Find out what life is really like at Durham University

DepartmentsStudent experience

Day in the life of a first-year Physics student

As a first-year Physics student, I have about 20 contact hours a week. There is so much to do in Durham that every day is different, so here’s a taster of my typical week.


Monday’s are normally pretty busy. They always start in College, Hatfield, where I meet a friend for breakfast in the dining hall at 8am, both of us feeling a little chattier after a pain au chocolat and a cup of tea!

Back in my room I go through previous lecture notes and do some pre-reading before my first lecture at 11am. I have two lectures, physics and maths, then grab a meal deal in a cafe on the science site – we can use our campus cards to get lunch in the uni cafes instead of in college, which is really handy on busy days.

From 2pm – 5pm I have a lab session, working with a partner to explore circuits or radioactive sources. After labs I have a physics tutorial; five students meet with a professor and we go through some conceptual problems on that week’s lectures.

At 6pm it’s finally time to head back to college for a sociable dinner – being in a catered college offers a great chance to catch up with friends and unwind over mealtimes. I head back to my room for some work and a chat with my floormates, then retire to Netflix in bed.



I have a lighter end to the week, although it still starts with an 8am breakfast before meeting some friends to walk to the science site for my 9am lecture. We have a break at 10 so we hang out in a cafe and do some work. Time for two more lectures, then back to college for lunch!

My afternoon is free, so I do laundry and start work. After going through my lecture notes I get on with my homework – generally, we have around six pieces of homework, plus lab prep, each week.

At about 5pm and it’s time to get ready for one of my favourite parts of college life – Formal! We don formal dress and gowns for a tasty three-course meal with plenty of unique college traditions (like spooning!). Afterwards, we all head to the bar for college songs – getting into the college spirit is all part of the fun of college life.


One of the things I love about Durham is all the societies you can get involved in, at any level from complete beginner (like me – all the sports and classes I do at Durham I have never done before!) to national competitors. Many sports and societies exist on both a University and College level, with college groups often being more light-hearted.

After breakfast, I head to the Students’ Union for a 9am ballet class taught by an older student. Feeling refreshed, I head back to college to stretch and tidy my room before meeting some friends for the best college meal of the week: brunch! An hour or so of catching up, me and a friend grab our stuff and head to a Broadway dance class. My head full of show tunes I head back to my room and start working on another homework sheet.

I’ve started cheerleading with the Hatfield-Cuths joint college team, and meet some teammates to walk to our 4pm training session. An hour and a half of stunting and laughing later we wander back to college for a well earned roast dinner. I pop to my room and finish the work I started earlier, then go for a movie night in someone elses room – popcorn, films and friends are a great way to end a busy day!


I hope this has been a useful insight into my week!

You can follow other student ‘day in the life’ stories including mine on Instagram highlights @thedurhamstudent. Like and subscribe to our YouTube channel @durhamstudent.

You can download our prospectus here.

Emily Baker

Hi, I’m Emily, a first-year Physics student from Hatfield! Alongside my degree, I do college cheerleading, dance (badly!) and am a junior member of my college’s JCR treasury team. If you can’t find me at any of those, I’m probably bouncing around town or curled up with a cup of tea and a good book.
Related posts
Astronomy & CosmologyDepartmentsPostgraduateResearchStudent experience

Astronomy and Cosmology at Durham – Carolina Cuesta-Lazaro

Astronomy & CosmologyDepartmentsPostgraduateResearchStudent experience

Babies and the universe

Astronomy & CosmologyDepartmentsPostgraduateResearchStudent experience

Researching quasars

Astronomy & CosmologyDepartmentsPostgraduateResearch

Astronomy and Cosmology at Durham – Vicky Fawcett

Sign up to our Mailing List