It’s official. I am a graduate student studying in the UK. No, I am not in London. My #BoldMoves2016 plan has taken me farther. I am studying in York, at the University of York.
Three weeks ago I landed in the UK. Thanks to family and friends, I have seen London and Birmingham, and now I am in York, North Yorkshire. If London is like Kingston Jamaica, York is like Ocho Rios (minus the beaches). It is a really beautiful, touristy area. Red brick houses line the roadways, and I remember telling my cousin as he drove me in, that it looked like the typical “English countryside” you see referenced and showcased in films.
The city of York is bursting at the seams with stories, and a rich history. A walled city, dating back to 71 AD (as told by the snapchat geofilter), it was the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior, and later of the kingdoms of Northumbria and Jórvík. Ever read about Vikings? York has a lot of history for them. York is also a Confectionary centre. You do not have to walk very far to find chocolatey delights and wonderful, handmade fudge in this city. If you know me well, you know I love chocolate. I was excited when I saw the Cadbury geofilter on Snapchat. So, all this should be exciting for me, right? Wrong. I am trying to lose weight. But, maybe I can have a few, since the walk to school will help my weightloss plans. Fun fact: the popular KitKat chocolate bar was born right here in York. The owners of KitKat, the Rowntree family, have contributed significantly to the University of York. So much so, that the building that I will have most of my class in is named after a member of the family, Seebohm Rowntree.
The city centre is fascinating. Like much of England, you see old architecture beside new architecture. In many British cities, this means very tall skyscrapers. Not so with York. There is the mix of architecture, but the grandest building here is still the majestic York Minster. (I will say more about it when I go inside to do the tour.) York City Centre has the customary British High Street stores (Marks & Spencer, TopShop, etc.), banks and more. There are also quite a number of churches and garden spaces. I am really looking forward to exploring more of the city centre, and the city overall.
Getting lost, or just being uncertain of your travel steps, is quite normal for persons in a new space. Both those things happened to me in York. However, being uncertain about a bus route led to me having a great conversation with a York local. I was at the bus stop, with a drained battery, and all the uncertainties about whether or not I was going to be on the right bus home. Perhaps she observed the perplexity on my face, but Rachel just asked me if I was ok. I told her where I wanted to go. She told me I was at the right stop, and that she would let me know what stop to get off, as she was going on the same bus. For the 15 minutes of the ride, Rachel and I talked about Jamaica and York. She told me all the places that I MUST visit before I leave York, including he famous Betty’s Tea Room. A friend had told me about Betty’s before I left Jamaica, so I was already looking forward to visiting it. And, as fate would have it, Rachel works at Betty’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t get Rachel’s number. However, I will look for her at Betty’s when I go. I am grateful that she was so kind. The small gesture impacted me and helped me keep calm.
One of the things that Rachel said, as we talked, was that York is just not as diverse as she would have liked. Boy, do I know that! As a person from a predominantly Black country, believe me, it is a strange feeling to suddenly find yourself becoming the 1%; a minority. I was suddenly hyperaware of my Blackness. On a trip from my home in York to the post office in the city centre, my cousin and I counted all the Black people we saw in the city. This was the first day. We counted seven. This made me a tad anxious. When I got to the post office, there was a Black person ahead of me. When she turned around, we both excitedly smiled at each other. It was Melody, a Chevening Scholar from Zimbabwe, who I was connected with via Facebook. She’s my new friend. Truthfully though, after 3 weeks here, it has not been an issue. There have been no weird stares, and people have been polite. Additionally, the university campus is slightly more diverse; maybe 5% from my guesstimate. Students all move about freely, regardless of race, gender, religion or special needs (which is really awesome on the university’s part.
I’ve now had two full weeks of activities at the University of York. From the welcome events put on by the Graduate Students Association, stimulating lectures, and meeting amazing people (including some brilliant Chevening scholars); all that I have experienced here so far, has made me feel that I have made the absolute best decision for me. University of York is not as popular as many of the older British universities. I have wondered if it is the fastest rising university in the UK, because having only been founded in 1963, it is a Russel Group university and is well ranked, globally. The university is situated on two beautiful campuses, and features a fascinating campus lake with ducks, swans and about 25 other species of birds. Love! The faculty here is outstanding, supportive and really challenge you. I ended this week being really, really excited about learning! There is such a sharp focus here on students utilising all the support services available; and there are many. So, to date, I am happy to recommend that you consider this university for graduate study. Check them out, especially if you are considering applying for a Chevening Scholarship.
Along with 27 Chevening Scholars from different parts of the world, I have decided to make York my home for a year. I am excited about all I will see, hear and do here. Importantly, I am confident that I will do well academically here.
On that note, remember that applications for the Chevening Scholarships are now open. You may want to study at York, or at any of the other amazing universities in the UK. The opportunity is available until November 8 (5:58 AM Jamaica time). Have a go. Visit chevening.org for more information. Even though I will be sharing my journey with you this year, I hope to be reading about your Chevening journey next year.
Until next post!