Professional failing

by Jeto (Student Blogger: BSc Psychology (Lancaster University Ghana)

Fail as many times as possible! You should get used to the concept of failing. Failing is something you can’t avoid. There is no need for me to remind you of great minds such as Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein who are famous for making many mistakes and failing terribly before eventually succeeding. These are stories we’ve heard before. No matter how smart or careful we might be, we are all going to fail. We either fail at something or we fail to do something. So get used to the concept of failing, just as you’ve got used to breathing, because failing is the prerequisite for success.

This is the hard truth I have had to learn for the most part of my life and I am going to tell you how to become a professional at failing.

I don’t know if you can relate to this, but every time I wrote an exam, my parents would always ask me how the exam had been and I would say “fine”. But every time it came to the end of the term, I was always scared out of my mind because I thought I’d perform badly – and I always did, every single time. I would get woeful results, then always tell myself that it was the last time, that I would make sure I put in my best and do better the next year, but that never happened. All through my primary and secondary school, it was normal for me to fail. In fact, at one point I was no longer worrying about whether or not I failed, but how badly I failed.

However, after I left secondary school, there was a turn around. All of a sudden I was no longer worrying about how badly I failed but rather how well I passed. I went from being at the very bottom of the class to being at the very top, not because my classmates were not very smart, but because I became better at learning. I went from struggling to be a C student to being an A student, from the class jester to the class representative and president of the Psychology Association in Lancaster University Ghana – all of which happened because I came to one realization: failing isn’t the same thing as failure. Failing is a journey towards success, while failure is a destination at the opposite end of success. Failing is when you keep trying until you succeed, while failure is when you quit after failing. So this is my advice:

  • Never mistake failing for failure.
  • Never be scared to fail, because it’s the only way to succeed.
  • Never give up. Keep failing until you succeed.
  • Finally, get used to the concept of failing but don’t get comfortable failing. Never forget that the goal is to succeed!

 

This is how to become a professional at failing – until you succeed.

 

Failure is cool…

by Kofi (Student Blogger: BA Law (Lancaster University Ghana) 

The general perception of failure is negative. Why not? We are accustomed to attaching a negative connotation to it and it’s just not glamorous. When we think failure, we think of shame and humiliation. What will my friends think of me? Will anyone spot or make me out in the re-sit examination hall? These thoughts rush through our minds and leave us feeling low with defeat and hopelessness. I know this because I’ve faced it too and from time to time still experience it. Hey, I never said I was perfect.

We tend to focus more on the negative aspect of failure than the positive – but it doesn’t have to be that way! That’s why I thought I’d share my approach on how to deal with failure in school, be it coursework submission or an examination paper:

Breathe. The first step is to breathe. It’s not the end of the world, relax. Don’t beat yourself up. Take your mind off it by doing something that makes you happy and sane. My go-to in this case is my music. I have a playlist for every occasion and at this time my ‘YOU CAN DO IT’ playlist comes in handy. I listen to my music and it empowers and assures me that I’m more than a failure and sometimes you just have to lose to win again. This is not you trying to forget the failure but rather just a temporary escape to ease your mind. Again, as Jay Z puts it: ‘You learn more in failure than you ever do in success’.

Inquire and note what went wrong. Lecturers are not there to fail us purposely and the belief that they delight in dishing out F grades is inaccurate. However, if the quality of work submitted is not up to standard, they will have to give you what you deserve, which is better than they misleading you with a good grade. Once you talk to the lecturer about it and understand why you got a bad grade, you’ll never repeat the same mistakes again because you understand now. This is often the most difficult part of the post-failure process, because it requires you to look your failure in the face and note your mistakes.

Learn from the experience. Every experience is a learning curve whether pleasant or not. Reflection after failing is vital. Ask yourself critical questions like: Why did I fail? What went wrong? Did I start revising too late? Did I really understand what was taught in class? Answering these questions gives you insight to the way forward for you. Reflecting on the experience gives you the ins and outs of the situation. It also helps you take steps to avoid making the same mistakes. For instance, in the case of it being a bad grade in an examination, you just have to step up and change the prepping routine you used before; for example, you can start preparing for exams 6 weeks prior to it.

