A Week in the Life of a Chemical Engineering Student

Did you know that lots of students do double degrees at UNSW? Meet Kelly Zhou, a second year Chemical Engineering/Computer Science student who has a LOT going on each week. From societies to student-led projects, Kelly is involved in all that UNSW has to offer! She also moved from Adelaide to study at UNSW and has some great tips on living out of home.

Sunday

Sunday is meal prep day for me, so I do my weekly grocery shop. Since moving out of college, my cooking ability has improved tenfold – for anyone looking for easy meal ideas, pesto pasta is a godsend!

Monday

Although I’m not the chirpiest morning person, I start my week with a quick gym session before meeting friends at our trusty study spot on campus. Studying with friends makes it more enjoyable and helps with answering all those difficult tutorial questions. In the afternoon, I have a team meeting for the Engineering Society’s (EngSoc) Volunteering Development Program– a program which equips students with soft skills they can use in their professional careers and at uni.

At night, I go back to my apartment. My flatmates and I have a little tradition: every night we all hang out and do “sweet and sour”, where we all say one good and one bad thing about our day.

Tuesday

After meeting friends for lunch in the city, I come back to UNSW for a Women in Engineering (WIE) public speaking workshop to refresh my presentation skills. My favourite thing about uni is the range of opportunities available, from development workshops to volunteering programs and even cool events like resin art classes!

In the afternoon, I go to Shack Tutoring, one of the volunteering programs I’m involved in. This program connects uni students with local high school students. I love being able to use the knowledge I’ve gained from school and uni and to pass it onto younger students.

Wednesday

9am starts aren’t fun, but at least the class is worth it. I have my first chemical engineering lab course, and today we’re looking at tubular flow reactors and their residence times. It’s cool to finally see things we’ve learnt about in theory and to gain some practical experience.

At night, I’m too tired to drag myself to the gym so I do some yoga and exercises in my room. After catching up with some study and Netflix, I doze off.

Thursday

I’m involved in a humanitarian student-led project called RiceCycle which aims to convert agricultural waste to energy via gasification technology. One of the things I’m looking forward to most this term is our scoping trip. My team and I are travelling to Myanmar where we will meet with local communities to better understand their needs and the natural environment before adapting our current gasifier design. I meet my team this morning to do some trip planning…it’s super exciting!

In the afternoon, I have one of my favourite classes – a computer science lab. The lab is a fun and collaborative environment and the tutors are super supportive, so it’s just a chill coding session. My brain is usually pretty fried by this point, so I take the night off to hang out with my old college friends.

Friday

Today is the start of the annual Humanitarian Engineering Conference (HEC) which I’ve helped organise through the UNSW chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Before heading off to the Blue Mountains, I call my family and friends in Adelaide. Although I love living at UNSW, I miss everyone loads!

There’s a buzz at Central Station as everyone arrives, and soon we head off to our retreat in the Blue Mountains. It’s so fulfilling to see everything come together after months of planning! After fun icebreakers and a hearty dinner, I take the last train back to Sydney to make it in time for the EngSoc VDP workshop the following day.

Saturday

I practise the workshop again before meeting my co-presenters and setting up. Whilst I love presenting workshops, my favourite part of the day is being able to interact with such a diverse range of people. It sounds cheesy but this is why I love the engineering community at UNSW. Once we wrap up, I head back to the Blue Mountains for the rest of HEC.

Hot Tip from K: I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have had so many wonderful opportunities at UNSW so far. Coming out of high school, I honestly thought uni would be like year 12 all over again, and never imagined how much UNSW has to offer. So, I encourage all of you to step out and get involved in your passions because you never know where they will take you!