My first essay at Lancaster University

By Sagarika (Student Blogger: MSc Human Resource Management)

Student typing on a laptop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do the words ‘ESSAY’, ‘SUBMISSIONS’ and ‘GRADES’ scare you? Some might say ‘Oh no!’ but for some it might be ‘Ah, a piece of cake’.

For the first essay I had to submit, I honestly had mixed feelings. I think I was well versed with what the question was asking me to do and how I was going to structure my essay. I was confident on what I wanted to put forth and how I would convey my analysis on it. In my opinion, the essay turned out well and I was happy that I gave it my best.

 

Of course, I had after thoughts and dilemmas once I’d submitted the essay. I’m sure you guys have also gone through such a phase at some point in your life. But I was trying to calm down and compose myself thinking – “it was fine, you did what you had to do to the best of your ability and now all you can hope for is the result to be positive”.

 

And just like that time passed by keeping my thoughts engaged in other classes and modules. But Ta Da! Our professor told us that the results would be out next week, which resumed my stress.

 

We had our class feedback one day before our results came-up. And this scared all of us a bit more than we already were. Have you ever experienced this feeling when people were talking in general, but it felt like everything was being pointed at you? Ah yes! That’s what I felt sitting in the class with my classmates hearing the general feedback. Every flaw seemed like it was mine, everything that could go wrong sounded like my essay.

 

Oh, but wait, the result hasn’t even come yet

. So I had to put my stress and tension aside. I was trying to hope for the best result and hoping tomorrow would be a good day.

 

Finally, the RESULTS DAY had arrived. And BOOM! The result was in no comparison to my expectation. Oh wait, you must be thinking it was something more than what I was expecting, right? Naah. I wish it was that. But NO, it was completely disappointing to me. I have always been a A/B slider in all my academic life and now I was nowhere compared to it. Stress, anxiety, depression, tension, frustration, irritation was all that I was feeling.

It took me to time to accept that this is my score, and it is not where I wanted it to be. I needed to work hard to make sure I improved for next time. I tried to reach out to few of my class mates for help and I also accessed the Learning Development team for more insights on how I could make my essay writing bett

er.

 

Things change, life changes. It is not what you always expect. For a high flying student like me, it was a shock. But what really matters, is how you overcome the challenging times. How you try to improve yourself to get back to being your best. And right now, that is what I’m working on.

I know many of you might have faced this or may panic after reading my story. But hey! It’s me not you! You may be totally shocked by your result in a positive way, but if you are facing what I am, let me tell you there’s always help and scope for improvement. I know you might be disheartened like I am. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Work on it and you will achieve it.

Great tips for adjusting back to in-person study

By Joey (Student Blogger: BSc Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics (MORSE))

How has life been for the first few weeks of the semester? Have you adjusted yourself back to in-person study? For me, not really! I am still struggling with the mode of having face-to-face lectures, workshops, and seminars. I am missing the days when there were only four to five online sessions a week. I just needed to get out of my bed, turn on my computer and attend. No make-up, no proper dress code required. On the other hand, I missed the university so much – course mates, the relaxing and comforting environment, the amazing library…

Here are some tips for you to adjust yourself back to in-person study.

Firstly, get yourself prepared both physically and mentally. After a year of blended or online learning mode, and months of summer break, you should now get yourself prepared for getting back into the “learning mode”. Think about what you want to gain and experience when back to the university physically – establishing new social networks, learning a new language, or trying new types of sports. Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new, you can surely benefit from it. You may learn more about yourself, grow personally or even find a dream!  For international students, pay attention to the difference in weather and environment to avoid getting sick.

Secondly, don’t push yourself too hard and bear in mind to maintain a work-life balance. Usually, you cannot get back into the right mode immediately. Do give yourself some time to accommodate and adjust your pace. You don’t need to force yourself to be “perfect”. It’s alright to be imperfect. Just focus on yourself! On the other hand, do consider the balance between social and academic. Do not make your schedule packed. Remember to leave some time for yourself to think – understand your emotions and the reasons behind them and figure out what approaches you should take to deal with the situations or problems.

Thirdly, grab a daily planner if necessary. When returning to the university physically, I thought I would not need a daily planner at first, but my thought was a mistake! I used to mark all my schedule, things to do on my mobile, and it worked. Unfortunately, I overestimated myself and underestimated the tasks that I was now required to accommodate. If you are an absent-minded person like me, I highly recommend you have a daily planner or a to-do list (daily, weekly and monthly). It helps you not to miss deadlines and make yourself deal with matters more systematically.

If you have come across any issues which are out of your control, remember there is always somebody you can get help from and chat with.  If you need advice on friendships, relationships, where to get information on housing, finances, or academic issues, you can contact the College Advisory Teams (CAT Teams). You can also book a one-off appointment to talk through any issues you have come across through the Let’s Talk service. The service is booked by phone. No self-referral is required.

