Beginning My First Year at Lancaster University (Again)

My first year at Lancaster University was one of the most exciting and challenging experiences of my life. From beginning my first term making new friends, starting modules, and learning how to do laundry (easier than it seems; still no fun); to ending my final term performing real-life consultancy work for a large company, participating in debates and campaigning for the General Election, and writing analyses of organisational theories. It’s a hectic, packed, brilliant time; and a journey on which I picked up a huge range of skills and experiences, and made friends for life from all kinds of backgrounds.

Despite the great time I had, I knew my course wasn’t quite for me. I was a BBA Management student, and while I thoroughly enjoyed learning management theories and applying them in incredibly fun and challenging group projects; I could never quite hack the more numbers-based side of the course – Maths and Statistics isn’t my forte, and while my grades hovered around firsts and two-ones for the more qualitative modules, I could never quite match that in, for example, the Accounting module I participated in.

Fortunately, the university couldn’t have been more helpful in aiding my transition onto a new course. After shooting an email to my academic adviser stressing my concerns, a meeting was quickly arranged, and we promptly sat down to talk through my thoughts. He was able to offer me a list of courses that would suit my needs and interests and the means by which I could transfer to them. I settled on Management, Politics & International Relations (MPIR), and now on my twelfth week of that course, I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

So, what is it like being a first-year again? Well, I didn’t need to waste any time trying to learn how to operate a washing machine for a start (NB: laundry still isn’t fun). Already knowing my way around the campus and the city, having an established group of friends and experience of living independently; a lot of the challenges that come with being a fresher didn’t present themselves this time round. However, being a second-time fresher presents challenges of its own: living off-campus with an established friend group (as most second-years at Lancaster do) does estrange you somewhat from your new coursemates who are mostly new freshers and living on campus. So making friends with people on my course has been somewhat more difficult – although thanks to regular meetings between us and our course director and departmental socials such as the Politics 100 quiz night, I have been able to get to know many of my fellow ‘MPIR’-ers.

Had I not come to the university doing BBA Management, I would have never known that MPIR was right for me – only through engaging in campus politics and making new friends doing other courses did I discover this. Additionally, although I’m no longer doing BBA Management, the experiences I had, the knowledge I gained, and the friends and contacts I made have been of huge value and will stay with me forever.

At the end of the day, you have to do what you’re passionate about doing – and LUMS is an excellent environment for guiding you towards what that is.

Free MASH for all!

The best thing about being a student here at Lancaster University Management School is the free mash, without a doubt. Perhaps even better is that it is exclusive to LUMS students, meaning that your flatmates studying English or Politics cannot diminish the chunk of mash available to us Management School students.

Now, those of you reading this who are not currently studying at Lancaster University (this will be most of you), must be finding this quite complexing. “I can’t remember them telling us about free mash potato at that last applicant visit day, mum?”. And no, unfortunately this information won’t have been shared the last time you attended an event for prospective students. For the most part because LUMS of course do not offer free mash. Sorry guys.

Well, strictly speaking, they do! ‘MASH’ stands for ‘Maths and Stats help’, and it is a service designed to improve Management School students’ numerical skills. The likelihood is that if you come and study any LUMS degree, it will have some mathematical component. Since we’re not all the future John Nash, or that Maths teacher in high school who thought they could number crunch anything, we all may need a little help, from time to time.

The staff at LUMS understand this too, which is why you can book free one-to-one sessions with people who want to help you improve where possible, and help you achieve the best possible degree outcome. It doesn’t end there either, there are so many different services which LUMS students can utilise at their will, ranging from careers support to improving your writing skills.

Personally speaking, I did not have a particularly strong mathematical background before coming to university, but used all the help I had available to greatly improve my Maths skills during my first year. I know a lot of people who are sceptical about applying for certain Management School degrees as they do not believe they will be able to cope with the inherent mathematical components of certain subjects. If you are one of these, then I would encourage you not to be put off from studying a degree which you feel you will really enjoy, only because you don’t think you will be able to do the Maths.

I hope by reading this short piece, you now know a bit more about the variety of support available to LUMS students, and my positive experiences with them thus far. I hope that this blog also reflects how greatly your success at university is down to you. The help is there, you just need to adopt the mindset that you will look for it, you will find it, and you will use it.

Women in Economics

I still remember my first A Level Economics lesson: I was the only girl in a class of fifteen boys. Obviously, the problem here wasn’t that the economics faculty in my school didn’t accept girls onto their course (I mean, they let me in) but the problem was that girls weren’t applying to study this subject.

I can think of a few other examples of where certain subject areas seem to attract more men/discourage women from applying such as perhaps computing or engineering and it honestly baffles me. In a world where issues of gender equality and feminism are so current and openly discussed we still have girls being put off applying for traditionally “male-dominated” subjects.

Last term, the Lancaster Economics Society, together with LUMS, organised a talk by Manika Premsingh – an entrepreneur and economist. It was fascinating to hear about her journey to where she is today; and about the obstacles of being a woman in a “man’s world”. It really made me reflect on my own experiences of being a woman in economics and realise how important gender discussions are to the profession as a whole.

I am currently studying an Economics and International Relations degree and I can definitely say that the ratio of males to females in this subject has improved at university level, but it still isn’t where it should be. If we look at the below graph, taken from the Royal Economic Society website, we can clearly see how the number of male full-time undergraduate economics students has consistently been almost two times higher than the number of female students and I refuse to believe that this has anything to do with girls being less able or talented when it comes to this discipline.

 

 

Some of you may ask – well why does this matter? Maybe girls just want to do other things? Gender stereotyping aside, this view is very problematic simply because if research is only done by men, then the results are likely to fail at least half of the population – there are things that simply won’t be on male agendas. We need women to bring that perspective to the table.

Perhaps the issue is with our perception of economists. As the Financial Times so quaintly puts it: “To most people, an economist is the chap interviewed in newspapers or on the television uttering acronym-laced incantations about 0.3 per cent this or 10 per cent that. He is usually a man, rarely stylish, mysteriously confident, and a bit dull.” It’s hard to conjure up an image of a female role model in economics but that just means we need to become our own role models. I, for one, would love to see more women on the cover of the Economist and the Financial Times.