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Student Diary | A Day in the Life of an Ecology & Biodiversity Master's Student

Student Diary | A Day in the Life of an Ecology & Biodiversity Master's Student

by Kristina

As an MSc student studying Global Wildlife Science & Policy – a course now called Ecology and Biodiversity – writing about a “typical day” is a pretty difficult task, and I know it’s cliche, but no day is the same.

Although Kristina's blog was written before the global pandemic, she's updated her story so you can read about her experiences when life was a little more normal, as well as what it's been like studying in lockdown. 

On a course like mine you can be out doing fieldwork, simply going to lectures, spending all day trying to model statistics on R, or heading to the library to get an assignment done. With this blog, I’ll try to give you an accurate insight of what my life as an MSc student has been like!


Mornings walking to campus, and going to lectures or workshops 

My days tend to start the same, I'll wake up and open the Newcastle app to see what is in store for the day...typically a few lectures, maybe a workshop. If I'm lucky it'll be lectures about the policy side of biodiversity. One thing I enjoy is the lack of 9am’s, meaning I can usually have a slow morning, sorting myself out and planning for the day.

Living in St James’, I have a short 5–10 minute walk to campus, passing Gregg’s on the way so I can pick up a coffee if I have time (which I usually didn’t). Before the pandemic, I'd find my lecture room and sit down with the friendship group I made in the induction sessions.

Despite being an introvert, making friends on my course has been really easy, probably because there are only 15–30 people in lectures, the Modelling Evidence & Policy Group is extremely welcoming, and all my peers have similar interests to me.

This has been a big difference to my undergraduate degree where there were about 200 people on my course, and it was easy to feel lost in the crowd.


Afternoons in lectures and studying with friends

My first lecture can be on anything from disease modelling to human-wildlife conflicts or conservation strategy...

After my morning lecture, before Covid-19, if I had a few hours to kill before my next one, I’d go to the SU with my course mates. The SU at Newcastle is really nice – you’re spoilt for choice with coffee and food outlets. We’d maybe talk about work, but usually this was just a nice time to hang out. Sometimes we’d head to one of the local cafes to treat ourselves, or on a sadder day, the library.

After struggling and helping each other with complex concepts, I’d go home, walking the scenic route through Leazes Park to see the ducks and swans. If the weather was good, I’d spend an hour playing tennis on the free courts in the park, or I might go home or to a coffee shop to spend a couple of hours studying difficult topics.

Then I’d have tea and relax for the rest of the evening, doing whatever I wanted to do (watch Netflix, go to the gym, or meet up with friends).


Evenings unwinding and enjoying Newcastle's nightlife

With the block teaching at Newcastle, we usually have a week-long crash-course to learn each topic, then the following week will be spent writing up the assignments in the library.

While intense, this timetable structure makes sure you're always on top of work, and means that every fortnight you have an excuse for a night out (pre-Covid) and a celebration!


Striking a work-life balance 

Occasionally, my typical weekday will be mixed up by a career day, or a networking day, and maybe - before lockdown - I’d do something more exciting in the evening, such as head to Sunderland Empire for a show, meet up with friends in Durham (just 12 minutes away on the train), or attend a talk at the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

The work-life balance is good on my MSc course, and I havea fair amount of time to pursue hobbies and go to social events. There are some limitations, like lectures on Wednesday afternoons which mean you can't always go to sports societies. The irregularity of the timetable also means you can't stick to the same schedule all year, but when you're learning the volume of material in a MSc in just one year, that's to be expected!

Being an Ecology & Biodiversity Master's student during Covid-19

Sadly, my time spent actually in Newcastle was drastically reduced because of Covid-19, but although I’ve lost the Newcastle lifestyle, I haven’t lost the friends I’ve made, or the events organised by the Modelling, Evidence & Policy research group.

In the past month of lockdown, I’ve virtually attended journal club, and optional lectures about beaver re-introductions and the global biodiversity crisis.

And I still have Zoom calls with my dissertation supervisors, and regular catch-ups with my course mates.

For more insight into postgraduate study at Newcastle University, why not read my other blog post on all the things I gained and gave up when I chose to pursue postgraduate education