Cultural Food Night, What’s There Other Than Food?

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”

– Wendell Berry

Hi! My name is Nila Sukmawati, and I am a postgraduate student at LUMS, studying MSc Information Technology, Management and Organisational change (ITMOC). As an International student who is going abroad for the first time to study, everything about Lancaster, UK and any places that I have visited are all exciting for me. I had so many firsts during my 4 months experience of living abroad. First long-haul flight (yeah, I took 18 hours flight from Indonesia to Manchester, and another 1.5 train ride to Lancaster), first time being away from home for such a long time, first time visiting Europe and my most fascinating “first” would be my first time of having 21 classmates from 15 different Nationalities!

As I have classmates who is coming from different culture and background, it is really interesting to see how we speak in different English accent, how we talk and share to each other about how we missed home or about how much we are craving for foods from our hometown. Fun fact about my class is that we regularly held social events so that we get to know each other better and of course to get away for a while from tons of reading lists and assignments 😀 . One of the most exciting and unforgettable event for me (and maybe for the rest of the class) would be…. CULTURAL FOOD NIGHT!

Can you imagine when 22 people from 15 Nationalities had to bring foods from their country to be shared together? Food overload! 😀 I tried various kind of foods that I have never tasted or seen before. Blinis from Russia, Special pancake from The Netherlands, beef meatball and potato salad from Germany, egg frittata from Italy… and these were all yummy. Our friend from Taiwan also made delicious sushi and I made corn fritter, Indonesia special noodle and… fire noodles from Korea (it is not from Indonesia, but it is still from Asia though hehe). I was thinking about cooking fire noodles because I know that my classmates from Western countries might not be able to handle its spiciness. It is super spicy that your whole mouth would feel like it is burning. So, I want to challenge them!

Without any bias, I might say that this fire noodle was the “most wanted” food during our food night. Some of us can handle it, some can’t handle it and some did not have any courage to try it. But at least, I was really happy to get to introduce this food to my lovely classmates.

After filling in our tummy with various kind of foods, we started to play games and shared the story about our life. My friend from Russia brought a special drink from his country and introducing the way to drink with “Russian Style”. We also played “Guess the Movie” game together where someone had to describe a movie title with body gestures or drawing some pictures and the rest of us will guess the movie title. We can’t stop laughing and we felt happy together even though we are all far far away from our home.

Throughout this event, I really feel like I can get closer to my classmates. Sometimes, we are too busy working on our assignments or doing something else outside class that we forgot to socialise with people whom we met every day in class. For me, homesick attack is coming to me quite often and I can’t help myself to not complain about life. But on event like this where you can play, share and listen to the stories from your classmates, you will somehow feel like “Hey, chill! You are not alone here. You are here to discover yourselves and get to know others better. Be strong and you will be a better YOU!”.

I highly recommend this cultural food night event to be held in another class in Lancaster University. Not only we get the experience of tasting the whole new savory from another part of the world, but we would also be able to get to know about interesting culture and stories about another country. Additionally, this kind of event makes us realise that we are struggling here in Lancaster together and you don’t have to feel alone, because you are not! 🙂

 

The First Week of Lent Term and Prepare for Chinese New Year

Hi everyone, my name is Xuanyin, Hu and I am studying MSc Money, Banking and Finance at LUMS now. I am from China.

People always say: “all things are difficult before they are easy.” There was no surprise that, from the perspective of learning, the first week was also challenging, even though I have already studied for almost half a year at Lancaster University. Even so, I was so excited the whole week because the spring festival is coming (celebrating the lunar new year).

The main challenge was the choice of optional module. Actually, the programme’s module schedule is quite well–organised since the first semester, there were only compulsory courses and after that, I may get a clue for what I would like to study in the second term. The optional modules from my programme are divided into two kinds. One belongs to Accounting and Finance department which is more related to finance, another belongs to Economics department. So the problem comes out, should I choose one that I am good at or that I am interested in. I have more basic knowledge of finance because I studied investment in the previous study, however, the economics course attracts me a lot even though I have never studied economics before. So I went to economics’ lecture in the first week, however to be honest I quickly found that it was not for me, so instead I chose the Finance course for my optional course. It was quite hard to give up a thing that you are interested in, but I cannot sacrifice all my time to study an entirely new subject which others already learned from their last three-year study.

