My First Term of First Year: Settling in at Lancaster
by Catherine Brabin
Hi! I’m Catherine and I’m a first-year studying Theatre and English Literature at Lancaster. I’ve just completed my first month at university, so I thought now would be the perfect time to reflect on my experience and to talk about the services that Lancaster provide to help with the transition from home life to independent living. I hope you find this useful!
Your first week at uni can understandably be a very daunting time and I was definitely feeling a bit apprehensive about moving away from home. However, I have to assure you that it isn’t actually that scary once you take the plunge and living independently doesn’t feel so strange after the first couple of nights – and this is coming from someone who is very prone to homesickness.
To help you settle in initially, during Welcome Week your flat will be assigned a college rep who will happily answer any of your questions, guide you around some of the campus, and take you to the main events of the week. I found it reassuring to have someone on hand that knew Lancaster inside out and had experienced the same nerves that every first year was feeling, and I have to say my rep was integral to breaking the ice in the flat and making my first week so fun.
I also found that the collegiate system at Lancaster helped me to feel a sense of belonging from day one, as a little community was immediately created between myself and my fellow County College members. If you’re confused about how the collegiate system works at Lancaster, there’s plenty of information about this on the website and elsewhere online: check out this student's video guide to colleges, made by Digital Content Ambassador Abbie.
Something that I love about Lancaster is the Transitions Team and their commitment to making sure that everyone is settling in well.
They hold a Tea and Chat session every week which is free for anyone to attend, whether you're looking for a free cuppa, to talk about how you’re doing, or to meet new people. There are also themed wellbeing sessions, such as the Freaky Feast which was held recently to celebrate Halloween with cake decorating (and of course more tea)!
The Transitions Team also provide a Peer Mentoring scheme where you can meet up with an older student once a week for a bit more of a personal chat and to receive guidance from someone who’s already experienced the first year. I signed up for this because I thought it sounded a bit more casual and would be helpful for settling in, and I’m so glad that I did! Once a week I head over to the library to meet with Emma, a third-year student who studies English Literature like me, just to chat through my week and to work on any problems I’ve had. I find it quite therapeutic to reflect on what I’ve been up to each week as it can be quite hectic at uni and easy to forget everything that you’ve achieved, and it’s been useful to get an older student’s perspective and advice.
I’ve also attended a couple of voluntary Group Mentoring sessions where I’ve discussed my week with several other students and just had a general catch up, so if you’re looking for a smaller wellbeing event than Tea and Chat but don’t fancy the one-to-one Peer Mentoring programme this could be for you!
There are plenty more transitions activities that you can get involved in as I’ve only mentioned the few that I’ve got involved in here, and if you’re a bit nervous about starting uni as I was, I’d really recommend these as a great way of settling in!
As part of your course, you’ll be allocated an academic advisor who checks in on you from time to time to discuss how you’re finding the workload and to help you plan your future following your degree. I was allocated the lovely Karen who’s a part of LICA (pictured right) which covers the Theatre department.
My first meeting with her left me feeling both reassured and productive. We discussed my wellbeing and how I was finding the course, along with the sort of careers I’m interested in pursuing. This led Karen to suggest that I apply for a volunteering position working with secondary school students at The Dukes Theatre in town to help me start building my CV early. I left the meeting feeling really organised and on top of my game, as well as reassured that I can turn to Karen whenever I’m looking for advice during my degree or about my future. I’m looking forward to the rest of the opportunities that having an academic advisor may bring throughout the year!
As you can see, Lancaster provides plenty of services and opportunities to help you settle in. Try not to worry too much if you’re feeling nervous about first year, if you go into it with an open mind and throw yourself into as much as you can you’ll find that university can be a brilliant experience.