Life At Uni

Rachel Torralba Lancaster University, England


October 19, 2017

It didn’t fully set in that I was in a foreign country until I got to Uni and was asked, “are you American?” for the hundredth time. It’s fun to hear all of the different accents here and almost everyone can tell where I’m from within minutes of speaking with me. It’s so strange to be in a foreign country where things are similar but there are also some noticeable differences. Here are some of the top differences I’ve noticed about Uni so far:

Freshers’ week and housing

The week before classes, every fresher (aka first year or freshman) gets to go through a welcome week of sorts. There are a ton of activities and lectures during the day and then nighttime activities. Housing here is a little different too. We each live in a building, called a house, and there are two halls, called flats, on each floor. It’s kind of like an apartment. Each flat has a college rep who is there to answer any questions the freshers have and they plan events at night. They are sort of like RAs in the States. All of the rooms here are singles too which is very different from the U.S. In fact, the other students here couldn’t even imagine sharing a room like we do in the States.

Freshers’ flu

Apparently, every fresher gets sick during the first few weeks of school and it’s called the freshers’ flu. It’s not necessarily the flu, mostly just a ton of people coughing and sneezing/ blowing their nose during class. Unfortunately, I have contracted the fresher’s flu, and I can tell you, it is not the highlight of my experience so far.


There are multiple lecturers who teach a class. For one of my classes, it’s one lecturer for half the term and a different one for the other half of the term. But for a different class, I will just randomly have one of the two lecturers each week or possibly a guest lecturer. In addition, some classes have a lecture one day a week and a seminar a different day, or maybe a workshop thrown in somewhere. To add to the confusion, lectures may not be at the same time, on the same day of week, or at the same location each week. Although this can get very confusing, I like having the variety.

I really like getting the different lecturers’ perspectives on different subjects but it would also be nice to have consistency. In addition, the seminars are taught by a tutor. This is similar to a teaching assistant (TA) or supplemental instructor (SI) in the States. Seminars are small groups of about 15 students and they’re great for discussion of the week’s lectures.


Lancaster University has its own app, which is pretty cool. The campus is larger than my home University and it’s great to have an app with a map of the University. We enter in our attendance through the app, which may or may not work, depending on the day. The app also has bus information, laundry information, and each student’s timetable (aka class schedule). I have been using this app so much and it’s super helpful, I know it will be one of the more useful things I will definitely miss about being here. 

You never really know how great things are until they’re gone, so here are some things I have come to really appreciate about my home University:

Book lists

At my home University, there’s a textbook store and online site. For each class, you just put it into the site and it will give you exactly what books are required for the class. Here, you have to look at the syllabus, which you can find online, and figure out what books you need to buy and which books you can just get from the library. Also, you probably won’t have access to this syllabus until the first day of class.

While I like that there are typically not required textbooks, it is very stressful coming from an education system that requires at least one textbook per class. It’s great not spending over $500 on textbooks per semester when I can just get them from the library but it would also be great to get a list ahead of time!

Online registration

Here, registration is all in person. There’s a day during freshers’ week where everyone queues (lines-up) outside of a room. Inside of the room are a ton of tables where a representative of each department will be. Most people are pre-registered for classes and will just require the signature of the representative, but others will need to sign up for classes. It’s really stressful not knowing times and classes before the first week of class. I spent a lot of time after this trying to find the representatives in their offices because of timetable clashes. I have really come to appreciate being able to register for classes online and not having to run around campus to find people. But I did get to know more about campus and learn where different department offices were, so that was a plus.

Meal plans

It’s great having a kitchen here but it was so nice having a meal plan. There are a ton of fast food places at Lancaster and each college has a bar (which is essentially a big room for socializing and events with a place to order food/drinks). For the most part, the only time I see my flatmates is when we’re cooking in the kitchen. I’m proud to say that none of us have managed to burn anything and set off the fire alarm (which they take VERY seriously here. All of the doors have some variation of “fire door, keep shut” on them. I’m never sure which door is safe to open and which one might set off an alarm). We have also had some great conversations in the kitchen, as it’s the only gathering space we have in our flat.

Free laundry, clubs, and other free stuff

I have really come to appreciate free laundry at my home University, we have to get laundry cards here and it can add up quickly. If you want to join a society (which is what they call clubs), you have to pay for membership, it makes me really appreciate free clubs. Having to pay for them has really helped me narrow down what I actually want to do here though, so that’s a plus. 

It's been great being at Lancaster so far. It’s a ton of fun to be able to go into town and meet new people. While I have come to appreciate a lot of things at my home University a lot more, I look forward to learning all about what Lancaster has to offer.