Being flung out of your comfort zone (sort of)
If there is one thing I can guarantee, it’s that university is nothing like sixth form or college, and that’s awesome. One of the things I really wished I’d embraced a little bit more, prior to moving to uni, is the feeling of being totally and completely out of my comfort zone in every sense of that phrase.
The people are completely different; the work is completely different; and the English department creates a safe space to enable you to get used to this new environment. They encourage you to experiment, to try new things.
I don’t want to introduce the mantra of all first-years too early, but first year doesn’t count towards your degree. This means that if you didn’t really like the structure of your A Level essays and want to try something new, you can. If you liked one of the texts you studied but also want to talk about another text that you’ve read that isn’t on the course, you can. Heck, if you want to write the weirdest essay you could possibly write you can. (My friend titled her essay: “Cupid, thou naughty boy”…)
First year in particular is all about experimentation. The department love reading quirky essays, so if you have an idea, you can run with it.
The staff are basically bona fide geniuses
Last year, I was part of the student ambassador team for the English department open days. While I was behind that desk answering questions like ‘what’s so great about the English department at York?’ the same answer kept coming up. It would be impossible for me to write this blog post without telling you how incredible the staff are here. They form part of a fundamental support system within the department to make sure that help is always available.
At York you have a personal supervisor from day one, who will see you right through to the end of your degree. If problems do crop up, either within the course or personally, their door will always be open. They will usually be able to point you in the right direction. On top of that, every member of staff will also have open office hours every week. You can pick a tutor’s brains about something that came up in a lecture or a potential essay idea.
I feel like this would also be an appropriate time to insert a subtle brag. The English department at York have the highest proportion of world-leading research of all UK English departments… just saying!
And now for any budding writers reading this post. Another question that popped up a lot during those open days was ‘does the department support creative writing?’ and the answer is most definitely yes. There is normally a creative writing module available in third year. But there are also so many other ways to write at York.
During my first term, the department brought in a guest speaker from the Blake Friedmann literary agency to speak to students about the publishing industry. It was so clear that the staff were as interested in the students’ writing as the students themselves. You can also get involved in loads of student publications. I know several people on my course who write for The Tab which runs on articles written by students.
In short, whether you’ve got a book in your head that you want to get onto a page, want to build up a portfolio for a career in journalism, or simply want to write the perfect essay, the department at York provides tonnes of support to anyone that wants it.
The extra stuff
Okay, so admittedly this isn’t three things to look forward to per se – it’s more like 3.5. I mean it wholeheartedly when I say there is a hell of a lot more to look forward to than a list of three things will convey. So, this final section is going to be a quick rapid-fire of some of the other cool stuff about the English department at York.
They offer short summer school programmes or a whole year abroad at a partner university. They bring in guest speakers. They’ve just built a brand-new study area just for English students. (It has a hot tap to provide much-needed cups of tea and every now and then, you’ll find the odd free book floating around). And they’ve just launched Thin Ice Press, the department’s own printing press!
There are even paid opportunities within the department itself. Become a student ambassador so you don’t have to live the life of the skint student!
I would even bet that one of the best things to look forward to is the chance to move to uni, realise it’s not so scary after all, and help ease other nervous minds that are thinking about doing the same thing. You might just find yourself stood behind a desk on an open day, or writing the occasional blog post, reassuring prospective students that the department is genuinely as good as it looks in the prospectus.