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.

On Campus Living and Off Campus Living

One of the distinctive qualities of Lancaster University is its campus. Located in Bailrigg, just outside of the city of Lancaster, it sits clustered atop a hill, the spire of its iconic Chaplaincy Centre peering down from above. Being located slightly outside of the city, the university ostensibly operates as its own little ecosystem – attached to Lancaster, yet distinct and separate: with shops, banks, eateries, parks and other facilities all of its own. This makes living on campus a very different experience to living off campus. I am in my second year of studying at Lancaster, and have experienced both – here I’ll go through the ups and downs of each and compare my experiences. Although most first-years choose to live on campus, as a student at Lancaster you’ll likely experience both in your time, and the choice to live off campus during the first year is there for those who wish.

Perhaps the most important thing to discuss is the accommodation. One of the great things to be offered by Lancaster’s campus accommodation is a huge degree of choice. There are a large range of accommodation types to select from, for all needs and budgets – some unique to certain colleges. These range from a standard room with a shared kitchen and bathroom, to en suite rooms, and even to townhouses – which operate more like a shared house than traditional university accommodation, with many people sharing the same large building and communal areas. When I lived on campus during my first year, I chose the Basic En Suite style accommodation – for me, this was what best balanced comfort and value for money. I lived at Bowland College, and had a room that was extremely spacious – especially compared to rooms of friends that I had seen at other universities – and shared a kitchen with three others.

Now I live in town, and my accommodation is very different. I share a four-storey house with seven other people. This is something I have greatly enjoyed. We are all friends, and having a house to yourself where you’re free to throw social events and do things together is very good. There’s always someone to chat to in the kitchen, people to study with, or someone to do something fun. However, the living situation in a such a large house working so well rests on us all knowing each other and getting along. This is one of the advantages of living on campus during your first year: you can get to know new people, and then, if you choose to live off campus in a much more communal environment, you can do so with people who you know and and get along with.

There are some parts of living off campus that take some getting used to, though: visits from cleaners are far less frequent, so its up to you and your housemates to keep communal areas in a liveable condition – and to remember when the bi-weekly bin collections are (trust me: this is easier said than done). Also, given that the university is located just outside of the city, you’ll need to get the bus to lectures. This isn’t difficult – with plenty of bus routes making their way to campus and running at very regular times, but it does mean you’ll have to leave slightly ahead of time for classes. This can be a challenge if, like myself, you’re not a morning person – no more dragging yourself out of bed at 8:59 for that 9:00am lecture.

The next thing to talk about is facilities. Living on campus, you have constant easy access to all of the university’s educational facilities. The library – which is open 24/7 – is just a short walk away. This was massively helpful for me when I needed to print something out in a hurry, get some last-minute work in for an essay in one of the study spaces, or meet with fellow students from my course for a group project. Getting to class is also easy – campus is quite contained and compact, and the Spine system means you’re never more than a short walk from where you need to be. There are also plenty of other, non-educational facilities on campus: college bars at every corner, grocery shops, banks and ATM’s, regular buses into town, and, most importantly, a Greggs for that pre-lecture pasty and coffee combo.

Living off campus, you lose some of that easy access to facilities. Buses mean its never too hard to get to where you need to be, but losing the ability to walk to the library or the Learning Zone in a matter of minutes was a bit of a loss. However, you do gain easy access to all that Lancaster has to offer: from shops and the city centre, to pubs and clubs, to cultural highlights like the castle, and transport hubs like the bus and train stations. Like campus, Lancaster itself is a rather compact place. Living near the centre, I’m never more than fifteen minutes from wherever I want to go. Being able to simply walk to the shops for food, or walk back from the Sugarhouse after a night out rather than wait for a bus was quite revolutionary for me. So, its about weighing up your priorities and what’s more important to you: a bigger house off campus, or more accommodation choice on campus? Living in a busy town, or living amongst other students and academics? Working in the many on-campus study spaces, or working in your own room? Round-the-clock access to the library, or round-the-clock access to kebab shops?

Both choices have their upsides and downsides, but for me, campus was certainly the right place to start. Lancaster’s campus was a warm, friendly, vibrant, and safe place to live; and being around so many other students and facilities was good for finding my feet and getting settled in. Saying that, now I have settled in, living off campus is great. The choice is yours, and I would recommend trying both to see which you prefer. Either way, you’ll have lots to do, be around lots of good people, and you’ll never be far from places to go and things to see.

