University of York’s colleges are the jewels in its crown. From the courts of James, the leafy village-feel of Halifax, the resident cat of Alcuin, to the sleek heights of Constantine, each college is a unique puzzle piece essential to university life. They’re so much more than just accommodation blocks. They make you feel at home. I’m going to tell you exactly how they bring a true sense of community to your term-time experience.
From the very beginning
I was very nervous before I came to university. The idea of going from a small town and a school where I knew everyone to a big, bustling university was daunting, to say the least. But what I hadn’t realised was that coming to York is not like being thrown in the deep end. My college made university life so much easier than I expected. My fears of feeling like a small fish in a massive pond were unfounded – I found my place almost immediately.
At York, colleges are an important part of life, especially when you first arrive. By the end of the first day you already have a support network in place: you’ve met your flatmates of course, but you’ve also met your STYCS. These are your college Second/Third Year Contacts. STYCS are assigned to your flat and will make sure that everyone is settling in and look after you on your first night out.
But don’t worry if you’re not an ‘out-out’ kind of person! The college student union make sure there’s plenty of different things going on to make sure that no matter what you enjoy, you won’t feel left out in Fresher’s Week.
Personally, I spent Fresher’s Week going to movie nights, quizzes, pub crawls, and a Swing Dance taster session. I even met one of my closest friends when I sat next to her watching a movie in the common room on my first night. So, my nerves about coming to university soon disappeared. People in my flat also spent the week getting to know our STYCS and getting all the tips and tricks of college life. Such as: make sure you have money on your laundry card BEFORE you lug all your clothes to the launderette! It felt like a welcome into a little college family.
Having a supportive network of people around you is so important when you first move away from home. It is easy to feel isolated when you don’t know anyone and you’re living somewhere completely new. However, one of the most important things colleges do is offer countless ways to fight that isolation, make friends and get the best out of university life. Of course, this has been doubly important during this pandemic.
Colleges are not academic departments. Their job is to make sure students are comfortable and happy at university. So no matter whether you’re on or off campus, in first year or final year, colleges are there for you. Normally that means college tutors to help with non-academic issues, events, clubs and sports to help you meet people, and regular emails to keep you up to date with what’s going on.
Since last March, not much has actually changed. You can still access all the support and you can still go to fun events – they’re just online. Colleges will give you a call if you’re self-isolating to make sure you’re ok and they’ve set up a “Student Connect” scheme to help people meet others with similar interests without even having to leave the house!
Beyond first year
That sense of community doesn’t disappear when you leave campus accommodation. Colleges support you throughout your whole undergraduate career, and you can even choose to remain part of your college if you stay for a postgraduate degree. You can still get regular college emails, contact your college tutors, and get involved in all the college events.
The college keeps on helping you meet new people too. College sport is popular amongst people in all years of their university life, and the rivalries are strong. And of course, you can also become a STYC yourself in second year, helping lots of new freshers settle into college life just like you did.
On top of that, you never stop feeling like you belong to your college. No matter who you meet, from first to final year, one of the best conversation openers will always be “What college are you in?” And you’ll probably always feel that your college, whichever it is, will always be the best one. I know I do!