As we walked out of Manchester Airport that rainy Sunday morning, we knew that we were in a foreign land. There was a certain amount of expectation but when it dawned on us that we were in England and on our way to one of the best universities in the world, an awesome feeling overcame us with no words to describe that moment. For most of us, it was our first time going overseas and leaving our homes to be on our own. We were anxious, excited, to be honest a little worried but above all else we were looking forward to it. We hoped to learn about Britain and the British culture and also to take back some of the best practices used by Lancaster University students in their student societies in hopes of improving how we do things back home. Of course, we had in our minds what things would be like, but what followed truly blew our minds!
We attended several workshops and mini educational session during our two weeks there. Joe Burgless conducted two workshops with us (Creativity & Leadership). It was exciting to know that we have the capacity to be creative and capability to lead better (with more practice of course). Besides the Creativity and Leadership workshops, learning about Safeguarding was a definite eye-opener since the UK is much more serious with their measures concerning Safeguarding children. Similar to an average CEO or high-ranking executives, we had more than a handful of meetings. We enjoyed planning short activity sessions for the children Lancaster University was actively involved with. Some interesting venues in which our meet-ups were held were the Pizzetta Republic, The Sultan and Graduate Bar, a typical English bar. Rather than reading a written mail, it is definitely different than when talking to someone, getting to know them and listening to what they have got to say about university life, among other things. We also had meetings to discuss the itinerary and various other details of the Summer programme (Lancaster students coming to Sunway University in Malaysia).
There were various activities organized by LUSU particularly LUSU Involve, Voltage and GreenLancaster. Under LUSU Involve, we volunteered in an activity of delivering a science project to primary school children. The four branches (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Environment) were further broken down into smaller stations where we participated as station masters. We also had the privilege of visiting the Willow Lane Primary School where we observed, assisted the children in their math exercises and introduced Malaysian traditional activities such as the “Anak Ayam” (chicks) and some basic “Tai Chi” to the children. On another occasion, we also delivered an hour’s session on Malaysian traditional games (chop chilli chop and lat-tali-lat) to the primary school, a LUSU Voltage event. An interesting discovery we made was the different teaching methods between both countries in which both having their respective strengths and weaknesses. While lessons are delivered in small groups through interactive sessions in the UK, classes in Malaysia are conducted in a disciplined and rigid manner where students are provided with plentiful exercises to practice on. Classes in Malaysia are also comparatively larger with an average of 40 students a class. Besides that, we also participated in a GreenLancaster activity where we transplanted seedlings from trays to ground soils. These activities brought us great enjoyment by providing us the opportunity to experience the ‘real’ student life in Lancaster. It also allowed us to build friendships with those we met and worked with throughout our stay in Lancaster.
During our stay at Lancaster University, travelling around the neighboring cities was another good experience. Lancaster Castle was the first place we visited. After the adventurous castle tour, we stopped by Lancaster town. Another place we visited was Williamson’s Park and it was the one of the most beautiful parks we have been to. We also visited the mausoleum and saw the magnificent panoramic view of Lancaster town. On Saturday, we took a trip to Blackpool whereby we spent the day shopping for the “rocks” and other things as well as sight-seeing. On Sunday, we departed early to the Lake District. Unfortunately, the day was cloudy and wet. Upon reaching Windermere Lake, we stopped for lunch at a nice bar where we had trout, fish and chips and cabonara. After lunch, we headed off for a boat ride. It was a good ride with the scenery and each of us had a hand at steering the boat. The Wonderful World of Beatrix Potter was the next place we visited, and it was really a different world altogether. Manchester was the last place we visited. We went to Old Trafford, had a tour in and out of the whole stadium while continuously thinking of how our friends who are Man-U fans envied us for having this opportunity. Coming from the city, Lancaster is certainly a very green, quiet and peaceful heritage town.
During our March study trip to Lancaster, we were privileged to be given the opportunity of learning new skills and experiencing campus lifestyle in the U.K. as we realised that students in Lancaster are more involved in extra-curricular activities whilst Malaysian students are more academic-focused. Having attended various workshops, meetings and organising several sessions for school children, we discovered new perspectives on creativity and leadership, learnt interaction, and improved brainstorming skills. Our experiences are also broadened by the manner, extent and commitment Lancaster University have towards volunteering work.
On the whole, this trip was an extremely insightful, enriching and way beyond our expectation. We are truly thankful for the arrangements made such as our accommodation, transportation, meal and itinerary arrangements which were well balanced and organized. Besides that, we will also never forget the wonderful companies of people whom we have had the privilege of meeting such as the volunteers who took us around on trips (Sarah Shorrock, Luke, Jonny Casey), as well as the JCRs and LUIS who have given us their valuable time in extending such warm hospitality to us. For the people whom we have had the opportunity to work with, share our values with and gain valuable knowledge from (Kim, Joe Burgless, Joe Bourne, George, Olly, Laura, James, Darren, Greg, Society Leaders, LUSU Officers) and others whom we have met along the way during our visit there, it has been a real joy for us to have crossed paths with you. To Steve Bradley, Amanda Chadwin, Steven Parkins, thank you for fitting us in your tight schedules and it has been a great honour for us to be able to meet you. Also, thanks to Lizzie and Emily for fitting our piece into SCAN Newspaper too! Of course not forgetting, Sarah Hinton, Heather Yates and Ben Matthews who have been with us all the way through our stay, a BIG THANK YOU is the least we can say for everything you have done for us. This has been a one-of-a-kind experience we will always cherish and thank God for. For anything that any of us have done during our stay there which has been offending in any way, we offer you our deepest apologies. We are truly grateful to be a part of this initiative and we hope that this blossoming initiative will continue to be solidly established in the years to come.