Hi, my name is Jan, and I came to study in York in 2020. Even though it was a difficult year to become a university student and move away from home (even abroad in my case!), I’ve still managed to settle in very well, thanks to the unique way the University of York works. Here are some of my reflections and memories about the first weeks. Enjoy!
New country, new surroundings
Moving to England was a big decision for me, as I’ve never lived outside my home country before. Because of Brexit, I had to take care of many formalities. Fortunately, the University allowed me to come a week before domestic students, so I had time to manage.
I took time to walk around the city to remember where all the shops, cafés and post offices were. I walked a lot around the beautiful University campus as well. York is a very welcoming city, which is why it was easy for me to feel at home here. The campus at the time was almost empty, but then people started arriving, which opened a whole other stage of settling in.
Settling in with college events
Here in York, most freshers live on campus in uni-managed accommodation, and all of them belong to one of the colleges. The college is not only a place, but a community to live in and represent. The college staff and committee are here to make sure students feel at home in their accommodation, organising various activities for students to better integrate with their neighbours, and providing help when needed.
These events were an important part of my first weeks in York. I didn’t know anyone here, and since the pandemic continued we had to limit social contact. In the first week, our flat was invited by our college to do a quiz together. We didn’t know each other at this point, and it was this fantastic initiative that brought us closer together. After we attended a few college-run events as a team, we started spending more time in our kitchen. We would often play card and board games, but also party in a covid-secure way. Looking back at these early weeks, I feel like being more friendly with my flatmates and spending a lot of time with them helped me get through these difficult times.
Settling in with student societies
Sure, being friends with people you live with is one thing, but finding people with similar niche interests that you can talk about is also very helpful! That is where the student societies come in. Every year there is a Freshers’ Fair, when new students approach representatives of various groups based on interest, culture or religion and join some of them.
For me, this experience was a bit different from usual, due to the covid restrictions in place. I still had the opportunity to sign up to a few societies, which in hindsight was a fantastic decision. Before I arrived, I worried that there wouldn’t be a chance to talk to anyone with interests similar to mine. Fortunately, I was wrong. I went to a few events, where I met fantastic people who are still my good friends. Some societies turned out not to be what I had in mind, but that’s fine! There is still something for everybody. Society meetings (some online of course) were the fun part of every term-time week and a good opportunity to chat and relax after long days.
Meeting people from my course
One thing that was difficult for me to achieve this year when settling in was making many friends who study the same thing as myself. Since almost all of our teaching was online this year, I didn’t actually get a chance to talk to anyone on my course in person. I’m sure this won’t be the case in the upcoming years, and I’ll catch up on that soon. Despite that, we still had many online meetings, not only the seminars where we discussed our course-related ideas, but also a few social online meet-ups just to chat. I must admit, I wasn’t very keen on that in the beginning, but after a few weeks I got around, and now I can’t wait to finally meet the people from my course with whom I’ve spent a lot of time talking with over the internet!