy. So kayak.

Another great trip started off pretty well as the glorious leader, who wasn’t going anyway, fell ill and couldn’t do the shop. While the previous glorious leader dealt with that, three freshers managed to deal with boats. Then people arrived, things happened and we ended up leaving half an hour late anyway. But hey, we tried.

The tall clumsy one, being a pain by nature, needed picking up from Luton, which sucked, but at least we successfully implemented the grab-and-eat-in-bus attitude to food, saving a bit of time. We arrived, tried to create warmth by hoping for it and closing the doors. In the morning, the fresher keen-team and tall-clumsy managed to make breakfast without casualties and we headed fairly early to The Duddon. There were two potential sections to run, respectively 3.5km and 6km in length and the decision was made to do both, increasing the need for reduced faff. Get-on was rather fun, as we lost two people in a car, since some people drive minibuses faster than others drive cars. After a good while of working out what to do, since we had no signal and they had no guide book, we realized that the odd red object directly in front of us could also be used as a phone. In the common tongue, I believe they call it a phone box. Having found humans, sent a shuttle and put correct clothing on, we went to get cold. The river was on low, so not particularly much of anything. Some sections scraped your butt the whole way down, but it did contain 5 or so nice rapids, which saw the capsize of two humans, one of whom ended up with a cracked, duct taped, but nonetheless leaking boat. It suddenly turned out to be a good thing that someone took two boats and we had a spare. Tall-clumsy decided to increase the level of havoc he causes, so threw his paddle gracefully over directly into a tree branch, so we had a minute while he climbed a tree to retrieve them.

As a side note, I confirmed that drysuits are magical and mine is kind enough to work. Being warm almost felt wrong, so maybe its good that my hands were still freezing. I also discovered that I am capable of losing my watch by storing it in my mouth due to lack of pockets, while finding out just how much fun it is to need to pee in a drysuit with no crotch zip of any kind.

We got off the river surprisingly much before dark and the existence of a car-wielding human made changing and leaving wonderfully quick. Chili was chiliful and it was worked out that poorly washed rice tastes much better when shaped in a volcano, because science. By nine, we were done and tired, so beer pong kept us entertained. A small handful of us then stuck around to observe ginger beer getting suspiciously darker and tall-clumsy failing at spinning a coin.

The second day started off with a really long decision making process. Some rivers were too high, one was too low, some were too far and some were too hard for us little ‘uns. On top of that, we had to drive just to obtain signal and once again lost the car. We settled on the last chunk of The Kent from the rapid before the L shaped drop to Force Falls. We took it really slow, so I had the opportunity to confirm that I can roll in a drysuit while waiting. WHOOP. Since we were only running one section, we had the chance to run it twice and the experienced few went again to search for lost paddles. The Kent was a morning mission last Lake District trip, so it was nice to run part if it again on higher, since it almost felt like a different thing entirely but I still had an idea of what was coming.

Also, no throwing up occured, other than once on the way to rivers. Major WHOOP. We were home damn early and I got free store cornflakes. Overall, I obtained a nice feeling of a good Lake District to balance the previously eugh one.

1st year labs, juggling and crying with tea

An overview of labs in 1st year physics (Warning- opinions included) and a general update, because I have emotions and screens are understanding.

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”. Everything now makes sense and you realize pretty soon just how useful this all is as you already feel the burn of it after 4 hours of labs.

Experiments in Optics and Electromagnetism 

I rate this section as the worst of the three, but only because it coincides with A-level experiments a bit. This won’t be the case with everyone and there is also no problem with it, so the word ‘worst’ implies bad things that I don’t want it too. There is also only a certain level of accuracy you can achieve during an electromagnetism experiment which involves small magnetic fields, when your desk, the cabinet under it, the whole room, the building, the general area of South Kensington and by this point even your soul are full of metallic objects and mysterious electronic devices.

Demonstration Experiments

These were actually quite cool. The problem of a limited accuracy is and will remain to be an issue, but the experiments were ones I had never seen in school and that involve constants that we use all the time, such as the speed of light. You also get to work with equipment that sounds and looks cool, like grating spectrometers.


