The average day begins at 9am, when I have my first lectures. I have 12 lectures per week, 3 for each module, usually 2 every day. Physics (on Mon/Wed/Fri) and Maths (on Tues/Thurs/Sat) are usually the 9am lectures, while Chemistry starts right after Math and Material/Computer Science follows Physics. Practicals for Materials are once a week, while Physics and Chemistry on alternating weeks. They usually last around 5 hours, starting after lectures are finished and ending at 5pm. My supervisions will either be a day when I don’t have practicals, or in the early hours of the morning and the late evening. The problem sheets I get vary in difficulty. They can be easy, only take an hour and the supervision will be a further discussion on the topic. They can also take me 8 hours, spread over 30 sheets of paper and the supervision will mainly be trying to decipher the mess. In my experience, supervisors will not mind if you can’t get the correct the answer, so long as you attempt it. I get a problem sheet every week for 4 modules each, and I have 4 supervisions per week.
Of course, the day isn’t going to be as autonomous as you might think. I cycle with a crowd of Natscis every morning – picture 300 cyclists in a massive herd barrelling to a lecture theatre – and sit with a group of friends that I’ve shared fond memories of wild practicals and eccentric professors trying to the set the lecture theatre on fire under the guise of “chemical reactions”. For Materials and some biology subject, good marks for the practical are awarded by just signing in and completing the worksheet. The physics and chemistry practicals are a bit more intense, with a worksheet that I have to fill out at the end of each experiment with results and conclusions, so we’re more concentrated. They’re still fun, but they’re usually more stressful.
Nights out are up to you. I like to go out and have fun that way, but there’s so much to do in Cambridge that your outlets from study can be absolutely anything. Your friendship group is likely to be college based, and you can spend the night watching sci-fi movies, playing games or just in the bar having science discussions. However, if you want to spend the night clubbing, it’s almost a guarantee that there will be a group of Natscis who you see hung over in lectures the next morning. One of the best thing about being a Natsci is just the sheer volume of us everywhere, and it’s likely you’ll make friends in every college.
Your time as a Natsci is limited, and proper time management is necessary. Life in Cambridge can be difficult and stressful or relaxed and carefree. Finding balance of work and play is more important than ever.