Never say never

By Li Xinying (Student Blogger: MSc Project Management)

It took a lot of courage to return to school after a few years of work. I used to worry that my work experience would make me feel unfamiliar with the learning methodology on campus. In the workplace, I made decisions based on experience and solved problems in accordance with procedure. In contrast, full-time learning focuses on theoretical knowledge. But, after four weeks of adaptation, I found that the support from the school covers all aspects. For example, in addition to professional studies, I can also participate in academic writing courses, academic reading courses, German learning courses, and career development guidance. Coming to Lancaster University for postgraduate study will be my most precious life experience.

It is also challenging to break away from the familiar pace of work and enter a state of high-intensity learning. Before coming to Lancaster, I worked in the business department of an auto parts company. My daily work was full of intensive business trips, meetings and project management. But, even after adapting to high-intensity work, I still feel uncomfortable with the same high-intensity learning pace. For example, I often feel anxious because of the large amount of reading material and my low efficiency in comparison. I still need to improve my language understanding and expression skills. It is also urgent to master the correct reading and writing methods. However, plenty of reading and analysis tasks have allowed me to think more deeply, and the combination of theory and practice has made me more focused. Stressful academic pressure also brings motivation for progress.

At the same time, I also feel that my choice is not restricted by age, nationality and profession. It’s never too late to start.

The school’s open teaching environment and high-level teaching facilities give me the greatest support.

But to be honest, there are still many difficulties in studying in a foreign country.

The first is the adaptation of food culture, such as changes in diet structure. So I choose to cook by myself when time permits. I usually buy raw materials from local supermarkets or Chinese supermarkets. It can both save money and improve my cooking skills.

The second is the language barrier. For example, I sometimes find it difficult to fully understand the content of the lecture. So I have adopted a combination of preview and review to improve the interaction with the professors in class. I usually preview in advance and mark out the parts that I am confused about. In class, I listen to the lecture carefully with all the questions I have prepared before, and treat the professor’s explanation as a defence. The preparation work enabled me not only to grasp the key points of the class as soon as possible, but also to make myself more calm in the field of unfamiliar knowledge.

At the same time, I have participated in the language improvement discussion organized by the learning development team to enrich my vocabulary and improve my listening and comprehension skills.

I am fully aware that there will be greater challenges in the future, but I believe that things are man-made. I hope we can exchange more experience and grow together in the future.

Structuring your Academic Life

Structure Blog Picture

By Azizan (Student Blogger: BSc Hons Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics)

After a long period of lockdown full of restrictive measures, most of us are excited to finally have in-person classes and activities as we enter the new 2021/22 Academic Year. Other than your classes, you might be inclined to join some of the societies and public events scheduled over the academic year. This is a great time to finally reconnect and make new connections within the University’s population. However as more and more activities are being introduced each day, it is normal for us to struggle to balance our limited time given the various attractive activities being offered, on top of our classes and given assignments/coursework. Here are some tips that might be useful in structuring your academic life.

Make full use of a Calendar/Planner

Most of us find the Timetable feature on the iLancaster App to be convenient as it allows us to check when our classes are and where the venue is. Consider using your phone’s inbuilt calendar/planner App to write down all your leisure/meetings/meet-up/social plans along with their time and venue. Some Apps allow you to synchronise all your calendars, allowing you to have a better overview of your classes and your recreational plans through a ‘centralised’ calendar. Through this way, you will be able to plan out your day more efficiently and, hopefully, you won’t miss out on your classes or meet-ups!

Break your day into ‘time blocs’

Once in a while, it is tempting for us to overwork ourselves until late at night. This however restricts us from enjoying our leisure time, which can affect our productivity and performance in the near future if done repeatedly. Consider dividing your days into time blocs, let say 8.05 – 8.30 am, 9.35 – 11 am and so on. For each time bloc, assign it to categories: academic, leisure, personal, etc. By doing so, you have set up a boundary for what and when you will be doing your work or when is your rest. It is also a good way to track whether you’re meeting your personal needs or not.

Focus only on a Main Task each day

Many times, when we have too many works assigned to us, we tend to try to complete them all at once by multitasking. However, this is not a good practice, as our concentration is not at its optimum as our mind struggles to divide between the various tasks. By setting a main task at one time and sticking to it, you’re more likely to be productive and able to contribute considerable progress rather than splitting it into small progress for various tasks. In a sense, it will help to complete your task much quicker compared to the alternative.

Stay Grounded

As days progress, we tend to lose touch with time and reality – we’re so ‘invested’ in our work/responsibilities that we fail to notice what’s happening around us. It is important for us to step back once in a while and be present in the moment to appreciate the blessings surrounding us. This helps to prevent us from overstretching on our work beyond our allocated time, allowing us to rest and recover both physically and mentally. A good way to stay grounded is to utilise all of our 5 senses – touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste. This will have a positive impact on your wellbeing.

Integrating a well-refined structure into your everyday life has plentiful benefits. It gives you certainty, and restores a sense of order in your life. Most importantly, having a structure allows you to navigate your day with ease!

