Overseas university spotlight: Lancaster University (UK)
Two and a half hours from London on the main train line up to Edinburgh is where you'll find Lancaster University in the northwest of England.
Within 30 minutes of the beautiful Lake District, the campus just so happens to be set in 560 acres of parkland itself.
Founded in 1964, it's a modern campus with 15,000 students, half of whom live in its award-winning university housing.
And this housing is really what sets Lancaster apart; all students are allocated to one of eight colleges (residential communities), an affiliation in which they maintain for life.
Here are some of the highlights from my trip to campus in May 2022!
Unlike Oxford and Cambridge, who also have college systems, Lancaster's colleges are non-academic; however, each one has its own bar, social space, sports teams, debate teams, organized trips, etc.
Each member of staff is linked with a college, too, and there are activities that are college-specific (such as winter balls or intercollegiate competitions), mixing both staff and students from that particular college and fostering a strong sense of belonging.
Students choose a college when they apply for housing based on budget and features; for example, there are some colleges that are more into sport, some that are more into music, etc.
There are typically anywhere from 1,500 to 1,800 students per college, and rooms are mostly ensuite besides the townhomes that accommodate 12 students with six bathrooms.
Each college has a principal, college manager, dean, accommodation manager, advisors and wellbeing officer, and at the end of the degree, students also graduate by college.
Beyond the colleges, campus life is also vibrant; for example, there is an annual sporting competition between Lancaster Uni and the University of York students called the Roses Tournament, which alternates location every year.
It actually takes its name from the 15th century civil war, the Wars of the Roses, which occurred between the House of Lancaster and House of York and is possibly the largest inter-university sports tournament in Europe.
Considered one of the UK's top 15 universities, Lancaster has a wide range of programs, but its management school is one of the more famous departments.
During our visit, we got to experience taster sessions from the creative writing and law departments.
Lancaster also has a medical school, though there are only four places for international students in this program.
In addition to the support offered by the colleges, Lancaster shines for its wide range of other options, depending on the type of services needed.
"The Wednesday Thing" is a series of hour-long sessions on skills development or other common issues, such as procrastination, dealing with anxiety, time management and self-esteem, to name a few.
There's also daily slots that can be booked via the "Let's Talk" program, tea and chat, trivia and chat, well-being walks, peer mentoring, career support for life, as well as LGBTQ+ and BAME (black, asian and minority ethnic) specialist services.
The city of Lancaster is 10 minutes by bus or 15 minutes by bike from campus and home to a population of about 90,000.
A focal point of the city is the Lancaster Castle, which has a dark history as a prison for many years and the place where many trials and executions took place.
Many people have heard of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, but it was actually the Pendle witches tried here at the castle in 1612 that set the precedent (10 accused witches were executed).
Lancaster University: Summary
If you're looking for a campus-based university with strong school spirit in a beautiful part of the country, Lancaster is a great choice.
Its student support and focus on community-building through the college system is top notch, especially for someone who might find it more difficult being far away from family for the first time.
As a student, you can get everything you need right on campus (even multiple hair salons!), and you're just a short train ride away from accessing some other pretty cool and scenic places in the UK.