***This post will be updated periodically, so check back every now and again***
While this list is certainly not a portrayal of everything you should do upon arrival at Lancaster University, it included some things you would definitely not think about…unless you have been there.
***This list is catered towards exchange students and will most likely only make sense to them.
1 . Get a UK sim card (a pay as you go/monthly) plan or make sure your phone will work internationally.
This will allow you to access the internet (while not on WiFi) and make calls/texts to other UK numbers. In addition, you can add a balance to the card to allow for international calling (although I recommend WhatsApp as it is free). Sim Cards can be purchased at O2, Vodafone, and other major carriers in the UK. To ease anxiety, there is a Vodafone and O2 shops in Lancaster (if you are worried about not being able to access the internet upon immediate arrival at Manchester, don’t be…you can have access to the WiFi for free for up to two hours).
2 . Download all the necessary apps you will need.
The post I wrote on a majority of the apps I use while at Lancaster can be found by clicking here. These apps are essential to making your life and the transition easier while at Lancaster…not to mention they are all super simple.
3 . Test out your payment method (Credit/Debit Card or other)
The first thing I would do upon arriving at Manchester Airport would be to verify that your payment method works abroad. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. If you land in a foreign country and have no way of paying for things, that is an issue. If this turns out to be the case, start making calls right away. What I personally did was make a cheat sheet of any numbers I may need and I also brought around 200GBP in cash as well. Definitely get cash before leaving the States in case any immediate emergencies arise. ***If your phone does not work upon arriving in Manchester, there are phones you can use in the Airport.
THE REMAINDER OF THIS POST ADDRESSES THINGS YOU SHOULD DO UPON ARRIVAL IN LANCASTER: SOME OF THIS INFORMATION WILL BE DISTRIBUTED TO YOU THROUGH CAMPUS HANDOUTS/EMAILS/AND SUCH…BUT THIS IS PERSONALLY WHAT I FOUND TO BE VERY HELPFUL/NOT PUBLICIZED SUPER WELL…
1 . Get a 16-25 Railcard
Yes, that is what it is actually called…and no, you cannot purchase one of these while in the United States (as they will only deliver to UK addresses). However, there is a staffed train station in Lancaster where you can purchase one of these; they will require a photo but I recommend paying 5GBP or so in the station to use the photo booth as the photo must be a specific size. The railcard earns you 33% off nearly every train ticket and will pay for itself after 4-5 decent rail trips. More information on the railcards can be found by clicking here.
2 . Familiarize yourself with the bus system from University into Lancaster itself.
The Lancaster University campus is situated a decent ways out from town, unlike in Ames you will not be able to walk into town. Although their are many lines that go from the University into town, Bus 1 and Bus 2 are the most frequent and quickest I believe. A link to the bus timetable can be found here and is very useful for all kinds of bus trips.
3 . Familiarize yourself with the trainline app and the train station/system in Lancaster
In addition to the bus station, there is a small train station in Lancaster as well. The station itself has five platforms and is vary easy to figure out/maneuver quickly. Personally, if you are uncomfortable with train travel, I recommend a trip to Blackpool North; the journey is short and usually includes a transfer which will allow you to see how that process works as well. If you have no experience with trains, I do not recommend booking a trip to London as your first experience. In addition, the trainline app is what I use to book all my trips and I discuss it at more lengths in my app post which can be accessed here.
4 . Get all settled in upon arrival!!
While this is a very broad point on the checklist, it cannot be ignored! If you take the university shuttle in from Manchester Airport (which I highly recommend) than you will be dropped off in the welcoming hands of a university representative that will direct you to your college (dorm area). There is absolutely no hassle involved, the university representatives will direct you where to go. Personally, I live in Fylde and am absolutely loving it; my experience on the first day included meeting people in the common room in addition to everything else. Your college will most likely be selling “welcome packages” for 8GBP or so…definitely purchase one of these! The package will provide you with a T-shirt and wristband that gives you access to all the welcome week events, along with some other goodies.
5 . Meet your freshers reps, plan YOUR welcome week schedule, get involved with fun events and flat-mates, keep your door OPEN, actually MEET others in your flat, and attend all compulsory events (including the freshers fair!).
This point is quite extensive…so I will start from the beginning. Your freshers reps will consist of 2-3 awesome people from the University that are students who have lived in your college in the past. My freshers reps were awesome, informative, kept us safe, and really showed us how to have a good time so far away from home. Next, plan your welcome week schedule online before arrival or through the Lancaster university app. It is imperative you look at all that is available as there is something for everyone. Next, get involved with the people reaching out to you that first week especially your flat mates. Forging relationships at the beginning of the term will make the time fly and will be much funner for everyone later on. For example, I lived in a flat that is all international students, (peeps from Australia, Malaysia, America, and Hong Kong) getting to meet and go out with all these people is a blast. Next, keep your door open, this allows for you to meet others way easier and makes it way less awkward when everyone is trying to connect that first week. Finally, attend all compulsory events…this is not an option and it is not wise to blow these off as you will be absolutely screwed once courses start.
6 . Get free stuff during welcome week
In Alexandria Square (the center hub of campus) there will be multiple tents that just give stuff out to students…this includes hangers, kitchenware, clothes, and a whole bunch of other stuff. As an exchange student who will be living abroad for 10 weeks, it can be very daunting to leave with one suitcase and a backpack (like I did). However, it is so easy to get what you need once you arrive on campus…therefore do not bring hangers/kitchen stuff/laundry stuff with you. This bring me to another option in my next point…
7 . Go to St. Johns Hospice (right off from Alexandria Square on campus)
No, this is not the Hospice that we think of in the States…this little shop is essentially a second hand everything store where the proceeds are given to charity. During welcome week, this place has TONS of kitchen stuff, TONS of clothes, and a bunch of other random stuff on the back wall! I highly recommend purchasing things here before trying to get them in town as the stuff is so cheap. However, you will need stuff from town, go to Wilkos, Primark, and Sainsbury’s. Ah, this leads me to my next point…
8 . Get Some Food in Ya!
If you are doing a self-catered plan (which I recommend) then you are going to have to figure out where to buy food. Unlike in the States, Hy-Vee, Walmart, and Target DO NOT exist in and around Lancaster. When it comes to food, Sainsbury’s is the way to go…why you ask? First, their generic products are cheap as hell. Second, you can do online ordering…I am so thankful my flat and I figured this out. Essentially, if you spend more than 30GBP you can have all your groceries delivered to your flat on campus; this eliminates the need to carry all your bags back with you on the bus…which can be a huge pain in the butt. What my flatmates and I did was make one order for 3-4 of us and then pay back the person who used their card with Venmo or cash – we found this to work quite well.
9 . Familiarize yourself with the Lancaster University Online Store
The store allows you to book trips, buy merchandise from your college (depending), and pay your college dues. I am a planner and used this site to book multiple trips that the university puts on; definitely check this site out early on in the term as some trips come up very quickly!
10 . Be responsible and safe during welcome week
There is nothing worse than getting sick, alienated, or worse during welcome week – do not let this happen to you. Compared to the States, drinking is legal here (18+), this can be very dangerous for students from the States who absolutely lose it in the booze. During welcome week you will most likely be going out every night (if you want to, if not there are game and movie nights on campus for other peeps…there is always something for everyone). Therefore, be responsible with your actions and how you treat those your with; if you go out that first week it will be with your flat-mates most likely. The worst thing you can do is get super drunk and piss off your flat-mates who will not want to be around you afterwards. Don’t be that guy! Finally, be safe, responsible, and look out for those around you.