Tips for choosing a postgraduate optional course:
Choosing an optional module in postgraduate is quite different from undergraduate. In a postgraduate study, the knowledge is based on what you learned from the previous study. To choose a course which you are good at is more important.

Although it is already 2017 now, for a lot of Asian countries’ students, the new year should be the lunar new year. Of course, for me, it is a super exciting week to prepare for the new year.  It is my first spring festival in the UK and I used to celebrate with my family. So, from the start, I was quite worried about it and did not know how to celebrate it. Fortunately, my flatmates decided to celebrate it with me. We ordered loads of stuff online and also came to downtown to buy all materials and ingredients. After that, we made the dumplings together which was quite fun to teach my flatmates to make it. What’s more, I went the CSSA (Chinese Students & Scholar’s Association ) Chinese Festival. There were many traditional activities, for instance, making paper-cuts for window decorations, writing couplets,  guessing the lantern riddles etc. I wrote couplets for our flat and also wrote the “福” characters which mean happiness for each flatmates. Even though I am in the UK, I still feel a strong atmosphere of Chinese New Year, when you come to downtown, you could see  “Chinese red” theme in different shops and supermarkets. Besides, the graduate college porter is full of “Chinese red”, like the red lanterns.

Don’t worry about that you will be alone to study abroad, you will always meet the nice and kind people!  Happy new year everyone!

‘Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower’- Steve Jobs

I have created an Accounting and Finance Society this term and it is one of my proudest achievements. It took a lot of hard work to get it approved but it is now an active society featuring on the LUSU page. I only created a new Facebook page for it the other weekend and it has already received over 30 likes. I took the incentive to create something that I believed should have been there. I looked for an Accounting and Finance society when I was in first year and was disappointed that there wasn’t one to join. I wanted to change this, the Facebook page is now up and running if you want to give it a like.

 

I met up with Lancaster University Design, Photography and Print to make a banner for it. I picked up the banner this morning and it is now featured in the management school foyer. Yes, many people said it would be a challenge and a lot of work but the satisfaction I get from creating something and working to make it grow is worth it all. My advice would be to take the chance, don’t shy away from challenges and excel yourself. You can achieve outstanding results! My friends have also created a new business at Lancaster University. You may have heard of it recently ‘Campus chef’. They had the idea and had the courage to make it a reality.

Even though this new society is exciting and I want to get stuck in with organizing events and elections etc., I need to ensure that I get a good balance between my work and these extracurricular activities. I need to make sure that I manage my time effectively. I do this by writing lists of tasks I need to carry out such as one-hour revision or finish a tutorial. Then I leave some time aside to complete objectives for my extra-curricular activities. The department is getting involved with the society and I’m really pleased with the response however, grades come first. Get this perspective as you don’t want to be absorbed by your extra-curricular activities, the main focus should be on your exams.

Top tip: Try to plan out your day, allowing some time for extra-curricular activities but don’t become obsessed with them

The course is going well so far, I have got a few pieces of coursework back and things are looking up. All of this hard work seems to be paying off and I’m proud of myself. I don’t want this to go to waste by spending too much time on the society.

If you think of an idea, don’t be afraid to try to make it real. Now there is, no first year is going to feel like that. It’s a chance to gain new skills and improve on the high-level skills you already possess. It is a chance to stand out and make yourself known. Lancaster University is a stepping stone to the real world and if you can’t reach your highest potential here, it will be difficult in future jobs. Incentive is required throughout our lives. If we want to achieve greatness, we need to unlock the potential and perseverance in us. Half attempts get us nowhere, great things don’t just come to us, we need to make them happen.

This is me, president and founder of the Accounting and Finance society and the writer of these blogs.

 

Top tip: Don’t be afraid to try something new, face fears and improve yourself for the better.

