Your first term at York: What to expect

Let’s fast forward a year… you will have just completed your first term at the University of York, about to start your second term and ready to sit those all important exams! So what will you have just experienced?

Freshers’ Week

Freshers week
Reliving freshers week, as a STYC!

Freshers’ Week kick-starts the uni experience. A week packed full of socials, nights out, day activities, trips, free food… and of course meeting people! In this week you will meet the people you’re going to be living with for a year, your STYC’s (Second and Third Year Contacts) who are essentially your guides throughout freshers’ week, and your course mates. It’s loads of fun, and helps you get settled into university. You’ll also have talks from the students union, the department and some (rather boring) health and safety talks.

Settling in to the course (making friends!)

imageIt’s always daunting meeting your year group for the first time! Don’t worry though, because everyone will be in the same position, and you’ll find that it’s pretty easy to start talking to people on your course! The department helps out with this, and holds a ‘meet and greet’ type event in the Huntington Room (in King’s Manor) with (most importantly) free food and drink! I met a number of course mates at this event, and it’s usually a very pleasant event.


If that all sounds a bit too formal to you, and you’ve fallen in love with socials during Freshers week, ArchSoc (Archaeology society) frequently holds socials, and will usually have a few events during the start of term – so that you can socialise with people on your course, but get to know a few of the second and third years too!

Although university seems very daunting to you now, you’ll find that you settle into the course very quickly. However, even if you feel less than happy at university, there’s a great welfare network at the university and within the department. Your personal supervisor will be there to talk to about any issues you may have, your college will have a team of welfare representatives – from the student committee to the college tutors and the college head, and the student union has a good  support network.


“The modules we study during our first year cover a variety of topics in the world of archaeology, which are all intriguing and show archaeology in different lights.” Phoebe Coughlan – 2nd Year

The modules in your first year are designed to give a broad overview, and a good foundation of Archaeology, so that you can discover what it is about Archaeology that you love! In your first term, you’ll study three modules – Prehistory to the Present, Accessing Archaeology and Field Archaeology.

Prehistory to the Present gives a broad overview of, well, all of human history – from our hominid ancestors in the Lower Palaeolithic (from around 3 million years ago!) to the Roman Empire and up to the present day. This module allowed me to discover my love for prehistory, particularly our evolutionary past! It’s great to grasp an understanding of how Archaeology has enhanced our understanding of the past. It’s a lecture-based module, each week you’ll cover a different period of human history and will have a lecturer who is an expert in that particular period!

Accessing Archaeology looks into the how and why archaeologists may employ certain methods, from rescue Archaeology to non-invasive methods!

Field Archaeology is a more ‘hands-on’ module, it covers the techniques archaeologists use in the field, from recording buildings to geophysics, and in your first term you get a chance to field walk (which is more fun than it sounds)! This module carries on throughout the year, and aims to provide you with an understanding of the vast techniques that are available for archaeologists to use!

Assessments at university

Formative assessments? What are they? Formative assessments are a form of ‘practice assessment’ – they don’t go toward your grade for the year, but they are still very important! They help you understand what standard of work is expected, and what requirements you need to meet (which becomes incredibly important information when you complete summative assessments!). Assessments at university are much more driven by your own motivation, as opposed to having teachers chasing you up for your work! The main difference between university assessments and assessments you may have in school, is the volume of reading you’re expected to complete. In your first year you will have to complete a formative assessment for each module: an essay for Prehistory to the Present, an essay for Accessing Archaeology and an online test for Field Archaeology.

Summative assessments are ‘the real thing’, they will count toward your grade for the year! By this time next year, the summative assessments on your mind will be your two exams in the first week of term 2! These will be timed essays for Prehistory to the Present and Accessing Archaeology, which your formative assessments will have helped you prepare for.

Assessments at uni are graded slightly differently to what you may be used to, 40% is the percentage needed to pass a module and is classed as a ‘third’, 50% is classed as a 2:2, 60% is classed as a 2:1 and 70% is classed as a first.

I hope that’s given you an insight into what you might expect next year! Hopefully in a years time you will feel at home in York and settled into your course. As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment.

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I'm currently a third year archaeology student at the University of York. I'm a member of several committees, such as the Archaeology society and RAG and I enjoy involving myself in the amazing events these societies put on! As an archaeology student, I also enjoy immersing myself in the incredible history within York.