Above is how I normally deal with failure. The more I encounter failure, the more I learn, grow and improve. This doesn’t mean we should plan and settle for failure. Basically, all I’m trying to say is when you invest time and effort into assignments and the grade that follows is unexpected, it should be a learning experience. ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’!

 

Failure is NOT the end of the world

by Melissa (Student Blogger: MA English Literature)

Understanding One Another

Everyone constitutes failure differently. For one person, failure could be sleeping through an exam. For another, it could be missing their expected grade by a half a mark. We all recognise what failure means for ourselves, but it can be hard to stay focused on what matters to us as individuals, especially when working near others in an academically competitive environment.

If you are the type of person for whom missing your expected grade is a sign of an impending apocalypse, you might struggle to understand why your flatmate is shrugging off their own disappointment with a night on the town. Vice versa, if you are the optimistic type who is confident that you can right these wrongs in the next assessment (so why panic about missing the mark now, you got this!), you might be getting a little frustrated with your flatmate down the hall who is sobbing over their ‘Not-An-A’.

This post is about coming to understand how others define failure, and what we can do to help each other overcome our frustrations.

Firstly, we need to accept the past. It happened. You messed up and it hurts to think about it, we have all been there. But what happens next? We can take one of two options here, option one is to bury our memories of the experience and never think about it again. Option two (the preferred option) is to swallow the embarrassment and take a good hard look at what went wrong and revise those issues for next time, thus improving our chances at future success.

Sometimes, it might have been a case of ‘why’ did this go wrong rather than ‘what’. Everyone has bad days and distracting emotions can sneakily turn our hard work against us. I personally struggle with maintaining the correct levels of criticism towards my work if I am experiencing a bad day or week; It can be hard to quantify the importance of perfect academic formatting if I know my family are having problems back home. Our personal lives may occasionally obstruct the path to success and that is understandable, but it is not acceptable to account every failure to the goings on in the world around you. You have direct input in your work and it is important to work hard to minimise the effects of the unexpected (such as personal or family illness) affecting your studies. This includes being aware of the opportunities you have to seek help when lightning does strike, such as extensions on essays and counselling, and knowing when to use these tools.

My Story

It can be hard to get back up again following a bout of failure, trust me, I know. It has been no less than five years since I took my first (and only) driving test which I failed irreparably. Irrelevant of the expected shame that holds hands with any failure, the test turned into a rather harrowing experience when my examiner decided to turn part of his reasoning as to why he had failed me as explained by my ‘lack of wanting to drive’, amongst other comments, which was ridiculous. I wanted to succeed in my driving test so I could take a break from my lessons which had been going for a year. I would not have sunk my savings into all those lessons hand I not wanted to succeed in my test. I would not have aced my theory if I didn’t want to drive.

My examiner took my test as an opportunity to belittle someone who needed his approval, to make a personal attack on my feelings and aspirations as opposed to staying professional and factual in his position. Honestly? I have always had a fear of driving (or being driven) down hills following a recurring nightmare from when I was little. My attempt to learn to master that fear and take so many lessons had been difficult, but positive. I entered that car feeling determined, a year of practise behind me.

I left it knock-kneed and shaking, some older man sat in the passenger seat smirking.

And we have all had an experience such as this one, an experience which goes above and beyond your average failing. One which was originally a couple of mistakes you understand and can rectify (check wing mirrors more often, drive slower) turned personal nightmare. And no, this is not a case of sore loser syndrome. I’ve cried over Cs, swallowed those tears, moved on, got help and improved. Social tactics gone wrong when I’ve said the wrong thing and offended someone, it happens, we get over it together. I dropped a whole roast dinner on the floor last year and I am glad to say that my fiancé didn’t take the opportunity to tell me, ‘I don’t think you even wanted to eat roast dinner in the first place.’

I don’t appreciate when someone misuses their power to make themselves feel strong at the expense of others, it is unprofessional, childish, and only serves to hurt people, as opposed to giving them the best chance to improve.I haven’t driven since, and I see this itself as a failure because I have allowed that one experience to get the better of me. I am taking actions to rectify it this summer by taking new lessons, but I’ll always struggle to forgive those examiners who take their students failing personally and angrily, as it not conducive to our progression as a society.

Stay strong!

