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.

 

Multiculturalism in Lancaster University

Lancaster is a melting pot of a wide variety of cultures. Lancaster is home to almost 3000 international students and the university has a very welcoming environment which encourages students from different nationalities to interact with each other and share stories about their respective heritage as well as their experience of living abroad. There hasn’t been a student I’ve met here who doesn’t have a fascinating life story to tell. Ever since I came to university, I have met people from all corners of the world such as Eritrea, Thailand, Portugal, Ghana, Canada, France, India, Cyprus and Mexico. Meeting people from different countries may sound intimidating at first, especially if you’ve never heard of their country or are unfamiliar with their culture; however, with time, you realize the many striking similarities we all share, and maybe you’ll even be able to pinpoint more and more countries on a map (which I am fortunately getting better at).

But to simply say that there are no misunderstandings or disagreements that arise between students would be a lie. Sometimes, opinions may not completely align with my views but by being exposed to this international environment I’m still able to approach each topic with an open-minded and global mind. What’s important to remember is that respect is the key to life.

One of the main thoughts my international friends and I share is that we all decided to leave our home countries and study in the UK. Despite our cultural differences, it was rather easy to reach a consensus on what surprised us the most while living here: the weather. The weather is ‘absolutely mad’. (Now that’s an expression I’ve learnt here but never used before. Definitely sounds better when the locals say it.) It is simply unpredictable and plays a big part in setting the mood for the day. One day it’s raining, the day after it’s snowing and there are even days where it can all happen at once! I don’t understand the logic nor the science behind it (which is why I don’t take science as a subject) but we can all agree it can throw us into a frenzy at times.  But life does come with its surprises. Now, as I am writing this, the sun is shining warm upon all our faces, and there’s a cool and gentle breeze passing by.

Besides the weather, I was naturally and quickly introduced to the culture of sports and food here in the UK. Although the last time I watched a football match was around a year ago, I still admire my classmates’ fascination with the sport. Sports have the unique ability to transcend cultural borders and our sport teams and societies on campus are a true testament to that. Student also like to watch live sports on the TVs in bars throughout campus which is exciting, especially during important matches.

The other aspect I found interesting while first living here is the food. It’s quite different to the food I have at home but even then, there are still slight differences in the cuisine among different areas in the UK; and even terms such as breakfast, dinner and tea (I could expand on why I still find it rather perplexing as to why dinner is lunch and tea is dinner, but that’s for another time). To put it shortly, try the pie, the scone and their traditional “fish and chips”.  And by the way- it’s not fries but chips. And it’s not chips but crisps. Try those dishes and know those phrases and you’ll be fine. And of course, don’t forget an umbrella!

Take care!

 

Student Social Life In Lancaster

Hello! I am Begaim Muratbekova, postgraduate student at Lancaster University Management School, MSc in Project Management. I came from the heart of the Central Asia – Kyrgyz Republic. We are a tiny country with rich culture and very beautiful nature. This is the first time for me to live far away from my home, however, I would like to share with you one fascinating fact that will definitely help you to deal with home-seek and experience all the advantages of being in UK and studying in one of the best universities.

Lancaster is full of diversity. The source of the diversity is people. Here you can meet students from all around the world with different education, experience, cultural background and hobbies. Surely, it fascinatingly influences the social life in the university and it is considered to be one of the best things during your studies.

In my blog I would like to make an overview of main features of the student life in Lancaster.

Firstly, as a postgraduate student you will immediately feel the spirit and atmosphere that unites people in Graduate college. It has its own little life within the university as a whole. We have different events hold on a regular basis giving you the chance to have a break from your studies.  There is a postgraduate social hub that let you meet other students and share your ideas and thoughts. This will definitely enlarge your horizons and bring you new ideas and insights in a certain spheres. It will allow you to look on things from different prospective, because everybody is a unique individual and sharing opinion will be favorable for all of us.

Secondly, social life in Lancaster could be devoted to participation in different societies and clubs. It is one of the very interesting and helpful things that will prove that you had made the right choice. There are more than 200 societies in our university. So, everybody will find his/her favorite activity. There are plenty of the professional societies that offer real world experience in a certain field. It maybe be beneficial for your future career opportunities and CV. For instance, we have societies related to spheres of consulting, project management, marketing, advertisement and others. Here you can practice all theory that you get during classes. This will add value to your skills and it will allow you to start your networking as it is one of the most important things in consideration of the professional and personal development.  Of course, there are clubs and societies that are aimed at fun and joy. You can watch films, cartoons, listen to music, or read books collectively. In this case, you will have an opportunity just to relax and spend some time in order to support your motivation and focus on studies.

Other than that, there are some sport clubs that will let you exercise and keep yourself fit. Even sport is different here, it is not only yoga, football, volleyball or some other traditional sports, but also it could be Latin dances, shaping, different kinds of fighting techniques ( aikido, karate). In overall, you will never get bored if you will choose one of the previously mentioned societies or clubs.

Moreover, being socially active you will be able to be develop some professional skills. One of them is time management. As studies will require you to spend on them the biggest amount of your time, you will definitely need to devote certain periods for activities other than studies. So, finding the right balance between the extracurricular activities and studies will require and stress your time management skills.

Remember, social life in Lancaster will definitely be one of the best memorable moments of your life!