My time as an English Language Assistant

By Kathryn Tomlinson (MA History) Four students in a discussion group

I come from 30 minutes down the road. I could get the bus from the underpass and be home in about an hour. I didn’t have to worry about living in a different country, getting to grips with a different culture, or speaking a different language. But, of course, that’s not the case for hundreds of students at Lancaster. The discussion groups offered by the Learning Development Team in the Library help bridge this gap and are a great thing to get involved in. For an hour once or twice a week, we all come together and discuss a predetermined topic like travel, music, the local area, or – everyone’s favourite – food! (Although showing pictures of everyone’s favourite foods from their country was a bit of a struggle at lunchtime!) The discussion groups are casual and relaxed, there’s no academic knowledge required before coming and no exam at the end of the term. As one of a handful of English Language Assistants, my job was to be a peer facilitator, helping with any questions about vocabulary, idioms or British culture and slang. We were not teachers there to test and correct but fellow students there to help and encourage.


I particularly enjoyed thinking of British idioms and hearing the equivalent in different languages. And it’s always fun explaining about different accents and weird celebrations we have, like egg rolling at Easter! Getting to know both my fellow assistants and the students who came regularly was a pleasure. It was also a joy to see the students’ already great standard of English get better and better each week. I loved being able to talk to everyone, hear their opinions and just have a good social time after the isolation of the pandemic. For those who perhaps weren’t as confident, part of my job was also to try and encourage them to contribute, however much or little, and make sure everyone felt included without feeling singled out. Learning how to do so was a delicate balance but one which you learn to tread more easily as the sessions go by. After a few discussion groups I actually learnt I was more extroverted than I thought – I loved talking to other students and really looked forward to each session.


Having taken some extracurricular German classes too, I was really struck by what a skill it is to speak another language. The students would come to sessions where they didn’t know the topic, the questions, or where exactly the discussion was naturally going to flow, but still understood and contributed. Something I don’t think I could ever do! Learning about other people’s cultures too helped make me a more well-rounded person. Being an English Language Assistant is not only a great opportunity for paid work, it also greatly adds to your student experience. It’s a job I would recommend to anyone and one I’m definitely going to miss.

We’re all in the Same Boat

By Safiya (Student blogger: BA English Literature)

Essentially, it may well be true. Only many of us students may feel that Susane Colasanti’s ‘We’re all sinking in the same boat here’ is far better attributed to us.

For those people who read memes like their Bible, a mental image of the sinking Titanic supported with the violinists solemnly playing ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ probably flashed in your mind, with absolute havoc ensuing in the background. The qualities attributed to this havoc, however, would be more of students panicking about an upcoming exam, other students rushing to hand in a paper that’s due in an hour while a whole different set of students nonchalantly walk around whilst raving about not having a clue what is even going on.

I, so far, have been all of those students. Allow me to let you in on a not-so-secret secret in order to avoid being part of the havoc: possessing a work-life balance. GASP.

Yeah. Pretty obvious. But no matter how many times you will hear it, actually maintaining a work-life balance will, surprise surprise, make a massive difference. I have yet to abide by several lessons that I have learnt from my experiences, but from what I have conjured so far, these tips will prove to be extremely valuable.

Pay Attention:

Whether it’s a lecture, seminar or lab class that you’ve decided to attend, the bottom line is that you’re there, so you might as well engage with it as best as you can, even if you’re not feeling it. You never know what you may learn, whom you may meet, and you may even surprise yourself with what you discover you can do.

Work on the Commute:

If you’re a commuting student as I am, in the words of Ross Geller, you’ve been ‘given the gift of time.’ Yes, it’s far easier to whip on your headphones and let your imagination run wild, but it’s far more useful to whip out your books, regardless of whether the old lady sitting across from you is judging you for how many pens you’re using to write your notes (true story). You’ll thank yourself later.

Take a Break:

It isn’t selfish to look after yourself. Taking good care of yourself will allow you to also take care of others later on. Work, alongside personal life experiences, can often become overwhelming. It’s not easy to stay away from home and adjust to completely different environments. It will take time to adjust. Look after yourself. Talk to those close to you. Trust the process. You’ll soon start to see your experience blossoming.

Embrace the Cliché:

It’s only after we’ve experienced certain things that the cheesiest and most cliché phrases will be profoundly impactful on us. But don’t shy away from them. Many clichés only exist because many people before you have experienced the exact same thing. You’re never alone in anything, always be conscious of that.


Pray, meditate, whatever tickles your fancy. Ignoring the havoc around you and focusing on your inner self, even if it may only be for five minutes, will relax your internal state in a way that no satisfying video will be able to.

Essentially, we’re always going to have a lot going on. Academically. Professionally. Personally. But we have the power to choose. If you want something, according to the wise words of Nike and, more contemporarily, Shia LaBeouf: Just Do It.



By Jojo (Student blogger: BSc Hons Economics)

What does university mean to you?

Take a minute to think about this question…

Well, when people try to ask me about the university, the first thing jumps to my mind is ‘diversity’. Yeah, universities (especially British universities) are such diverse place that you will likely to have met your friends of life, the love of your life, the colleagues of your life and more!

What does diversity comprise? Races, cultures, ages, personalities, activities, knowledge…

Races and cultures

If you’re expecting to meet people from all sorts of places, then coming to universities is probably the best option, so well done! You will see that the universities in the UK are welcoming rising numbers of international students, in another word, you will meet somebody that is not from the UK!!

Getting to know them will not make you regret, learning about their cultures will widening your horizon BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY you can ‘use’ them when you are travelling abroad.


Is there a limit on learning? No! Please always remember that everyone has the right to pursue their goals to know more about knowledge! Therefore, don’t get shocked when you know your course-mate is your uncle’s age!

Let me share one of my own stories. So my sixth form math teacher, whose literally the best maths teacher you could find on this planet, is now going back to university and studying a new subject at undergraduate level, given that he’s already had one degree and two masters… yeah, your ‘older’ mates could be substantially smarter than you, so don’t you dare judge them!


What makes a good friend? Their personalities, right? Lancaster is packed with people who have wonderful minds, wonderful personalities, as well as the weird ones (yeah, you might want to leave those that are weird), go find people that you are most comfortable to be with!


There are a lot of activities for which you could do, not limited to societies and sports. How about reading a book in the library, if you’re not too busy? Volunteering? Fancy a walk around the campus? Spoiler: the running trail that goes around the campus is a place to begin if you are adventurous and want to try something new!


The university has students and staff that specialise in various areas of study. Knowing your course mates is great, but do also try to find people from different departments – you know that most of knowledge is transferable right?! For instance, I’m doing economics, although I’m pretty good with maths, I’m still trying to get to know as many physics and maths students as possible…

NB: if you’re a LUMS or FST student, then go to MASH if you need help with your maths!