Why procrastination is good for me

This time when I was back home in Mumbai, I decided to bring with me my art painting paraphernalia (which I have never used) including acrylic paint, paint brushes, palette and the like gathering dust in a corner. I could never find the time to get around to using them before.

The idea to get the painting tools struck me when I came across this store called The Works in Lancaster city centre. I am fascinated with all the variety of art and craft material they have there and enjoy looking through their stuff. Now that I had my materials with me, the next question was what I should create with them. At first I thought of making something like an art poster that I could hang near the dining table to create a homely feel. But then I realised that making something that only I and hardly anybody else would ever see would probably not add to my motivation. While browsing through canvases and art paper in The Works, I chanced upon blank greeting card packs. It struck me that greeting cards might be the perfect object upon which to conduct my art experiments because I could employ my creativity as on anything else, have a bit of purpose to it (how can a researcher forget the purpose), and I was guaranteed at least one person who would be smitten with my work.

Here is the first card that I made for my cousin in Mangalore, India. The fact that he actually asked me if I made it was flattering, though I won’t put it past him to pull my leg.

birthday card

 

The truth is that I wasn’t really bothered about having a fantastic output because I am not even an amateur artist (only one who loves to have fun with colours and loves seeing the beauty in art), but the process was an absolute joy. Sitting alone at my desk with the sun blazing through the window (yes, it’s been pretty sunny lately!), visualising and finding inspiration for a theme, concentrating intently on choosing harmonious colours, mixing them and seeing them come alive on the card…sometimes beautifully and sometimes rather jarringly… scratching my head to make the imperfections less imperfect…the whole event offered a heavenly sort of relaxation. I would probably compare it to meditation though a bit better than that for me because I can never quite still my thoughts and focus on nothing when I’m meditating…whereas in this process it was as if the real world had melted away and it was just myself lost in a sea of colours splashing on the card.

I loved doing the first card so much that I was already looking forward to my second. I have done this one for my sister-in-law’s birthday in early June. She doesn’t know about my blogs so I can take the risk of sharing it with you.

Birthday card

 

I would never have imagined that I would take up a long romanticised hobby while doing my PhD. I felt like getting my art tools to have something interesting to do when I had the itch to procrastinate, which as other PhD students may corroborate, is fairly often! I believe in this instance though that the tendency to procrastinate has helped rather than hindered me… come to think of it, maybe procrastination tends to be a blessing in devil’s disguise because while you are doing something you enjoy such as baking or fishing or painting, your brain is silently working in the background weighing in on your ideas and coming up with solutions. If your mental focus wasn’t diverted into a completely different direction every now and then, a part of your brain would probably be overworked or stressed out and not exactly operating at full steam… at least I tend to be more productive because of my procrastinations rather than for lack of them. What is your experience? Would be great to hear your thoughts.

Walking on Sunshine

The sun has finally come to Lancaster and you can’t help but feel the newfound energy on campus.  Walking through Alexandra Square I noticed the air abuzz with laughter, excitement, and procrastination. But before you judge, it was rather a “fruitful” type of procrastination. One that ends in the sweet sweet taste of victory in our mouths. That’s right. Lancaster has another Roses trophy under its belt and after this spectacular weekend I feel like I can conquer the world (at least I hope so. Especially for exams…).

For those of you who don’t know, Roses is an annual sports tournament between the University of York and Lancaster University that started in the 1960s. The host university alternates every year and this year the tournament took place right at our doorstep. It’s the highlight of the year with all the university teams’ hard work accumulating towards this weekend-long event. It’s an event you can’t miss and undoubtedly an integral and memorable part of the Lancaster experience. Every moment spent cheering for my friends and other athletes of the university was worth it; and filled me with an ineffable sense of pride in being part of this university. And of course, besides the trophy, the sun had our back the whole way through and with sunny days ahead, we’ll all definitely be spending more time outside.

