One thing I can certainly say about my life as a second-year mathematics and physics bachelor’s student at École Polytechnique is that recurrent tests, projects and assignments make the establishment of routine practically impossible. However, despite all the unpredictable twists and turns that make my student life continually challenging (and exciting), here is how I would describe a typical day of mine.
Up and at them
I usually wake up 30 minutes before my first class to the sound of my alarm loudly resonating throughout my being. After a few minutes of lazy life contemplation, I usually jump out of bed, put on some random clothes, and eat my habitual vanilla yogurt (I wouldn’t survive without these), before heading to the lecture hall to attend my first class of the day, fresh and ready to learn. Living on campus is a huge advantage for me as I am just a five-minute walk from most university buildings and, let’s be honest, walking is by far the easiest, cheapest and healthiest means of transportation.
Lectures, lectures, lectures
My daily schedule is filled with fascinating lectures and tutorial sessions. My classes are not just about maths and physics, but they also include computer programming, foreign languages and even history. This is very characteristic of École Polytechnique, which traditionally has a multidisciplinary approach to education.
Starting off with maths in the morning is probably one of the best ways to wake up and warm up before a long day of heavy computations. Having condensed lectures in a row makes it impossible to get bored, and I generally have very few openings in my schedule, which makes it easier to organise my day. It is true that, at first glance, having more than 30 hours of classes per week looks like a lot, but I have become accustomed to it very quickly, and found that despite being intense, my workload is enticing and enriching.
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Lunch at Le Magnan – the place to be!
Without a doubt, one of the best places on campus is the university’s restaurant, Le Magnan, where everyone comes together for lunch. Not only does it offer the best quality-to-price ratio on Earth, but you will always meet someone here, from students in other programmes, teachers and employees of the school, researchers, Nobel prizewinners, and basically everyone who resides or works on campus. This is a good place to chill out after morning classes in a convivial and friendly environment, while preparing to attack the rest of the day.
After my last lecture, I usually head back to my room or go to the library. Then, what I do generally depends on my next day’s schedule. On those lucky days when I don’t have any tests to prepare for or assignments to turn in, I try to do as many cultural activities as possible, to give my mind a break.
Being a member of the editorial team for the student magazine allows me do something useful and interesting during my free time and read about non science-related topics. When the weather is good, I also enjoy walking around the campus’ lake, surrounded by awe-inspiring nature, or taking advantage of the sports facilities on campus. On the days when I’m completely free from work, I also like hanging out with friends in Paris – the most gorgeous city in the world, right? – seeing the sights and then coming back to campus recharged and ready to tackle a new day. On other days, I try to alternate studying with catching up on the news and current affairs.
Living in the same place as all of the other students on my programme makes it fun to work collaboratively and discuss classwork with my fellow students. This type of environment encourages us to work together, especially as we are frequently given group projects and assignments.
Rest is best
I couldn’t finish this article without emphasising the importance of sleep in my life. Although the tedious and stressful days sometimes make it quite difficult to finish everything without sacrificing some precious hours of sleep, resting is definitely the key to a healthy and successful student life.
While I’m sure that my body could handle a few nights without sleeping, this would probably turn me into a zombie the next day – and being half-conscious clearly wouldn’t be ideal for my “quest for success” at university!
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Student blogger Raymond Diab describes a typical day at a university in France