Packing for university

With the summer months coming to an end the countdown to the start of university is finally upon us!

At this point you might be starting to wonder what exactly you should pack, for your first week, and the year that lies ahead of you. This makes it the perfect chance for me to share some packing tips, and advice, for your first week at Lancaster University.

Bedroom decorations: When I first arrived at university and waved goodbye to my family, I admit, it did feel a little strange starting my degree in a new and unfamiliar place. However, I recommend packing some homely items such as photos, bunting and cushions as these will give you a chance to spend some time decorating your room, and will really make your room feel like home quicker!

Freshers Week: In your first week at Lancaster University, you will be welcomed into university life with the Fresher’s Week. Throughout this week there will be various welcome events, activities and freshers fairs to attend, whilst also being a time to get to know your flatmates and make friends throughout your college. To prepare you for the freshers week, bringing along playing cards and board games to use with your flatmates during the evenings are a great way to get to know each other! It’s also a great idea to pack fancy dress items, as you never know when you might need these for a college or society event.

Stationary: In freshers week you may also need to attend some lectures which will introduce and welcome you to your course. I recommend packing some stationary and a notebook for these, and also bringing along a planner, so that you can make a plan of the lectures and events to attend in the first week – This will mean that you won’t end up forgetting or missing out on an event!

Food basics: During your first week at Lancaster University you can spend some time exploring the campus, and head in to town to get some food shopping, plus any items you may have forgotten to pack. As you may find yourself busy with freshers events and activities, it is a good idea to pack a few basic food items such as tinned food and pasta so that you have some food to eat before you get to the shops.

Freshers flu: You may be lucky enough to avoid the freshers flu but by packing a basic medical kit including lemsips, paracetamol and throat lozenges you can remain prepared for if you feel ill during your first weeks at university!

When packing your kitchen and bedroom items, don’t forget to make sure that they aren’t already provided by your accommodation. If you’re not sure you will use something, you can always buy things in Lancaster, If you need them.

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!!)

Living in Halls

Students with offers from Lancaster University for next year will inevitably be wondering what living in halls is going to be like when most of them move onto campus in October. Here are some things I have learnt from living in university-managed accommodation for the past six months:

  1. Fire drills will happen at the most inconvenient time. Just as you’ve gotten into the shower or at 9 am on a Saturday. But fire safety is an important part of living in halls and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Plus, if you’ve ever wondered what your housemate looks like with no make-up – now is your chance to find out.
  2. You will eventually have a cleaning-related flat argument over the fact that the bins haven’t been taken out in weeks and you’re about to get a fine. Or about the fact that one person has been buying the washing up liquid these past few months and no one has bothered to replace it. The best way to deal with this is to have a calm flat meeting in the kitchen and come up with a cleaning rota, where everyone is involved (probably should have done that during Freshers Week, but better late than never).
  3. You will have a flat WhatsApp group which is both a blessing and a curse. Everyone will get a weird nickname and spam the chat at 3am, when they have forgotten their keys. Embrace it (and maybe mute the chat when you go to bed).
  4. You won’t be best friends with every member of the flat (unless you’re extremely lucky) – and that is okay. When 7-10 strangers suddenly move in together, it’s very probable that there will be some personality clash. Deal with this situation in the same way as you should deal with conflicts over cleaning – have a civil conversation. A lot of the time people won’t know they are upsetting you and won’t be doing it on purpose. Holding passive-aggressive grudges will only make the atmosphere in the flat uncomfortable and part of going to university is learning to deal with problems in an adult way.
  5. Weekends can be a bit quiet on campus. Use this time to catch up on some work, that has definitely piled up during the week. Or binge watch Netflix. Either is fine.

On Campus Living and Off Campus Living

One of the distinctive qualities of Lancaster University is its campus. Located in Bailrigg, just outside of the city of Lancaster, it sits clustered atop a hill, the spire of its iconic Chaplaincy Centre peering down from above. Being located slightly outside of the city, the university ostensibly operates as its own little ecosystem – attached to Lancaster, yet distinct and separate: with shops, banks, eateries, parks and other facilities all of its own. This makes living on campus a very different experience to living off campus. I am in my second year of studying at Lancaster, and have experienced both – here I’ll go through the ups and downs of each and compare my experiences. Although most first-years choose to live on campus, as a student at Lancaster you’ll likely experience both in your time, and the choice to live off campus during the first year is there for those who wish.