Besides watching and playing sports, now may also be the perfect time to take your studies outside! Around campus, you can see more and more students studying by the steps in Alexandra Square or even by the luscious green spaces by the Bonington Steps. If you’re lucky, there are also the occasional streams of ducklings that waddle behind their mother enjoying the carefree days of their youth (Ahhh how I miss those days. Not when I was a duck, but the days of my childhood devoid of deadlines, exams, job applications and more deadlines…). And in case you prefer studying in a shadier area, there are study pods right outside the LICA centre- a rather ideal spot if you’re keen to study among towering trees. I’d say that being there definitely helps you keep in touch with nature. All in all, the university’s large campus and vibrant green-fields offer plenty of space for you to study outside and enjoy bright sunny days.

And of course, besides study areas, the University has a lot of outdoor courts and fields for you to play sports with friends. The other week, my friends and I hit the courts for a quick game of basketball. We ended up playing against some students in sixth form who were more than happy to show us how “real” basketball looks like. Whether we played like basketball “pros” or (most likely) not, we ended up having a blast. As always, there’s no better feeling than getting a cold smoothie in Juicafe or some ice cream also in Alexandra Square. With the sun out from its hiding place, there’s no excuse to stay inside.

Here’s to more sunshine! Good luck with exams!!

TWO + TWO

The perks of doing a general Masters course is that you get to participate in the events organised for other specialised courses as well and that you still have the time to decide what you want to do in the future. I developed a knack for Marketing modules and I wanted to test my understanding. So as soon as I came across the opportunity to participate in the event organised by Creative Resources where I could put all the theories into practice, I seized it.

The event was held in Manchester on 16th February. It was a platform for students of various institutes and courses to come together and tackle youth-loneliness. We were provided with a brief explaining the issue at length and were then put into teams of 5-6 members. Each group was assigned a mentor who was an industry professional. There were other mentors who we could approach at any time with questions. The aim of the event was to come up with unique solutions which could be undertaken by organisations to tackle the issue at hand. The solutions could be anything ranging from mobile applications to websites or even campaigns.

Loneliness is becoming a major problem amongst youths. This event was an opportunity to not only talk about it openly but also to tackle the issue head-on. All the groups came up with unique ideas. For example, one team suggested that people who feel lonely should wear yellow colour t-shirts on a particular day of the week. They also wanted to spread awareness about this day and encourage everyone to communicate with people who were feeling lonely (wearing yellow). It was a very simple idea and yet it could be put into effect.

Having stayed back for the Christmas vacation, I understood that it can be particularly difficult for people from other cultures, who may feel a little alienated at times, feeling a little left out and most importantly missing what you have left behind. Amidst all this, we often tend to forget the opportunity we get to explore new things and to embrace new cultures. All we need is a little positive nudge. I shared my experience with my team and they all understood my perspective and we decided to focus specifically on the loneliness issues faced by the international students. However, our target audience comprised of all University students. After a lot of discussion and guidance from many mentors, we came up with an App, which would allow the international students to connect with the local students according to their hobbies. We wanted to create value for all the students utilising our services by creating cultural exchanges.

It was a very well-organised event and I learned a lot about the real world. Coming up with ideas under pressure and working better in teams were my biggest learnings from the day. In just a day, I had met total strangers, discussed the issues, and most importantly understood their perspective. It was the first time that I was working directly with the creative side of Marketing.  Coming up with taglines and logos was a thrilling experience in itself. Overall, it was a unique experience and I look forward to utilising the skills I acquired that day.

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.

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.

 

My First Exam in the UK

As I entered the registration hall in the first week, my heart pounded heavily. I did not know what to do, where to go. Was it too late to go back? Of course, it was. I was not only in a different country but also in a different continent. At that point in time, I was just following everyone because they seemed to know what they were doing and where they were going. We ultimately reached the final destination of the day, the Management School: The place that LUMS postgraduates absolutely worship. The Hub, the Lecture Theatres, the meeting rooms – I had never seen a place like that. I was sitting with a few of my classmates and they all were talking about Lancaster and the University as if they had known it for ages. As it turned out…they did. They had all done their undergraduates at Lancaster University and I had no idea what was happening around me anymore. I felt overwhelmed and anxious and I kept quiet, taking it all in.