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.

Top 4 decisions that helped me enjoy my first 40 days on campus

By Femi Falodun (Student Blogger: MSc Advanced Marketing Management)

The last 40 days have been the most intellectually stimulating period of my life! It has also been the longest period I have spent away from my country and family, but it’s been a wonderful experience overall.

The most interesting thing for me is how surprisingly ‘easy’ and comfortable settling down has been, considering how much I worried before arriving.

I came to Lancaster University with considerable work experience having served as a senior executive at one of Nigeria’s leading communications consultancies. So, I was quite confident about my abilities to cope with the rigorous schedule and workload that one would expect from studying Advanced Marketing Management at one of the UK’s top schools. This notwithstanding, I was a bit worried about the unknown.

While reflecting on my experience so far over the past few weeks, I identified 4 simple decisions I made which have really helped to make my experience so far very pleasant:

1) Being sure that I really wanted this: I have been obsessed with marketing for over a decade and really wanted to study at Lancaster because of the marketing department’s pedigree and reputation. One of contemporary marketing’s leading thinkers, Prof. Mark Ritson speaks often about Lancaster’s marketing department and this got me really interested and to study where he got his undergraduate and doctorate degrees. With the love for the course and school in my heart, waking up everyday to face my tasks never felt like a burden or pain.

2) Planning well to start well: I spent several weeks packing for my trip to Lancaster. I had a spreadsheet with a list of things to buy and what to pack, ensuring that I wouldn’t have any need to go shopping in the first 2 weeks after my arrival, especially considering that I needed to self-isolate for 10 days due to covid-19 travel restrictions. I also chose to live on campus because I wanted the simplicity of not having to commute, plus unlimited round-the-clock access to facilities like the library. I also chose to arrive on campus at least 2 weeks before the start of the term. These decisions enabled me to settle down quickly, comfortably and with confidence.

3) Developing healthy routines: Humans are creatures of habits and developing good habits generally increases productivity. I had learned this from my work experience, so I consciously developed some routines around sleeping, waking up, preparing for class, taking notes, doing readings, eating, cooking, shopping, writing, staying connected to family back home, and so on. The routines have made life quite easy.

4) Staying connected to people: Being isolated and not connected enough to the ‘community’ of students in the class will be one of the quickest ways to fall into struggle-mode. By quickly making friends, helping others and regularly asking for help when I need it, I have been able to stay in tune and in touch with happenings within the department. Things can become overwhelming and confusing at times, however staying in touch with others via group chats, emails, Teams and face-to-face chats will go a long way in ensuring you don’t miss out on important information, updates and even opportunities. This has really helped me, and the idea of connecting with people applies to classmates, flat mates, students from your country, academics, porters, the student union and the programme team.

These are some of the key factors that have helped me settle down and enjoy my first 40 days at Lancaster University.

I am HOME SICK! Are you too?

By Sagarika (Student Blogger: MSc Human Resource Management)

Are you homesick too? I definitely am! C’mon, let’s just admit to the fact that every incoming student has this tiny little feeling at a corner of their heart that keeps pulling them back to their lovely family and friends they’ve left behind. Yeah, that’s the homesickness kicking in!

That street vendor at the end of your lane, that local food stall you loved, that incredibly delicious mom-made food, that hug of your best friend, you are missing them soooo badly right now! I can totally feel you, coz I’m missing them too! All the festivals being celebrated, all that family fun, all those crazy parties, all the trips that your friends are taking, all the fun you left behind is pulling you an inch closer towards your home again. The warmth of your mother, the caringly angry father, the naughty annoying brother/sister, and your insanely mad friends, would you ever have imagined that you would miss them this awfully one day? But you know what? They are missing you too and they are not away from you, nor will they ever be. They are just a phone call away. And mate! you are not alone. Everybody around you is feeling the same. It’s just that some express it, and some don’t. But let me tell you a secret to keep them closer to you. Keep that crazy picture you took with your friends and that homey picture you took with your family on your desk/pin-board/wall or just anywhere else and every time you see that (though you might miss them more) you know they are here with you.

Hey! YOU ARE HERE! The one place that you strived for, the one place where you dreamed of being, the one place that will take you closer to your destination, the one place that will make your dreams come true, the one place that you CHOSE to be at. So, take a leap or should I say you already took a leap! Now all that’s left to do is live this moment you have been dreading for. YOU MADE IT! You made it past COVID, you made it across the borders, you made it through the seas to this beautiful city of Lancaster.