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.


Forget Your Promises

By Deji (Student blogger: BSc Marketing)

I don’t have it in me to count how many times I’ve scripted and pledged to some plan of attack that fills the entirety of a holiday with revision and yet, reached the last hours of that holiday having done nothing of the sort. It’s easier than it has the right to be, and happens whenever a university or school term has all but had me concussed.

In battles between me and almighty terms, I’ve had to choose between myself and my grades. Grades have won each time, but the cost has always (eventually) been worth it. Nothing drastic – only the simple sacrifices of sleep and a proper human diet. After “winning” these battles, my MO has been to swear to myself and anyone within earshot, that the next term would be different. You know, that I would allow myself none of the pleasures of holidays. Read, revise, and repeat, so far ahead that when the time came, I could afford to maintain my grades as well as my sanity.

Not sure why, but this hasn’t been the reality. I’d open my lecture notes once or twice during the break, and that would be it. Pride? Procrastination? Perhaps some measure of the two? You decide. Here’s how it goes:

I’ve run myself ragged. I deserve this break. Days pass, and my notes summon me. They do a poor job of it, though. Oh, look – holiday’s over. There’s been no reading, no revising, and certainly no repeating. I use my lack of terrible grades to convince myself that all is well.

A few weeks into the term, I learn that all might not be well. The anxiety is bad, but the guilt is worse. The sabotaged master plan, the great many hours spent on YouTube. Like that, we’re back to a rough Me Vs. Term.

Last session though, it was different. Here’s my take: Forget your promises. Toss them. Into the infinite afar. And beyond, still. Seriously.

Hear me out. You’ve just completed an aggressive term. Probably not in the best space to be making big promises to yourself. Whenever you’re able to appreciate the approaching holiday for what it is (a holiday), plan out your revision. In doing this however, recognise that you’re not trying to fool anyone. You can only promise one day of each week to revise? One week and nothing else? An hour every day? Do that, then. Decide if you can effectively work your revision around your holiday. Might sound counterintuitive, but I figure that this way, no part of you feels cheated out of well-deserved vacation time. If in fact, it isn’t quite well-deserved, try committing to additional time.

In recognising that vacations exist for us to regroup, you don’t fault yourself for enjoying them. In resisting the urge to overwhelm your vacationing mind to the point where it just says ‘No’, you’re much better prepared for the next You Vs. Term. You and your grades can make it out alive, you know?

Lectures? Seminars? Get ready with university!

By Jojo (Student Blogger: BSc Hons Economics)

Ever wondering what a lecture is like? You might’ve already tried out some during taster days or other events, but you never really tried it for “real”…

At Lancaster, you should expect your lectures to be about 200 students in size, and depending on your course and year of study, your contact hours vary (so if you’re majoring in engineering, then you will have tons of lectures, seminars and laboratory works… Go suffer! Only kidding).

So say myself, an Economics major student. In my first year, I had six hours of economics’ lecture hours in total every week, three for one module, and three for the other. You may enjoy your two hours classes at A-Levels, but trust me, two hour lectures are “not fun”!! Reason is simple – at university, the pace that the content is taught is mind-blowing! It is quite amazing that in the first year of university, we actually learned all of A-Level stuff plus things beyond that within one academic year…So make sure you are prepared to do the work!!

So exactly how are lectures taught? Well, they are just like your ordinary lessons (but a lot bigger in size), except that you may want to listen to the lecturers and make notes of what they said, instead of writing down what’s on the PowerPoint. Firstly, it is a complete waste of time, secondly, you will never have the chance to write everything down on time (you can always look back through the slides and make notes in your own time, or just print them, they will always be on Moodle). Oh! You should also expect that the lecturers will chuck an 85 slides PowerPoint in a two hour lecture 😉

Lancaster is doing something quite interesting with lectures, they actually change lecturers every so often. This is to allow the experts to teach intellectually challenging content to students. For myself, we changed lecturers every six weeks. And the teaching received so far is quite promising, you should expect the lecturers to know “everything”. But also bear in mind, they (university and your department) value your feedback, so if you found their ways of approach are not your favourite, please do tell them and don’t just skive off the lectures, they are very important!

Ok, so we have talked about a 200 student sized lecture, but what about smaller classes, are there any smaller classes? Yes, universities most certainly do…

They are called seminars, a.k.a workshop; tutorial; or sometimes you may see yourself having a clinic (of course, laboratory workshops are slightly different…) I do agree that they are confusing, but they do have the same purposes though — giving you the chance to express your ideas; doing the work required to succeed in your course; giving you the opportunities to ask complex questions to your tutors etc…

It is also the case you may find it easier to make your new “major” friends in seminars (that is, the friends that do the same major as you). These friends can be very helpful, i.e. you may want to study with them, share thoughts, revise together, hanging out etc.

Before you go to the seminars, you are expected to have done all the preparation work, because seminars or workshops are not actually lessons (I thought they were, I was wrong, so I’m telling you right now…), they are a period of time when the tutors assess your understating of the content, as well as helping you when necessary, so they are not teaching you anything new, they are actually discussing the topics with you. So you should see it as opportunities to consolidate your understanding, as well as developing your critical thinking.