Perhaps the most important thing to discuss is the accommodation. One of the great things to be offered by Lancaster’s campus accommodation is a huge degree of choice. There are a large range of accommodation types to select from, for all needs and budgets – some unique to certain colleges. These range from a standard room with a shared kitchen and bathroom, to en suite rooms, and even to townhouses – which operate more like a shared house than traditional university accommodation, with many people sharing the same large building and communal areas. When I lived on campus during my first year, I chose the Basic En Suite style accommodation – for me, this was what best balanced comfort and value for money. I lived at Bowland College, and had a room that was extremely spacious – especially compared to rooms of friends that I had seen at other universities – and shared a kitchen with three others.

Now I live in town, and my accommodation is very different. I share a four-storey house with seven other people. This is something I have greatly enjoyed. We are all friends, and having a house to yourself where you’re free to throw social events and do things together is very good. There’s always someone to chat to in the kitchen, people to study with, or someone to do something fun. However, the living situation in a such a large house working so well rests on us all knowing each other and getting along. This is one of the advantages of living on campus during your first year: you can get to know new people, and then, if you choose to live off campus in a much more communal environment, you can do so with people who you know and and get along with.

There are some parts of living off campus that take some getting used to, though: visits from cleaners are far less frequent, so its up to you and your housemates to keep communal areas in a liveable condition – and to remember when the bi-weekly bin collections are (trust me: this is easier said than done). Also, given that the university is located just outside of the city, you’ll need to get the bus to lectures. This isn’t difficult – with plenty of bus routes making their way to campus and running at very regular times, but it does mean you’ll have to leave slightly ahead of time for classes. This can be a challenge if, like myself, you’re not a morning person – no more dragging yourself out of bed at 8:59 for that 9:00am lecture.

The next thing to talk about is facilities. Living on campus, you have constant easy access to all of the university’s educational facilities. The library – which is open 24/7 – is just a short walk away. This was massively helpful for me when I needed to print something out in a hurry, get some last-minute work in for an essay in one of the study spaces, or meet with fellow students from my course for a group project. Getting to class is also easy – campus is quite contained and compact, and the Spine system means you’re never more than a short walk from where you need to be. There are also plenty of other, non-educational facilities on campus: college bars at every corner, grocery shops, banks and ATM’s, regular buses into town, and, most importantly, a Greggs for that pre-lecture pasty and coffee combo.

Living off campus, you lose some of that easy access to facilities. Buses mean its never too hard to get to where you need to be, but losing the ability to walk to the library or the Learning Zone in a matter of minutes was a bit of a loss. However, you do gain easy access to all that Lancaster has to offer: from shops and the city centre, to pubs and clubs, to cultural highlights like the castle, and transport hubs like the bus and train stations. Like campus, Lancaster itself is a rather compact place. Living near the centre, I’m never more than fifteen minutes from wherever I want to go. Being able to simply walk to the shops for food, or walk back from the Sugarhouse after a night out rather than wait for a bus was quite revolutionary for me. So, its about weighing up your priorities and what’s more important to you: a bigger house off campus, or more accommodation choice on campus? Living in a busy town, or living amongst other students and academics? Working in the many on-campus study spaces, or working in your own room? Round-the-clock access to the library, or round-the-clock access to kebab shops?

Both choices have their upsides and downsides, but for me, campus was certainly the right place to start. Lancaster’s campus was a warm, friendly, vibrant, and safe place to live; and being around so many other students and facilities was good for finding my feet and getting settled in. Saying that, now I have settled in, living off campus is great. The choice is yours, and I would recommend trying both to see which you prefer. Either way, you’ll have lots to do, be around lots of good people, and you’ll never be far from places to go and things to see.

College Life

If you’ve picked up a prospectus, browsed the website or visited on an open day, you’ll have discovered that Lancaster is one of the few universities in the country that is home to a collegiate system. If you’re anything like I was this time last year, you’ll likely have a few questions. Perhaps you want to know what the college system actually is, and how it differs from the accommodation offered at other universities. Alternatively, you may want to know how being part of a college will affect your university experience, or, as I know I was, you’ll be concerned with making sure that you pick the college that is right for you.

Hopefully, I can alleviate some of these anxieties in my blog post.