Be a shepherd or stay being a sheep.

Have an amazing term!

Monitoring your progress

The typical university student is doing a three-year degree, but it’s only the second and final year that actually counts towards their degree classification. Some degrees are designed so second year is worth 50% of the degree classification and third year worth the remaining 50%. We’ve all heard people say that first year doesn’t count, to some extent they are right but only in literal terms, as your overall performance in first year does not affect your degree classification.

However, first year is still important for many reasons, one being that it is an opportunity to set a solid foundation for your university experience. The habits you cultivate in first year are the same ones you will carry along with you to second year, so it’s better to have been working hard from the beginning rather than just aiming to pass so you can carry on to second year.

I believe it is important to stay on top of your progress at university. Familiarise yourself with the assessment system in a particular module as they can vary. For example, will you be assessed based on coursework, tests, exams, attendance, workshop preparations or a mixture of these. Once you know this, I believe than can better prepare you for the assessment itself and help you plan a strategy for success in that module.

Goal reassessment

If your goal for second year is to average a first, then you need to aim for 70% minimum in every assignment. Every assignment should be given 100% effort. You need to be pragmatic with your goal, keep up-to-date on your performance so far by regularly checking your interactive transcript to see your current working average. Also, assess your results to see if you’re on your target, slipping behind or maybe even surpassing so you can reassess and adjust your goal.

If you find you aren’t meeting that goal, rather than settling for a lower grade, seek help on how to improve. Actually read feedback on work submitted and endeavour to improve on points suggested in the next assignments. If you feel adequate feedback wasn’t given or your unclear about the feedback, don’t dismiss that feeling, go and talk to someone about it, whether it’s a tutor or your academic adviser.

It’s ok to ask for help

University is also not just about academics, if you’re struggling in other areas of your life such as; personal, financial, physical health or mental health seek help.  it’s ok to ask for help. Some people go back home on the weekends to recharge, figure out what works for you. Going to a campus based university, it’s easy to feel like you’re in a bubble and the rest of the world is outside the bubble. Don’t let university completely consume you. Taking regular breaks or trips back home is healthy.

Work smarter not harder

Beware of burning out. You are not super human, you need to sleep and eat. It’s easy to become consumed in all the work you have to do, that you forget to look after yourself. You need adequate sleep and a healthy diet to be able to function at your absolute best. For example, doing all-nighters in the library on a regular basis can disturb your sleeping pattern and cause a snowball effect throughout the rest of that week.

It’s easy to start strong but it’s important to maintain that momentum throughout the term. Most people are determined and energised at the start of the term but lose that motivation as the term goes on. The term structure at university differs greatly to secondary school or A-levels. At university you get longer breaks but at fewer frequencies. So after a long 10 weeks of lectures and seminars you get a month break. Essentially you are required to stay engaged for a longer period of time, this works for some people but not for others.

To prevent burning out create a schedule that is realistic and that you will actually follow, there is no point being over ambitious and then beating yourself up for not completing all the activities when it was near impossible in the first place. If the schedule isn’t working then change it, rather than giving up on it altogether. When a routine is established it is easy for it to become habitual, therefore requiring less effort.

My day at the assessment centre; PwC

The first term has reached an end and what a term it has been. I have achieved so much in this short space of time. I created an Accounting and Finance society, participated in my first assessment centre at PwC and promoted ICAEWs USS scheme.

As I said before, on Friday I attended an assessment centre at PwC in order to compete for an internship place. The assessment centre was very nerve wracking, I have never been to one before but it was an amazing experience. My assessment day was located in Manchester. I live quite close to Manchester so went home for Christmas on the Thursday ready to set off on the Friday. I arrived at the centre an hour early. I was directed towards the PwC floor (floor 6) where I sat on a comfy orange chair and was offered a range of beverages which calmed my nerves slightly. I was the first candidate there; it is very important to get there early!! You don’t have to be there as early as I was but it is best to get there at least 20 minutes before. This emphasizes how much you want to work with PwC or the company your attending the assessment centre for.

