After two years of decision making, months of revising, weeks of planning, hours of driving and lugging the far too many suitcases I brought up five flights of stairs; I had finally made it. For me, university always felt like the ultimate goal; a route out of a small town; a way to learn things that genuinely interest me rather than being dictated an enforced curriculum. However, within a week this euphoric independence already began to wear off. I was not as prepared for University as I initially thought.
Before attending university, I was a little unsure of how exactly I would be taught. I was so used to my school timetable; I had a good relationship with all my teachers, knew all my classmates well and was completely comfortable with the course. However, with a little time I got used to the new university system I found myself in. I use lectures to soak up as much information as possible; each one of my lecturers offers invaluable insight into Mathematics and, even if I don’t understand all of it yet, I write as much down as I can. During my tutorials, which usually only contain 20 to 30 students, I ask any questions I need to and discuss any topic I feel necessary in order to get myself as comfortable with the material as possible.
Despite all of the academic support available, a substantial amount of independent learning and self-discipline is often required in order to do well. Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoy this part of university. As well as attending everything that is required, there are often extra lectures and events put on by the university that explore different aspects of the subject and offer an insight you won’t obtain anywhere else. In addition, even though there isn’t usually specific ‘required reading’ for a first-year mathematician, there are so many resources available to deepen your knowledge in general. If a particular theorem, idea or field of mathematics sparks an interest during a lecture or whilst completing a piece of work I can research that specific item at the library and possibly use it to further my studies. Mathematics can be a rather intense degree, but I personally find that the more engaged with it I become, the easier the work load is to manage.
When deciding what course to apply for I read a brief overview of module options and a snippet of their content. In reality, the courses are much more in depth and detailed than I could ever imagine. In the first semester, we pushed our A Level knowledge further in Calculus 1, we tackled Mathematical Structures where number systems and proofs were discussed, we were introduced to the world of Probability where we built on our knowledge of expected values and random variables, and we were exposed to procedures and plots in Computing. Within the first week I found myself researching Fermat’s Last Theorem for an assignment and getting far too carried away with what was supposed to be a “small summary.” After five months at QMUL, I can positively say that I have not “made it.” Being here isn’t in fact the ultimate goal, but it is assisting me in discovering what my “ultimate goal” actually is; whether its working in finance or scientific research or something completely different and unexpected; I am excited to keep studying and find out.