Hi I'm Elara. I graduated from York St John University in 2020.
My first year of university was a bit of a blur. Consisting of new friends, work and a lot of parties, it was most definitely the year I grew most as a person. I had gotten into university against all odds, and was immediately sucked into student life.
Originally from Newcastle, I moved away from home. I have never been too bothered about moving too far, but there was something always quite comforting with only being an hour away from home via train. From visiting York St. John, I knew that it was the university for me. I am a full believer that you need to visit a university to understand if it is the right one for you. You just get the feeling. Not to be dramatic, but you will know in your heart immediately if it is the right university for you. Even just going and exploring the city (e.g. is it too big? Too small? Too far away from home? Too close to home?) will tell you everything you need to know. It’s a big decision, even more so if you decide to move away for university, as you are committing to a location for the next three years.
As much as I did miss home every now and then, I was very fortunate to be put in a flat with a group of girls that I got on with. I remember dancing in the kitchen, messing about in the hallway and cooking big meals together. Every night was a party, sober and non-sober, and it was the most fun I had ever had. I had never felt so welcomed into anything than I was in my first year of university. That’s the appeal of it- everyone is quite literally in the same boat. Everyone in halls had moved out into the big world of university, and everyone was desperate to make friends and live life to the fullest. Even if you didn’t get on with your flatmates, you always knew someone who knew someone else.
I must admit, the first semester of university is tough. Your lecturers and tutors are there for you every step of the way, but they can’t quite tell you how to do a task. You have to learn to adapt and create your own version of learning. I still remember getting our first piece of reading to do and the group chat my course had created all started to question how to even compete it. We had 100 pages per module per week to read and take notes on, and it had to be completed in a couple of days for our seminar. It was incredibly daunting, but we all started to settle on the new routine. All of our lecturers told us to ‘just try new things’ and, to no avail, it started to work. You soon find that if you read the introduction and conclusion of the reading, it pretty much gives you everything you need for a seminar. Soon, 100 pages per module per week became 20 pages per module per week (but don’t tell my lecturers that). It was still difficult, but it created a balance for more important things as, by October, we were already facing our first assignments.
By my second year at university, I had started to see a boost in my grades. I was off to New York to study abroad in the first semester, and I am so glad I did. I have such fond memories of that period of my university life, so much so that I regularly think I dreamed it or watched it on a cheesy Netflix film (you know the type, very much Elle Woods in Legally Blonde). To top it all off, I had returned back to my home university to the friends I have absolutely made for life. Trading mail to and from the UK and USA throughout my time abroad, I had managed to keep in contact with a few course mates I had started to make friends with in my first year of university. I cannot exaggerate when I say that you will make friends that you will keep for life at university. The girls on my course are honestly the nicest people I have met, and I still remember the day they sent me a bar of dairy milk all the way from the UK when I was feeling ill. Since then, I have been through everything with my friends and we have got through our toughest university days together, including each writing a 10,000-word dissertation in our third year of university.
I am so glad I decided to go to university, and I am glad I followed my gut instinct to move to York for it, too. If I was back in that process of deciding where to go to I would most definitely say to go and visit each university you are seriously thinking about. I went to numerous others but they did not fulfil the things I wanted. I remember going to Newcastle University and getting a good feeling about it. However, it was in my home city and I wanted to move away from the area. It is about give and take, and I believe that you should visit as many universities as you possibly can. If anything, it makes a fun day trip out!
The other advice I would give for anyone who is about to go to university is work hard, but have as much fun as you can. Whether that is playing board games with a few friends, reading a book in the sunshine or partying all night long, make the most of what you have. University life is about being surrounded with like-minded people of similar age with similar interests. You’re there to study, but you’re also there to have fun and make connections with others. It’s the strangest, best and most interesting experience ever, and I can’t wait for you to experience all of it yourself.