As days passed by, we got busier with lectures and assignments but at the same time, we grew closer to each other. The journey had begun, and we spent the days learning and the nights exploring the University. Soon, the first module was over and so was the second and before we realised, it was exam time. With just a week left for the exam, the late-night excursions had taken a halt and the late-night coffees had replaced them to ensure that we were burning the midnight oil. There was chaos and confusion everywhere. This was a big thing. It was the first module and we all wanted to leave a mark. Being from different educational backgrounds, we all were facing challenges. Most of us had never studied business modules before and jumping right into Marketing and thinking like a Marketing Manager was difficult. The exam was case based. We were provided with a case and had to scrutinise it well before the exam. In the exam, we were asked questions based on the case and had to answer them in an essay style. This was very new, especially for someone like me. My last essay-based exam was in primary school and being from CBSE board (Central Board for Secondary Education, India), I was cut out for point to point answers. Luckily my lecturer was a sweetheart. She gave us precise directions of what she needed and also made us practice with a mini case in the class. On top of that, we were also provided with past paper questions. All these resources ensured that we were fully equipped to face the exam.

On the final day of the examination, I prayed to all the Gods and reminded myself that I would be fine because of all the group studying sessions I had with my classmates and the resources that were provided by my professor. I went for the exam and “answered the questions”, precisely as mentioned by my lecturer and as it turned out, I managed to get a distinction!

 

 

Is Being Catered Worth It? Or Am I Just Lazy?

I hope your week has been as exciting as mine! Although it feels as if we, freshers, have been thrown into a whirlwind of work, at the end of the day, it’s comforting to know that you can head back to your flat, relax and share a laugh with your flatmates. Or, for those who consistently apply their studies to every aspect of their life, argue about whether some corporations’ treatment of workers is justifiable, or if catered accommodation is a sunk cost… (Maybe? Maybe not? I wish I knew).

Speaking of catered accommodation, it’s awesome! No one can cook as well as my mother (shout out to the best mother!!), however being catered gives you the liberty to forget about planning meals, shopping for groceries, and if you’re like me, avoid sulking over the fact that the only food you can cook (properly) are eggs and pasta. Nevertheless, if you’re a true “Masterchef” or simply feeling adventurous, living in non-catered accommodation will improve your culinary skills while consolidating your time-management and organisational skills and prepare you to be a versatile, adept human being (which is why we’re at university- am I right?).

Which brings me to my next point about being a student, which is having the ability to choose. I know that sounds rather simple and obvious, but university makes you conscious of this power to decide for yourself and take control of most, if not all, aspects of your life. It may seem like a daunting task, but with the support of your friends and the University it isn’t difficult at all. And of course, this capability or power can only be of good use if you take every opportunity available that will help you grow and enrich your life immensely. And Lancaster University offers you plenty of such opportunities. From fostering your passions within your academic field to helping you venture into new areas and develop skills from there. Remember, university is the ideal place for growth, so don’t hesitate to keep learning; because one day, after all your enriching experiences, you’ll realize how far you’ve come and feel like you’re flying high above the clouds -equipped with the wings of knowledge and experiences that will carry you throughout the rest of your life.

And during this journey, you’ll never be alone. I am very grateful for the people I’ve met here-especially my wonderful friends (I might change my mind after I spend a year living with them, but hopefully not. Just kidding, friends). But don’t worry. Even if you don’t find the right friends in the first few weeks, there will come a time when you come across someone who is just as into music, film or chocolate cake as you are (feel free to send me a message and we can talk about the sublimity of chocolate!!) and then feel more connected to the wonderful community in the University. If you ask for my opinion, I would say that I couldn’t ask for more.

When the going gets tough…

Most people seem to think that if you are pursuing a PhD you must be super intelligent. Which they also assume means you must have ample confidence in yourself. It is no use telling them that you suffer from as many insecurities about your talents and capabilities as the next person, because in their opinion if you have set yourself such a huge mountain to climb, you must know you have it in you.

The truth is that I find myself low on self-confidence a lot of the time. And I have come to realise that this feeling is fairly common among PhD students. Apparently we tend to suffer from what is called the ‘impostor syndrome’: The feeling that you are inadequate or incapable despite evidence to the contrary.

