First year Civil Engineering student Toby Loveday talks us through what a typical day is like for him studying and living in Newcastle.
I’m Toby, a first-year Civil Engineering student at Newcastle University. I remember when I was deciding which Uni to attend; the hassle of writing my personal statement, attending the open days and interviews it was all a bit of a nightmare, until I found Newcastle. The mix of student life coupled with a word class university was a no-brainer. With so many different routes into my future career, Newcastle was by far the best option for me. Newcastle not only has great connections with industry but has world leaders in the Civil Engineering industry, which is incredibly inspiring.
Most mornings, I’m up by 8 and in uni for the first lecture of the day by 9. Contact hours vary throughout the year with 4-5 hours being common, but as exams rapidly approach some days can have up to 6 or 7. Although this may seem daunting, it is all beneficial, well that’s what I tell myself! I also try to spend another 2 hours in the library after lectures, catching up with content as well as reading around my course modules.
Being a Civil Engineering student, I study a wide array of modules from engineering maths to environmental systems, which in my view provides a great mix. So far, my favourite module is design of sustainable engineering systems which continues through the first two years. One of our recent projects for this module was designing and building an aluminium truss, then testing it to destruction. This was an incredible experience; it taught me practical skills, helped me to appreciate my design and to see if my calculations were correct!
Another important module which I have enjoyed studying is Geographical Information Systems, which allows engineers to model and analyse spatial data. This module is extremely important as it is the future of engineering and planning development. Although challenging at first due to no prior knowledge of ArcGIS, after multiple tutorials and one to one help, I managed to design and present a residential development right here in Newcastle.
Civil Engineers at Newcastle are encouraged to join the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Being a student member of ICE opens up opportunities to attend conferences and improve my contacts into the industry. Through ICE, I have expanded my knowledge and I get the opportunity to speak to experts in the industry.
Outside of my academic studies I am a member of the Cross Country and Athletics team, as well as the Cycling Club. After a hard day of studying, I often find myself going for a run with the Cross-Country team where I get to catch up with some great friends. Being a member of both clubs, I get the opportunity to travel to various events all around the country competing for the university.
Not only do I love to participate in sport, but I also like to watch the ‘Toon Army’ play at St. James Park. One of the best things about the city of Newcastle is the nightlife. With a variety of student friendly clubs, pubs and venues there is always somewhere to go. When you make the right decision and come to Newcastle you may see me out sometime.
Newcastle University was the obvious choice for me as the city seemed very small and friendly and the quality of the teaching on my degree was extremely high.
My typical day consists of being at university from 9AM – 5PM for lectures and practicals. After, I usually head home to work on assignments. Sometimes I socialise with friends by heading to the cinema or catching student deals at my favourite spots.
My course consists of many lectures and modules that are all interconnected and contribute to my overall learning experience. Practicals give me the opportunity to practice skills or theories that may have been discussed in lectures. They also allow you to gain a better understanding of the course content by giving you hands-on experience. Don’t worry if you find yourself saying ‘aha’ during a practical. It is expected that they clarify things that may have been otherwise difficult to comprehend. There are also occasionally a few seminars where specific topics are discussed to stimulate ideas and encourage everyone to participate. Although there are many lectures and practicals, you will appreciate them when you realise that they have equipped you with all the skills necessary to be one of the best in your profession.
As a GIS student, you can become a member of the Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEGsoc) society. They organise a variety of events that range from socials to paint balling. A particular favourite of the society is the annual Christmas Ball where everyone puts on their most exquisite attire! If you fancy something else, there are over 160 societies to choose from, as well as the many adventures that await you in the ‘Toon’.
The thing that I find most interesting about my course is the strong links with industry. We constantly have the opportunity to network with employers who value and appreciate the level of academic excellence at Newcastle University. This makes the placement and graduate process more straightforward because we have already been exposed to a lot of different companies and have an idea of what they expect from graduates.
Newcastle was my first choice university for many reasons, the biggest one being the feeling of community and connection between the course and student. It really does feel like your degree doesn’t just matter to you, which makes studying much more enjoyable!
Another benefit of being here is the incredible city itself. From stunning architecture and high culture art installations/indie digs, to the wide array of bars/social spaces, restaurants and shops, it’s easy to find something new to do or a place to relax.
