What’s it like studying Physics

Luca Wallis

Why Physics?

When applying to unis, I was always pretty certain that I wanted to study physics. After reading a great book about it a few years ago, I found understanding why things worked at a fundamental level really cool, and the idea of studying crazy phenomena like black holes and quantum theory seemed awesome to me!

A typical day

A typical day in my life sees me waking up half an hour before lectures, quickly having breakfast and taking the 5-minute walk down to the science site (a definite upside of being at Trevelyan college!). Contact hours are all an hour long and there are generally 3-4 of them every morning, ranging from tutorials to lectures to workshops, after which I head back up the hill to Trevs for a catered lunch. My afternoon is then generally spent in the library, most likely doing assignments, going over lecture notes or preparing for tutorials.

My top tips

Being a first-year student, I was glad there wasn’t much module choice in terms of physics, because I would have had no idea what I wanted to specialise in! However, roughly half of our modules are maths modules, and I picked the ones focussed more on teaching the maths needed for physics, instead of the ones giving a more rigorous, abstract approach. These modules were my favourites in first term, and I found it really cool how they took the maths I’d learnt at school a step further and showed us where it all came from.

My favourite part of second term has been the physics side of the course though! While in the first term I didn’t really interact much with physics outside of lectures and assignments, in the new year I started going over my lecture notes and using the textbook to make sure I really understood what was going on. Doing this has made me enjoy the course much more! It’s more work, but I’d say my main learning from first year is that you get as much out of the course as you invest in it.

Once a week we also have a three-hour lab session, and just like the theoretical part of the course, I’ve enjoyed it much more in second term! My favourite experiment so far has been measuring the speed of light, which we did by bouncing the light off a mirror and measuring the time delay between when it was emitted and when it came back. Apart from the fact that we got a really accurate result, I really enjoyed it because it branched the theory we’d been doing with real life.

Friends and free time

Before coming to uni I was worried that my degree might mean I was working all the time, but, in first year at least, I’ve found that balancing friends/societies and my workload has definitely been doable. I spend most of my free time with my friends and often in the evenings we do something together like baking or playing a game. I also always look forward to my Wednesday evenings, where I play DnD with a group I met through the Durham Games society!

Frisbee, frisbee, frisbee!

I’m also on the Ultimate Frisbee team for both Trevs and Durham! Before coming to uni I’d never played, but now I have training three to four times a week and generally a match over the weekend. I’ve also been around the UK a bit for matches or tournaments with the Durham team, which is always great fun! Sport has always been a great way to destress for me, and Ultimate Frisbee has been a great new discovery!

Discover more

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our Physics Department webpages

Follow The Durham Student on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube

Create your own personalised prospectus here

Luca Wallis

Hi I’m Luca, a first-year physics student in Trevelyan College! I’m half English but have lived abroad for all my life. So far I'm really enjoying Durham, especially all the new people I've met and all the great opportunities and experiences that come with uni life.

Related Posts

Our field trip to Armenia

Our field trip began with a range of presentations about the culture, politics and history of Armenia. Developing a deep understanding of their historical and

Read More »