My confidence level also has a way of yo-yoing so that at one point I am on top of a mountain, soaring high and marvelling how I have at long last found my true calling, and another time I am down in the dumps, wondering what got into me to take on such a herculean project. I start questioning everything from the validity of my research topic to my thoroughness in doing the literature review to my experience in the academic jungle to the possibility of ever seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It can be a pretty quick downward tumble from there, luckily for me stopping short of actually calling it quits, but I have heard stories of people who take the exit route.

Over time, I have learnt a few ways to deal with these blows to my confidence:

  • Remember why you started a PhD. Chances are that if you are on this very tough journey, you have thought long and hard about it. You may have also made certain difficult choices in life or career because you wanted this so badly. Had you not put all of yourself into making this happen, you wouldn’t have earned a place at such a prestigious university. If you could get yourself this far, it is only up to you to take yourself further.
  • Think of the last time you felt a rush of confidence. It may have been a small accomplishment or a big one, but if you had reason to feel great about how you were doing then, the reasons are most likely still valid and solid. This low phase will pass soon enough if you focus on doing what you have been doing.
  • Think about how far you have come. You probably remember how daunting everything seemed when you first started, and how you never really expected to make it at almost every step. Not only did you make it, you did remarkably well too, be it acclimatising yourself to the new environment or developing a good relationship with your supervisors or taking all those difficult training modules or digging through tons of literature.
  • Stop comparing yourself with others. You might be tempted to compare yourself with others who started at the same time as you. Very often it will seem like they have a far better hold on what they’re doing while you haven’t the faintest clue. They may have started collecting data or completed writing a conference paper while you’re still putting together a proposal for your upgrade panel. Remember that this is your PhD and your journey… and you are its sole architect. How you approach it and how much time you take to build it depends entirely on what you’re fashioning.
  • Talk to family and friends. Talk to people who believe in you. Knowing that they believe in you more than you do can be motivating (though a bit annoying too because your feelings of inadequacy and incompetency are invalidated). It would also help to have someone with whom you can share your research and progress. Many a time I have found solutions to problems simply by talking to a friend who merely listened to me go on about it.
  • Take mini breaks. When you are really feeling like it, take a few days off all thoughts of research and writing and deadlines and do whatever it is you feel like doing or do nothing if that’s what you feel like. Think of it as some sort of reward for working so hard. I don’t know about you but at the end of that period, I bounce back with more energy and feeling a lot more positive. Quite strangely, I also tend to come up with better ideas almost out of the blue. You know what they say about the subconscious mind being at work…
  • Visualise a wonderful future. The PhD may be your stepping stone to a fulfilling career or it may be an end in itself. Try visualising what it would be like to be at the end of that road, having fulfilled your dream or goal. Imagine how you would feel, how the people in your life would feel, and how much you would like to be there. These bumps along the way are speed breakers but they can’t stop you from getting where you want to be.

Well, these are a few techniques that seem to help me bounce back. What about you? What do you do when the going gets tough?

10 New Words I Learnt at LUMS

As an international student, learning about new words stimulates my linguistic inclination. By learning I also mean experiencing words that I already know in a different way. New words mixed with experiences are synergic; I find them fascinating and sometimes amusing. In this blog post I will write about my top 10 new words that I learnt at LUMS, starting with those that any international student could come across and followed by those that a LUMS or a graduate student in particular would be very likely experience. I choose these words because my experience of them has been either exciting, practical or pleasantly homely. A small story for each word tells why I found it particularly fascinating.

