It seems bizarre looking back, but when I was choosing my five universities, York was my fifth. I’d filled up my other four options and added York at the bottom simply because I needed another. But after doing a little more research, I discovered that English at York was ranked 2nd in the UK by the Sunday Times and that their course content was greater in variety than anywhere else I’d looked. So, to avoid missing out, I booked to visit York for a Post Offer Visit Day.
Exploring the city
Rather than visiting with my parents, I came up with two of my friends from home who were also applying for English. I’d recommend doing this if you have the option, as I found my impressions of the university were less coloured by my parents’ opinions this way. Plus, I didn’t have to deal with my dad falling asleep during another sample lecture…
It also gave us the opportunity to explore the city at our own leisure, wandering between a few pubs in the evening and checking out cool cafes in the morning. When you’re looking at universities, it’s easy to get caught up in course content and other specifics. Obviously, your course is very important as it’s what you’re paying over nine grand a year for. But it’s just as important that you feel at home wherever you’re living. Leaving home can be a tough time and choosing somewhere that you’ll feel comfortable can make the transition easier. So, whenever you visit a new university, try and imagine yourself there in a year’s time.
York is such a beautiful place, and I found it had a similar feel to my hometown, Shrewsbury. Even though the campus is separate from the city, it’s only a half-hour walk or a quick bus ride away. This really appealed to me, as I didn’t want to feel like I was stuck on campus.
On to the university
The day began with a welcome talk from various staff within the department. This introduced the structure of the course, with examples of some modules which the department had run in the past. Part of what makes York’s English course so unique is that it doesn’t limit your studies to obviously ‘English’ texts. You won’t be made to read Shakespeare’s entire folio but will instead be offered the chance to read a variety of texts from different cultures. In my first year, I studied everything from Ancient Greek plays to Latin American poetry. What really captured me in the welcome talk was the enthusiasm with which Dr Kenneth Clarke spoke about Dante and Seamus Heaney – I knew I wouldn’t be zoning out in lectures with such enthusiastic teachers.
Afterwards, we had a third-year student take us on a campus tour. I will admit, I don’t think York’s brutalist architecture is universally appealing. But the lake is gorgeous, and there are green spaces everywhere. I loved the fact that the library was open 24/7, as this would mean I could escape from being stuck working in my room. This proved to be very important, given the large volume of solo reading you must do as an English student.
Next, we returned to the English Department for tea, cake and a chat with the department staff. This was very informal, so we felt like we could ask any questions, big or small.
I left York after the Post Offer Visit Day feeling much more positive than I had expected to feel. My ‘random’ fifth choice had far surpassed any of my other options. Now that I’m in my second year, I’m only enjoying the course more and more as time goes on.