University and student life are, as everyone likes to joke, very different to anything you will have come across before.
Most of my days will start anywhere between 9am and 12pm and typically I will have at least 3 hours of timetabled activity, but this can easily be as much as 7 hours at the busiest times of the semester. The amount of contact time may seem big, but this is a blessing in disguise really! On any given day I will tend to do 2-3 hours of additional work in the many libraries/study areas around the university and I use this to keep on top of the lecture content and complete any additional work needed to do well in assignments and exams.
The lectures and content studied are quite varied; compare pure Engineering Maths with a wordier Production Management module; which provides a nice mix of study. Personally, I really enjoyed the Marne Engineering and Naval Architecture modules, as they had a good balance between the science and maths you’d expect to study.
Something I didn’t expect to do was coding and some of the Computer Aided Design, like modelling a single-cylinder engine. Although not easy to start with since I had no prior experience, I did find both very interesting and satisfying once I got the hang of it.
Outside of academia I am a member of the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme (DTUS), as a Royal Navy sponsored student. This means I attend the local naval base once a week and develop the skills I will need in order to be a technical officer. Alongside this I also get the opportunity to lead and develop various Adventurous Training, specifically for me Offshore Sailing.
In my downtime I like to experiment with cooking, picking up various bits and pieces to try from the massive Grainger Market. I also enjoy watching the rugby at the nearby Newcastle Falcons Kingston Park stadium and there is also the compulsory night “Ooot in Toon” which you will no doubt experience at least once (a week).
Feel free to send me a message on Unibuddy, you are more than welcome to ask me more about my daily happenings, the course or any concerns you have about the step up to university!
Third year Mechanical Engineering student Jenny Olsen talks us through the many options that are available to engineering students once you graduate.
So you’re thinking of choosing an engineering degree to study at Newcastle University – great! You’ll learn lots of practical skills and engineering theory that will make you both knowledgeable and employable.
First of all – there are lots of different types of engineering; Mechanical, Civil, Bio-medical, Electrical and Chemical (to name just a few!). That means lots of different career routes, but despite there being lots of different streams of engineering we all study quite similar topics (at least for the first few years of your degree). Often, companies hire engineering graduates from more than one discipline, so try to study what you think you’ll enjoy the most! If you have a set career in mind, look at what types of engineers they tend to advertise vacancies for and consider tailoring your degree towards that.
So what happens after you graduate? You’ve passed all your exams, you’ve been at University for 3-4 years, maybe taken a placement year or Summer internship – what now?
As an engineering graduate, there are lots of options open to you – if you’ve graduated with a BEng and want to become chartered, the next step is probably taking an accredited Masters degree. Alternatively, some graduate schemes are tailored to take BEng graduates straight to being a chartered engineer, however these are harder to find and require a longer training period.
If you’ve taken an MEng and want to be chartered: straight into a graduate scheme or professional job role and you’re on your way to chartership!
There are plenty of places to search for graduate roles or engineering vacancies – using sites like Gradcracker is a good place to start however they generally only list big companies which makes the roles extremely competitive. The University Career’s Service also lists vacancies in the UK and abroad from companies who are actively seeking to recruit Newcastle graduates which is a brilliant resource. Alternatively, asking your lecturers if they know any companies that are hiring is a great way to find out about smaller companies that won’t be listed on the other sites!
But what if you’re not ready to give up Uni life just yet? If you’re one of the many students (like myself) who aren’t quite ready to leave behind the lecture hall, maybe further study is for you? There are plenty of research degrees or Doctorate schemes available, and this is a great time to specialise as you’ll already have had 3 or 4 years to discover what you really enjoy learning about.
Whatever you choose to do after your engineering degree, you’ll be well prepared to fit into a workplace, communicate with your colleagues and tackle the problems of our generation!
I chose Newcastle University as my first option for many reasons. Firstly, the teaching quality that they provide for Electrical and Electronics engineers is outstanding, which is very important for future engineers. The environment the university creates for all students despite their background, culture and race is also another major reason that made me pick Newcastle as my first choice. As an international student I feel welcome and I enjoy as much as I can because I am part of Newcastle University community.