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!

 

Why BSc Management, Politics & International Relations?

Management, Politics & International Relations (MPIR) is one of the most interesting and relevant courses on offer at Lancaster University. As a student at Lancaster, you are constantly doing new things and meeting new people. One question you will be asked no end is ‘What course do you do?’. When I answer ‘Management, Politics & International Relations’, the response is often a mixture of intrigue and bemusement. For many, the way in which these very different disciplines link into each other is far from obvious. But in reality, their intersection answers some of the most pertinent questions of our age.

How?

It is no longer enough to view business and management as insular institutions, separated from and distinct from the wider world. They exist and operate within a context of a rapidly changing and interconnected world, where the established order of things is being transformed and destabilised by political phenomena: an ascendant China, rising Western populism, a Fourth Industrial Revolution fuelled by advances in artificial intelligence and online connectivity, and commerce across borders. Each of these changes present both challenges and opportunities – not just for politics, but for business, and managers will be at the forefront of facing them. Increasingly, employers desire individuals possessing not just the technical knowledge of how to manage, but also an ability to apply and adapt that knowledge to our changing world. Business takes place across borders; but an understanding of what occurs within and between those borders is essential to the practice of effectively doing business.

Okay, but where does MPIR fit in to all that?

That’s where this course comes in! I am in my first year of the programme, and my study is currently split three-ways between management, politics and international relations, and philosophy. In the management modules OWT.100 and OWT.101, you gain an understanding of the historical development of managerial practices and managerialism as a discipline, and the key issues and debates affecting management today. In Politics 100, you are introduced to the theory and practice of political philosophy, domestic politics, and international relations. In Philosophy 100, you grapple with the ethical and wider philosophical questions which underpin the theories of management and politics, and gain skills to read and write in a logical and analytical manner.

One of the most satisfying things about the course has been seeing how these three disciplines intersect with and complement one another. By analysing the moral philosophy of John Stuart Mill in philosophy, you can better understand issues surrounding business ethics and motivation in management. Learning about human resource management and ideas of organisational culture in management is contextualised by study of the liberal underpinnings of our democracy in politics. Logic and critical analysis in philosophy aids you in assessing the strength of arguments in sources for politics essays. Each aspect of the course benefits the other, and you often find yourself applying theories learned in one aspect in coursework for others.

Is grappling with so many subjects and issues at once challenging?

Of course! But university isn’t about taking an easy ride – it’s about challenging yourself, confronting difficult issues, and constantly bettering yourself. MPIR certainly enables this. Although you encounter many new and complex ideas, the teaching at Lancaster equips you well to deal with them. Complementing lectures, each week you have seminars for management, politics, and philosophy. These are taken in small groups with dedicated tutors who you have week in and week out. In these seminars, you get an opportunity to discuss and debate what you have learned; critically analyse the reading you are set; prepare and plan for coursework; and discuss any difficulties or points of interest you have with a knowledgeable tutor. In addition to this, we have regular meetings with Bogdan, our course director, who discusses the course and our progress in-depth with us in a friendly environment. You are also assigned an academic advisor who will stay with you for the duration of your time at Lancaster University and discuss any aspect of your study and university life with you on a one-on-one basis.

What about Year 2 of the course and beyond?

There are two things in particular that I’m really looking forward to about the later stages of this degree. Firstly, there is the greater degree of choice and flexibility in Year 2. Alongside compulsory modules in Business Ethics and Social Research Methods, there are a huge range of modules in management and politics and international relations to choose from. I’m especially intrigued by some of the modules in entrepreneurship and marketing on offer as these would present whole new endeavours for me. Year 4 also offers a great deal of choice in this respect. But first…

Year 3 is a year in industry. We’ll start preparing for this soon with the Management 150 module, where we’ll learn how to write a good CV, undertake mock interviews with large organisations, and look at a range of employability skills. I’m undecided on where to do my work placement at present: it could be a small business, a large multinational, an NGO, or even the government. Wherever I go, I’m looking forward to applying the knowledge from Years 1 and 2 in a practical management context – and of course making a bit of money, too!

 

4 Reasons Why You Should Definitely Get a Part-Time Job

Attending university in the UK is expensive, there’s no getting around it. With tuition fees currently at £9250 a year (and that’s for UK students – international students can often find themselves paying more) and costs of living on the rise, it is no wonder that more students find themselves taking on part-time work alongside their studies. In fact, in a survey conducted by Endsleigh (2015), it was estimated that eight out of ten – around 77% of students – are currently working part-time to help fund their studies.

