Improving my Confidence at LUMS

Before I started at LUMS, my self-confidence was pretty much non-existent.

A combination of bullying whilst at school, a struggle with anorexia and one aborted attempt at a Midlands university left me timid and doubting in my abilities. During time spent in the workplace, I was barely able to converse with colleagues – let alone offer my opinions or ideas in meetings – convinced that I was dull, incapable and pretty much worthless.

One boss, however, saw some potential in me. Impressed by content I’d written for the workplace website, newsletter and social media, she suggested that I should consider a career in marketing. I tentatively picked up a textbook – and loved what I found there.

To this day, though, I’m still not sure what inspired me with the confidence to turn this blossoming interest into a UCAS application to study at one of the top management schools in the country… but I’m very glad I did.

Deciding to study at LUMS was one of the best decisions I have ever made – and right from the beginning, my confidence improved and has continued to grow daily.

To be honest, I was dreading my first seminar; my head full of visions of going through the usual agonising process of revealing an “interesting fact about myself” or justifying “what ice-cream flavour I’d be” in front of the entire class.
LUMS, however, took a different approach to icebreakers. Before the first session, we were given a business case study to read through and a set of questions to answer. Then, upon arrival, we were divided into small groups to discuss the pros and cons of M&S’s ethical approach to clothing. Although this might sound scary, for me, it was actually ideal. Having the case study and questions beforehand meant that I was able to plan what I could say in advance. Being in a small group, meanwhile, was much less daunting than divulging personal information about myself to the whole class or the pressure of chatting one-to-one. It also made it a darn sight easier to remember everyone’s names! As a result, I was able to get to know more about those I was talking to naturally over the course of the session, whilst the fact that everyone was starting at the same point and there were no right or wrong answers meant that I eventually felt comfortable – and brave enough! – to contribute. I left the first seminar not only feeling like I’d learnt a lot, but, for the first time in a long while, with a sense of achievement.

As the course has progressed, my passion for the subject and keen interest in what I’ve been learning, combined with the enthusiasm of lecturers and other students, has enabled me to gradually overcome my shyness and join in class discussions. After spending my school years being made to feel ashamed of my “nerdiness”, it’s been so lovely to be in an environment where intellectual curiosity and the sharing of ideas is not sneered at, but actively encouraged and celebrated. I’m not the only one who does the required homework or reading, or reads Marketing Week in their spare time! For me, this has been a revelation, and really helped with my self-acceptance.

LUMS has also improved my confidence by pushing me outside of my comfort zone, but in a supportive way.
In our seminars during the Lent term, we’ve been working in groups to deliver presentations each week about the topics we’ve covered in lectures. I’ll admit that during my first presentation, I was terrified. I shook like a leaf, I stuttered, my heart raced, my face was crimson. However, as the weeks have gone by, it’s slowly become much easier. Simply proving to myself that I can survive each one; that I won’t lose the ability to speak, that no one will laugh at me and the tutor won’t call me stupid if I get something wrong, has helped me to have greater faith in my abilities. Working consistently with the same people has been good for me too – I’ve been able to get to know my coursemates, to have a laugh, to make friends. When my group has eagerly seized upon an idea that I’ve suggested, or asked for my help in explaining a complicated concept from the reading, it’s helped me to finally be able to begin to let go of the notion that I am unintelligent and unlikeable.

I’m still not the world’s most confident person, nor the world’s greatest fan of presentations. I still have times when I feel out of my depth academically, or highly anxious in social situations. But when I look back at what I’ve achieved since September, I can see that I’ve come a long way. With the help of LUMS, I know that things can only get better.

You never know, by the end of the next two years at Lancaster, I could be chairing meetings in my workplace, or making public speeches about my favourite flavour of ice-cream. Somewhat anti-climactic I know, but I’d be vanilla, by the way. Not the bravest of choices, but dependable, sweet… and quietly confident.

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!!