The university campus is in the city centre and Newcastle is very compact city and everything is close by, which makes it very convenient for everyone living here – especially students! I personally love being able to get around without much effort or need to use public transport.
As an engineering student, you must be committed and ready for anything that you might face.
As a third year student most of my time is spent doing my final project which is a big part of my course and as a result I don’t have many lectures. I do have lectures on Tuesday from 9am-11am and 1pm-3pm, which focus on Electric Drives, where we consider topics such as drive configurations and load characteristic, motor modelling; and Renewable Energy where we talk about renewable energies such as solar, wind and wave energy and many other factors related to energy generation. On Friday I also have two lectures from 11am-1pm and 3pm-5pm; Law for Engineers where we learn the basic law concepts that are very relevant in the life of an electrical engineer; and Power System Operation where we analyse modern electricity network. During the breaks between lectures I might do some work on my assignments or continue reading up on some topics that are relevant to my project.
It is essential as an electrical engineering student to feel confident with maths because most modules will require you to apply the mathematical knowledge you have and the lecturers expect you to know – especially if you are third year student.
I essentially have the rest of the week free, so I focus on reading and working on my project. I have my own studying program – each day I have a specific module that I consider and I spend 2 to 3 hours working on that particular module. Sometimes I go to the library or student union building to read or I can work at home. My project involves modelling and simulations as well as building a prototype. To model and simulate I use specialised computer software which means I use my personal laptop and to build a prototype I use the university electronics lab in Merz Court for soldering and testing. I work on my project almost every day, and it is a commitment you should definitely consider making as a stage 3 student.
Electrical and Electronic Engineering gives you an insight into communication, power (machines/converters) and electronics and at the same time it provides an opportunity for specialisation in your third year, where you can choose anything depending on what you like the most. I personally prefer power so that is what I chose to focus on.
When I am not in university I get involved sometimes in activities that the various socieities or NUSU (Newcastle university student union) organise, such as volunteering. I also do some occasional paid work that the university offers for students which is an excellent way to gain experience (and earn money) whilst studying.
I enjoy watching documentaries, anime such as one piece and some series I find interesting. I like going out with my friends/girlfriend or just hanging out at home, drinking/eating and play video games (even though I am not very good at them!) Sometimes I DJ and I really enjoy doing that. I also like cooking (my friends have all told me that they think I would make a great chef!) I go to the gym sometimes as I believe it is very important do some sort of exercise and I am currently learning how to swim – it is never too late to learn something new!
Please feel free to get in touch with me @dimuanza (Instagram/Facebook) if you would like to ask me about the course or anything else.
Newcastle wasn’t actually my first choice of university when applying, but now having spent 4 years here, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to have gone anywhere else. Newcastle is, without a doubt, the best student city there is. It’s so friendly here and I always feel safe; even at 3am after a night out! It’s a fun, bustling city filled with all sorts of things to do. Compared to bigger cities like London, living costs are cheap which allows way more room for opportunities to do fun things. I think it’s important to be in a city where there’s lots to do, especially when you’re doing something as tough as engineering.
That is the un-sugar-coated truth: engineering is TOUGH, but it’s also extremely rewarding. It is no understatement that the things you will learn in this day and age will have a huge impact on many of the important industries of the world.
As a chemical engineering student, my schedule always changes. There are a lot of contact hours. There are times where I’m only in for an hour or two and some days where I’m in from 9am-6pm – let’s just say you will definitely get your money’s worth from doing this course. A lot of the particularly long days are due to labs, which typically take about three hours. I like labs because the practical aspect of it means that time goes by pretty quickly and helps with the learning experience. Also, you only have labs every two weeks at most, so it’s really not too bad.
On a standard day, I would go to uni and go to my lectures. On a long day, during breaks I would usually go to the student union with friends to have lunch and maybe even have a drink or two. During the more demanding times of the year, I would spend my breaks working on assignments. A lot of the projects I’ve had throughout my degree have been group projects, so breaks between lectures are the usually the best times to meet up with everyone to get things done. A lot of group-work also means that we are a very tight-knit course, which is really nice because having people to go through it with helps to keep up the motivation. After uni, I would go home for dinner and relax with friends, or sometimes go and get ready to enjoy the famous Newcastle nightlife. Me and my housemates often have games nights or movie nights together.