Make new friends, visit exquisite places, try a variety of cuisines, understand different cultures and lifestyles, it’s YOUR time to experience a whole new life! And those people that you are thinking of right now, your friends and your family, are eagerly waiting for you to make loads and loads of memories to share with them. They are wanting to see you happy, to see you having fun, to see you pass this new phase of life, and heartily waiting to see what you take back home for them! So don’t forget their gifts! 😛

Now, let’s just find a home away from home to stop feeling sick and start an exciting journey. Let’s create wonderful memories that we can take back home (the place that you are terribly missing right now :P)!

Adapting to the new world!

By Aditi (Student Blogger: BSc Marketing)

Higher education, as we all know, is an integral part of our lives. After our school is over, we all try our best to get into great universities and colleges. Some of you, like me, might have dreams to go and study in a different country, make new experiences and get exposed to new environments, cultures and ideas. Just like many others, I wanted to go and study in England.

I had these big hopes, big desires, and bigger dreams, and I just wanted to bring them to reality by gaining world-class knowledge and experiences at a good university.

So, my research got me to Lancaster university, the name of which I had never even heard about. Funny enough, but little did I know it was going to be one of the places I dreamt of. It’s not easy to shift to a completely different country, where you hardly know anyone and anything. But, my dreams and hopes got me here to Lancaster.

Initially, it was hard. I am extremely close to my family and living far away from them was a great challenge. In the beginning, everything seems very new and unseen. I’m sure most of you might have felt the same in the initial week but I hope things might have become a little better now.

I read somewhere, “It is so so important to leave your home at your 20s or else you’ll never be able to fully succeed in life”. Profound enough. I think it is so important to finally step out of your comfort zone and move out. This is the only way to reach great heights and become fully independent.

It’s been more than 15 days now in Lancaster, and I’ve already learned so much. Adapting to a different environment and life isn’t easy but it is not impossible either. Here are some ways that helped me adapt better. Making my daily TO-DO lists. I think if you define the tasks for your day, you won’t think about any unwanted thoughts and just focus on those tasks the entire day. It’s the trick to stay busy, because when you stay busy, you think less about being away from your family. This has helped me the most, trust me. Secondly, listening to some motivational podcasts by great speakers or reading a good book helps. It can literally change your entire mood. Thirdly, try to interact with new people around and build friendships. Go out and explore the new city you are in, cook some amazing food that you’ve never cooked, attend your lectures on time and research as much as you can and lastly just remember your ultimate goal for this new life that you’ve chosen. Study and gain as much as you can, make the most out of this golden opportunity, be the best version of yourself and make your parents proud.

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!

My Dissertation Journey

By Manuella (Student blogger: Economics and International Relations)

If I am to be asked to describe writing a dissertation in a word; adventurous would be that word, especially having done it in the age of our new normal. I cannot begin to explain how bitter sweet the journey has been and if you have made it this far, I give my accolades because you deserve to be applauded and I wish you the very best. That said, I think I want to share my journey and how much fun I have had doing it. I am however glad to inform you that we are seeing the end of this race and there are a few things I have learnt along the way.

Five Hacks to a Smooth Dissertation Experience

  1. Start your dissertation early

I was privileged to have my friends as well as lecturers who through class discussions helped me decide on a topic as early as my last trimester in my second year. That enabled me to narrow my research down to a specific area of study. This advantage motivated my study group to do the same, and eventually we all had a writing timeline in the middle of summer 2020. This was quite challenging, as everyone was in lockdown and we were not mentally motivated to start extensive research, but this gave us the luxury of time to learn and navigate our research at our own pace. Thereby if you start your dissertation early you will have a longer deadline and peace of mind when typing your research paper.

  1. Have a group of accountability partners

Schooling in a pandemic takes time to adjust to, thereby if you are to accomplish a lot, you will need people to constantly hold you accountable and motivate you. It is also exciting when you and your friends turn it into a game of who finishes first and writes best. Take a chance and try it out.

  1. Have a genuine interest in your topic of choice

In order to fully enjoy the process, you must have a passion for it. Year three for me concludes my bachelor’s degree experience and I have been privileged to learn and gain knowledge with some outstanding people. I needed that to translate into my research paper and it felt more fulfilling researching a topic I have had countless academic debates about in class.

  1. Start cross-checking and taking feedback early

One of the best ways to know whether you are doing your work right is to hear it from another perspective. As aforementioned, I am privileged to be in such a good learning environment, and I used that advantage to make sure I was writing my very best. My dissertation writing strategy included: discussing my outline with my friends over a zoom call, cross checking that outline with another friend who graduated a year before me, before delving into the topic with my supervisor and academic services. After getting feedback I adjusted accordingly and repeated the whole cycle again. This also boosted my confidence when writing as I knew my mistakes were being pointed out.