As an undergraduate, when you receive your offer of accommodation at Lancaster, you’ll automatically become a member of one of eight of our undergraduate colleges – Bowland, Lonsdale, Pendle, Furness, Fylde, Grizedale, County and Cartmel. This means that rather than just being placed into an accommodation block as is often the case at other universities, you become part of a community which, as well as housing, also has facilities such as a bar and study area. As part of your college, you have access to dedicated pastoral support services and can take part in a whole host of unique opportunities.

But enough of the prospectus spiel! Time for the reality.

I’ll admit that I when I first read that Lancaster was a collegiate university, two images sprung to mind. The first (and decidedly more sensible one!)  was that of Oxbridge. The second I’m ashamed – but also kind of nerdily proud – to admit was the concept of the Hogwarts house system.

However, the Lancaster college system isn’t like either of those things. Despite what you might be worried about, the colleges at Lancaster are not divided by interests, reputation or character à la Hogwarts. I can assure you that regardless of the college that you pick, you will not end up as the only musician amongst a group of sports stars – or as a hapless Hufflepuff living amongst a nest of Slytherins!  There is no sorting hat or personality quiz to fill in before you arrive at uni. Rather, the colleges are made up of a diverse range of students, with a whole host of different hobbies and passions.

Instead, the strength of Lancaster’s collegiate system lies in its ability to create a strong sense of community and belonging, linked to the accommodation in which you are housed.

One of the main ways that the colleges create this sense of community is through the events that they hold. This begins in Fresher’s Week, which is organised by each individual college, rather than the university as a whole. A personal highlight from my Fresher’s Week at Cartmel, for example, was attempting German folk dancing with my housemates during our college’s German Beer Festival, whilst a friend sampled Flamenco at a Spanish night and others channelled their inner Miss Marple during a murder mystery evening. Breaking down into smaller groups means that events are on offer which would simply be too difficult to execute on a university-wide basis. Similarly, attending smaller-scale college-based events during Fresher’s week makes the whole experience a lot less overwhelming. Plus, you’re more likely to win a prize in the quiz if you’re competing against forty teams rather than a couple of hundred!  And there’s no denying that attempting a bar crawl en-masse with members of your entire college is also tonnes of fun.

Colleges continue to host their own events well past Fresher’s Week, but now they are open to everyone. Regular events ranging from comedy nights, crafternoons, bake offs and quizzes, to bar crawls, battle of the bands, and big nights out mean that a wider range of tastes can be catered for – and can lead to a busy social calendar! For geeks like me, it means that there’s an opportunity to attend a different quiz every night of the week, if you so desire. Alternatively, if you’re feeling a little livelier, you have the option to experience the nightlife of Manchester, Leeds or Nottingham, with each college organising a trip to a different city.

As mentioned previously, each college also has its own bar, which means there’s always somewhere to go and socialise and make friends.  Tips from a native…Fylde’s the place to be if you enjoy live sports, while if it’s a good laugh you’re after, County’s comedy nights are always fab. For those who love Indie or live music, I’d recommend Pendle’s bar, whilst Lonsdale bar’s huge dance floor and DJ booth mean it’s a great place for chart fans. Hands down, the best place for drinks, meanwhile, is Grizedale’s bar; home to an amazing selection of cocktails and mocktails – as well as its legendary alcoholic milkshakes!  However, I must concede that Furness recently proved a worthy challenger with its Gin Festival. If you’re a more of a coffee connoisseur, on the other hand, Cartmel’s Barker House has its own Starbucks, whilst Grad Bar is the haunt of real ale lovers.  As well as regular events, at the end of every year, each college also hosts is own huge themed party, complete with live music and entertainment. What’s not to love?

Away from the entertainment, however, the college system also opens up access to a whole host of opportunities. Unlike with larger universities, with the college system, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to get involved in a sports team. Instead you can represent your college in the college league, competing to win the Carter Shield at the end of the year. This means that if you loved football or netball at school, you can continue to play competitively and recreationally whilst a uni. You can also try your hand at bar sports like pool, dominoes or darts. Having failed to even hit the board on my first few attempts, however, I think it’s safe to say that darts was not for me!