Chemical engineering offers a very broad learning experience. A common misconception is that it’s predominantly chemistry with a bit of maths. It’s actually a lot of maths and physics with some basic chemistry. A lecturer of mine gave us a great analogy to better understand what chemical engineers actually are: “If chemists are the chefs then chemical engineers are the ones that run the restaurant.” We also have to learn a lot about finance and economics, as well as general safety engineering. The degree also incorporates aspects of mechanical and electrical engineering. We even do a lot of computer programming for simulating processes. This is all great because if you change your mind on what you want to do, mid-degree (or had no idea what you wanted to do in the first place), chemical engineering could get you into anything.
So chemical engineering is pretty intense, but I still have a lot of time to focus on other things. I’m currently in the dance society, I love drawing and playing music, I try my best to go to the gym as much as I can, and also do some tutoring and volunteering. It’s all about time-management, which you will inevitably become very good at as an engineering student. There is so much to talk about when it comes to the whole uni/student experience so if there’s anything you want to ask me, feel free to reach me via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope this was helpful and thanks so much for reading!
Today we are featuring a guest post from Jun Wei Fan – a naval architecture student who tells us about his experience with the Newcastle University Marine Projects Society.
rover (noun) a person who spends their time wandering
Towards the end of my first academic year, I found myself wondering – how do I make my time in university more fulfilling? It felt as though there was just something lacking from my life. Lost, I was. That was until I made an impromptu decision to run for President of the Newcastle University Marine Projects Society, succeeding and becoming Team Captain of the Newcastle University ROVers. Perhaps it’s no mere coincidence that I joined the ROVers to both start and stop roving – as in start building ROVs and stop wandering around aimlessly like a lost soul.
At this point, the unacquainted might be puzzled. What’s a ROV? Who are the ROVers? Well, simply put, the Newcastle University ROVers is a competitive team comprising members of the Newcastle University Marine Projects Society coming together to build a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).
We started off with our roots within the Marine, Offshore and Subsea Technology group. Initially, the competitions we partook in were very marine-centric and teams comprised of only Marine Technology students, but in the years since, we’ve evolved to take on bigger, more challenging projects. In line with the new integrated School of Engineering, and the Head of School’s (Prof. Phil Taylor) encouragement of interdisciplinary projects, the Marine Projects Society now cherishes the benefits of working in multidisciplinary teams. This has allowed us to harness the full potential of each member from the various field of engineering! Rather than having marine tech students attempting to do everything from ground up, we are now able to draw upon the expertise of students from computing/electrical/mechanical/etc., accomplishing more at a faster pace.
In the outside world, employers expect graduates to work in interdisciplinary teams, leveraging on the complementary skill sets of each individual. In university however, us students are, more often than not, confined to working within our respective courses. And that is why the Marine Projects Society has embraced Prof. Taylor’s vision for a truly integrated School of Engineering, with students and faculty working seamlessly across disciplines to produce ground-breaking solutions.
Joining the society has given me the unique opportunity to experience what it’s like to work with other engineers and to understand their concerns; and working on the ROV project has forced me to take a broader view of matters at hand. In the past year, I’ve learnt how to fully consider the different aspects of an engineering project and as Captain, I’ve had to balance conflicting demands from the different sub-teams (electrical, marine, mechanical, systems) to achieve the optimum solution for the ROV.
The ROV project has also taught me many valuable skills and lessons – things which you’ll find hard-pressed to pick up in your daily lectures – but most importantly, it has allowed me to become a practical engineer. Theory is indeed important and as engineers, when we set out to design something, we too rely on theoretical knowledge to produce an initial design. But you’ll find that many things often work theoretically and yet fail in reality. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the notion of producing the perfect design.
Realistically speaking however, a number of different factors will hinder one’s ability to achieve that grandeur. Budget, size, material availability, these are all limitations that affected us while designing & building the ROV – and these challenges will differ from project to project! But learning how to work within and around these constraints has allowed all of us to become better engineers, engineers who are not just tied down by theory but are capable of thinking on our feet, adapting to changing circumstances.