Top tip: Arrive early!

This is my experience of my trip to the PWC assessment centre, it may be assessed differently depending on which company you’re applying for.

Report

At first I had to write a report within 30 minutes. They mark you on your structure and layout of your answer. I was given a pack of information with an introduction to the client and a few projects they are looking to undertake. Try and scan this for the main information. I was given a few projects and I had to pick the best one. I laid my report out as introduction, Main body with each project as a sub-heading. I then concluded this with my recommendation of the best project. I tried to include points from the graphs and diagrams included in the pack to get a broad range of ideas. I found using bullet points for advantages and disadvantages of each project made it easier to decide which one was most suitable. This is time pressured so try to work as efficiently and accurately as possible.

Psychometric tests

The group of candidates was then split up into two groups, group 1 went to participate in the group discussion and group 2 (my group) went to undertake the assessment tests. This involved a logical reasoning test and a numerical test. This is extremely time pressured as you have 20 minutes to answer 20 numerical questions for the numerical tests and 20 minutes to answer 40 questions for the logical reasoning test. This involves interpreting the diagrams and graphs to answer many of the questions given. Try not to panic. I panicked at one point as the time pressure can be daunting. I bought a psychometric test pack online which is useful for preparation. These help you to grasp the layout of the tests and how the way a question is structured. If you practice these in advance, they will become easier and you can do them in a faster time. Logical reasoning tests can be quite tricky at first but once you practice a few and understand the certain patterns, you will easily be able to spot this in further questions as they are usually similar. However, the assessment tests are done on paper as you are given a booklet, I was under the impression they would be on computers but this is not the case.

Top tip: Practice the psychometric tests in advance, practice makes perfect

Group Discussion

Lastly, I was led into a room with my group and told to sit around a table. We each were given an information pack and an individual sheet. We were given 20 minutes to read our information and carry out a few simple calculations such as the revenue. My friend was at an assessment centre the week before and told me that the experienced graduates took the time and told the group when the time was up. Each assessment centre is different so don’t rely on what your friends who have also done the centres experience as it may be different. As it was everyone’s first time I kept checking the time and a few minutes before the 20 minutes were up I said “there is only a few minutes left” and was told no talking during the individual readings. Make sure you listen to the instructions as even though at another PwC centre you had to keep track of time yourself as a group during the group discussion, it’s not the same in other branches so beware of this.

Top tip: Listen to instructions, all branches conduct the assessments in different ways so don’t always follow what your friends say about the assessment if they went to a different location

As you can tell, my first assessment centre didn’t go too well, but the experience has allowed me to know exactly what to do for next time. NEVER GIVE UP!!!! Hopefully these tips will help you ace yours so you won’t make the same mistakes I did.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE and have a Merry Christmas

Revision Strategies

One of the many things that come with going back to university after a break are all the tests and exams. And with exams, come revision. Whether your revision involves opening up those notes for the first time this year or going through them again just to remember the little things, the purpose of revision is pretty simple; to understand the topic, and to learn it. There’s plenty of ways you could revise, but having some strategies could make your time spent more effective.

Making a revision plan could be very helpful, but you need to make sure you cover everything important. You’ll have to come up with a timetable first, make sure you balance out all your modules in that timetable, and also make sure you cover the key topics. Once you’ve come up with the timetable, you’ll have arrange your revision material so you don’t waste time doing this later.

After you’ve finished, what essentially is step one, you’ll have to figure out which way of revising works best for you. There’s a few different things that could work for you. Making notes might be the one for you, or you could try memorising, or even drafting model answers.

Which one you use depends on your learning style. Might even be that a combination of these works best for you!

Making notes simplifies a lot of the stuff you need to learn, and compresses the topics, making learning a simpler process. However, this might be quite time consuming. If you usually find memorising things straight away easier, you could skip the step of making notes and go for memorising the original content to begin with. For me personally, drafting answers seems to work best. I usually start off by analysing the question and thinking of ways to answer it. This gives you a chance to think of various angles as well. You can also prepare better for an exam by practicing writing these answers under time pressure. This tests whether you know the topics and also if you can reproduce what’s in your head, in the given time frame.