We can help each other to overcome failure by being supportive during times of hardship. This can be as little as offering to make your flatmate a brew if they’re working hard, or listening to their troubles if you know they are struggling. If you are in the same course, it can be useful to compare your work post-grading so you can learn not only from your own academic failures, but those of others too. By sharing our stories we can improve together.

 

Failure: What will be, will be.

by Anna (Student Blogger: BA Hons French and Linguistics)

Let’s be honest: it’s normal to fail. It’s not only normal, it’s common. How we choose to come back from failure is the true demonstration of our character. The important thing is to pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and carry on. To tell the truth, you automatically fail at something if you did not even give it a go in the first place. Better to fail, learn and grow than never venture out of your personal status quo.

When it comes to university, we take failure pretty hard. The majority of us are overachievers, with earth-shattering dreams and incredible career plans. Not doing as well all you had hoped on an assignment is one thing but compared with failing an exam, it’s relatively miniscule. Take it from someone who has had to resit a university exam. It can either be a well-needed kick up the backside, or a bit of a blow to your pride. Nevertheless, just be grateful for the possibility of even resitting. Make the most of it and shine. You are going to pass this time and prove to yourself why you deserve to be at university. Second chances can be silver linings.

To really counteract any fear of failure, there’s only one thing to do: face the challenge head on, whatever it may be. Throw yourself in the deep end. But do so purposefully. You will gain more respect from others and from yourself for trying and for having given it your best shot. Once you’ve experienced failure, you become a well-oiled machine, much more prepared for hard work and ready to put all your effort in. Que sera, sera, as they say.

 

Image Copyright: http://www.innovationmanagement.se/2016/03/21/how-to-turn-a-failure-into-a-wild-success/

Responding to criticism

by Melissa (Student Blogger: MA English Literature)

You’re at university because you’ve excelled in your studies. You’re used to receiving praise and awards and achievements for your work, and the occasional piece of criticism. At university level learning, criticism is the one of the most valuable pieces of knowledge you can hope to receive from your tutors because it is personalised and geared towards helping you achieve greater success in the future, as opposed to looking back on your past.

At university level, you can be proud enough to acknowledge how far your work has taken you in life, but as students, we also need to respect that the journey to academic excellence is never finished, and that the only real way to improve a piece of work is to eke out its flaws.

Yes, this can be a painful process. Perhaps you have spent weeks lamenting over your latest essay, and that you were proud of all the work you put in when you finally submitted it. You might be feeling utterly heartbroken with the mark you got back, stapled next to a heavy feedback sheet illuminating all the things you could have done better.

But chin up! Your tutor has taken the time to thoroughly read through your work and has dedicated themselves to helping you. The step-up to university is hard, and every stair is made from the help and criticism given to you by peers and tutors, so let’s think about how we can reach the top together!

Step 1

Read through your criticism, twice. Read through each point carefully and apply it to your essay, make sure you understand what your tutor is asking you to do differently. This could be something as easy as reference errors, but when it comes to problems in theory you may have to consult your books for the context in which your error has been made.

Step 2

If you’re still unsure about any of the feedback, or have any new ideas that you would like to suggest as a way of improvement, it can be a good idea to clarify these with your tutor during office hour.

Step 3

Different methods of teaching suit different students, so you may find it helpful to consult a different tutor in your department if you are still experiencing difficulties. If you are part of the FASS department for example, you could sign up for a slot at the FASS writing space. If you feel your feedback has been inadequate you can receive more information on how to improve here. [FASS WRITING SPACE – http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/arts-and-social-sciences/study/study-support/]

Step 4

It can be helpful to go through your old essays and their feedback before starting a new essay. This will remind you what to change next time you start the essay process, so keep your work safe and filed. This is why it’s important to collect your essays from the department, especially if you receive a grade that you are unhappy with. Leaving the material copy with your department won’t make it go away!

Step 5

In case I haven’t been clear enough, do not blame your tutors for finding errors in your work, and don’t blame yourself either. Try your best to keep a positive attitude towards making your work the best it can be and eventually you will improve.

 

Lessons learned…

by Nevena (Student Blogger: BSc Hons Business Studies (Industry))

Dear student,

Second term is slowly but steadily coming to an end. You have attended so many lectures for the past 18 weeks, you have heard so many new definitions, struggled with new concepts and juggled with multiple deadlines. But what will you take away? What would you do differently in your year if you had the chance to? I will share some of the key lessons I managed to learn from my two years of university experience.

