Come winter…come fun!

It’s probably considered natural to not look forward to winter. Having hardly experienced a ‘winter’ for the better part of my life in Mumbai, it’s even more natural for me! The better the summer, as we had this year, the more one dreads winter perhaps. But…and I am myself surprised to have a ‘but’ here…this is my third winter in Lancaster, and I admit that I am rather warming up to the unique delights that only winter has to offer. Let me count the ways…

Clothing: I absolutely love summer clothes but there’s so much more creativity and activity involved in dressing up during winter. How to layer one thing over another is a question of keeping warm but it’s also a question of blending different elements harmoniously. The scarf, the jumper, the thin jacket, the thick coat, the boots…all of them have to come together to make the perfect ensemble. And if all this wasn’t complicated enough, the temperatures can dilly-dally between 10 and 1 so that till the minute you’re out of the door, you may still be in two minds about whether you need to put on more or less. I am usually the sort who decides what to wear the next day the previous evening—a hangover from my Mumbai days where the weather pretty much never changed its mind throughout the year—but this strategy seems rather ill-suited to this weather.

Fireworks: Am I the only one who thinks that there is something exciting about watching fireworks go off in sky while you are shivering in your boots? The various firework displays all across Lancaster including our University are a lovely start to the winter…making you catch that feeling of something ‘festive in the air’ that you can’t seem to shake off from that moment on, and don’t want to!

Christmas Markets: I have this theory that Christmas was invented for the sole purpose of making winters fun (I mean the whole merry-making part of it). Christmas markets as I discovered are the heart of all the fun, and every little town worth its name puts up a bright and bustling market sometime in November to last till December. I am really fond of the Manchester Christmas Market but then I am fond of all things Manchester. I also love taking the ‘Day Trips’ that we at Lancaster University are lucky to have. York is one of my favourite Day Trips as it combines a visit to the quaint little historical town with a detour to the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet around the area. I have booked myself onto the Durham Christmas Markets Day Trip in the first week of December; you might want to check out the Graduate College Day Trips section for that!

Delectables: This is the only time when ‘mince pies’ debut in the food aisles. While they are supposed to be a Christmas delicacy, I have noticed that they start showing up in November itself which is a good thing…because two months is too short a period of time to enjoy them. Buttery and softly crusted outside with juicy fruity filling inside, every store seems to stock a slightly different take on it—not that different and yet somehow different. So far my favourite is Greggs’ (though M&S comes quite close) and it’s not a small deal that they’re available right here on campus! Another typical item that makes an appearance only at this time is mulled wine. I am not an ardent fan of wines but there’s something so endearing about the idea of having ‘warm wine’ in the cold outdoors that I had to try! Every Christmas Market will have one and generally more mulled wine stalls.

Lights, Music, Action: Everywhere is so beautiful in winter what with lovely lighting on trees that shine in the early dark, the music wafting into the air, and various events like the Christmas Lights Switch On, Carol Concerts, and what not. Sometimes like around the Manchester Christmas Market you might even encounter a live carol singing and dancing group… their energy and joy is so infectious that though I am not one to dance I am about as close to doing a merry jig as I ever am.

Snow: Nature is probably the most magnificent magician of all but we are all so used to its wonders that it doesn’t capture us anymore. That is till we see a trick we haven’t seen before and that for me was snow. I look forward to catching some snow in winter.

Gifts and Giving: Last but not the least…Winter means Home to me because I visit my family for Christmas …to celebrate the joy of loving and giving! While I don’t need a reason to enjoy shopping, there is a certain delight to shopping in the winter when everyone else is shopping for gifts for near and dear ones … it makes me think of what gifts I will take home…and what memories I will bring back.

Guest Blog: Anna Schaefer – University Innovation Fellows – Innovation & Creativity on Campus

In October 2018, me and two fellow students, James and Sarah, were officially launched as University Innovation Fellows. We are now part of a passionate community of people from all over the world who want to make a change. We can proudly say that we are the first ever Fellows in the UK and we are going to work together with the Lancaster University Enterprise Team to create valuable events for students.