All these methods for revising are great, but revising all year around definitely helps a lot more. Especially if note making is your thing, it takes sometime to actually make all the notes so starting off early in the year helps. It also gives you a chance to go through the lecture slides and think off all the various angles in ways you could answer a given question. Even after revision on your own if you still find that you’re confused with a particular topic, this gives you time to reach out for help and make sure you get it sorted

Hopefully these tips help you on the next exam of yours!

Getting ready for Lent Term

As the holidays whizz by, and the beginning of lent term gets closer, so do all the exams, and deadlines along with it. With so many deadlines within a week or two, after going back, it might seem overwhelming at the end of the holidays when you have only got a week or so left, but have not done any of the work you were supposed to. Having found myself in similar situations in the past, I think I’ve got it figured out? (Probably not)

After having taken some well-deserved time off from coursework and revision during Christmas and New Year’s, it’s incredibly difficult to buckle down and refocus on work. However, it must be done! I’ve found that easing myself back into it is a lot easier than trying to get things going the day before the break ends. Doing things like reading or making notes, provides a sense of productivity but doesn’t need much hard work to get done. Once you feel like you are back in your groove, it’s time to get those essays going (unfortunately). Let’s face it we’ve been there, when we don’t want to look at the time anymore because the deadlines that close and we barely submit it on time. Now this might be an effective strategy for you, but usually the quality of work does suffer when you do this. Having taken the time to properly do my last assignment, trust me when I say that you feel proud handing in a good piece of work.

If the essays weren’t enough to break your student minds down however, we’ve got exams as well! If you don’t know what topics are being covered in those exams yet, might be a good time to find out. If you do know what topics are being covered, you could sit back and relax thinking you’re ahead of the crowd, or start reading the stuff (would recommend option two here, but no reason to listen to me! I’m just a voice on the internet). Preparing well beforehand does help, and it also means that when you get back to university, all you have to do is revise. With that in mind, start studying! (after you finish reading the rest of this stuff)

It might seem a tough task at the moment to actually start doing work again, and you might find 20 better things to do even, but at the end of the year if you want that top grade, you just have to go ahead do it now! Getting back to university after the break is one of the many struggles a university student must learn to conquer, if not, the impending doom awaits. (not really)

Transitioning

I remember in year 11 (last year of secondary school in the UK) when we were figuring out whether we wanted to apply to a sixth-form or a college and getting ready to take our GCSE’s, our teachers would always say “It’s a big jump from GCSEs to A-levels.” Back then I remember thinking this was a given, it seemed like common sense to me that every year you progress in education, it gets more difficult. But of course once I started A – levels for myself I truly understood what they all meant and the reason they emphasised the issue so much.

Transition from secondary school to A-levels is definitely a big step. At secondary school, from my experience there was a lot more hands on teaching. Teachers that genuinely had a passion for their subjects and working with young people went out of their way to help you with learning. In this type of environment, it can be easy to become too dependent.

Transition from A-levels to university is another big step. In a 2012 Guardian article, ‘How big is the jump from GCSE to A-level?’, it is stated that ‘The academic work you’ll be set at university will be a big step up in difficulty level than A-levels. You’ll have to get used to a new way of thinking, … new styles of teaching (such as lectures) and more demanding essays. You’ll even have a new mark scheme to get used to …”

Many first year university students are disappointed with their initial grades from their first assignments as they are used to achieving top grades from A – levels. It takes time to be acquainted with the new method of marking and the different writing skills required.

Some criticise the teaching method at both A-level and university for teaching with the purpose of passing exams rather than teaching to understand the curriculum. I actually had my A-level Economics teacher tell the class once that his job was solely to have everyone get a pass (E grade) and that the rest was up to us.

Another area criticised is the quick pace of covering topics. When I was doing my Maths A-level we would literally start a new topic each lesson, (1 hour lessons) covering like 3 topics in a week. It goes without saying that someone cannot master a topic in one lesson when they have just been introduced to it. But the students are expected to practice outside of lessons with the use of text books and attend after school help sessions etc. Sometimes this results in grades not actually reflecting the student’s true abilities.

