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What's it like at Warwick Uni? Helena Moretti, Physics

Published August 2014

What’s it like to study Physics at the University of Warwick? Third year student Helena Moretti shares her tips for studying at Warwick, making the most of the tutor support, and learning all there is to know about the universe.

Helena Moretti and friendsName: Helena Moretti
Degree: BSc (Hons) Physics
Home town: Originally from Livingston in Scotland, now Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire.
A-levels studied: Physics, Maths and Further Maths. I also did AS levels in chemistry, French, German and I did an extended project.

Where were you before you came to Warwick?

The Hertfordshire and Essex High School, an all-girls state school.

How long have you been at Warwick?

3 years! I graduated this summer

How did you apply to Warwick?

I knew that I wanted to go to Warwick as soon as I went to an open day – I loved the feel of the campus and all of the students seemed very enthusiastic about their course and the university as a whole. I applied the standard way through UCAS. Once all of my offers were through, I knew that I wanted Warwick as my first choice. I actually put Warwick as both my firm and insurance – I put Maths & Physics as my firm choice and Physics as my insurance!

What’s it like to study at Warwick?

Studying at Warwick is incredibly challenging and immensely rewarding. The professors here provide an amazing support system, and you get out what you put in. They are always happy to arrange a meeting to go over any issues. In physics, most of the teaching is done in lectures, but in your first and second year, you have weekly tutorials with your personal tutor. They provide a consistent point of contact for any problems, personal or academic, and are part of what makes the Warwick physics course great. In the final year, you don’t have tutorials, but you do a final year project (mine was called Mapping the Hydrogen Gas in the Galaxy). You meet at least weekly with your project supervisor. You can, of course, at any point still arrange to meet with your personal tutor, and you meet at least once a term to go over your progress. Warwick also allows students in most departments to do outside modules, something I took advantage of in my second and third years. It helps to give you a more well-rounded education and gives you a chance to experience a different style of teaching. I took German, education and business modules during my studies, so I can show employers that I have skills beyond physics.

What was it like going from studying at A-level to studying for a degree?

The answer to this definitely depends on your department. I know a lot of people who have said that the work doesn’t get harder as much as it gets more intense, and you have to change your way of thinking. For me, physics at university was a huge step up from A-level. I started on the maths & physics course and switched down to physics because the maths was so very different from what was done at A-level. If you’re planning on doing maths, I definitely recommend that you research university maths beforehand! Overall, there was a lot less emphasis on individual facts, and a lot more emphasis on tying everything together across modules. As a result, learning things in isolation doesn’t work as well at university as it does at A-level! Be prepared to invest more time in understanding rather than memorising.

Studying at Warwick is incredibly challenging and immensely rewarding. The professors here provide an amazing support system, and you get out what you put in.

What have you found most challenging?

I was going to say the work (because it was certainly very difficult!) but casting my mind all the way back to first year, I think the most difficult thing was moving away from home. I’m a complete homebunny (I’ve moved back now after final year and I won’t even pretend I’m not excited) and if I’m 100% honest, I probably wasn’t ready to move away when I did. It took a really good chunk of my first year before I was at home in Warwick. However, once I got myself stuck into societies, I met loads of great people and felt like I was part of the university. I think the point where you can say that you’ve made a mark on at least one society in Warwick is the point where you start to feel like you really belong. Some people don’t join any societies and have an amazing university experience, but my advice is get stuck in right away! There’s so much to try, and you don’t want to miss out on finding your passion.

What were your favourite memories of the past year?

I have a few! The first one would have to be moving into our house for third year – we spent an entire day looking at house after house and none of them were right, and then purely by chance we found the perfect place. It was a really nice feeling moving in and knowing that we had such a lovely place to stay for a whole year.

Finishing the final year project was definitely a high point – my lab partner and I worked tirelessly for 20 weeks on it (including one very late night in the laboratory gathering data!) and when it all came together to make a map of the galaxy, it was a great feeling.

My best memory though was the annual general meeting of The Boar where I handed over my position to next year’s exec. I was deputy editor, so it formed a pretty big part of my time at university. We all went out for a meal and a drink (and I probably had a few more than most people…) and just had a really lovely time. We also handed the reigns over to a stellar group of people, so if you come to Warwick next year, you know the Boar is in good hands!

Why Warwick?

