MSc Management- Block Taught Structure

When I was deciding to join MSc Management at Lancaster University, I had absolutely no idea that the course was block taught. Most of you will not even know what it is.. I’ve been there.

Block taught quite literally means being taught in blocks, where each block was a week’s period and each module was taught in that time period. It is a very interesting concept. Throughout the week just one module was taught from 9am-5pm. We did case studies and group work and everything else related to that module in just that week. However, the final assessments are usually scheduled two weeks after finishing the module, be it exams or individual essays. To summarise, my month, on the whole, looked something like the first two weeks of intense classes and group work and then the next two weeks chasing deadlines for the modules that I had just finished.

I had never experienced such structure before and thus for the first few months, I struggled to cope with the deadlines and to keep up with whatever was being taught in the class, but as the year progressed I noticed that my ability to understand things and to manage my time improved exponentially. I no longer needed to go through the slides as I understood almost everything in class and also made concise notes while being taught. Also, in order to keep up with the deadlines, I followed strict schedules and began working on the assignments or preparing for the exams while the lectures were going on, rather than leaving things to the last moment.

I prefer this structure over being taught multiple modules at the same time because I could focus on just one module and, moreover, it helps reduce stress. It’s far less stressful to have exams and assessments spread over the entire year than to have all the exams at the end of the term or year for that matter. The month of May is dreaded by everyone as this is usually the month when everyone has exams. However, it’s not the same for me. Having finished all my exams, I have had the opportunity to enjoy the weather. Summer in the UK is a rare occurrence and I am enjoying every bit of sunshine.

Dealing with Failure

It is now almost the end of my second term at Lancaster University and, oh boy, let me tell you that learning to deal with failure (and setbacks in general) has been by far the biggest learning curve for me. It’s not that I never failed before coming to university (of course I have!) but at university the pace of everything is just so much more rapid that I found it very challenging to get over things so quickly. So, for example, I didn’t get the grade I expected in my second politics essay and, especially considering the fact that I did put a lot of effort into it, I was understandably upset. While I would usually let myself feel sorry for myself for a few days in normal circumstances – at university, I had to start writing my next essay pretty much straight away. That is definitely a very difficult mindset to develop: learning to get over mistakes and not allowing them to affect your future progress.

Similarly, I have tasked myself with finding some sort of internship/job for the summer (which, if you have ever tried applying to internships in your first year, you will know is a challenge in itself as most employers look for penultimate year students). I cannot explain the heartbreak you experience when you get rejected from a job, especially after several stages of the recruitment process because it just makes the rejection feel all the more personal. (If they reject you based on your CV that feels like a very different rejection than the one that comes after a face-to-face interview.)

The best piece of advice I got on how to deal with these kind of setbacks is to stop seeing the process as a race against other people – you are only racing yourself. If you look around, there will always be somebody smarter than you, with better grades, with (what appears to be) a more accomplished life. Instead, focus on how far YOU have come. I can guarantee that if you read one of your essays from 2-3 years ago, you would not believe the progress. Perspective is everything.

Once the dust has settled, make sure you treat failure as a learning process. Why did you not get the grade you expected? Could you benefit from some additional help? For example, LUMS offers really great MASH (Maths and Stats Help) sessions every week; I find that a lot of people struggle with the much more mathematical approach to economics at degree level (as compared to A-Level economics) and knowing where and when to get extra support is crucial. However, that’s the tough reality – at university, no one is going to be able to help you unless you ask. The step up to degree-level education is a significant one and we all need to be kinder to ourselves when we inevitably encounter setbacks. Onwards and upwards!

4 key tips when starting University

Starting university is certainly a very exciting time for a whole load of different reasons. Moving away from home, meeting new people, and studying something you enjoy are just some of the reasons why so many simply cannot wait to pack their bags, and commence what people often regard as the best years of their life. There is no doubting that university is a brilliant experience, but this is not to say it doesn’t come with its challenges. Here are 4 things to keep in mind right from the off at Lancaster University.

  1. Go to Fresher’s Fair

Often missed by many due to other Fresher’s Week traditions, the Fresher’s Fair is an absolute must during your first week at university. The event provides a great opportunity for you to find out about the abundance of things that Lancaster University offers. In particular, it will give you the chance to meet over 200 different clubs and societies. From Baking to Belly Dancing, you really are spoilt for choice and are bound to find something for you. Even if you have no interest of joining any societies, just go along for the freebies, and you may even pick up a pasty or two.

  1. Take a good look round

Lancaster University’s campus may not be the biggest, but you wouldn’t say it’s small either, and getting to know your way round will probably take you a bit of time. However, Fresher’s Week will give you a good opportunity to take a walk around the campus and learn where everything is located a bit better. I recommend you put aside some time in your first week to do this since campus is usually relatively quiet in this period, and before you know it, you will find yourself having to navigate to your first lecture in a busy environment. Make sure you pay a visit to where your academic subject is located and know where you can get your groceries. Also, look out for campus tours running during Fresher’s Week. These will save you from using a map to navigate around the university.

  1. Stay on top of your work

I understand there is a strong temptation when starting university to ease yourself in and start off slow. After all, you’ve just arrived, and you want to have a bit of fun, right? I would recommend easing yourself in as you will be in a new environment and things will be different. But make sure you don’t fall into the trap of not doing any work for the first month. I don’t want to speak like I am your parents here, but it is important you go to your lectures, and do the work which is required of you. Lancaster University is not a top ten institution for nothing, students are expected to work hard. Of course, a lot of university is about enjoying yourself and having a good time but remember to not forget the main reason you have come to university!