Lesson #1

Ask questions and be curious! Whether you’re sitting in a lecture or a seminar, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and say your query out loud. Leave shyness outside of the room. In this way you will show you are paying attention, demonstrate your willingness to understand a topic on a deeper level and you will be able to clarify a question for other students as well. Lecturers LOVE interaction. In my first year, I only had the courage to share my thoughts in seminars. This year, however, I don’t mind interrupting a lecturer in the middle and posing my question. I have had extremely positive experiences with lecturers who want to support you and expand your understanding. So ASK, ASK, ASK!

Lesson #2

The second lesson I learned was to ask for feedback. Not only at the end of an assignment, but also prior to it. This is one of the mistakes I made personally as I didn’t use all the available opportunities to discuss the ideas I had on an essay or project. It’s extremely helpful, for instance, if you visit your tutor’s office hours and kindly ask for some feedback on the plan of your essay. Sometimes even a very short conversation of 5 minutes can help you understand how to better tailor your approach towards the assignment you are given. Furthermore, it will give you an insight of how to go the extra mile and achieve higher results. Receiving guidance is an essential part of using initial feedback as a way to improve. However, you won’t receive it unless you ask for it.

Lesson #3

There is so much support available in the Management School that can help you immensely. I can specifically relate to this when it comes to statistics modules or anything linked with data analysis. Do you know what MASH is? Well, if you haven’t heard (or been) and if you are struggling with numbers, it is located in B38a in the Management School. MASH is not the only support provided by the university. The Academic Writing Zone which is part of the Learning Development commitment can enhance your writing style and have a positive impact on your results. For more information check out the LUMS Learning Development Moodle Site.

If you are not a Management School student, check out the Learning and Skills Development website for more information about what support is available in your faculty.

Lesson #4

Balance is hard. Especially when you are trying to find the equilibrium between academic and social life. Oh, and we should add professional life to the list as well. Gaining work experience is extremely important for your future job prospects. Finding an internship/placement can be often stressful, but there are ways to cope with the negative feeling of the unknown which is building up inside of you. Careers Office are a wonderful way to talk to a professional about your CV and how to improve it. There are multiple workshops on How to Write a Successful CV, How to Pass Interviews, and How to Pass Assessment Centers. Just go to the Base or to their website and learn more about what they have to offer. LUMS students have a separate Careers Zone dedicated to their job seeking endeavors. LUMS Careers is in LUMS where you can drop-in on Tuesdays and Fridays and discuss any of the questions you might have. This is an incredible way to learn more about how things happen in reality and what employers are searching for.

Lesson #5

Final one! When you feel like you have reached your boundaries, when it has been too much for you…get a quick escape. Go somewhere unfamiliar for a day. Manchester and Liverpool are extremely close to Lancaster and offer wonderful opportunities that have to be explored. The Lake District impresses with its nature while Blackpool makes you go back to when you were a kid with all its rollercoasters and entertainment games. Even if you have a few hours to spend somewhere, RECHARGE. “It is not about resistance, but about resilience,” a friend once told me. Visit Ashton Memorial (hint: check out the House of Butterflies) or go for a quick walk at the Woodland Walk at the periphery of County. There is so much around us and often we don’t appreciate it. Take the chance to try something different and get some energy.

All of the above are based on personal experience. There are many more to go on the list, but these are some of the starting points that can make a real difference to YOU.

Wishing you all the best,

Nevena

 

Homesickness and how to deal with it

by Anna (Student Blogger: BA Hons French and Linguistics)

Homesickness is a real thing, and it is in fact completely natural. Although it’s most associated with first term and freshers, second term is when it hits the hardest; those post-Christmas blues rolled together with upcoming deadlines can leave you craving not only your bed at home, but time with your loved ones. The important thing is to not get too bogged down by it, so how can we all deal with it without letting it affect our studies too much?

