A week in the life of... mature students

We asked some current students to tell us what a typical week in their University lives is like. Below are some accounts from some of our mature students.

Emily Halford

Emily HalfordProgramme: PhD Immunology

Department: School of Immunity and Infection

Year of Study: 1 

About me: I’m a full-time PhD student, living in Harborne. My PhD is lab-based and we are generally expected to be in the office/lab between 9am and 5pm.

Typical week


My weeks vary depending on what experiments I have running. This is my current week:


I usually get to the office (PhD write-up room) at 9am and have a cup of tea. I needed to set up a seven day long experiment this week so I spent the morning booking equipment and organising what I would be doing each day. In the afternoon I did some reading and writing for the introduction section of my first year report, which all PhD students need to complete in their first year. At 4pm I went to a seminar, to hear about other research which is going on in the department. Also there were free drinks and nibbles afterwards which is always a bonus! I usually spend Monday nights doing Guild work. At the moment I am writing a report on the issues that postgraduate taught students face to take to one of the University-Guild meetings that I am on the membership of.


I spent the morning in the lab starting my 7 day long experiment with another PhD student. There are four of us in the lab and we all get on well and try to help each other out with experiments if necessary. I finished in the lab at 2pm and wrote some more of my first year report introduction. In the evening I went out for dinner with fellow PhD students from the college. Before we started our PhDs we did an MRes together (we are completing 1+3 PhDs), which is how we all met.


On Wednesday mornings at 8:30am we have ‘breakfast seminars’ where coffee and cake is provided and a second year PhD student from my school presents their data. I then worked on my introduction, and did a couple of hours of lab work. We have PGMSA meetings and socials every Wednesday evening, so I went to the meeting which was nice and productive and then went to the social in Staff House.


I got in early (7:45am) to do some lab work. At 11am every Thursday a researcher on our floor gives a talk (and brings in cake). After the talk I worked on the methods section of my first year report. After working on my report about PGT students I had a quiet night in.


I got in early again to do a couple of hours of lab work and then did some more writing and went to another seminar. In the afternoon I did some more experiment planning and left early (things are a bit more relaxed on Fridays). In the evening I went to town with some other students/staff from my department to meet up with an ex-staff member, who now works in industry. We went to a nice bar in town to catch up.


It was a sunny day so I went to Cannon Hill Park for a picnic and then went out for drinks in the evening.


Just a supermarket shop, trying out a new recipe, and more Guild work.


Erin Lee

Erin LeeProgramme: MEng Chemical and Energy Engineering

Department: School of Chemical Engineering

Year of Study: 3

About me: I’m a full time undergraduate student studying chemical and energy engineering. I’m older than most on my course by almost a decade.

Meet Erin...

I am also Mom to my lovely little boy and wife to my husband. We live in suburbia and I commute roughly 15 miles to campus everyday via train. I’m also an American who’s lived in the UK for almost 7 years.

Typical Week


The alarm goes off at 6:45. I drag myself out of bed, pack my son’s lunch, collect his things for school, and wake him before his Nan arrives to collect him at 7:10. I quickly get myself ready so that I’m out the door no later than 7:50. Next up is a bus or two and two trains to get to campus for my 9 o’clock lecture, which of course is followed up by another lecture at eleven. The afternoon quickly fills up with meetings for various group projects and before I know it, the time to commute home has arrived. When I’m lucky I make it back in time to collect my son from after school club before arriving home to cook dinner and enjoy a bit of family time.


Repeat yesterday morning except that the 9 o’clock lecture is over by ten. The rest of the day is free for study and group meetings until I leave campus at 2 to head back in time to pick my son up from school. Afternoon is typically spent playing or crafting before dinner, family time and bed. {Attempt to remember to do a load of laundry!}


Repeat Monday morning once again, with the 9 o’clock lecture being followed by another at 11. Then it’s a meeting with my personal tutor, a meeting of the Student Parents and Carers Association, or a Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) meeting. From 2 until 5, it’s my afternoon off which I spend at Joe’s in the Guild with the rest of the Knitsock working on my current work-in-progress. Typically my son goes from afterschool club to have his dinner at Nan & Grandad’s before going to Beavers. I try to be home in time to pick him up after Beavers.


Completely free day, so of course it’s full of group project meetings. Our timetable is kept clear on Thursdays so that we can work on our Design Project. I typically am at Uni studying from 9 or 10 until 4 or 5 before I head home to fix dinner and get the boy ready for bed.


This is the one day of the week where I definitely get to take my son to school. I still have to be up by 7 at the latest. Not only do I have to make sure that my son gets ready, but I have to simultaneously get myself ready. We have to be out the door by 8:20 at the latest, which always ends up feeling rushed. After walking up the massive hill to his school, I catch a bus the closest train station and head in to campus for my 11 o’clock lecture. Thankfully after that I’m done and I get to head home and try and take care of housework before my Mother-in-Law brings my son home from swimming and my hubby arrives home. Then it’s a family dinner and a film or game before bedtime arrives.


A relaxed family day. There will be a trip to either Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Costco at some point. Possibly a walk at Baggeridge or some time watching the boy cycle around West Park before I spend some time planning out the week to come. If I’ve got work that must get done, hubby will take our son out for some father-son bonding time.


Either a trip up the hill to go to church with the boy, or a trip to campus to attend a Student Parents & Carers Coffee Morning. If we’re in Birmingham, we typically either have McDonald’s or a pub lunch. Hubby enjoys the quiet while we’re gone and gets his own Uni course work done. (He’s currently doing a Masters in Education part-time.) 

And then it repeats, again and again and again.


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