I am one of these students. I currently work most evenings for the university Alumni Office, which amounts to between 10 and 12 hours a week, and I am a strong advocate for being employed during your degree. Here’s why:

  1. It’s another opportunity to make new friends – University is all about meeting new people and having a part-time job is another way to make friends. Most people I work with are also students but they all have very different backgrounds and I would probably have never met them had it not been for this job.
  2. Financial independence – This one goes without saying. Knowing that you have money coming into your bank account at the end of the month is a great feeling, especially when you know that you worked hard to earn it.
  3. Gaining transferable skills for your CV – Even though the part-time job you get is unlikely to be directly related to your dream career, the skills you gain on the job will be very useful when you start applying for internships/jobs after graduating. Fundraising probably won’t be my long-term career path, but the skills I have gained from this job, such as negotiation and the ability to meet targets, are highly valued in whichever career I chose to pursue.
  4. Having less time actually forces you to get more done – This is a bit of a weird one but hear me out: because I know that 12 hours of my week will be spent at work and another 11 hours spent in lectures and seminars I have to manage my time very effectively, especially if I want to get in a good 7-8 hours sleep a night and spend some time with my friends. Ironically, the less I have to do, the less I get done.

Lancaster University is great for helping you find a part-time job, with regular updates about job opportunities on the iLancaster app and a great Careers Service that will help you with your application, either by having a look at your CV or doing mock interviews or sorting out any problems you might have with P45 forms (which are the opposite of fun).

Note: It is worth mentioning that international students may have some restrictions on the number of hours they are allowed to work, as per the terms of their visa. Make sure you double check this before applying to jobs. Also some degree courses (Medicine, Postgraduate etc.) are particularly intense, so it is also a good idea to consult your course adviser about whether you could feasibly commit to a part-time job during your studies.

Adjusting to degree-level study

As both a mature student and somebody who’d never studied business before, I was naturally more than just slightly apprehensive about starting a Marketing degree at a university as prestigious and well regarded as Lancaster.  What if I failed to understand any of the lecture content? What if I found the work too challenging? What if everyone else was 1000 times more knowledgeable than me?

I’m relieved to say – up to now at least! – that my fears have gone completely unfounded. Although the Marketing course is indeed challenging, it’s challenging in a good way. I’m really enjoying the fact that it gives me the opportunity to think critically and broaden my horizons.

Right from the very first assignment, we’re encouraged to challenge the formulaic approach to Marketing that is often presented at A Level – or in my case, in traditional Marketing textbooks. Instead, we’re encouraged to see Marketing as a continually evolving process, where creativity, flexibility and innovation are key. In my view, this is something that is becoming increasingly important in today’s corporate environment, where both consumer tastes and technology are changing rapidly.

As well as questioning traditional schools of thought, the degree is also allowing me to challenge my own beliefs. As part of a recent topic on marketing regulation, in our seminars, we’ve been preparing for a debate around the introduction of the sugar tax.

Now, as someone who identifies very much on the left side of the political spectrum, I’d expected to be very much in favour of the sugar tax – after all, anything that encourages people to live healthily can only be a good thing, right? However, after my group were assigned the role of Coca Cola in the debate, I’ve found my views continuously evolving. I’ve been able to appreciate not only the idea of consumer choice and the efforts made by corporations to increase the variety of sugar-free options available, but also to see the limitations of the policy in regards to consumer education.

The interactive nature of the Marketing seminars is something that I’m really enjoying too. Although the idea of sharing your thoughts with the group can be a daunting prospect at first, I’m finding that listening to the ideas of other students is really helping to consolidate my learning. Taking part in group projects – such as the Coca Cola debate – not only helps us to develop skills relevant to the workplace, but also allows us to get to better get to know our coursemates.   Sometimes, seminars can even be, dare I say it, fun!

I’m really looking forward to finding out what the next term has in store – and seeing which of my pre-conceived ideas will be challenged next!

Learning Opportunities at Lancaster University

Lancaster University Management School provides opportunities to learn outside of the conventional classroom based learning, creating a learning environment well suited to various styles of learner.

One such learning experience that I have taken part in during my second year of study is a management module, which involves working with a live client, to aid in resolving a real-world problem from the organisation.