  1. Keep in contact with home, but not too often. A weekly or fortnightly call (whether via video or not) is reasonable but every day could be just a little too much. You could end up missing out on crucial bonding time with your flatmates, or the chance at making new friends at a society. The difficulty with how often you keep in contact can be down to certain family members, and wanting to please them. But politely, and kindly, remind them that you’re never going to have this experience again. And, you won’t have any stories to tell them if you’re spending all your time in your room on the phone.
  2. Tell people about it. Sometimes we think how we’re feeling is super-obvious to others, and other times we hide our emotions. But it’s as simple as saying “I miss home” to someone you’re close to at university. A problem shared, a problem halved. More than likely, you’re not the only one. If missing home is getting to you enough to affect your studies, seek some advice from your college’s Wellbeing Team. And, don’t forget to let your tutors know.
  3. Societies. Joining in with campus life through societies, whether academic or not, will fill up the time you spend missing home. It’s also a great way to make new friends across university.
  4. Create a comforting personal space. Your bedroom, whether on campus or in town, is entirely your space. Personalising it to your taste will make it feel homely, and perhaps have a few items from home that are nice reminders for when you’re feeling rubbish.
  5. Accept it. Homesickness is part and parcel of moving away from home. It’s simply a side-effect. Accepting this fact is a sure-fire way to start dealing with it better. And remember, everyone experiences homesickness at some time in their life, don’t add to the issue by giving yourself a hard time.
  6. Visit home. Perhaps take a weekend to visit home as this can remind you that everyone is still there for you, and loves you. Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder. If this would make you miss home even more, you could ask for your family or friends from back home to visit you for a weekend, then you’ll still have contact with them but in your new environment.

 

Taking on board these recommendations will help you better deal with your homesickness, and soon enough you’ll be right as rain and feel settled in Lancaster. University seems to fly by, so make the most of it every day!

Getting the most out of your term

by Ruth (Student Blogger: BA Hons History)

If you’re anything like me you’re looking at the next term, still wondering about where did the first term go?

Those short ten weeks seemed to fly by, with nothing more to show afterwards than a handful of paper, potentially a few grades and enough Sugar stories and hangovers to last a lifetime.

As a result, you might be left asking the question, what did I do with my first term?

But don’t panic, this happens to everybody. Feeling as if life at university has gone by so fast there’s nothing really to show or tell anyone if they ask you what you did that term. So, even if it’s your 1st year or in your final year there’s always time to try and branch out to experience new things in order to feel like you’re making the most out of your time at uni.

  1. Find Societies

Being at university is a perfect time to try experimenting with different interests, meeting new people and experiencing a variety of cultures. And this can all be done with societies. Freshers and Refreshers fair at the beginning of the first and second terms are a great way to see the wide-range of societies there are at university. But also, if that is completely overwhelming or if there’s no freshers fair on, you can have a look yourself, either through posters or adverts on Facebook. In fact, the society I’m now running, I found from a post on Facebook and just went along to the meetings from there. Joining societies is a perfect way to feel like you’ve got something out of the term, looking back on experiences and changes you made by being part of that community filled with like-minded individuals.

  1. Taking breaks from work!

Many people feel like they didn’t get the most out of their terms because they were focused so much on work. Now although this can be good and beneficial, there’s a chance that by being so focused, you miss out on the other key parts of university life. (And working non-stop potentially has the risk of burning yourself out). Therefore, life is all about balance, especially with work and relaxing. So, start to factor in breaks when you are doing work, so you don’t feel like you’re working constantly. Use those breaks as a time to branch out. Or even, use them to explore your surroundings. Many of us are new or don’t live in Lancaster so go out and explore more of the city and surroundings.

I hope this helps you to have a few ideas of where to make any changes if you feel you aren’t getting the most out of your term. Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone is a great skill to gain and practice while at university. Especially as taking breaks from work will give you a fresh perspective and crucial time to relax.

How to take feedback like a pro

by Sara (Student Blogger: BA Hons Linguistics)

It is sadly true that the jump from A-level to university is a considerable one but it is also true, thankfully, that you don’t have to be an Olympian to land successfully on the other side. In my opinion, some jumps from GCSE to A-level have been bigger than this, for example when studying languages, and at the end of the day if you’ve got this far you can go a little further am I right? Getting back your first essays can be daunting because you’ve been well informed of this increase in expectations but fear not for I have compiled some top tips for keeping calm as you walk down that dimly lit corridor to pick up an assignment.