That’s it from me! A huge congratulation and welcome for getting into Lancaster. You will not regret of joining this brilliant community, with internationally recognised excellence. And good luck with your future study!!

Bon Courage!! 

Slow yourself down

By Hannah (BA Hons Advertising and Marketing: Student Blogger)

Slow yourself down.

I don’t think it’s just me who has felt massively overwhelmed with the stresses and pressures that we not only put on ourselves but experience through just existing at university: Trying to balance society responsibilities, a social life, plans for next year, interviews and assessment centres, oh and not to forget your actual degree!

As well as sleeping, eating and generally existing.

It all just seems ever so slightly (massively) impossible.

It seems we are always running around, joining in the constant conversation of ‘what next?’ whilst trying to get absolutely everything done from the minute we wake up to the minute we go to bed (or, if you’re anything like me, get home at 5pm and ‘accidentally’ nap for four hours; coincidentally, also the amount of sleep I was averaging a night. But at 5pm I refuse to call four hours sleep anything but a ‘nap’!)

I was living on this carousel, and as easy as it is to jump on the ‘ride’, the more you go round and round trying to fit everything in, the dizzier you get and the more overwhelming it all becomes.

Because like a carousel, the ride of University is a positive one with opportunities left, right and centre. But unless you slow down, it’s impossible to enjoy the moments in between: life happening right now. The rest of the ‘fun fair’.

There is no time like right now, these little pockets of time that you are living today. Not next year, not tomorrow but right now. In our little city of Lancaster, which is home for the now. You don’t always need to be going somewhere fast or anywhere at all.

S L O W  D O W N.

Give yourself time.

It’s completely okay if not every day is full of meetings and essay plans and social media schedules, gym sessions, social gatherings and future planning. Some days may look like settling yourself down in a nook of a cosy coffee shop (because Lancaster has an abundance) with the window misty and the rain (again, thank you Lancaster) outside, sipping coffee, slowly working or just watching the world go by.

Take time for yourself, to enjoy the ride of life that isn’t a constant carousel, which in time makes us dizzy and overwhelmed. Don’t spend your entire time on the carousel and at the end of three/four years realise you missed out on the rest of the little joys. The candyfloss of life.

Be intentional with your today. Your now. Tomorrow can wait for some other day. If you’re always rushing to the next moment, ask yourself ‘What happens to the one I’m in?’ Trust me, and just take a moment to appreciate the present moment that IS your life NOW.

And maybe to you this doesn’t look like cosy coffee shops on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. And that’s okay. Your now can be anything you want it to be. Just make it something, anything,  that’s not a tomorrow.

FIKA (Swedish noun): a moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life.

One day at a time.

How to make the most of your feedback

By Klaudia (Student Blogger: BBA Hons International Business Management)

Feedback is common in all aspects of our life, and coursework for us, students, is the most frequent way we receive it. However, how to benefit from it?

The feedback we receive at university may be very diverse – it may be only a mark, or it could be extensive comment. Often we might not pay a lot of attention to it after we see that we have either done well or badly on our piece of work. It is, however, important to take some time and try to analyse any precious comments that it may contain, in order to learn from our mistakes and improve in all of our assignments.

Just looking at the grade won’t bring any improvement. Look carefully at the comments and analyse them. Never throw the feedback away!  Look back at your comments before doing your next assignment, in order to avoid making the same mistakes. Remember to focus not only on the negative comments. It won’t be productive and won’t help you to move forward academically. As feedback may be disappointing sometimes, give yourself a few days to get over your emotions and come back to it after some time.

If you would like to talk about feedback with somebody, do not be afraid to ask for help. Your first option should be to see the tutor concerned; you could also speak to your Academic Tutor or make an appointment at the Academic Writing Zone and talk to a mentor about it. If a tutor highlights an area for improvement, take it seriously – this comment may be warning you of, for example, potential plagiarism, if you do not cite the necessary references in your work. Lack of referencing can be a very serious mistake with bad consequences.

However, most importantly, recognise what you did well in the assignment. It’s easy to focus on the negative things, but it is also useful to know what you did right so that you can do it again next time.

When you receive feedback, it is important that you take the time to analyse what has been said. Sometimes feedback may relate to your academic knowledge within the particular subject that you are studying, or it could relate to your learning development or study skills in general.

Once you understand whether your feedback relates to improving your academic knowledge or learning development skills you can seek out the right support. For example, if you are struggling with the academic content you may have to speak to your lecturer/tutor to help you expand your reading materials around it. Keep in mind that many tutors refer to the grading criteria when leaving feedback, and through the language they use in your comments, it may be easy to identify why you have been awarded a mark when comparing your feedback to the grading criteria. This should enable you to easily identify areas where you can improve upon in your coursework in the future.

Summing up, feedback is an important part of every assignment. Markers aim to deliver precious tips on how to improve your work and how to succeed in the future – so make sure you make the most of it!



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.


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