  1. Don’t leave coursework until the last minute

And here we are, the piece of advice we’ve all heard so many times before. Whoever tells us though, and despite how many times they do, students have an inherent tendency to not start their coursework until the night before and submit the all-important piece of work thirty seconds before the deadline. There are a couple of reasons why I’d opt against this. Firstly, there is a strong chance that your first piece of coursework will involve you having to do some kind of referencing. Now, unless I am the only exception, it takes students some time to get their head around the different components of referencing, and what format the University expects. This in itself is a reason to start your coursework early, as the last thing you want is having to figure out how to reference at 4am, as the deadline quickly approaches. The second reason is that depending on your degree, you are likely to have a few different pieces to submit at around the same time. Leaving them all to the last few days could just be too much to handle.

SURVIVING THE TERM

Sometimes, all you need to do is take a break and have fun!

My name is Richlove Ampofowaa Frimpong, from Ghana and currently studying MSc. Operational Research and Management Science. Well, it has been five months since I came to Lancaster University and I can confidently say these months have some of my favourite memories yet in life. I have learnt so much within this short period of time, met some of the most amazing people in the world, had some pretty bad days and some amazing good days and tried new things like standing in the snow (yeah, that’s a big deal for a young African lady!).

Well, Term 1 passed by like a whirlwind. I still remember how enthusiastic we all were on the first day of class and then by the time we realised, voila, it was Week 10 and we could take a break. As a student, I have realised that it is so easy to get stressed and lost especially during the mid of the term when you start getting courseworks and deadlines and then have to manage it with your class schedule. After careful thinking and conversations with my friends and some of my lecturers and academic supervisors, in this blogpost, I will like to share a few tips on how to survive the term.

  1. Plan each day of the week

Just a few days ago, I realised that I hardly got any work done when I left my activities for the day to chance. Being able to allocate time for the activities in a day helps you stay organised and also forces you to make sure you get those things done. Most of us use smartphones and hence can use the planners on our phones as a medium for planning our days. You must also make room for surprises that might spring up in the course of the day. I usually plan my week during Sundays and what I do is I use the ilancaster app to get my timetable for the week into my S-planner (Samsung is clearly the best phone!) and then decide on the times when I want to get some work done after class and add it to my schedule. The feeling of crossing out your planned activities after you have accomplished them can be likened to winning a gold medal during the Olympics. It’s definitely worth the try.

  1. Know what kind of student you are

A friend of mine told me during my undergrad that in uni, you must study smart not hard and I think I have come to agree with him. We just have 24 hours in a day, filled with classes, courseworks and also some personal activities and so in order to stay on top of our game as students, we need to figure out what works for us. Let’s see if my experiences can give you a clear idea of what I mean. I find it difficult studying for very long hours. So what I do is, I usually take walks when I get tired from studying or working on an assignment and then come back to it and get it done. I have a friend who works better at dawn and makes it a point to wake up very early to study. Another friend of mine happens to grasp things better when she makes her own notes in class. After all, “a short pencil is better than a long memory”. Being able to tell what works for you as a student will help you form the right strategy to handle your school work

  1. Ask for help if you are struggling

As I mentioned earlier on, I had some bad days and I was struggling with my schoolwork. There are so many wonderful people especially in LUMS that you can talk to if you are having a hard time. Being able to adjust to a new country, a different educational system or returning to school after working for a while can be challenging and demanding and sometimes advice from friends, colleagues, lecturers and the Effective Learning Team in LUMS could help save you a lot of trouble. If you do not understand a concept or topic from a class, ask your coursemate or go and see the lecturer for help. It is better to make an effort than to just give up.

  1. Be open-minded! Group work is not that bad.

The reaction we as students have when the lecturer tells us as part of our coursework, there will be a group work and the groups are not self-selected is always priceless: Students don’t like that at all. I must admit that groupwork can be challenging but also it’s a great avenue for learning from people. Being open-minded and willing to listen to other people’s opinions and finding a constructive way of having discussions could lessen the pain of group work. At the end of the day, all the members of the group want one thing: to get good grades in a course. Coming from different countries, with different mindsets and different ways of communicating, it is essential that you learn how to clearly communicate your thoughts and also try to understand people when they are communicating. However, if you do not find a structured ways of going about groupwork, you might end up using all the time discussing and arguing out points without necessarily achieving the objective of that particular assignment. That being said, as a group, you must find ways of making sure you do not spend all the hours you have arguing and discussing but try things like sharing the responsibilities of the work, identifying your strengths as members of a group and using these to help achieve the purpose of the assignment. I’ve made some very good friends through group works and it’s been amazing.

  1. Eat well, Rest well and HAVE FUN!!

In order to stay healthy for the term, we must make sure that we eat well and get enough rest. It is very easy for us to be caught up in our schoolwork such that we begin to neglect our bodies and forget to take good care of ourselves. Sometimes, all you need to do is take a break and have fun. Travel around, hang out with friends, play games, go for events. There are so many things you can do to help reduce the pressure from school and be re-energised and motivated to keep up with your schoolwork.

As Pele once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”, I think we should find ways to enjoy our courses, relate to them, build more interests in them and these can help us get our work done.

Have a wonderful term!!