  • Flatmate: Flatmate is the commonly used word for housemate in the UK. My flatmates are the students who I have met since my first day at Lancaster Uni. We shared not only the flat, but also food, nights out, pictures, laughs, hobbies and life contemplations. We looked out for each other. My flatmates made me feel like I belong.
  • The weather: This is one of the most common topics you’ll hear a British person talk about. It is often unexpected and sometimes rainy, cold, lovely, sunny or snowy. And sometimes it’s all of them in one day! As someone who likes hiking, my outdoors motto is that “there is no bad weather but there are only bad clothes.” That’s why my big puffer coat is an essential item of clothing and part of my outfit on most days. Even though it’s cold in the north west of England, people have their warmth in their hearts.
  • The steam train: During the summer term, I travelled by regular train to go to Carlisle where I was doing some training. The steam train runs during the spring and summer between Lancaster and Carlisle, and the other passengers and I would see it majestically arriving in the morning at the train station. A peak inside allowed me to see the impressive décor and was enough to take me a century back in time.
  • Marmite: Commonly known by its brand name, this product is also found under the yeast extract category. I heard people say that you either love it or hate it, and I happened to quite like it. I often venture with food combinations and I accidentally found out that it goes well with certain types of jam.
  • Quorn: I discovered Quorn in the UK while looking for vegetarian meat alternatives. It offers a wide variety of products and is a good source of proteins. I found it to be a practical food and it goes well in a curry.
  • Reflexivity: As a LUMS student, being reflexive not only got me high marks, but also made me aware of the way my learning affected my professional and personal development and my view of the world. I try to apply this process to both important events and daily incidents that became a part of my routine.
  • Critical thinking: Critical thinking is an expression that I frequently hear in my lessons at LUMS. It’s an essential yet challenging skill and we practice it when reading, writing and reflecting. I even use it outside of academic coursework, for example when choosing to watch a film.
  • Dispersed leadership: Even though it’s not the most common type of leadership that is found in academic and personal development books, it’s one that sparked my curiosity. This is because it made me realise the different aspects, people and places in which leadership exists, and so it helps me put myself in other people’s shoes and try to understand them, a skill that I find quite important when interacting with people at university and work.
  • Graduate social hub: The graduate social hub is another place that makes me feel at home. It is situated near the graduate students’ dorms. It contains a quiet room for studying and a social room that has games, books, a ping pong and a foosball table. It also has a kitchenette with an endless supply of tea and coffee. I would metaphorise it as the graduates’ living room.
  • Grad bar: The Grad bar is our meeting place in the evening. Pubs are an important part of community life in the UK, and Grad bar is our communal one. It’s a place where I made new friends and enjoyed live student bands and drinks.

Whether they relate to a place, food or thought, my experience of these words continues to be absorbing. Learning new words and experiences still happens to me now as much as it did when I first moved to Lancaster, and as I got more and more involved with the campus life, the studying, the shopping and meeting new people.

Going Frugal- It’s not just about managing finances, it is about managing yourself…

Frugality- the quality of being economical with money.

For all those who are living on their own for the first time, this too shall pass and when it does, you will emerge as a different person. I came to Lancaster University with the dream of becoming a Manager and landing a good job. Little did I know that the first step of the process would be to be a manager of myself. From studying to cooking to managing a budget, you are on your own. The degree teaches you far more than just the modules. This was the first time I was in-charge of myself. I’ve lived on my own during my undergraduate but there things are different, pocket-money was just a phone call away and moreover, there weren’t any currency conversions to be kept in mind. I came to the UK with 500 Pounds, thinking that it’ll last at least 4 months, after all, they were 40,000 Indian Rupees and how much could I spend?

After the first month and an expense of almost half the money that I possessed it became very clear to me that I’d have two options, either I can cut down on my expenses (which was usually spent on buying food and, being a Punjabi, that’s something you cannot compromise on) or I could earn more money by doing part-time job. I wasn’t thinking too much and I chose to go with the first option as with classes from 9-5, I wanted some time to explore as well, so getting a  job was postponed till the next semester. It was time to strategise my frugality plan and more or less it was simple for me.  I had to focus on where I spent the money most (except food, of course) and cut down those expenses to a minimum. However, I wasn’t as simple as I  thought. The pattern wasn’t consistent. With a month of struggle and just 90 pounds left, the third month began and that’s when I came across the Master Plan as I like to call it. I still follow it and it is an amazing way where you don’t even realise you are saving money. All you need to do is save 10 pence on day one and keep adding 10 pence to it the next day. It follows the laws of Arithmetic Progression (flaunting Mathematics-my dad will be so proud of me!!! ). By the end of the first month, I had already saved 15.5 pounds. It isn’t a large sum of money but considering I had 90 when I started and I managed to save 15 pounds, I went straight to Greggs and ate a cookie. After all, I deserved it! Treat yourself and be frugal!