Travel List

I remember finally booking my flight tickets, after reviewing every travel website in existence this time last year, and immediately thought of a million things I wanted to take to university (my new home :D). But the flight tickets came with baggage regulations and thus of those million things, I could only get the most essential ones. I am an international student who was travelling abroad for the first time. I know many of you can relate to me. Thus, I am making a list of the most essential things to bring to Lancaster University.

Waterproof Jacket

Lancaster is a small town in the North of England and, it rains here quite often. So I would suggest everyone carry a warm waterproof jacket. Also, I would not suggest carrying an umbrella as it gets very windy and most of the umbrellas break within the first few weeks (personal experience!!!!).

Woollens and Thermals

By mid-September, the weather will be ambient. However, you should carry a few warm clothes as it can get chilly at times. Although, do not buy loads of woollen clothes because it will not be sufficient for the winters here and most importantly you will miss the opportunity to buy amazing coats and jackets from the UK.

Regional Spices

Nobody can recreate the taste of the traditional regional food without the regional spices. I brought dozens of packets of Indian spices because I am a big foodie and I cook daily. Finally, I am on the verge of finishing the spices after an entire year. The nearest place to get Indian spices would be Preston. Although Oriental spices are available easily in Lancaster. However, I would still suggest getting at least a few month’s quotas.

Travel adaptor

Travel adapters are very essential and I would suggest carrying at least two adapters to charge laptops and mobile phones.

Photographs

The accommodation room will be your own personal space for the next year. It will be an empty canvas, and you will have the opportunity to create a beautiful room.  I did not bring photographs with me. However, I pasted colourful sticky notes on my wall with encouraging quotes and lyrics to my favourite songs to motivate myself. So think of something that would make you feel at home and bring it to decorate your room. You can also get beautiful posters from the University, during the welcome week.

Lastly, do not forget to get xerox copies of important documents and a list of all the items in your travel bag. ( these are helpful in case the luggage gets misplaced. This, usually doesn’t happen but it’s better to be safe!!)

My First Academic Conference

I recently attended the European Academy of Management (EURAM) Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. It was a wonderful experience and one I would strongly urge all PhD students to take advantage of. While it is difficult to capture in so many words how presenting at a conference makes a big difference to one’s PhD journey, I will give it a try…

I always thought that an academic’s life was about sitting at the desk drowned in research and ideas but since actually stepping into the academic world I have realised that academics have to be as much connected with the real world of people and processes if not more than those in the corporate world. Success be it getting a great job or getting published in top journals is not just about how good you are academically but also about the people you know who may for example collaborate with you or mentor you or help you position yourself. And ‘conferences’ as I observed are a rich ground for developing those kinds of fruitful relationships.

Many of the things that academics do such as publishing or acting as editors for major journals requires them to not only be good researchers and good editors, but also to have knowledge about the diverse aims and objectives of various journals, what the editors-in-chief of different journals look for, why certain papers get accepted and why some never see the light of the day (even things such as writing a paper with a specific journal in mind—which is recommended—could mean adopting its style, including references to articles within the same journal stable, or any number of things)…and conferences, it seemed to me, are a platform for exchanging this knowledge. The EURAM conference had workshops for writing papers from journal editors, Meet the Editors sessions with editors from major publications in the management field, symposia featuring renowned authors who talked about their own publishing journey, and so on. The discussions and particularly responses to questions from the audience gave an insight that is otherwise difficult to gain simply by reading papers or the guidelines on journal websites.

I feel that as researchers we tend to accept isolation as part of the package. The feeling is compounded when you realise that no one seems to be interested in or doing exactly the thing that you’re interested in and that it is difficult to find people with whom you can discuss ideas if only for the pleasure of discussing them. But the chances of finding such like-minded people at a conference are a thousand fold more. It is also possible that you might make friendships over 3-4 days that last you a long time. I noticed that many people in the conference knew many others very well because they had been meeting up at conferences all the time. I admit that the realisation of being a part of a large real as opposed to virtual community has its own excitement that adds to the motivation to do great work.