The module is competitive from the beginning, with each group competing for their organisation of choice from a list of business (local and some further afield) who have partnered with the University to work with Management School students. This involves producing a ‘project bid’, in which the team must illustrate their understanding of their chosen client’s issues, as well as the team strengths to create an argument demonstrating why they should be allowed to work with the particular client. Once the bids have been evaluated, those who presented the strongest arguments are awarded the clients they requested to work with, and all other teams are allocated the remaining organisations.

Luckily for me, our project bid was strong enough to be awarded the client that we most wanted to work with. This was a small, local charity which meant our experience was very intensive and our involvement was perceived as being particularly important to the client.

Working with a charity was particularly rewarding, and a personal highlight was visiting the charity at the start of the module to learn more about the client. This was a great opportunity to speak to stakeholders and staff members to find out first hand important information about the problems faced. It was also great to be in a learning environment outside of University, in a real working environment and facing real organisational issues.

The project did not come without its challenges, though. An important part of the process for my group was to collect primary research, which involved approaching local people in the town centre. This proved to be more difficult than we had ever imagined, and encouraging people to speak to us wasn’t exactly easy!

The module runs over two terms, and is an intensive, hands on, real life experience. Working outside of the classroom acts as an opportunity to fully understand and experience the discrepancies between theory and practice, and understand the subject (in my case, management consultancy) in a much more in depth way compared to simply learning through lectures and seminars. Not only this, but this experience is a great CV booster – you can demonstrate real life skills working in a professional manner with genuine clients who have sought your help.

The assessment for this module involves an individual essay, which acts as an opportunity to reflect on the learning experience and how your understanding of the subject has changed with exposure to a real world consultancy issue. There is also a group report and presentation to the client, allowing you to showcase your hard work. The presentation is primarily for the client but moderated by the module tutors and lecturers, and therefore it really requires you to integrate your theoretical knowledge and practical experience in order to appeal to the different audiences.

I chose to study this module because I wanted to gain hands on experience whilst learning, and that is exactly what it provided. It truly is a one of a kind learning experience which inarguably throws you in at the deep end. Nevertheless, the experience is invaluable, providing real work experience and aiding in your academic study. It is an excellent opportunity to develop your interpersonal skills, and be able to show your understanding of a University subject in the real world.

The hunt for an internship

Internships are professional learning experiences that can help build career networks and contacts. Internships are usually aimed at undergraduate or graduate students, the position involves the intern working in an organization for a fixed period, usually three to six months, sometimes without pay, to gain work experience.

Typically, an undergraduate student taking a three-year degree will partake in a summer internship after their second year. When looking for an internship, it is important to make use of all available resources. There are many websites specifically dedicated to providing undergraduate students information about available internships.  These websites can be easily found with a Google search, the websites also have filtering tools where you can narrow down the internship opportunities available with your personal interest.

Be strategic when applying for these internships, as they are usually three months long so it’s important you enjoy working at the company and will learn from the activities involved with your role there. Search for companies or job roles that will assist you in your career path. Also, make use of the careers department at the university to help find an internship and help with every stage of the application process.

Paid internships are ideal, although you don’t have your degree yet, your time, skills and knowledge gained so far at university is valuable.  There are plenty of paid internships available, for a lot of these roles you will be involved with real work rather than just administrative tasks or running errands. If you can afford it, unpaid internships or volunteering can still be extremely beneficial experiences. You can get serious work experience, build a portfolio and establish a network of professional contacts which can help you after you graduate.

In a 2013 BBC article called ‘’Internships: The competitive world of work experience” by Lindsay Baker it was said that at the time competition had never been so fierce for internships. The article also included a quote by Pullin of milkround.com, a website specialising in opportunities for young people. He estimated that for the most popular sectors such as: IT, marketing, and business – there are at least 100 applicants per internship.

It goes without saying that these internship applications should be taken as serious as applying for a real job, like you will be doing once you graduate. It is therefore pivotal to do your research on the company, they want to know why you have chosen them and why they should choose you. It can be tempting to use the same generic answers for each application but taking the time out to learn more about the company and submitting a bespoke application specific to them will help you stand out.

“After carefully considering your responses, unfortunately on this occasion we will not be progressing your application.”

Some of us are familiar with the dreaded automated message above, finding out all out time and effort have been to no avail. The average student goes through several different applications before they are successful. These applications are extremely lengthy and can be quite tedious. It can also be discouraging when you have passed through many of the application stages but fail to pass the final stage, it’s a case of so close, yet so far. The optimistic way to look at these unsuccessful applications is that they are good experience that you can learn from for the next application, so don’t give up.