  1. Self-care is key

You can only be the best version of yourself when you are in the best health. So in as much as you are racing against a deadline with added course works and assignment, take time out for yourself. During the course of writing my research paper, there were certain zoom calls that were purposely to relieve stress between my study mates and I, we often talked about movies, frustrations, and shared some needed banter to keep us calm. We even planned a lunch date as a reward for submitting on time and checking off our goals list. The said lunch served as an incentive for us all, and it was fun.

All in all, year three like I said has been quite the adventure, and I have enjoyed every moment of it. I do hope that these tips will help motivate you and educate you on the way in which to sail through third year easier. All my best to you and do have fun along the journey.

My online exam revision techniques

By Jojo (Student blogger: BSc Hons Economics)

Online exams are quite new to most of us. The university has set out different assessment formats for different modules. And my exams are all 2.5-hour single setting ones. So, I guess my exams do resemble the ‘real exams’, other than they are open book and involve having to type up my solutions.

Speaking of the new exam format, since it is open book, I have created a new set of revision strategies for myself. By all means, my revision techniques may or may not work for you and your subjects. So please do just see them as advice. And also, since my major is Economics, some of the revision techniques, namely the ones that are most efficient for tackling quantitative questions may not be viable for say an English major student.

I have to confess that I am not a big fan of flashcard revision. However, if you love doing flashcard revision, please do carry on, it may work for you!

My principal method of revision is to do questions, and I am keen to try out a wide range of questions on one topic. As I am an Economics student, there is a lot of quantitative stuff involved, so I always like to try out a variation of questions on one topic so that I can get how exam questions are generally being asked, and try to avoid any gaps in knowledge. So, let me give you an example, say the question asks you to find equilibrium solutions for a function. During revision, I would go through different types of functions, being careful not to do repetitive work on finding the solution of one particular function. The benefit of doing this is that you will have a better understanding of the topic. Also, you are less likely to panic in the exam if different variations of questions have already been practiced by you.

The other thing I like to do is to go through textbooks and PDFs (which can be sourced from One Search or Google). The one thing you have to appreciate is that the internet really does make things easier sometimes. Although we are Lancaster students, we do have access to a lot more learning content on the internet, such as PDFs from MIT, Yale and so on. The point is that these PDFs could help to enhance one’s understanding of the topic. This is because the lecture slides offered by lecturers are only a starting point, and people generally may not be able to cover everything in one lecture, so sourcing other resources to enrich your understanding of the topic is important. Moreover, I can’t stress enough the importance of textbooks, I have a lot of friends who have never looked into any textbooks in their learning (I mean yeah you could still do well if you don’t read the textbook, but…). Textbooks generally introduce and explain relevant topics which you can then build on with further reading. So, if you do have spare time for revision, try to read the textbook.

Revision techniques vary from people to people, and I just offered some of my own revision routines. Like I have mentioned before, not all people would benefit from doing what I am doing, just use the methods that you are most comfortable with and you will just do fine! So good luck!! 😉

Tips to Ace your Online Open-Book Exams

By Leanne (Student blogger: Business Management)

It’s time for the most crucial part of the academic year – finals. For many of us, these exams could make or break our final grade.

During the pandemic, most of us are faced with online open-book exams. At first, this might sound like a blessing, but we’ll soon find out that a relaxed deadline and uncontrolled environment could lead to our long-dreaded familiar friend – procrastination.

To avoid slacking and last-minute panicking, here are a few tips to ensure you’re prepared to ACE your online open-book exams!

  1. Create effective summary notes

I hate to break it to you but… relying on your search function isn’t enough! Creating your own concise and effective summary notes can reduce the time you spend searching through lecture notes. Take this as an opportunity to actively recall important parts of your lectures and process information in your own words.

  1. Apply your skills

Markers will be grading your answers based on how you tackle each question, this is especially relevant in essay-based exams. You should be focusing on forming linkages with frameworks taught in class and building a strong argument.

  1. Take the time to plan

Stay calm when reading your exam questions. Thoroughly examine and understand the question instead of jumping directly into it. Be cautious when identifying theories and structure your answers with clarity (e.g. PEEL answering technique).

  1. Practice time-keeping

A 23-hour submission timeframe might sound ideal until you find yourself being too relaxed during the exam, potentially leading to a lack of focus, discipline and critical thinking. We can combat this by practicing past papers, doing our best to stick to the given time and double checking our answers. The bottom line is: “One always has time enough, if one will apply it well.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  1. Don’t forget your mental health

Your grades do not define you! It’s important to remind yourself that you have enrolled onto the course and picked these subjects because of your interests. The skills you have nurtured over these past few months will benefit your career and life even if it does not show on paper. Your university experience is a stepping stone in life that guides you closer to where you are meant to be.

With all that being said, I wish you good luck in your online exams and all the best!