Student perspectives - Sebastian
Third year Physics with management
Hi, my name is Seb Weidt. I'm a third year Physics with Management student.
Why did you choose to study at Sussex?
I chose to study at Sussex because of its good reputation and its location. It's a prime location right in the middle of the Downs. We've got Brighton outside, great for clubbing! And my department is small, which I like, so I know all the lecturers and they all know me - I'm not just a number. And because it's such a small department I know all the students in my year, there are about forty students, so it's a really, really nice community and it's easy to study there.
How is university different to school / college?
I went to a British military school in Germany. It was a weekly boarding school so I kind of got used to being away from home which is a big difference when you come to university. However, it is also different in terms of studying, it's more independent, you don't get as much support - it's different support when you come to university. You can always ask your lecturers, they are more than happy to help you, however, they are very busy so you really have to make sure you ask the right questions and don't waffle on. So that is one difference, being away from home is another difference which students need to get used to. But there is a lot of support around. You are on campus in your first year and everyone around you is in the same boat so you make lots of new friends and you definitely get used to it quite quickly.
What is the campus like at Sussex?
The campus at Sussex is amazing! It is the most amazing and beautiful campus I've ever seen. It is green, really nice buildings - they fit into the landscape. It is just - it is amazing! I can just walk out of the campus and I'm in the middle of the Downs. You can have barbeques, picnics, I can just go to the beach. So the campus is in a prime location and it is really, really nice.
What do you enjoy most about your course?
I study Physics with Management and I enjoy most the practical side of it, of which we do a lot at Sussex. We have a four-hour lab session every week, where we can do all sorts of fun things, and that's what I enjoy most. Also, the Management side to it - I'm really interested in. So it's good, it's good to do both. I get the Physics side where I learn to understand the world better - how things happen, why things happen, and then the management side - is about how the world works in a management sense.
What is the teaching like on your course?
On my course there are about three different types of teaching methods. There are the lectures which are the main part of the programme where basically forty to fifty students on my course sit in a big lecture hall and there will be a lecturer who is just teaching us the theory we need to know. They always go on for one hour, apart from Management where we sometimes have two hour lectures. Then we get workshops which are similar to seminars, however, in workshops we work on problem sheets where we have a chance to ask the lecturer questions about all sorts of things we didn't understand in the lecture and he will have time to discuss them further. And we get support from TA's (Teaching Assistants) who can help us solve problems we don't understand. And then we get Labs, which mostly happen once a week, they are about four hours long where we can apply all the theory we learn in the lectures to real world problems. However, we can go in the lab whenever we want to, but those four hours are scheduled and there will be people around to support us - lab technicians and lecturers to basically give us all the support we need.
How much time do you spend studying?
I tend to work for about ten hours a day so that is about forty to forty-five hours a week. My course is very structured and we have about eighteen to twenty contact hours which means we get a lot of support but we also have to do a lot of independent studies around those courses. So I come to university at nine o'clock most of the time and I leave at about six or seven at the earliest and sometimes I'll do some extra work at the weekends. However it isn't like straight studying, we tend to study in groups so it's a lot of fun involved as well. You have your breaks, you play football in between, you can go to the gym for an hour which is on campus - there are two gyms on campus. So there are a lot of breaks in between or you can just go and see your lecturer. And our department provides us with a study area and where we can just sit and have a chat, we have our own kitchen so basically they provide us with everything we need for the whole day, so people are always around so you just sit down and other people will work on the same problem, so there are always people around. It's not timetabled - where we say OK we meet at twelve and we'll leave at one, basically everyone is always around, always in our department or in the library and then you just sit together and end up working together - that's how it mainly works.
What is it like writing essays on your course and do you have any tips?
