PsiStar Wars: Return of the Students

Late afternoon June 9th, Mile End Park’s sun-baked astroturf would be the scene of another fierce battle between student and teacher. After a tough season in the 7-a-side league a battle hardened PsiStar Belgrade were out for revenge having lost to the staff on penalties in the winter and looked to have their heads in the game (go wildcats.)

The scorched earth coliseum of Mile End Park
The scorched earth coliseum of Mile End Park

Okay, enough of that ‘gritty’ sports writing, basically we played the staff at football again! It was actually a really good game, PsiStar ended up winning 5-1 (I got a goal and an assist!) and it was a fun day had by all! Some spectators came down with some drinks, posted up in the shade and spurred on their respective team as well which was a welcome addition as they brought orange slices for half time!

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Official incineration ceremony adjudicated by referee Stephen Gurney

Now you’re probably thinking “what’s the point of all this?” In short, we’re doing the Ashes. After three matches, we’ve decided to make this into an ongoing series playing for a beaker full of ashes (each game’s team sheet’s ashes to be precise) and the losing team is burdened with looking after them until the next game in 6 month’s time. It’s very reflective of the School of Physics and Astronomy as a whole actually, how connected the students are to the staff and the level of respect both groups have for each other. We’re constantly interacting with each other throughout the day during term time, sharing social spaces with them, forming relationships with them and in my opinion at least, this lets the students know that this isn’t just 6th form again, the lecturers are more than just teachers and it is important to have a working relationship with them to succeed.

This link between students and staff makes Queen Mary stand out as a university. Talking to my friends who go to other universities has given me some perspective on this interaction with lecturers that I had taken for granted before these games. It’s rare for this level of interaction to take place between students and lecturers especially across the department like it is at Queen Mary and it has been incredibly helpful to my degree and a right laugh at these events.

Hopefully the staff will come back fighting in the summer with their midfield maestro Dr Ramgoolam back on the field and maybe then they won’t lose so badly!

Post game drinks with both teams
Post game drinks with both teams – “Better luck next time!”

Trying to Stay Calm and Focused in Exam Time.

Regent's canal, which runs through Victoria Park near the campus
Regent’s canal, which runs through Victoria Park near the campus

Here we are, currently in the midst of exams and it is definitely one of the most stressful times of the year. You’re going a little mad, your friends are going a little mad and even your lecturers or teachers are also kind of going a bit bonkers. Among all this tension, it can be quite hard to try and not get caught up in it and you start to let the stress affect you leading to you not being able to focus. So, it is very important during revision to do things that can help you de-stress and keep yourself focused.

How I revise can vary quite a lot. Some days I’ll be able to focus for a few hours at a time and others I can only focus for about half an hour and then need a small break. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you just need to adjust from day to day. When I can’t concentrate for a long while, I tend to take short 15 minute breaks where I usually go talk to some friends for a bit to see how they’re doing and what they’re revising, keeping it quite brief if they’re not on a break. Otherwise, I’ll go outside for a little while and either sit down in the fresh air or go and get some good brain food.

Then on days where I have my head down for a few hours, I like to reward myself with a long break. I find that I shouldn’t stay in one place for too long or I won’t be able to focus properly, so a walk in a completely different environment (compared to the usual desk piled with paper) can do a world of good. For quite a few days during this exam season, the weather has been beautiful! Lots of sun, perfect weather to be outside and this kind of weather you can’t let go to waste, especially in Britain. So, in my long breaks, I like to go for a walk to Victoria Park along the canal that runs by Queen Mary. I often go on these walks with friends. We often decide early on in the day that we will be going for a walk at a certain time after doing a fair amount of revision. For me, doing this means I’m giving myself a goal to work towards and if I get a lot of work done, then it becomes more rewarding. Although sometimes you just want to keep working and not stop until you know everything, you need to reward yourself for the good work you’ve put in, otherwise you’ll end up exhausting yourself.

Something that my friends and I do, particularly after an exam, is to go for a meal somewhere. We allow ourselves to just sit and talk for a while, to get the exam out of our minds and to not think of physics, which is certainly a rarity. Even if you have another exam coming up soon, it’s important to let yourself relax after an exam so you can recover from those intense few hours of writing everything you know down on to paper.

It can be very difficult not to succumb to stress. In fact, for anyone who knows me, they know that stress is a speciality of mine. But what I’ve found is that you must allow yourself to have a bit of time to relax every day. If you try to revise constantly, it won’t do you any good. If you feel your mind is wandering, then it’s important to take a break and do something enjoyable. You will find when you come back to revision, you are more likely to get focused and stay focused.

Good luck with exams!