One of the reasons why we chose to embark on this ROV project is the unique set of challenges associated with designing something for prolonged operation in water. Water is a harsh and unforgiving environment, something us Marine Tech students will gladly tell you all about. It’s also common knowledge that water and electricity don’t mix well, which is why our team spent considerable efforts to make sure everything was watertight, and waterproof where we were unable to keep water out. This involved extensive use of O-Rings, silicon grease, stinky epoxy, coating of exposed elements with resin, and slathering sealing points with more disgusting pump grease than we’d like to admit. All that was critical in ensuring that no water could come into contact with electricity for risk of rendering the entire water body live and electrocuting ourselves.
But all that would not have been possible without a few key people. Having a dedicated advisor to guide us on this project was vital in ensuring that we could come as far as we did. Dr Maryam Haroutunian went above and beyond in her role, always setting aside time to advise us and listen to our updates and to join us on testing sessions. She even came back to the labs on a weekend just so we could drop the ROV into the water for ballasting and test runs!
We also have the hydrolabs team to thank for helping us with the more technical construction aspects and for tolerating us. Special mention goes to Bob Hindhaugh and Ian Howard-Row for their continued support in allowing us to use the hydrodynamics laboratory’s facilities and for offering insights from their wealth of experience, and for allowing us the freedom to exercise our creativity even when you know some ideas might not work out ultimately.
But, it’s not just all work and no fun! (although work can be equally fun if you’re passionate about it) Members of the Marine Projects Society also had the unique chance to interact with the industry. The society hosted a talk by Nick Ridley, Principal Engineer of Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD), and we also got the chance to visit SMD for a site tour and see how they build ROVs up close. Both the talk and the trip gave our team some inspiration and guidance on designing ROVs, and was a delightful experience for all whom attended!
Throughout this amazing journey, our team has gained valuable experience and knowledge that we now treasure deeply. Armed with this, we’re looking forward to the academic year 2018/19, where we hope to take the society to greater heights! In the pipeline are projects such as the ROV2.0 and other exciting (but still pending) ideas such as a Solar Car/Boat. It is our greatest wish that many new engineers will join us for a thrilling year of roving!
ROV Testing Session For myself, I’m equally exhilarated about starting on Stage 3 – a year where we begin to specialise in more advanced Naval Architecture concepts and reinforce our fundamentals through design projects and more. If anything, working on the ROV project has enhanced my desire to master not just the relevant technical know-how but also the interpersonal skills necessary for working on interdisciplinary projects after graduation! That is something I feel all Engineers should possess!
Ever wondered how to balanced a degree like Mechanical Engineering with social activities, relaxation and part-time work? It can seem tricky, but second year student, Will O’Donnell, has got it covered. In today’s blog post he explains how he manages his time.
Life at Newcastle I’m currently studying for a BEng degree in Mechanical Engineering, and as a Stage 2 student I remember what was important to me when choosing a university to study at. Something that mattered a lot was the work/life balance wherever I decided to go, which, thankfully, resulted in me choosing Newcastle. It is often difficult to see how to manage your studies and extra-curricular activities when looking in from the outside, which was true for us all as applicants. Fortunately there is no shortage of things to do here, as well as your studies (though as a Mech Eng student, the work is plentiful). Contrary to popular belief, there is definitely room for a life outside of an Engineering Degree, and it is remarkably easy to find a nice balance between the two aspects of university life when you get the hang of it.
Stage 1 First year of Engineering, while undoubtedly a step up from school teaching, is not the hellscape it’s cracked up to be. Sure, there’s several new subjects that you’ve never considered before (e.g. Thermofluid Dynamics, Materials Science etc), but it’s important to remember that these are new to everyone else too. I worried that not taking Further Maths at A-Level would severely hinder me, but the point of Stage 1, I soon realised, is to bring everyone to the same level. For the Further Maths students the topics were very familiar, but the lecturers did a fantastic job of making everything clear and understandable for those of us who didn’t know our imaginary numbers from our eigenvalues. This was also true for mechanics, as the material taught was familiar to many, but not to the extent that it became boring or overly simple. There’s a lot of practical work, no shortage of trips, and enough fresh content to keep you on your toes. Busy though the days may be with learning, there’s still plenty of time after to blow off some steam in the various societies on offer, or in a nearby pub. I never felt particularly overwhelmed, and there was invariably room for relaxation and enjoyment over the year.