As part of the University Innovation Fellows programme by Stanford University´s Institute of Design (the “d.school”), we´ve been trained to become agents of change on our campus to create lasting impact on students´ lives. We want to increase engagement with innovation, design thinking and entrepreneurship because we believe that these areas are valuable for every student. To do so, we are going to create events to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge they will need in the future and even to address global challenges.

In May 2018, I applied to be part of the programme and I got accepted to be a UIF candidate. In September the 6-week online training started. We had weekly assignments to complete as a team, so it was very important to stay on top of our work. Especially when the new term started, we had to work efficiently to keep up with the workload. But we received great support by the Enterprise Team and our mentor, Jill, a Fellow from the United States who we could always ask for help.

During the training we learned about design thinking and we had to think creatively about possible ways to improve the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem on campus. We found out about opportunities and which parts of the university need improvements in these areas. To understand needs and wants and how we can help, we interviewed many students and lecturers. We brainstormed ideas, prototyped solutions, got feedback and constantly improved our prototypes. The training was challenging but extremely rewarding as we have learned so much already and the real work hasn´t even started yet.

 

Placement Search Blog 1

Like many second-year LUMS students, I’m currently on the search for a placement year. It’s a long process that I’m still in the early stages of. It can be gruelling at times – but it’s highly rewarding and educative, and the prize of a coveted year of paid work experience is an ever-present light at the end of a long tunnel.

In this series of blogs, I’ll be going through the ins and outs of my hunt for a placement, and hopefully offering some useful advice in the process.

At the risk of stating the obvious, preparation was the first step I took. Although it’s tempting to dive straight in, and start shooting off as many applications as possible in as little time as possible, getting ready before acting is essential. The thought that you’ll be just one applicant amongst hundreds, if not thousands, for a position, acts as pretty strong encouragement for doing so…

Fortunately, the Management School wasted no time in getting my peers and I thinking about placements and preparing to apply. The Management 150 module, which I undertook in the final term of my first year, provided a whistle-stop tour of all aspects of the application process: from how to succeed in assessment centres, to how to write a strong LinkedIn profile. The most useful element of preparation in this module, however, was the opportunity to undergo a mock interview. I secured mine with Unilever, and tried to prepare for it as if it were a real interview: refining my CV, researching the company, and scouring the internet for questions likely to arise. The experience, and the feedback I got from it, was invaluable: not just for learning about the format of interviews, but for boosting my confidence in tackling them. Being able to practice such a high-pressure and important task in an environment where nothing was at stake was a golden opportunity. I’d recommend getting in touch with the LUMS Careers Team and arranging one to anybody seeking a placement.

After the Summer break, the next step I took was research. My starting point was using The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, and the websites Rate My Placement and Target Jobs, to find companies that I thought would be a good fit for my skills and interests, and whose placements had been well-received by those who had undertaken them. Once I’d chosen some companies I was interested in, with placements available in areas that suited my skills, I set about compiling research documents for each them, ready for me to apply. Information I compiled included key aspects of the job description and requirements (this one should be a no-brainer!), advice from the internet from previous applicants on what the organisations would be looking for, and details on the organisations’ aims and cultures. This provided a useful starting point for tailoring my application forms and CVs to highlight my achievements and experiences most relevant to the positions. One thing I was not expecting was how time-consuming this could be. It can take hours to get a firm idea of what a company’s looking for – just flicking through job descriptions doesn’t give you enough. Although it can be frustrating watching the days pass by without actually submitting anything, I strongly believe that the preparation is worth it: showing an organisation respect by thoroughly understanding and engaging with them might be what gives you the edge over other applicants.

A final thing I’ve found worth researching in preparation is the application processes themselves. Some organisations operate highly intensive application timelines, and ensuring you have the time and energy to complete these when you apply is of the utmost importance. Take IBM: I applied to their Marketing placement scheme at 10:00 last night – and by 8:00 this morning there was an email in my inbox informing me that I had 48 hours to complete their online tests!

With that, I’ll be getting back to the placement search – and, if I’m successful, I’ll be writing about the next stages soon. Best of luck to all prospective LUMS placement students, whichever stage you’re at!