I’m getting my finals for this term tomorrow which made me re-evaluate all five years I’ve spent on my bachelor’s degree (and 7 years total in Lomonosov State University).
First of all, I feel very grateful to the university, my classmates, and professors. Even though the university has its problems and things I don’t like, there will always be a place in my heart for MSU, and Faculty of Physics in particular. 5 years ago I chose this faculty and had a ton of regrets on my journey but right now I feel only grateful for all the obstacles, difficulties and struggles. I believe my physics background may play a great role in my math Ph.D. Even though I’ve decided to switch to mathematics, my physical intuition and physical problems will always stay with me.
Secondly, my view of education changed a lot through the years (and probably will change again when I’ll try the American system). During my first two years at university (high school in fact), I was absorbing as much information as possible from my teachers (and usually more through asking questions and being a complete nerd). I was very lucky to have such a great opportunity to get an understanding of complex analysis, PDEs and linear algebra at school. But when I’ve got into Physics Faculty, I was bored. For some stupid reason, I wasn’t spending much time on collaboration with my advisor (even though I had an opportunity to publish my first paper on the first(!) year of my bachelor’s. The classes were a complete waste of time and I started to educate myself with some help from the Independent University of Moscow (the best place in the world so far). During these two years, I taught myself almost the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree’s amount of Mathematics, which was my main interest. I dove deeply into functional analysis and was thinking of choosing department of mathematics and working on FA applications to PDE problems.
Then I rotated completely when I met my current advisor. I was on my 2nd year on my way to understand quantum physics (trying to learn 2 years faster than I should, lol) and had several problems that I was struggling with. My friend said that I could ask his Dad — and that’s how I met my advisor. He helped me a lot with understanding quantum mechanics and its connection w/ linear algebra and functional analysis. We started working together, and my course of education changed significantly — I’ve started some Master classes on lattice models. My studies were completely focused on my research (which actually didn’t lead to many new results as we know now) since the rest of the bachelor’s program was already known and just waiting for me to pass the exams. That self-confidence in my knowledge of everything in my bachelor’s made me get two C-marks and blocked my graduation with honors. Looking back now, I think I should’ve spent more time on my daily studies and not running with my research. At the end of the day, the research work didn’t pay off.
At the moment I think that the most efficient way to study is to combine guided education from your research advisor, your study plan, and side self-studies. If you could balance all three ways, you would get the most out of your degree. I will try that during my Ph.D. — even though I will focus mostly on my Ph.D. research, I’m looking forward to studying algebraic geometry, visiting geometry seminars; maybe do some research in functional analysis.