  1. Put it in perspective. Obviously, you should always try your best but there is also no point stressing about a grade that is only a small fraction of the overall mark at the end of the year. If you must worry, worry in proportion. If you smashed a module you really enjoyed but didn’t do amazingly on one you hated, things will balance out. No one is amazing at everything and no one is interested by everything. Go easy on yourself; someone may have really struggled with an essay you succeeded with.
  2. Don’t throw it away. When you get an essay back with a whole page of feedback on the front, you may not realise it but you are more fortunate than others. Some departments aren’t great at giving feedback that is helpful enough or enough full stop. If your tutor has taken the time to look at your work and has done a thorough evaluation, you shouldn’t waste that effort. Have an allocated place for noting down the things you did well and the things you’ve been told to improve on. This will be incredibly useful when settling down to start your next essay if it requires similar skills to the first.
  3. Some things are an easy fix. If you receive several paragraphs of feedback and a lot of it is negative, think about how much time it would take to correct those mistakes. Marks can go down for obvious structural points like page numbers, labelling tables and charts and your headings being correctly numbered as well as forgetting the date for that reference that you were going to ‘just put in later’. We all know that when later actually comes, you’re sat in front of Netflix with a Pot Noodle, sending the essay off without a proper proof read, hoping it’ll be okay. Spend an extra five minutes at the end of your next essay with a checklist in hand, featuring those little things, and skim the essay checking one feature at a time on each read through. The marks are in the details.
  4. And finally, there’s more to life than assignments…. because you also have exams! Just kidding. Don’t let your academic work become the sole purpose of your existence. University is not just about the grades you get. A poor grade won’t seem quite so bad after a night in with a pot of chocolate fondue and good friends.

To conclude, in conclusion and overall, try your best but you’re at your best when grades, essays and deadlines are put into perspective. Always be looking to improve on the next assessment based on the feedback you’ve been given and the time you take acknowledging the feedback will be worth it.

 

5 ways to boost your productivity

by Catherine (Student Blogger: BSc Computer Science)

Energy drinks didn’t make the cut. We are well into second term and you may have found that motivating yourself to work is difficult. Don’t panic. This is normal. At University, we can often feel torn between studies, leisure, developing skills, and socialising. Here are my tips for boosting your productivity.

Go Exploring

Going for a walk may seem like a waste of time when you have things to do, but it can help you to recollect your thoughts and focus on the task.

If you live on campus, try walking to an area of campus you’ve never visited before, or around the field at the front of university. If you have the time, take a relaxing walk along the nature trail.

If you live in town, you could walk along the canal and try to spot the swans. Another possibility is to grab a coffee at the train station. Relaxing in an environment focused on schedules, surrounded by a rush of people, can offer motivation in a unique manner.

Use a Daily Planner

Buy a planner and write a list of tasks to complete each day.

Ticking off each task will feel like an achievement, and you won’t forget any important meetings or deadlines. You don’t need to plan each day down to the hour, and you can leave one day a week free to relax and catch up on any tasks you didn’t get the chance to complete.

Don’t Base Your Social Life on Alcohol

Whether you’re heading to the pub or on a night out, drinking alcohol can help you to relax after a stressful week. However, it can leave us with nasty hangovers, which will make getting any work done a problem. It is important to have a good balance of social activities, especially when you have many deadlines and can’t afford to take a morning off to recover.

You and your friends could take turns each night for a week to cook a meal for the group and vote for the best dish, or if you have different interests you could try out each other’s favourite hobby. If you have similar hobbies, you could try out a society together.

Research Careers

Some people may already know what career they would like to pursue, whereas others may not be so sure. Spend some time researching what you may like to do, and which path can take you there.

Are there graduate schemes available in your field? Would you like to work for a small company or a worldwide brand? Researching where you are going and how you will get there can help you to focus on your studies and hone in on the skills essential for what you want to do.

The Lancaster Award

The Lancaster Award rewards students who take part in extra-curricular activities. You will be developing career-focused skills, and reflecting on this process. It involves becoming more involved in University activities as well as possibly starting volunteer work or getting a part-time job. The Careers service also offer numerous skill workshops, which you can browse and book on TargetConnect.

The Lancaster Award can motivate you to seek new opportunities and use your free time effectively.

Futhermore, as with researching careers, looking towards your prospects and working towards your career goals can help you to feel more productive and strive for the best in all that you do.