I'm doing a Masters in the University of Cambridge in a couple of months. I'll miss Sheffield.

Hernan Ibarra, smiling in a park
Hernan Ibarra
Undergraduate Student
BSc Mathematics
Hernan always had a lifelong passion for maths, and saw how friendly Sheffield was - even from 10,000km away. Now he's built up a wide range of technical skills which have allowed him to continue his journey into the world of mathematics.

What made you want to study your course?

Mathematics piqued my interest when I was 15. I remember being slowly dragged into it-first by videos, but then by articles and books too. Interviews were my favourite. Mathematicians are the perfect interviewees: eccentric yet smart, always with interesting stories to tell. And misunderstood, of course. I admired them, much like teenagers admire rockstars or pop singers. Soon that admiration turned into restlessness, that restlessness into desire, that desire into a dream, which you can already guess. Hence why I am here.

What made you decide to study at the University of Sheffield?

Firstly, I had to study abroad: there are few opportunities for aspiring mathematicians in my home country. Further, I wanted to study in an English-speaking country, which narrowed my options further. After applying those filters, I found Sheffield's course. The modules seemed interesting; I got excited when reading their descriptions. As far as I could tell (while being almost 10 000 km apart) the city seemed friendly, vibrant, and safe. When I got my offers, I considered my choices and I chose Sheffield. After I was convinced, the university gave me a scholarship, which saved me the job of convincing my parents too.

What have you enjoyed most about your course so far?

Mathematically, I was given all I wanted. Most modules were thought-provoking and exciting. Some of the material was demanding, but not excessively so, and I had ample time to pursue my own interests, academic or otherwise.

I was impressed by the lecturers. Though I have trouble paying attention to the lectures themselves, I can say that all lecturers I met in the maths department, without exception, care immensely about students, and will always go the extra mile to help a student in need. I've spent many hours speaking to lecturers outside the classroom, and they always seemed pleased to have someone to talk to about maths. 

I suppose I enjoyed, most of all, the people I've met in Sheffield. Maybe it is a cliché to say, but I really do believe I have made friends for life. Mathematics is a small world, after all.

What skills have you developed during your course?

Technical skills are a given: I can now do a contour integral, classify patterns in wallpapers, and decide whether a game has a Nash equilibrium or not. Also, I can code and produce some cool-looking GIFs in R and Python. 

Soft skills are trickier to acquire. Fortunately, at Sheffield I had a plethora of opportunities to give talks, collaborate with people, engage with lecturers. These opportunities, I believe, give me a competitive advantage over graduates of more technical courses.

What would you say to a student thinking about studying your course at Sheffield?

"Do it!" is tempting. I had a great time living in Sheffield - one couldn't pick a much better city to study in. The maths department is great, though different departments are different, of course. Overall I'd say you can't go wrong with Sheffield, and it is far more important to focus on your subject, rather than spending time deciding where to study it. After all life, especially university life, is what you make of it.

What are you planning to do after your degree?

More maths! I came into the degree wanting to be a mathematician with all my soul, and now somehow I want it even more. I'm doing a Masters in the University of Cambridge in a couple of months. I'll miss Sheffield, and I promised a few people that I'd come to visit every once in a while.

Students laughing

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