Weekly Adventures of a University of York Health Sciences Student

Hi, I’m Camila. I am an international student completing the Masters in Public Health program.

I’ve been at the University of York only since September. Coming from Canada, I sometimes stop, look around, and wonder how it is I came to live somewhere so breathtaking; so worldly, yet small and friendly; a place where almost every building around me is older than my country. Although these moments of astonishment come less frequently these days, 8 months into my time in York, my daily life as a Health Sciences student at the University of York still feels anything but mundane.

Campus West

Attending lectures, completing recommended readings and take-home exercises, and preparing module assessments is no easy feat. This term, much lighter in comparison to previous ones, I have only two modules: Health & Social Behaviour, and Health Policy. However, as a group we are feeling the dissertation pressure as we get closer to the end of the program; fewer modules this term doesn’t mean it will be easier. Thankfully I feel like I have found my place on campus and in the city in a way that makes me feel supported and able to succeed. I am motivated by knowledgeable and inspiring instructors, keen and caring supervisors, and a supportive department. Additionally, I have identified my favorite study spaces, social places, and campus services and facilities that contribute to a healthy and productive daily routine. Last but certainly not least, I have developed meaningful friendships with a group of amazing people in my program, and we are there to support and celebrate each other through academic as well as personal struggles and achievements.

I live off campus, in a lovely Victorian house, a 20-minute walk from the city center. I rent my house with my boyfriend, and it has everything we need. It takes me 10 minutes to cycle to campus, and this is my preferred method of transportation. In fact, being able to cycle nearly everywhere is one of my favorite parts about living in York. Many students are fellow commuter cyclists, and the University is well equipped for this, making the usual struggles of bike locking and traffic safety a non-issue on campus.

This term, I have lectures on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and although you might think that means extra long weekends every weekend, I encourage you to think again! I personally love Mondays. Since we don’t have class, I don’t find it to be as shocking a start to the week as I did in undergrad; I see it as a great opportunity to organize myself, plan my week, and get some study time in. For planning and private study, I am most productive at a University study space, rather than at home or a café.  Additionally, the university has printers and other “luxuries” I don’t have at home, so for an all-around productive day, campus is the place to be!

My usual Mondays include a planning session at the library, where I also print my lecture slides for the week and download any newly posted readings or documents necessary. This is followed by a workout at the gym. Next, I make use of the microwave and hot water taps at the Department of Health Sciences to prepare and enjoy my packed lunch, and then I’m back at the library for private study and/or assessment progress. The library has plenty of quiet study spaces, but I prefer those labeled “studious buzz”, as I feel the atmosphere encourages collective productivity, even if I am studying alone. I am almost always able to use a desktop computer without waiting, which I find easier to edit coursework on than my laptop. As a Mac user, I am grateful for the University’s many iMacs and up-to-date software. Once every few Mondays, I meet my dissertation supervisors to go over what I have been working on, outline further steps, and assign action items to be completed by our next meeting. A well-used Monday is a great way to set myself up for a successful and productive week.

King’s Manor

Thursdays and Fridays are similar to Mondays, though I might study with friends, which we like to do at our favourite spots in town (Spring Espresso and Gatehouse Coffee). This term has plenty of group work, so I look forward to engaging with my peers, and learning from everyone’s experience and views, as we are a very diverse cohort. On days when I feel like a change of scenery, I love going to King’s Manor, a historic University of York space in town, which offers quiet, as well as group-friendly spaces, and beautiful surroundings. These are also good days to attend workshops or fairs organized by the Department or the Students’ Union, as they are helpful and a great way to connect with people and resources. I found them particularly useful in my first few weeks, as I was trying to figure out what was available on campus, and where/how to access these resources and facilities.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays – lecture days – are the ones I look forward to the most! Although private and/or group study outside of lectures is interesting and useful, what goes on between 9am and 4pm on lecture days is stimulating enough to keep my brain busy for (at least) the rest of the week. Whether we are learning about health systems, infectious disease, behavioral economics, study design, or epidemiology, everyone brings fascinating knowledge, experience, and views to the discussion. Some modules are taught by the same instructors throughout the term, providing a comfortable and encouraging environment for group dynamics to develop, while other modules are taught by guest lecturers who specialize in that day’s topic, adding diversity, expertise, and depth to our discussions. Regardless of content or delivery, class is challenging and fast-paced, while still being engaging and leaving room for discussion, group activities, questions, and one-on-one conversations with the lecturer during break and after class.

Lectures are broken up by coffee breaks and an hour for lunch. The Department puts on lunchtime seminars on Wednesdays, and if there is one I am particularly drawn to, I make an effort to attend, as they are always interesting. After class, I enjoy attending fitness classes on campus with a friend, and before I know it, the day has ended and I’m looking forward to next week’s lecture days again! There is never a lecture day on which I do not go home thinking about a new research idea, a public health intervention I want to learn more about, an important health issue I did not know much about before, or the list of books and readings I want to immerse myself in to learn more about a particular topic.

York Minster

One thing I really miss about having fewer modules this term is that I get to spend less time with my friends. Our usual adventures outside of academic life have included many coffee chats, a few relaxed evenings in, a few shopping trips, as well as a couple of end-of-term celebrations with the whole class or nights out with an extended group from our program. Despite seeing my friends less during the week this term, I still keep busy socially outside of school hours. The University has numerous societies and clubs that organize fun weekend activities and trips, and even if you decide not to become a member, they are a great source of information and social contacts for various areas of interest. For example, the Latin American Society organizes a salsa dancing night, which my friends and I really enjoyed trying, and will probably go to again. I also signed up for weekly emails from the Athletics and Running club, and through them I found out about parkrun on campus, which my boyfriend and I now attend every Saturday. I joined the Sports Center at the University, and my membership allows me to use all gym facilities and attend all fitness classes. The Center has day use lockers and showers, making it easy to fit workouts around classes and studying. I have also visited some beautiful nearby locations and met a few new friends through student societies.

In the short 8 months I have spent here, I have learned so much and experienced so many things, all while surrounded by beauty, history, and an incredible group of people. I could probably go on and on about my adventures and experiences as a University of York Health Sciences student, but instead, I encourage you to come and see for yourself!