Some companies do not give feedback for on an unsuccessful application, especially in the initial stages, in this case do not hesitate to contact them and request feedback, doesn’t hurt to try. Most companies however provide feedback for applicants who become unsuccessful after the online ability tests/assessment tests stage, for example a Numerical Reasoning Test Feedback Report, which may tell you your score on the test and some actions to improve in the future.  They can also send you a Candidate Feedback Report which will include your strengths and weaknesses in each test. It can be useful to the read this feedback and if you agree with their criticism, work on a plan to improve your performance on these tests.

Also, note that companies have numerous opportunities for undergraduate students so if you weren’t successful in a programme, maybe there’s another one that you’re better suited for. Good luck on the applications!

Management Undergraduate of the Year Awards 2017

Having just received an email confirming that I had made it to the assessment centre stage of the Management Undergraduate of the Year 2017 awards, I thought it was definitely worth sharing my experiences.

Stage 1: Online Application 

I’m someone who’s very organised. I check my emails every day and always take note of the interesting things that I can be doing outside of my degree. However, I must admit that if you had asked me 6 months ago whether I could see myself applying for the Management Undergraduate of the Year awards, then I probably would have raised my eyebrows at you. I looked at the email sitting in my inbox and deliberated over it for a while. I knew that it would be a great addition to my CV, but I was unsure how far I would get through the process. After debating over it for a few days I decided that I would have nothing to lose by applying for it, plus, the fact that it was sponsored by Enterprise Rent- A – Car would give me some brilliant opportunities for networking, and would be a great experience of putting myself in front of a graduate employer- the fact that they were TargetJobs Graduate Employer of the Year 2016 was an added bonus.

After getting over the initial nerves of applying I had to go through the online application process. This involved filling out all the usual information such as grades and personal information, but also included some scenario-based questions. This was the time when I was really glad that I had got so involved with societies and other activities outside of my degree as it gave me an opportunity to use these as examples of the times that I had demonstrated the competencies that they were assessing. The online application stage also included a verbal reasoning test and a numerical based test, which is something that I have always struggled with, but I buckled down and managed to complete it.

After completing the online application I had to sit and wait for approximately 2 weeks to find out if I had been successful in this stage of the application. I was amazed when the email dropped into my inbox and the talent acquisition director  told me that I had made it into the Top 50, from a pool of over 200 applicants. The news was such a shock to me as I never thought I would get past the first stage.

Stage 2: Telephone Interview

Having made it through the first stage, the next stage was to be a telephone interview conducted with the Talent Acquisition Director at Enterprise. In this interview, I was asked why I applied for the award, what surprised me about  Enterprise and once again asked to describe situations where I have demonstrated key skills that a manager should demonstrate.

Given that this was the first graduate job style interview that I had undertaken, I was somewhat nervous. I was watching the clock like a hawk waiting for the phone to ring. When it did I took a deep breath and the interview seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. I answered all his questions as clearly as I could, making a note to mention the research that I had done into the company (A really vital thing to do in any job application process), discussing how impressed I was with the 37 various awards that Enterprise has won. We also discussed the extra curricular activities that I do outside of my degree, and he seemed fairly impressed with my involvement with 4 societies and having 2 part time jobs.

At the end of the interview he asked me why I thought I should get through to the assessment centre stage. I told him how I was really passionate about the company, and how I really thought the opportunity to demonstrate my skills physically as well as verbally would be valuable.  He told me that he would be in touch within the next couple of days to let me know whether I had been successful in getting through to the final stage.

Those next two days were the most agonising I have ever experienced. Even though I had only applied for the award without much anticipation to get very far, I now had a vested interest in my success. When checked my emails a couple of days after, I was thrilled to find that I had been invited to the assessment centre. Words couldn’t describe how happy I was, as not only was this the first time I had applied for something of this calibre and done well, going from being within the 200 applicants to being in the top 30 candidates within the entire UK was something that I was so impressed with.

Stage 3: Assessment Centre

With the end of this month heralding the assessment centre, I am fully prepared to make the best impression I possibly can on the assessors. Regardless of whether I get through to the final though, what this process has taught me above anything else is that I should push myself into doing things that I would not normally do, as who knows where it may lead me.