When you’re a student of York St. John, living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, there is so much to do that you’re spoiled for choice. Locate in the heart of York amidst the everyday hubbub and splendour, York St. John is ideal for students eager to not only engage with history and academics in the classroom but also beyond those ivy covered walls.
I’m incredibly proud to be a literature student there and feeling extremely nostalgic now that I’ve reached third year. As I have commenced researching my dissertation, my thoughts are on all of the many wonderful experiences I have had so far as me and my friends plan our bucket list for this final year together. Here are 12 of the things we think you’ll regret not doing as a student of York St. John that you definitely shouldn’t miss out on. Your years of study won’t be complete without them.
1. Join at least 1 society or club
As chair of our university Feminist Society, I can honestly say that I found like-minded people who became my closest friends by joining up at the Fresher’s Fair and have never once regretted signing up. There are so many societies and clubs on offer that it can be difficult to choose, so make sure to try out a few and see what’s right for you. Every January there is also the Re-Fresher’s Fair where you can try out new things you might have come up with in your New Year’s Resolutions.
It’s the opportunity to spend time having fun with your friends whilst doing something you’re passionate about, whether that be badminton or fundraising. Make sure you give something new a try!
2. Go essaying in Museum Gardens
A particularly gorgeous part of York is the Museum Gardens, which are located between the train station and the central city library, York Explore. The gardens have plenty of grassy space for summer picnics and cosy nooks for studying.
Most notably, there are the remains of St. Mary’s Abbey which was destroyed by Henry VIII during the Tudor Period. The ruins are quite something to behold in person and there are even sections of it where you can sit and write. I produced the majority of my first essays in the company of these ruins and, if you’re looking for a scenic spot to get you thinking, this is a place I highly recommend.
3. Hunt down your reading lists in Fossgate Books
Reading lists don’t come cheap, especially if like me you are a literature student. Second hand copies can be the best way around this as they’re usually in excellent quality and save you a lot of money. Plus if they have old annotations, they can often be even more of a helping hand.
My favourite place to hunt down my reading lists is Fossgate Books. With hundreds of books crammed into a wondrous, small place akin to something from Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store or Venice in the late 1700s, this is the bookworm’s dream. And if you can’t spot any of those texts you need to read for class, treat yourself to an old Penguin Classic to brighten your day and try again tomorrow.
4. Explore illuminating York
At the end of September or early October, all of York lights up after dark. Chilly evenings are brightened by light exhibitions all across the city, including in York St. John itself. Last year, the university had its crest projected onto the side of campus and also student projects, such as chalk drawing by candlelight and even a dance/music project with a little ultraviolet luminescence.
Explore all of the different activities after sun down, whether that be going to see the Minster lit up in all its majesty or catching a movie projected on the walls. There’s something for everyone and it can make the perfect break from the books.
5. Long afternoons of studying in the Quad
By far the most aesthetically pleasing part of campus is the Old Quad, where a pocketful of lucky students study and attend tutorials every semester. This was part of the original university setup 175 years ago when it was formed as a teaching school and is another spot of easily accessible history.
Make sure that even if your classes aren’t located here, you visit during each of the seasons to see how the changes affect it. Whether crisp Autumn leaves or fresh downy snow, it’s like going back in time. If you need a peaceful place that will make you feel especially studious, take your papers with you and grab a seat.
6. Pretending to be Harry Potter whilst wandering The Shambles
Whispers claim The Shambles to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the infamous Harry Potter book. Dating back originally to as early as the Fourteenth Century, what now is a cobbled street of quirky vintage shops was once the busiest market for miles around. Those markets are still located just behind the street today and can make for some inspired grocery shopping, especially for history students.
Whilst you’re in the area, turn the corner to see the strangest street name: Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate. The longest name for the shortest street in town!
7. Walking the walls
The walls which originally proved a means of keeping control over the city now remain standing as a tribute to the past. They make it easy to get around the whole of the central city whilst offering some spectacular views. Grab your hiking boots and see what you can spot on your travels.
But do take a map just in case. Despite being relatively small, sometimes those Gates and Bars can be a bit confusing and akin to a maze for new York residents!
8. Library sessions during deadline season
York St. John’s library has every book you’ll never need as well as the comfiest bean bags to write from, a designated area just for primary education students and linguists, and a newly placed kitchen – and that’s just a few of the many features in place to aid you with your assignments and revision.
Located snuggly between the Fountains lecture theatre and resident Costa, you’d be a fool to miss out on this fantastic resource as it’s sure to be a grade booster. Plus, it’s open 24/7 pretty much all year round (including on Christmas day!).
9. Cross course collaborations
Whether it be in your society of choice or through class, there are always so many great collaborations taking place. You’ll really regret not getting involved in at least one or two as not only are they are a great way of picking up skills, they are also useful networking events.
Collaborations mean you get to fuse your passion for a range of different subjects whilst sharing this with other students. From producing music with the production department to science themed poetry, see what you can find to brighten your semester or more so, what you can plan and create to get other students excited about something you love.
10. Volunteering at York Literature Festival
I really regret not doing more volunteering throughout my time at university as it is something which I discovered I find really engaging towards the end of my second year. There are so many chances to volunteer being at YSJ, especially when it comes to all things cultural and arts based.
York Literature festival takes place usually around May time in the city and there are lots of opportunities to get involved. I recommend this most highly, the Viking Festival also, as often there are events based at the university that you can get involved with. This year we also had an absolutely amazing mini festival designed by the university to celebrate 100 years since women got the vote in the UK.
Even if you only help at one event or write some blogs to help publicise something you think students might find interesting, it’s well worth looking into. Plus, as well as being super fun, it also helps to boost your CV.
11. Hanging with friends on Archies Day
Archies day has been a York St. John tradition since 1841 when a barrel of ale was given as a gift to hard working students by the Archbishop of York. It is now a tradition for students to meet at the SU bar and to drink and be merry in celebrating the close of one semester as it takes with it all of the previous deadlines to begin the next.
It’s a really great way to celebrate all of your successes throughout the term time with your friends and to give yourself a well deserved break from reaching word counts if you still have any left over. If you ever doubt that York St. John has one of the closest student communities in the history of universities, you won’t doubt it by the end of your first Archies day.
12. Climbing to the top of York Minster
Of course, graduating from York St. John wouldn’t be complete if it weren’t occurring in the astonishingly beautiful York Minster. But before then you simply have to climb the stairs all the way to the top, especially as you get a student discount to do so if you attend the university.
The view is of the whole city and can be best seen early in the morning on a clear day or at sunset in Autumn. Being up there will remind you of just how strong and capable you are of doing anything that you put your mind to, so long as you work hard and never give up.