Stage 2 Second year is a bit of a gear-change. The complexity of the course content steps up, and the amount of work is greater than that of first year. While this may be the case, and it is certainly unavoidable, it was not the death of my life outside of the lecture theatre. In fact, I joined the Water Polo Society, and trained regularly every week. Keeping active helped me focus and introduced me to a bunch of new people. The nature of Stage 2 meant that our course spent a lot of time together outside of teaching time, and we became significantly closer as a result. More so than Stage 1, the sense of community in our year was present. Luckily we are all quite similar, with enough differences to keep life interesting.
Winding Down Getting out of lectures and feeling the fresh air on your face is a wonderful sensation, unless it’s past October and the temperatures have plummeted again. The rest of the day is waiting to be filled, and provided I’ve done all my work (even occasionally when I haven’t), I go and enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation. As with most students, Netflix is my friend at times like these. If it’s sunny, some of us will go to the Moor and pass out for a bit/play a game of something.
When I want to do something more active, we will go the gym (for some unfathomable reason we’ve started going at 6am, but I feel great afterwards and oddly have more energy during the day) or hit the climbing wall. There’s also a local pool that’s great for a swim whenever I’m feeling particularly restless.
Part-Time Work In second year, I got myself a teaching position in the local pool. It’s easy to fit around my studies due to the short hours, and the people there are fantastic. I wouldn’t say its strictly necessary to get a job in first year, as there’s a lot to take in and a job can only add to that feeling. That being said, it’s never a bad thing to have an income, and it takes some of the pressure off finances.
Time Management I’ve certainly had some trouble with this, especially at first. Being by yourself for the first time, while liberating, is a minefield of potential pitfalls. In first year, it is crucial to develop some good habits in terms of self-discipline, as these will carry forward into future years. It’s tempting to stay up till all hours on a binge-watching session, or go out four times a week, but as the year goes on this can affect the uni side of life. I found it useful to work away from the flat, and especially in second year it is much easier to focus in the library. It’s also easier to go somewhere and do impending work straight after lectures because, lets face it, if you go home intending to do some work later it’s never going to happen. Basically, so long as you use some common sense and, that critical thinking that Mech Eng imparts, you can’t go far wrong.
Organising your time on a course with high contact hours, such as engineering, can seem daunting. Farah Nabilah gives us an insight into how she manages her time as a Stage 2 Civil Engineering student.
I am currently studying BEng Civil Engineering and something I often get asked about is how I find the work/life balance. Initially, I found University life to be very different to school in a sense that you must be independent. At school, the teacher would go through the material and after, we would go through the questions in class. At university, the lecturer will go through the material and a few examples in lectures, but you are expected to go through the practice question in your own time. We have the opportunity to ask the lecturers any questions during tutorial sessions. The tutorial session is more of an informal session where you can ask the lecturers or any PhD students one to one questions. After a couple of weeks of being at University, I started getting used to this system.
Stage 2 is different to stage 1 as there are less lectures to attend but more work to be done outside; in particular, group work. You also have more design modules as opposed to just learning mostly theory like in stage 1. For me, I did spend a lot more time studying outside of class to try and understand these concepts, so I do have to organise my time well. I usually volunteer on Sunday to give myself a break from doing University work.
To switch off I like to take walks and get some fresh air. The University is close to Leazes Park and the city centre which is great as I can take a walk there with my friends to refresh after a session of studying. I also like to watch TV shows when I have time. I work as a student ambassador and I help out during events such as open days and post application visit days. I really enjoy doing this as it helps me to develop my communication skills and I get to share my experience at University with other people.
I think that in order to be able to manage your time whilst still having fun, it is important to stay organised. I keep a planner, so I know what events I have on each day and make sure that I don’t miss out anything important. Also, I try to prioritise tasks; I do tasks that are more important first. Most importantly, I think it’s beneficial to do the work as soon as possible so you are not left with a large amount of workload and don’t end up being stressed.
Find out more about Newcastle University’s Civil Engineering degrees here.
Amelia Pettitt tells us how she balances her Chemical Engineering degree with competitive running, hobbies and part time work.