Originally, I was interested in Warwick purely because of their league table standing. However, when I came to an open day, I knew that it was more than a good university academically. The number of societies, the amenities in the SU, the standard of the accommodation, the friendliness of the students, everything about Warwick felt right. The academics were also really welcoming and enthusiastic, and I loved the experiments that they showed on the departmental open day. It was really just the general feeling of campus that made me fall in love with it – people always say that a campus feels like its own little town, but it wasn’t until I visited Warwick that I felt that myself.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned this year?

I think it’s amazing how much we know about the universe! I studied cosmology this year (I’d been waiting since first year to do it!) and the fact that we can understand the universe back to 5x10-44 seconds after the big bang (that’s 44 decimal places) is really impressive.

Any low points?

I struggled quite a lot with my work in the second year – everyone said that second year would be the hardest, but I still underestimated it! Ultimately, I ended up getting a 2.2 that year, though I thought I had failed, so I was very pleased! However, in my final year, I made better use of the resources available here, and was able to pull my degree up to a 2.1 overall. It’s definitely possible with a lot of hard work to recover from a bad year!

Will you be studying overseas as part of your degree?

I didn’t get the chance to study overseas as part of my degree, but I know a lot of people who have and they’ve had a blast! I have a few friends who spent a term in Venice as part of their History of Art course and had an amazing time – I was very jealous! Studying abroad comes highly recommended by everyone I’ve spoken to that’s taken part in it, so if you think it’s for you, give it a go.

What do you plan to do once you’ve completed your degree?

I’ve secured a graduate job with Transport for London doing project management! I’m really excited to get started – my course has taught me that I’m not the world’s greatest scientist, but I’m very good at managing and working with people. I’m also a bit of a public transport geek (I’m one of the few people that actively enjoys getting the bus to campus) so I think I’ve found my perfect career!

The most important people I’ve met at Warwick have been my friends! Your friends will be there to cheer you up after a bad mark, they’ll get you through the tough times and celebrate your successes with you!

What do you do when you’re not studying?

I probably spent more time on my society involvement than I did on my degree!!! My first society was the Maths & Physics society, and I became the treasurer at the start of my second term at Warwick. The Maths & Physics society ran loads of great socials (we went to the Varsity ice hockey, which was brilliant!) and provided revision guides for first & second year modules. They’ve now merged with the Warwick Physics society to become The Physics Society, so definitely join them when you arrive! However, most of my society involvement has been in student media – at the start of second year, I became deputy science editor for the Boar, and then at the end of that term, I became science editor. I’ve written over 60 articles since I’ve been here, and laid up many, many pages. I became deputy editor at the end of my second year, and it’s been an absolutely defining part of my university experience.

I’ve been involved with the student radio station, RaW 1251am. I was a member of the news team in both second and third year, I was a regular guest and host of Boar o’clock weekly, the paper’s radio show, and I did a one off science show called the Big Bang with one of my housemates. If someone had said to me three years ago that I was going to be this heavily involved in student media, I’d have thought they were crazy! It just goes to show that you should try as many different things as you can at uni – you never know where your passion will lie!

I’ve also done a bit of work with Warwick Welcome Service. Most of the stuff I’ve done has been open day work, which is always really great – I love sharing my love of Warwick with other people! This year, I’ve also been involved in the new student blogging project – it’s a great way to reach out to those who can’t make it here in person, and another way to exercise my writing skills! WWS is perfect for students, because you can do as much or as little as you want (other than open days which you’re contracted to do), so in quiet periods, you can raise some money, but when the essays pour in, you can give yourself a bit of a break.

Who have you met whilst you’re here?

I have to say, whilst my professors have been fabulous teachers, the most important people I’ve met at Warwick have been my friends! Your friends will be there to cheer you up after a bad mark, they’ll get you through the tough times and celebrate your successes with you. I made most of my friends through the Boar, and it’s wonderful to see them go off to do such amazing things! At Warwick, people tend to be really proactive in terms of work experience, and whilst an intern might not have the sway to put a good word in, they can certainly give you an email address. Being around people who’ve got plenty of get up and go inspires you as well, and the amazing success of my friends has definitely spurred me on more than once! At university, friends are your inspiration and your support network (and maybe once in a while, a bad influence…but it wouldn’t be fun otherwise!)

What’s your favourite spot on campus?

The terrace bar balcony! It’s a great place to have a drink, chat with some friends and watch the big screen. The Winter Olympics was on last term, and a group of my friends and I were laying up the Boar. We took a quick break out, had a beer and a bite to eat on the balcony and watched Lizzie Yarnold get the gold in the skeleton! It’s even good in the rain thanks to the roof.