This one was just really interesting as if you have a problem, you can always fix it. You may want to kill something fluffy and cute along the way, but you can theoretically fix it. The introduction to this was very well structured and provided a perfect background for those who were new to Python and a pleasant reminder for those who have delved into it before.

Lab Reports

Ew ew ew. Annoyingly useful to learnt to write well, but also ew ew ew. I secretly enjoyed them once they were done and I could just sit back and feel a bit smug that I wrote something that looks like a real report. Each lab cycle comes with its own lab report at the end, so you get three of these utter joys to look forward to.

Waffles and faff

Difficult and sad things sometimes happen, but I have honestly been overwhelmed by the amount of support and general loveliness I have encountered in the past week. I can honestly say that some people have balanced out actual tears with tears of joy (potentially because matching socks are enough to make me cry when particularly emotional, but still). I doubt these people will read this, but if they happen to, then hey, you’re great, thank you. On a more general note and on a note that it makes more sense to talk about in a blog, these people include members of staff. One said “If you want to get a cup of tea and talk (*cry) to me, feel free”, which is insanely lovely, since I think this is the busiest person in the department anyway. Sorry for being soppy, but I am really grateful to have nice people exist.


and it was great fun. I finally learned to juggle (only 3) the day before, so I felt not entirely out of place. Even though a rolla bolla board was broken, I was hit in the lip with a bouncy juggling ball, so solid rubber, and I crashed into solid floor with my knee and am now still in pain, it was awesome! Cambridge won, but I manged to suppress my competitive side and accepted these people nonetheless. I also confirmed for the second time, both of which were due to juggling, that Nandos has rather lovely and very edible veggie food. Whoop.


If you're planning on coming here and need ideas or are bored and need ideas or need ideas, BAM- ideas.

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. Random games tend to happen, such as ugly gladiators (oh my, that sounds exciting, what could it be? Come and see), which is my particular favourite, as it’s a juggling-less version, so perfect for us useless ones. Membership is only £2, which is frankly worth the FREE CAKE. *Usually Tuesday 6pm in various places.*

I have no better photo, but look- people doing things

I have no better photo, but look- people doing things

Come to the Fire Night this Friday in the UCL main quad at 8pm.

Come to the Varsity juggling fest on Saturday 13th.

Canoe Club- We basically go have fun in a swimming pool, which is perfect for practicing various rolls and playing canoe polo. There is also a steam room and hot tub for those, who are laze inclined. All boats and kit is provided and if you have your own, the stores may be accommodating. Membership is £35 a year, which is understandable, since kayaks are just THAT BIT more expensive than juggling balls. *Tuesday, Ethos pool, meet at 7.30 in Beit Quad*

There are also biweekly trips, which tend to be to Wales, Devon or the Lake District. They’re a great place to go whoosh down white water and feel like you did something cool. Mainly because everything tends to look more impressive than it is difficult.


long human in a tiny boat

SkateSoc- This consists of many things. There are usually people learning and thus people teaching how to move when needed, but also stop when needed. Slalom cones provide more fun for those who can move, though there is an inevitable competition of some kind. Towards the middle, a hockey pitch is set up and we play gravel hockey


A few weeks back, a spontaneous trip to Buckingham Palace took place and we were extra entertained!


Look at us all sane-looking

SciFiSoc- So I only recently discovered that there is a room full of books, DVDs and nerds under Beit Hall. Now this is already the perfect combination, but there’s also a screen, usually playing something cool and intense discussions about the feasibility of film technology and sorts. You know the people are good when they meow back and each book they’ve recommended so far has been dang good. It is officially open every weekday for lunch from 12-2, but there is usually some lost soul wandering it at most other reasonable times. In fact, it is 8pm on a Wednesday and I’m in here writing this, watching  Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, after getting into the Ghibli mood with Howl’s Moving Castle yesterday. The membership of £8 allows you to take out up to 3 items, one of which may be a non-book, i.e. dvd, comic etc. Currently enjoying Temeraire by Naomi Novic.

Come to PICOCON on the 20th of January. It’s a mini convention with guest authors, fun games and all that jazz.


Oooh how enticing