Usually, my life as a STEM student is straightforward. I spend quite a long time on campus as I find that is where I study best. Most days, I go to University between 9am and 5pm, making it a ‘normal working day’. However, not all this time is taken up by lectures, labs and tutorials. Much of the time is spent independently studying for the course. I often take to the engineering café in the mechanical and civil engineering building to do this, especially since I have a lot of lectures within that building. This time is spent making sure I understand the lectures and going through the tutorial questions.
During the week, being a second year Mechanical Engineering student, I have approximately 6 lectures, 3 computer sessions, 3 tutorials and a lab every other week. This equates to around 16-18 contact hours a week. Still, this can vary week to week. This means that there is plenty of time to fit in self-study around contact time and extracurriculars in the evening. Therefore, I spend a good proportion of my time doing other things not relating to my degree. For example, I swim, go to the gym and spinning, attend a society and hang out with my friends in the evenings. All these activities give me the opportunity to socialise, relax and not have to think about my degree 24/7 as I can focus on other things instead.
At the weekend, I like to do some form of exercise and then meet up with some friends later in the day – this might be a trip to the pub or to invite each other round for dinner. Weekends can also be for visiting friends who live further afield and attend different universities. University is a great time to explore a range of different cities as you will have friends living all over. Birmingham, itself, is a central hub and has fantastic transport routes to both the North and the South of the country.
However, this is the usual life of a STEM student. We live in unprecedented times. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, all University teaching has been moved online and my exams have been cancelled. There are still assignments due and lecturers at the other end of an email to ask advice from, but I can no longer study on campus and instead I am working from home. Exercise now takes the form of a daily walk outside and maybe a home workout inside. This weekend, I won’t be travelling to see my friends. Instead, there will be a facetime and we will all stay at home as we abide by the rules set out by the government. This is not normal, and it’s not like normality will return tomorrow, but one day (hopefully soon) I will find myself back at university and back to a usual week in the life of a STEM student.