The clincher in choosing York for me was the sheer range of courses available to me as a history student. A good mixture of independent and group study in lectures and seminars allowed me to find my feet at university whilst meeting people who I count as some of my closest friends now, so don’t worry about it being awkward at the start; everyone’s in the same boat!
The array of options available to me can be seen in the standard week that I have. I start the week with a seminar that discusses whether or not racism existed before the modern era. Despite my modernist leanings as a historian, this module allows me to pursue the passion that I have for history. It offers me a broad and complete overview of the past with topics each week ranging from examples of racism in classical antiquity to the examples of racism after the Enlightenment period. The discussions in the seminar tend to be student led and very informal and relaxed, which stems interesting debates between people in the seminar.
But don’t worry if you want a more structured approach to seminars because York offers that too. The other seminar I have – on a Tuesday each week – is more structured. I have an early 9am start for my seminar on the Caribbean after the end of slavery. Getting to uni is easy even if you live off campus, as most people tend to do in their second and third years. For me it’s a 15 minute walk from my house but I could also get a bus if I’m feeling lazy or running late! The seminar itself tends to follow a pattern of discussing the secondary reading for that week, before going on to have a debate on the primary source we’ve been set. The way we do the first half of the seminar tends to vary from week to week with groups sometimes being asked to do presentations, and the seminar tutor often teaching us about the subject too.
In terms of the reading for the seminars, we tend to get a fair amount each week but never so much that it becomes unmanageable. I tend to do my reading in one of the quiet parts of the JB Morell section of the library, but that’s personal preference. Much of the reading is online so you can do it at home if you want, and there’s also the studious buzz zone in the Harry Fairhurst building in the library for people who don’t like to study in silence.
Some of you may be thinking ‘how come he doesn’t have any lectures to go to?’ Well that’s because York allows you plenty of time to focus on your dissertation in the last two terms of your final year. Your allowed to do a dissertation on pretty much anything you want, and mine is attempting to disprove the general assumptions made about West-African Marxist military regimes in the 1980s, and I find time to devote roughly a day a week to it. I receive assistance from a dedicated dissertation supervisor, who is a specialist in African history, whenever I feel I need it, which has been very reassuring and helpful. York has experts in most fields of history across the department who’ll be able to help you with your dissertation too.
For those of you still wondering about lectures, they only stop happening in the last two terms of third year. You have them throughout 1st and 2nd year, and in the first term of 3rd year. They’re always an hour long and the lecturers are engaging. They also tend to be on your compulsory modules, meaning that everyone goes to them, and that you can catch up with your friends there.
Away from the academic side of things York also has lots of sporting societies for you to get involved with, from standard sports like football and rugby to more unusual ones like Octopush! I play for my college hockey team every Sunday and have training every Friday. I’ve made a good group of friends from that as well, and we have socials every Friday night which are always good fun. Sport at college level accommodates for people of all abilities, which allows you to try all sorts of new sports if you want to get involved, without having to worry about being overly good at the start. University level sport is available for those who want to play it at a higher standard as well.
Nearly every Wednesday there are also careers fairs available in all different types of jobs in the Physics centre. I’ve been to one of these set up by the law society that allowed me to meet with various different companies, who I could all sorts of questions to about a potential career in the future. I was able to apply for and get some work experience from one of these companies as well which always looks good on your CV.
I hope you’ve found this helpful and that its helped any fears you might have had about applying to York. I really have to emphasise the amazing opportunities you have on offer to year, and you’re willing to jump in head first and take them, you’ll have a unforgettable three years.