As an electrical engineering master’s student at the Federal University of Itajubá (UNIFEI), which is located in the south of Minas Gerais, my routine is pretty unusual. I work part-time as an independent software consultant, and the other half of my day is dedicated to UNIFEI activities: attending lectures, working in research labs, mentoring students, teaching short-term extension courses and reporting to my advisers.
My day at a glance
Given my extensive list of activities, I try to keep a consistent routine. I get up every day at 5:30am or 6am, make myself some coffee and a light breakfast and get ready for the day. Before another intense day starts, I try to cultivate a few hobbies – I study French every day and take a few online courses (Moocs) about several subjects – artificial intelligence, programming languages and data science.
Around 7:30am, I am ready for the day. I head to campus if I have classes or any undergraduate student mentorship scheduled for the day. I live in a shared apartment just seven minutes away on foot from the university, so it is a quick commute for me. If not, I use the next hours of the morning to complete some university work. Lunch is a sacred ritual in Brazil, and most people never skip it. I try to cook my own meals every day to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
After lunch, I either go to classes or study in the lab (for my classes or for preparing a new paper). The afternoons are a mix of more consulting work and meetings with customers. When there is not much to do regarding consulting, I work on school assignments and read academic papers.
In the evenings, I sometimes volunteer to teach some extension courses on campus – I often give classes about deep learning, functional programming and programming languages. These seasonal lectures usually start at 6:30pm and finish at 9pm. I am glad they don’t happen all year long because teaching requires a lot of energy. It is a rewarding activity, though. During the times without night classes, I might use my evening hours to write essays, organise my research projects and relax a little bit by listening to music.
Before 10pm, it is time to plan my activities for the next day. I rely on my planner to schedule and prioritise my tasks. This is essential to keep me productive. After a long day, it is time for a light supper and a well-deserved rest.
The activities in school
There is a lot to do at university. Let us start with the classes – we have to take 24 credits in our master’s programme. I am trying to finish all the content in one year, so I have to take four classes every term (in Brazil, most universities use semesters). My mind is filled with control systems, signal processing and electromagnetic transients theory all the time.
I am part of two research groups because I have two advisers. There is always something new to learn and to try to synthesise in an article. There are also a few undergraduate students to mentor and teach new concepts. Keeping them engaged with learning is essential – they might become your lab mates in the next few years! I enjoy learning and sharing interesting content, and working with undergrads is the perfect opportunity for that.
I keep my advisers busy, too – every week I share interesting papers related to my dissertation, and slowly we build the pieces for my final work. I keep them aware of everything I do at school. That includes proposing short-term courses for undergraduate students, dealing with the bureaucracy to schedule them and creating the class material.
Saturday is the day for grocery shopping and cleaning. I need to have a tidy apartment to have a productive week. After removing the dust, cleaning the floor and doing my laundry, I give myself a few hours to relax by reading books, playing games and watching some YouTube videos. I also use this time to call my family and catch up with them.
The weekends are also the perfect opportunity to catch up with my friends in town. Sometimes I meet them for lunch on Saturdays, and we have a meal in a local restaurant – the city of Itajubá is full of places with delicious, homemade food.
Sundays are for studying – I try to revise the content of the classes of the previous week and prepare for the upcoming topics. It is also the day to read and share papers with my advisers and to schedule the necessary meetings for the next week. I often take two or three hours to do some consulting tasks. At 10:30pm, my brain is about to shut down so it is time to rest, to start another productive week.
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