On the subject of meeting people with shared interests, you might even find researchers or academics who are engaged in exactly the topic that you’re interested in. As a PhD student it obviously could be worrying if someone were doing exactly the same thing because then that means the area isn’t as new as you think or that someone will reach the finishing line before you…but that would be the case any way whether you know about it or not. At least this way you have a chance to understand how your research differs from theirs or if there are some points that you haven’t critically thought about. I attended a presentation where the topic seemed similar to mine but it really wasn’t and it made me more confident about what I was doing. The presenter happened to be a fellow Indian girl working as an academic in a university in Spain so I even managed to make a connection there.

I also attended many presentations by academics and PhD students that were not directly related to my research topic but were broadly in the same area. It helped me understand how people were approaching similar topics in the field or what interesting methodologies they were using or even what kind of presentation skills made one presentation stand out from another. Rarely does one get a chance to observe this in a formal environment. My own presentation was of course a big learning experience for me because right from presenting in the tight time frame of 15 minutes to answering questions from a global audience to ensuring that I did a professional job…there was much to learn and much to take away. I believe that after joining the PhD course there have been various moments or experiences or interactions that have helped me grow incrementally from who I was before…and this presentation, or maybe the conference as a whole I should say, was one such notable experience.

Last but not the least, if the conference happens to be in a city that you’ve never been to before, as mine was, it could also prove to be an amazing opportunity to broaden your horizons. A short space of time with bursts of new ideas, new insights, new sights, new sounds, new smells, new people, new food…and how can I forget ‘new climate’, speaking of Iceland!

5 Reasons why I chose Lancaster University

My journey of making the decision to pursue Management from Lancaster University has been very unique. It was a bright sunny day early in February when I decided to attend the college fair organised by a counselling agency in Delhi. I chose it because, with a full-time job, I knew I would not be able to do thorough research on my own. It was a good decision because they gave me an opportunity to meet 100s of Universities under one roof. On the day of the fair, I was given a list of all the participating Universities and Colleges and was asked to approach the ones I was interested in. Seeing all the Universities and students being so specific in their approach, I got scared for a moment. It was finally happening. I had a few universities in mind that I definitely wanted to speak to, and so it all began. I went round and round in circles, crossing out the names of the ones I’d spoken to and making notes of whether or not I wanted to consider them and finally I came to the desk by Lancaster University. The programme appealed to me right away. I went home and started my research. I shortlisted 10 colleges from the long list and decided to further shortlist just 5 colleges where I wanted to apply.

My criteria of shortlisting those 5 colleges were the programme structure and modules, rankings of the University, FT ranking of the programme, fees and other living expenses and career support.

These were also the 5 reasons I chose Lancaster University:

  • Programme Structure and Modules: The programme had very interesting modules and a few modules that drew my attention were Digital Innovation in Businesses and Entrepreneurship. Most of the other universities were not offering these modules and I really wanted to learn them. Also, I was unaware of the block-taught structure of the programme while applying, but the structure closely resembles the industry environment and it prepares you for the future challenges. The 9-5 classes and different modules in different weeks made me a better manager of my time.
  • Rankings of the University: I made it a point to thoroughly check the rankings of all the universities and their programmes as well. Lancaster University is very highly recognised by institutes such as Quacquarelli Symonds World University rankings, Financial Times rankings, etc. 
  • FT ranking of the Programme: It is extremely difficult to find out the world rankings of the particular Programme, however, it was important to me. So, I took the challenge and researched and found that the programme was amongst the top 100 programmes in the world.
  • Fees and other Living Expenses: I would not say that fees and living expenses were my top priority but I understood the reality and I was definitely influenced by the amount of money I would be spending.
  • Career Support: It was an important criterion for me. I wanted to choose a University that not only provided the career support during the year of education but also after it. The careers support at Lancaster University has been exceptional. The team is amazing and I go to them with everything. If I have to prepare my CV or for an interview, they have the solution to all my problems. Also, it is just nice to have a chat with Martine whenever I am disheartened by the result of my job application, which has been the case so far. She seems to always know the right words to boost my morale!

I would just say that I applied to 5 universities and got offers from them all. I spoke to my counsellor, my friends as well as my family but in the end, I decided to go with my gut instinct and I could not be prouder. It was the right decision. I have grown more as a person and professional in this one year. It has been a difficult year, for people who say that it will be a cakewalk are probably being dishonest. But, at the same time, you are successful only when you challenge yourself. So trust your instinct and take the road not taken!