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As everyone settles a little more into term-time life, we catch up with Ros McDermott, a third year student on her year abroad, and hear about the first Cultural Programme events of the year.

Our third years are scattered around the world on their year abroad, a chance for LANS students to experience other cultures and explore other countries. We asked our third years to write to us about their experiences and student Ros McDermott sent us a note from Singapore.

“Hi guys! I have been at NUS in Singapore for nearly 3 months now which I think is when you really start to feel settled in your new life. I feel so lucky to have had this crazy experience so I will just go over some highlights, any challenges I had whilst here and some thoughts on year abroad.

“Singapore is a travel hub (super cheap to fly from) and exchange students here make the most of it. I wasn’t really expecting just how much everyone would want to travel (so saving up some extra travel money before is a really good idea!). So far, I have been to Kuala Lumpur, Phuket and Bangkok in Thailand, North Vietnam, and hope to try to do Bali and Cambodia before the end of term. Especially for someone who didn’t do any travelling before University this has been the best experience I could have wished for.

Rice fields in Sapa, Vietnam.

Rice fields in Sapa, Vietnam

“I have heard it described as being sort of like a Disney park for tourists before, and sometimes it can feel a little inauthentic but the experiences you can have in the main city and the architecture are insane (rooftop bars across the city and pool parties are commonplace and usually free for exchangers). However, there are also beautiful areas such as China Town, Little India and Arab street which feel more authentic, each having their own communities and festivals (e.g Chinese New Year).

A pool party

A pool party Ros went to for exchangers.

“Expect a sort of Freshers’ part two which will be even more disorientating as you are in a whole new country. Homesickness will be a completely normal part of your experience. Not feeling settled can lead you to make friends with the first exchangers you meet in the manic first few weeks but take time to remember that you can be picky and choose people you genuinely get on with. Finally, something no one mentioned to me before- apart from UK students, most of your friends if they are international students will be leaving after the first Semester and a whole new wave will come in the next term!”

From a villa in Phuket, Thailand.

a villa in Phuket, Thailand

We’re super excited to hear from more of our third-year students as the year progresses and sincerely hope all of them, across the world, are enjoying their time away.

Back in Brum, this year’s Cultural Programme kicked off with a theatre trip to watch Robin French’s new play, Rebel Music – a show about how three teenagers navigate racial politics in 1970s Birmingham by confronting nationalism with music and inclusivity. We asked Eve Tanner, an attending first-year, to tell us about the event.

“First year LANS students rocked against racism last Tuesday when they went to see a production of ‘Rebel Music’ at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. In the first act, Denise joins a social movement which puts both Punk and Reggae bands on the same ballot to unite music fans of different backgrounds. The play incorporates all the excitement of youth, first concerts, boyfriends and newfound freedom with a contrasting background threat of the neo-Nazi National Front; who not are not only a physical danger to the three teenagers but present a far more concerning threat to society as a whole. ‘Rebel Music’ sparked discussion into the modern political climate of the UK, with racial tensions still prevalent in society, and how these have arguably been heightened during Brexit debate. Despite a more sombre ending Rebel Music’s lasting impact, for me at least, is a celebration of both musical diversity but more importantly the empowering message that people once united can overcome adversity and make positive lasting changes to society.”

Photo courtesy of Birmingham Repertory Theatre.


Our second event this week was a talk from author Elizabeth Day about her new book, ‘How To Fail’. In conversation with journalist Sathnam Sanghera, Day talked candidly about the parts of her life that weren’t so great, the parts that she, and perhaps society, would consider a failure. Your correspondent noticed that each of our students took something different away from the talk, using their own experiences to consider how they’d ‘failed’ in the past and why they chose to categorise events as such. Perhaps culture is partly to blame, Day noted that she had expected her twenties to be a bit like This Life, a 1996 BBC drama about twentysomething lawyers living extravagant lives, and the resulting comparison had been disheartening. Perhaps the opinions of others are partly to blame, Day explained how the social expectations associated with being a middle-class woman often made her feel like she had failed due to a divorce and a miscarriage (she really did talk candidly). But perhaps, Day suggested, the main reason we might feel like failures is because we forget that failure is natural and, more importantly, that we can learn lessons from it. Attendees left the talk mulling over their lives, mostly uplifted, some pensive and a little more self-aware.

Elizabeth Day in conversation with Santham Sanghera.

Speakers at an event

And finally, we’d like to congratulate our LANS Football team, who took to the pitch on Friday morning and won their first match! The score was 3-0 with two goals scored by Dom Boyes and one from Wilfred Nokes. If you’re interested in joining our football or netball team, please contact Ellie Holden, our LANS sports representative.

Our LANS Football team take the pitch.

students playing football

That’s it for this week! If any LANS students or staff have anything they’d like to be included in next week’s newsletter please contact Katharine Pogson or Adam Dorey. We hope everyone’s settling back into the university routine and hope you have a wonderful week.