What academic support can language students access?

by Nathan Gaskill

Studying at university is quite a step-up from studying for your A-Levels; you study more independently, apply different skills, and use different resources. That’s why it’s totally normal to find yourself struggling with your uni work at times. Luckily, there is an array of academic support on offer at Lancaster to help you with your learning needs. In this blog I will explore the support available for languages students such as myself.

Support from the Department

My favourite thing about the Department of Languages and Cultures (DeLC) is our real community spirit. Because we are a medium-sized department, everyone gets to know each other very well, and you develop a good working relationship with both academic staff and fellow students. I think this is best demonstrated through the extensive programme of extracurricular events the department runs, including trips abroad, wine-tasting evenings, and the infamous DeLC karaoke nights! There is a warm, welcoming atmosphere in DeLC, and I have always felt comfortable approaching people for help. Unlike the university scenes you see in Hollywood movies, characterised by busy professors with austere teaching styles, we refer to staff by their first name and they always have plenty of time to address our concerns. I feel comfortable emailing my lecturers about any problems that I may have, and if I want to discuss the issue face-to-face, I can always drop into their office during an office hour.

DeLC also supports my learning through an ‘Academic Advisor’ system. Every student in the department is paired with a member of staff with whom they meet termly to discuss the progress they are making. I am provided with the questions we will discuss beforehand so that I am able to reflect on my learning; these include questions like ‘Do you feel that you are making adequate progress linguistically, in terms of your cultural knowledge, and in terms of your analytical skills?’ and ‘How do you feel about the goals and intentions you had set for yourself this year?’. I find these meetings with my Academic Advisor really useful, and it is always helpful to have a friendly face who you can go to with any problems.

Study spaces

If you’re looking for a quiet place to learn languages on campus, look no further than DeLC’s very own Resource Centre. Nestled within the walls of the County Main building, the Resource Centre is a laid-back study space for all language students that houses handy resources (books, DVDs, computers, etc.) to help you with your language learning. I spend a lot of time on campus volunteering in the Resource Centre as a student helper, giving people advice about the resources we have on offer. I can also meet up with my friends here and do some relaxed group study whilst sat on the sofas. I really enjoy studying in the Resource Centre because it is well equipped to support my learning and it’s a great social space to hang out with other languages students.

The Resource Centre also has a digital presence! Via the Moodle learning portal you can access a library of digital language resources, including online access to foreign language TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. These resources are regularly updated, which is particularly important as we do more and more of our learning online.

Improving your learning

The study skills required to complete your degree are quite different to those used at A-Level, and the university understands this. That’s why from the very start of my course I have benefited from the department’s programme of academic skills workshops. Beginning in Welcome Week with workshops on studying independently, revising effectively, and referencing (which at times feels like a completely foreign language itself!), this schedule continues throughout your degree, focusing on the different skills your assessments require. For example, in my second year I attended a workshop on writing reflectively, which came in handy when I was asked to write a reflective essay in Spanish.

All in all, university studies may seem daunting at times, but there is a network of academic support in place in the Department of Languages and Cultures to help you with any problem that arises. I feel very supported as a languages student, and I know that there is always someone in the department I can go to if I am struggling with my work. This gives me a great deal of confidence to take on new challenges as I complete my degree.

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Nathan is a second year undergraduate at Lancaster University, and is studying French Studies and Spanish Studies.

Lancaster University employs students to create authentic content from a student perspective. All views expressed in this article are those of the students, and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Lancaster University.