It doesn’t matter if you’re not sporty though. There are also plenty of opportunities to give back to society – and increase your employability at the same time. Every year, each college hosts their own charity challenge, where teams compete to see who can raise the most money for a nominated charity. This means you can try your hand at fundraising, events management and planning, promotion or finance – as well as having a whole lot of fun with your friends and making a difference to people’s lives!

Equally, instead of opportunities to take part in student politics being limited to the Students Union, you also have the chance to run for a role as part of your college’s Junior Common Room committee. This committee is the group of people responsible for representing the interests of college members – as well as planning and managing all of the amazing events and sports teams. You might choose to run for a role as a welfare officer, an events technician, a social secretary – or even take your chances at becoming college president!

The JCR also plays an important role in providing pastoral support, an area in which the college system excels. Each college’s system is set up slightly differently, but rather than having to try and navigate the larger university support system, a dedicated team means that there’s always someone to turn to if you need some help and advice. At Cartmel, the advisor team can liaise with your academic department if you’re having difficulties, help you sort out issues with flatmates or other personal problems, and even help you keep your finances in check. The wellbeing officer, meanwhile, provides 1:1 sessions on a regular basis for those who are particularly struggling – and can also ensure a speedy referral to the university counselling team. If there’s issues that you feel uncomfortable talking about with staff, you can also chat to the JCR wellbeing team, who hold regular drop-ins. This smaller scale system means that staff can get to know you personally, and also means that getting help with any issue, regardless of how trivial, is a lot less daunting. On one occasion when I was feeling particularly homesick, an impromptu visit to a college advisors’ office ensured I was provided with a milky cup of tea, a couple of Hobnobs and a shoulder to cry on – exactly what I needed to feel better.

But enough of the serious stuff! I know that what you really want to know is which college is the best one for you. Ultimately, there is no one answer to that question. Regardless of which college you pick, you are guaranteed to make friends and have a good time: the wealth of opportunities, events – and amazing students of course! will make sure of that.

 

A place to work

Dmitry library

Unlike other institutions that might provide students only with an essential equipment, Lancaster University is happy to share plenty of facilities in order to make your studying experience comfortable and productive; in this post we will discuss their pluses and minuses.

Graduate College

Plus Minus
Regarding on-campus accommodation in Graduate College, your room will have a desk, shelves for books and papers, permanent fast internet connection. Sometimes you might need extra light and probably it will be worth buying a desk lamp either from charity shop on campus or from Wilko in downtown.
College has an area specially designed for PG students – the Social Hub. It has two rooms – one quite zone for studying, with desks and a small library, and another bigger room for chilling out and group work, where you can find pool table, darts, ping-pong table and many board games. In addition, it has a small kitchen area with sink, microwave oven and free-of-charge tea. There might be cold inside, especially in winter time. So you can either put on warm cloth or ask for a portable heater from the porters.

Apparently, if you plan to have a big event in the Social Hub like birthday celebration or international dinner you must book it at least one week in advance at college administration.

Apart from the Social Hub, there is a PC zone nearby also accessible only by PG students. It has two rooms as well – one quite zone with around 20 PCs, and a room for group work where you can find big tables and screens for practising presentations. This is a quite convenient replacement to the library since it’s nearby and is almost always free. The working space at each PC is a bit narrow because of cubicles.

Library

Plus Minus
There are plenty of computers, desks and group work spaces, so you can choose from various options where to sit and work. The library is extremely busy during exam periods (December/January, April/May), hence there are not enough free places.
There is a special zone in the library that only postgraduate students can access via their library card. It’s quite roomy and usually it is not busy. It’s much quieter than the common area which is good for concentration. Unfortunately, there are no PCs available in this area, hence you need either to bring your own laptop or move to the common area since all the PCs are located there.

Management School

Plus Minus
There is a big computer lab in LUMS with more than 30 PCs. All of them have Windows 10 and MS Office 2016 installed, so those machines are quite powerful and up-to-date. This room is good for group work that requires work on PC and discussion at the same time. Sometimes this lab is used for lectures and seminars, so check the timetable on its door to see whether it is booked or not.
There is a so-called Bloomberg lab designed for students who study finance and need to work with Bloomberg software. There are about 12 computers, each of which has 4 screens. In my personal opinion, the most powerful computers on campus are located in this lab. This lab was created by Lancaster University in partnership with Bloomberg mainly for students who study finance. Thus, although everyone can access this lab, a priority access is given to finance students.