The UK education system is quite different to the one found in my country and probably in the whole of Latin America. I would like to share my experience with it and how to best cope with studies and deadlines when adapting to a different culture. This post will be a bit biased to the Mechanical Engineering department as other departments handle their exams and scheduling in a different way.
It all starts when an Assignment is set or an exam is scheduled. This goes pretty much unnoticed by most of my classmates, however, this is when you should give the most importance to it and start planning and organizing your study time around it. I have found that the most efficient way to prepare for an assignment and/or an examination is just to set-up enough revision time.
This is a very crucial step, the UK education relies heavily on self- or own-study (unlike my country). This gradually increases as the student progresses through the degree. On my first year I spent long hours on lectures and labs every day, however, now on my third year I only have 2 days of heavy lectures’ time and the rest are filled with 1 or 2 hours tutorials per day. This means that if planning is not taken into account, you could run the risk of leaving too much ‘free’ time and not enough ‘study time’
The key here is to have already an organised schedule of the week, in which you can place enough time for down time and enough time for studying. I tend to do this in 2 ways, the first one is to get my timetable from the University on my phone. By doing this, I can see when I have classes and tutorials and when I do not. The second one is to get calendar templates from the internet and print them out on a big A3 paper and hang them on my wall. Having these 2 I then know how much time I can devote for studying at university (lectures and tutorials), how much ‘free’ time I can devote for ‘own-study’ and how much ‘free’ time I can leave as just free time.
I generally do this right after an exam or assignment is set so then I can track how many days I have left and how much study/work I have to do per day. My days end up looking pretty busy, however, it has proven to be very successful!
Another tips that I did not take full advantage of, when I started my studies, was to use the facilities the University provides.
- The Library provides an excellent service to help students when it comes to learning. Apart from the countless computers and study spaces, the Splash team is there to assist you in developing and improving your academic and research skills. This would have been really helpful as I had no idea how to write up essays or research information outside my actual lectures. I can not recommend this enough!
- You do not need a super computer to work on your essays or assignments when studying engineering. The engineering computer labs have all the software you could ever imagine for your degrees or research purposes.
- It is always good to change atmospheres, when studying. If you only need to read something or start memorizing then I would advise you to leave the computer where it is and go to any of the open places around university, such as: the amazing lake, the study areas in the library, different fields around university, one of the university campuses (Manor Park is beautiful), any of the restaurants and cafes or even Guildford town center (15 mins walk or 5 mins bus ride).
Most importantly, leave enough time for resting and relaxing. There is no point on doing all this hard work to over-stress yourself.
Hopefully, I have given you some useful tips when studying at Surrey. Remember, balance is the key.