I’m currently in my fourth year of study of Chemical Engineering, specialising in sustainable engineering to complete my masters degree. I am also a highly competitive runner and therefore when I first came to university I was unsure of how I would manage the work/life balance of studying an intense degree like engineering with my sporting commitments. However I soon realised that although this would be a challenge, my involvement in both would complement each other.
In stage 1 the typical contact hours were 9-1 each day, which I found worked really well for me. As the course requirements weren’t too intense, I enjoyed going to the gym at 1 after my lectures to give myself a break, before completing tutorials and any assignments later in the afternoon. I was catered therefore I had another break to go to dinner with my flatmates. I didn’t realise it then, but all these breaks were really benefiting my studies and I felt I was constantly socialising!
Being surrounded by other students in halls with less contact hours didn’t phase me and I didn’t feel I missed out. If I wanted to go out, I could often manage one night a week, which I found was enough for me. I would always choose the sport night on a Wednesday as this allowed me to see my running friends as well as my flatmates. My flatmates would often go out more than this, but my halls were so big that there were other chemical engineers nearby that wouldn’t be going out, and there is something quite satisfying about seeing them hungover and missing out on a free breakfast when you wake up feeling fine.
In stage 2 the contact hours increased slightly, but the days were more spread out with lectures spanning the day 9-5 with multiple breaks. From stage 2 onwards I began to work in uni 9-5 and complete my training and gym sessions outside of this. I found this worked really well for me, as I could switch my brain off and socialise with friends not on the course after a full day in university. I found I had less time to go out, but this was mainly because of my training commitments rather than the course. I became more disciplined and structured with my time, and this provided me with a healthy lifestyle. I also applied for a placement year for after second year. I found I spent a lot of time preparing for interviews with help from the careers service. The course was structured to enable this, with majority of the weighting of the year based on January and June exams rather than assignments, giving me time before Christmas to secure my placement. I still worked at weekends if I needed to, however this probably wasn’t essential – definitely if you aren’t applying for placements and training once or twice each day!
After my placement year I found the 9-5 routine was ingrained in me and I wasn’t looking to change it coming back to university! It is difficult to have every weekend off, as things do come up in the week and I always want to try to make up for this lost time. However overall, now in my last year of study, I tend to take weekends off. I’m either travelling to races or exploring Newcastle – making the most of my last year in the city.
I’m also part of the baking society. I enjoy baking as its almost like engineering in the way you have to plan in advance and follow a schedule to ensure your bake will be successful. However I also find it very relaxing and a chance to be away from the computer for a little while. I bake on the university campus which is ideal – the society provide all the equipment and ingredients and I just bake for a couple of hours and head back to the library with my fresh library snacks. It’s perfect, and doesn’t take up too much time out of my day. I find adding hobbies into my day at specific times really helps my studies as I am more motivated to work hard if I know I need to leave at a set time.
Engineering has a lot of contact hours, which although this may lead people to believe it would be less social, it actually results in having a lot more friends! I know everyone in my year at university and I live with Chemical Engineers. This is ideal for asking for help and feeling at home at university. If I need help, I can always find someone in the computer cluster. I have other friends too, from the university triathlon team, cross country team and baking society, all of which hold social events for when I do want a break from any chemical engineering talk. I’ve been to Edinburgh, Sheffield, Stirling, Brighton, Manchester, Leeds, and London – all over the UK with the teams competing.
If you are worried about the financial side of university, Engineering opens doors to many scholarships which are definitely worth working towards! If you feel you need a part-time job, then there are many opportunities on campus including those to be a student ambassdor and street scientist. As a student ambassador I show future students around the university. As a street scientist I perform simple science experiments to explain everyday concepts to children aged primary school to A level, on campus and at local schools and events. I thoroughly enjoy them both, and they add to my communication and presentation skills, as well as my scientific knowledge!
If I was to choose to come to university again, despite how challenging chemical engineering can be at times, I don’t believe there is a better degree to do. Chemical engineering gives you so many transferable skills, providing a technical background and supportive learning environment. There are so many opportunities to get involved in through extra activities on offer at university, and with an engineering degree, you can still fit these in by prioritising the most important which is an essential skill to set you up for the working environment.
Find out more about Newcastle University’s Chemical Engineering courses here.