Nothing really could completely prepare someone for the challenges they will face at university, there will always be a period of adjustment. Many universities offer a lot of support to help students deal with the difficult transition, especially during fresher’s week. For example, Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) provides study support through both the department and the LUMS Effective Learning Team to help students find ways of studying that are effective for them.

Also every undergraduate student in LUMS is allocated an academic tutor. This is a faculty member in your department who you can seek advice from about module choices and overall progress on your degree. Academic skills workshops are available to help you develop effective study strategies and practices. Regular emails are sent out about available spaces in the Academic Writing Zone and the Maths and Stats Help Centre (MASH).

Overall there is a benefit of taking this approach to teaching and learning. Both A levels and university aim to improve independent learning. Independent learning is when an individual is able to think, act and pursue their own studies autonomously, without the same levels of support you receive from a teacher at school. This method of studying brings about independence, and enhances problem solving skills as well as increasing your confidence. These are all attributes and skills which are required in the real world and sought after by employers. But don’t forget as stated above there are still plenty of ways to get support.

What to do in your spare time

Whilst University is a great place to come and study something that you enjoy and learn more about it, you will probably realise very quickly that you end up with a lot of free time when you are not in lectures or other classes. This was something that I became very aware of within my first few weeks at University.

This is where societies can come in. Before coming to university, I was not a very sociable, outgoing person. At college I had a small group of friends who all had the same interests, so we generally tended to do the same activities during our spare time (which usually revolved around watching our favourite TV shows). But after coming to Lancaster I felt that it would be time for a change. I decided that the best way to make new friends was to actively go out and make them.

Freshers Fair was the perfect opportunity to do this. With nearly all societies that Lancaster has, setting up a stall to show what they had to offer, I knew that I was bound to find something that I would enjoy.  Now I have to admit, that when I found out that the University had a Doctor Who and a Harry Potter Society my inner nerd nearly went into overdrive.  Of course I was going to sign up for them.

Now admittedly there were some societies that I only went to a couple of times before deciding that I did not like them. Not that there was anything wrong with the society per se, it just was not what I personally wanted from it. The great thing about the societies though is that a large majority of them also have stalls a Re-Freshers fair which is held in January.

It was at Re-freshers fair that I found some more societies which I am still a part of to this day. I signed up for Dodgeball, thinking it would be good to try out something that I had never done before.  Even though I’m terrible at it I still really enjoy taking part, and some of the best friends that I have at University, I made through Dodgeball. Not only that, but in March of 2016 I got the opportunity to run for a position on the executive committee- and I’m so glad that I did. Whilst its obviously something great to put on my CV, it also makes me really happy to be a part of the ‘behind the scenes crew’ of the society. It feels great to have a say in how the society is run, what socials we will be putting on, as well as being able to further increase the reach of the society. Plus, it’s really great that I’ve had the chance to compete against other teams in the North of England through the society.

Fast forward to the start of 2nd year and once again I attended freshers fair- although this time it was slightly different. Given that I was on the executive committee of Dodgeball, I was helping out manning the stall for this. But that did not stop me from trying to join other societies too. One of my new flatmates was part of the Korfball society. Having never heard of it (short version is that its a cross between netball and basketball), I thought that it would be worth checking out. Once again, it was one of the best choices I made. Not only have I made even more amazing friends, but I’ve played in a few tournaments, and even have my own personalised kit top, which is great to keep as a memento of my time there.

I also decided to join the running club, although unfortunately I was not able to get too involved in that during first term of second year as I had lectures and other societies that clashed. However, I am planning on getting more involved now that my timetable has freed up a lot.

It’s amazing to consider how much I have gained from joining all these societies; I’ve made countless new friends, and not to mention become 10x more active than I was 3 years ago, which is obviously a good thing.

Who knows if I’ll join any more societies in third year, but at least I can safely say that I’ve made the most out of my time at University.