A typical week studying at Surrey

When I was first considering studying at Surrey I had a lot of questions about how my day to day activities would change from my day to day activities at the time. On this week’s post I’ll try to write a detailed overview of what my weeks here are like to help you understand how being a student is like day to day rather than the big picture that is provided by most program descriptions. However, keep in mind that your day to day activities might vary depending on what programme you’re studying.

Academic aspects of my week

On Monday mornings I always have 2 seminars. On even numbered weeks I have real analysis and calculus seminars, on odd numbered weeks I have probability and statistics and algebra seminars. Coursework for real analysis and calculus is due on odd numbered weeks (the week after the seminar covering the relevant topics) and coursework for algebra and probability and statistics is due on even numbered weeks (also the week after the seminar covering the relevant topics). Later on Mondays I have a real analysis lecture. Lectures here aren’t much different from lectures at the other universities where I’ve attended lectures, but there is always some form of student interaction (either through having in-lecture exercises or through questions, which are always welcome) and this week and last I’ve worked on blogging right after real analysis lecture.

I find seminars to be one of the most useful parts of my programme, as we get 1h to solve problems relating to the content covered in the module to that date with a staff member with relevant knowledge in the room to give us real time feedback about the way we are solving problems. The small class size (there is a maximum of 16 students per seminar) allows for a lot of personalized attention from the staff member leading the seminar as well as an opportunity for students to discuss problems while attempting them. I usually try to work on seminar sheets ahead of the seminars because I prefer identifying areas I’m confused about or struggling with ahead of time in order to get more relevant help out of it. I skipped my algebra seminar twice due to circumstances beyond my control and the two topics I didn’t do well on in the in-semester test for that class happened to be the two topics covered during seminar the days I skipped it, which seems to suggest that I should avoid skipping seminars in the future. The main downside of seminars is probably that the experience you have in your seminar can vary widely based on who your seminar leader is. My real analysis and probability and statistics seminar leaders generally give a topic overview and then pick problems for people to work on and then go over the solutions or have students present their solutions at the end, and spend the rest of the time walking around the room to try to help everyone. My algebra seminar on the other hand usually involves the seminar leader solving all of the problems in the board on his own, which gives it a bit of a lecture feel, and my calculus seminar leader takes more of an off-hands approach and sits on the front of the class while we work on problems on our own and we can go to him with questions during the session.

On Tuesday mornings I have 2 algebra lectures which are one hour apart due to weird timetabling, and the second algebra lecture is followed by a probability and statistics lecture. I believe real analysis drop in sessions happen on Tuesday afternoons, though they’re optional and I’ve personally never attended. During the time in between lectures I sometimes stay at the library and study for a bit, other times I prefer to just walk back to my room (it is a 10 minute walk or so).

Wednesdays are the most relaxed days I get, as classes don’t take place on Wednesday afternoons university wide (with a few exceptions, like extracurricular language classes). As a result I only have a 10-11 am real analysis lecture and have the rest of the day lecture-free.

Thursdays are always my busiest days, as I start my morning off with 2 consecutive probability and statistics lectures, followed by an algebra lecture and then have 2 consecutive calculus lectures. Additionally, on odd numbered weeks there’s also the Amazing Maths Seminar, where a faculty member gives a 1h presentation about their research to expose students to the research taking place at the university and give them a better idea of what mathematics research is like. All first and second year maths students are invited to attend, however it is not compulsory, but MMath students are expected to attend. On odd numbered weeks there’s also a probability and statistics laboratory which takes place right after the two calculus lectures for people with surnames starting with letters between A-M and an hour later for people with surnames starting with letters between M-Z. Most weeks this lab involves solving problems related to the topics we’ve covered in lectures using R and postgraduate students are there to supervise and help students with the assigned problems. However, this week we’ll have our in-semester probability and statistics test during the lab session.

Fridays I start off with two consecutive real analysis lectures, and I later have an algebra lecture followed by a calculus lecture. While I don’t have a lot of lecture hours compared to other days of the week (like Thursdays, and it is only one more hour than I have on Mondays and Tuesdays) Fridays tend to feel like a long day given the 3h gap in between the real analysis lectures and the algebra and calculus lecture.

From the day by day description of my days you can see that I have 3h of lectures a week per module, 1h of seminar biweekly per module, and 1h of lab biweekly for the stats module. There is also at least 1h a week of office hours with the lecturer. All together it doesn’t seem like a lot of lecture time, but students are generally expected to spend several hours a week reading and working on problems and coursework outside of contact hours.

Non-academic aspects of my week

Living in university managed accommodation involves several responsibilities that most people living with their family while studying don’t have to deal with. I have a band D room, which means I get my own bathroom inside my room. I also have access to a kitchen with two fridges, two freezers, several cupboards, two stoves, an oven, a toaster and a kettle (I’d never seen a kettle in a kitchen before coming to the UK, they’re all over the place here. The stereotype of British people being obsessed with tea definitely seems to hold true). I have a shelf in both the fridge and the freezer as well as two cupboards and the kitchen is shared between 12 people. We have cleaners come in and clean the kitchen once or twice a week, but we’re responsible for washing our own dishes (there isn’t a dish washing machine), cooking our own food and cleaning everything in our rooms (including the bathroom).

I spend the majority of my weekends (from Friday afternoon to Sunday night) in Woking, which is a nearby town. I usually order my groceries from Tesco online and have them delivered to Woking during the weekend and split the delivery costs with a friend. My friend’s mother usually drives me from Guildford to Woking and back so transporting my groceries from Woking to Guildford if she’s driving me is easier than walking to Tesco (it is a 15 minute walk from my accommodation) and back with everything and it is cheaper than having them delivered directly to the university. There is a bus stop in front of my accommodation and regular buses going to the Guildford train station (how long the journey takes depends on traffic but it’s around 10 minutes). A single one way bus ticket costs around £1.00 (the price depends on various factors such as age and distance you’re traveling). A train ticket from Guildford to Woking costs around £5.00 if my memory serves me right and the journey takes around 20 minutes (it varies depending on whether you take a train that goes directly to Woking or one that makes several stops along the way). Walking to the Guildford train station is also possible and it is about a 25 min walk from my accommodation, but that’s not something I fancy doing when it is around 0C out and the sun goes down around 4pm. I tend to forget to get something from the grocery store almost weekly, in which case I either walk to Tesco or fetch it from SimplyFresh, which is the convenience store located inside the library.

I usually eat things that are easy to prepare during the week (like sandwiches and quesadillas) and cook more complicated meals on Wednesday afternoons and the weekends. I also often bake banana bread and similar things on Wednesday afternoons to eat for breakfast throughout the week so that I don’t have to worry about putting something together before running off to lecture. I try to keep on top of dish washing throughout the week but if I don’t do it daily for some reason or another I always wash dishes on Wednesday afternoons and Friday afternoons, and I try to clean the bathroom weekly or biweekly and vacuum at least monthly.

I keep in touch with my parents and text my mother every day. She tends to wake up between 3-5pm UK time (as do most of my friends in the US) which took some time to get used to but gives me plenty of time to talk to her in the late afternoon. I also sometimes attend social meetings at the university on Monday and Thursday nights, but I haven’t been doing so lately because of in semester tests (which for my modules took place the two weeks before last week and the last in semester test is this week) and I’m hoping to join the gym and do either taekwondo or scuba diving next semester, depending on which one of them fits better around my timetable.

I hope this post was informative. If you have any questions please email international@surrey.ac.uk, otherwise, see you next week!