Not only do we have to write essays on my course, we also have to write lab reports mainly towards the end of every term. All I can say is plan in advance and give yourself plenty of time to write these. It's better to write one or two hours a day rather than doing it all on the last night because what happened to me, luckily in my first year when it didn't count, the lecturer was kind enough to say: ‘OK write your lab report, hand it in, I will mark it and then give it back and then you can change anything, take on board my feedback and then hand it in again'. I thought that was brilliant, so I got it back and thought, ‘OK, I'll do this at some point' and I kept putting it off and then on the last night I was like OK I really have to do this now and I was really tired and I just crammed it in, did everything and handed it in. It turned out I got a worse mark than I did the first time. So I went straight up there and complained, I said: ‘How is this possible?' and then the lecturer kindly showed me that I mixed up two different essays I wrote. So, because I was under so much pressure getting this all done on time, I mixed them up and I must have copied something in the wrong document and nothing worked - I had different diagrams that were completely unrelated. So it is very, very important to proofread! Ask your friends you live with to proofread. Maybe you are lucky enough to have an English student in your house - I'm lucky to have that, so do get plenty of people to proofread it. You have to proofread it and that will definitely help you and please give yourself as much time as possible to get your essays done because it is quite important to have them well structured.
How do you make notes in your lectures?
It depends really, sometimes lecturers are kind enough to put all their lecture notes, all their slides, everything on Study Direct. Sometimes they don't so what I do, if those lecture notes are available I print them off and I make notes while the lecturer goes through them, however, sometimes I just have to take notes and because in Physics they write everything on the board so you just need to copy it down from the board. In management note taking is very important because lecturers like to talk about their own experience because they mainly come from industry so they're not the biggest fans of writing everything on the board, so they just talk away and you have to learn to write down the key points they make. Sometimes they do put slide shows on the web which is helpful but it's not enough - to write essays you really have to listen to what they say.
Have you got any advice for good revision strategies?
When it comes to exams, revision is very important and the most important thing is to start early. You might think - "Oh, a week is enough, maybe a day per subject". It really isn't. I would suggest start after Easter. Exams start in about week eight /week nine - so it does give you two months to really revise everything. I mean, in Physics you do find yourself having nine/ten/eleven exams so it really is important that you start early and keep coming back to the same topics till you really get it into your head. Plus, if you do struggle with something, you will still have time to ask someone and learn it in detail. So just start early, that means you can go to bed at a reasonable time, you don't have to stay up all night. So that would be my tip, start early and seek all the help that is out there. There are plenty of revision classes that lecturers organise where again, bearing in mind they write the exam, they will not mention something in a revision lecture which is completely irrelevant. So you might as well go along, take everything on board they say and revise it.
How do you get feedback on how you're doing with your course?
There are lots of ways of getting feedback from your assessed work. There is Sussex Direct which shows you all your marks and in my department the guidelines are about five working days. University wise it's about fifteen working days. On top of that you then obviously collect your essay or your problem sheet from your department office and you get a lot of feedback on there. If the lecturer does see a general problem with your understanding of a topic he will direct you to the right book or he will ask you to come and see him for more guidance and more help. I mean if you do feel that you need more feedback then it's always important to ask because lecturers are more than happy to help you but they don't know unless you ask - so it's very important to just drop them an email and they will find some time to give you all the feedback you need.
Who, on your course, can you go to for help with your studies?
At Sussex you get a lot of support when it comes to studying or any personal problems as well. The first thing you should do if you do encounter a problem is go to your personal tutor who is always more than happy to help you and they will direct you to the right place. You can also go to Student Support if you have any learning difficulties they will help you, you can ask for mitigating evidence. If you do struggle writing essays which is a big part of university life - you have to write a lot of essays - there are essay writing sessions where they help you to write essays basically, how to structure everything. Also if you do struggle with any course specific problems there is a Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme where a student who took the course the year before helps you with any problems you have and the advantage of that is the student knows exactly what they struggled with, so they can support you - they understand your problems. And also it's always a bit daunting to put your hand up in a lecture and ask a ‘stupid' question so you can ask a PAL tutor anything you like and no one will laugh at you, no one will point at you, even though that never happens in a lecture, but it's always a bit weird getting up in front of a hundred people and asking a question when you think you're the only one who doesn't understand this problem.
What is it like being involved in the Student Rep scheme?
When you come to university it's not all about studying, it's about finding the right balance, so to get involved further there are plenty of opportunities. There's the student rep scheme where students vote for you, if they like you. Once you're a student rep there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in all sorts of committees where you can basically help improve the experience of students.