Serpentine surprise

Kunal Bhatia (MSci Physics) says a coffee by the Serpentine is the best way to cope with pressure.

Words: Lucy Jolin / Photograph: Joe McGorty

Imperial student Kunal Bhatia sat at a table by the Serpentine in Hyde ParkDuring the winter of my first term I discovered the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen in Hyde Park. I’d just been wandering around, exploring.

It was cold, so I went in and had a latte, and I’ve been a regular ever since.

The café is another side of my Imperial experience: the side where we have to develop our own ways of coping with those high-pressure moments. As a theoretical physicist, I don’t spend a great deal of time in the lab, but there’s a lot more mathematical work, so I tend to be in the library an awful lot. This year I’m doing my Master’s on modelling tropical cyclones, so I’ll be in front of a computer. You need somewhere to go to get away from the books and screens.

When I’m there, I think about nothing – and that’s so valuable"

Flying is also my thing: I’m currently captain of the Imperial Pilot Society and I hope to be a commercial pilot one day. It fits with my degree very well in terms of the technical side, but also in terms of learning to stay calm in stressful situations – landing a plane, for example!

So, going to the Serpentine is all about being somewhere completely different, where I’m not thinking about science. It’s a way to get a little bit closer to nature, sitting in front of the lake, watching the ducks go by. When I’m there, I think about nothing – and that’s so valuable.

I also have a happy association with the place. In my second year, I interviewed for the Royal Air Force University Squadron, a reservist squadron of the RAF. After my interview, I went straight to the Serpentine café, and it was there that I got my email offer to join.

I love the café all year round. In the cold of winter, when there are fewer tourists, it’s always nice for a hot coffee. But it’s probably at its most beautiful in the autumn, when the academic year starts again and when the leaves start to colour and fall. I know that in 10 years or so it will be a wonderful place to go back to: to remember both the hard and the good times I had at Imperial.

Kunal Bhatia is in the fourth year of his MSci Physics with Theoretical Physics course.