Humans of York

Taking inspiration from Humans of New York, each week we feature students and staff from across campus.

Meet Rinolsa

"The unfortunate reality is that refugees, like myself face many barriers and do not have equal access to education. I was in, what felt like, a financially impossible situation but the Equal Access Scholarship was key in allowing me to pursue my studies at York. I'm hoping that the skills and the knowledge I've gained here will enable me to contribute powerfully to removing these barriers and empowering others.

Over the past three years, my supervisors, lecturers, Student Services and Careers have all been there to listen and offer guidance. They've supported me in a way that's allowed me to overcome different challenges in my academic journey and beyond.

I've enjoyed being involved with a number of societies including York Finance Conference and Student Action for Refugees. I'm happy that I have been able to take part in activities which make an impact and I've made great friends too. I have also learned so much about English culture and heritage, whilst living in one of the most historic cities in England. I've definitely been able to broaden my horizons and immerse myself in an environment where I've learned.

Remember - whatever your obstacles are, keep persisting and don't be afraid to ask for support. if I made it, you can make it as well, and you might be surprised to find that there are many people who are willing to help you achieve your dreams."

Rinolsa, Accounting, Business Finance and Management, Goodricke College

Find out about the work we're undertaking to be recognised as a University of Sanctuary.

Meet Akshay

“I got involved in volunteering as part of the York Students in Schools programme which offers tutoring to students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it - I’ve been tutoring GCSE students in Maths. I was considering teaching after university and I thought this could help me test whether it was for me. I only volunteered twice before I discovered that I enjoy teaching; I plan to pursue it further after I graduate.

Every week we work through a different topic they’ve been struggling with to improve understanding and prepare them for their exams. I’ve definitely gained a new appreciation for all my maths teachers as a result of the experience! It’s hard to explain a new concept and justify why it’s worth knowing beyond ‘it’s on the exam’. The most satisfying part of volunteering has been seeing the impact of my support - I’ve not only seen an improvement in students’ understanding of maths but also an increase in their confidence in the subject.

Given the current lockdown it's even more important that we look out for one another. There are ways to volunteer through the York city council and the NHS. It can be as simple as checking in with people over the phone, but it makes all the difference.

As well as volunteering I’ve also been part of Real Ale Soc and Coffee Soc - I enjoy a good beverage! And I’d say that the people I’ve met at university have been the highlight of my experience at York. I am who I am because of them, and regardless of my degree I know I’ll leave university a better person than when I started.”

Akshay, BSc Mathematics, Constantine

The York Students in Schools (YSIS) is a programme run by Careers and Placements. Here at York we have a broad range of volunteering opportunities available to all students.

Meet Zainab

"Alongside my degree I have been a part of Photography Society and BritAsian Society. This helped me to meet students outside my course. I was also a student ambassador which meant I helped with York Law School and Langwith College Open Days. It was great to meet potential students and share my experiences!

One of my favourite York memories is from my first year at BritAsian Society, where we celebrated Holi. We had lots of fun throwing powder over each other! I loved being a part of the event as it allowed me to understand more about Hindu traditions.

I decided to apply to York as I really liked the look of the Law course - group work and problem-based learning (PBL) especially appealed as it was different approach to the typical lecture structure. The Law School Careers team and my Personal Advisor also gave me lots of career support. I gained valuable training on the interview process and excellent advice about career options. The staff at York often go beyond their requirements and really help you out. Thanks to everyone who has supported me during my time at York!"

Zainab, Law LLB, Langwith

Meet Suzanne

“Coming from living in a big city like Nairobi, moving to York was a really good choice for me. The city is small and beautiful - I love that I can walk everywhere and feel safe.

I had a four year gap between my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. During that time I worked in the NGO space, implementing health programmes, in addition to being active in the political scene in Kenya and Africa through the African Union. Getting back into studying felt like an uphill task at first. It was a challenge to manage my workload while adapting to both a new learning system and living in a different country. With time however, I was able to adjust and I’ve had many great experiences.

Time has gone by really fast during my Masters programme. I’ve particularly enjoyed having seminar sessions with a very diverse group of classmates. It’s been very eye-opening and has enabled me to appreciate different perspectives. I’ve also made very good friends here and these I hope to keep for a lifetime. 

After my Masters, I hope to go back home and get into civil service and politics. Being in York has allowed me to learn the ‘in and outs’ of governments not only through my classwork, but also through my classmates and peers. I hope to use my new found expertise to develop policy solutions which I can apply back home in Kenya.”

Suzanne, MA Public Administration and Public Policy, Derwent

Meet John

“My main interest as an archaeologist is the application of archaeological methods to contemporary issues. So my main research areas are: music and place; the Cold War period, with a particular focus on Berlin; wellbeing; and environmental pollution (marine plastics). Mine is a very cross-disciplinary approach and I find that York is a small enough university and has a close enough community for me to be able to make connections easily.

My research wouldn't fit in everywhere but it certainly fits in here at York. I feel that I'm among colleagues who understand and embrace my interests and I teach students who have an enthusiasm for my particular version of archaeology. If I lecture on the Cold War or music venues, not all of them are into that, but they all seem to get it perhaps because they can relate it to something directly. They might have been taught about the impact of the Berlin Wall coming down in terms of European politics and history, but that's not quite as relatable as its impact on urban spaces and communities. The past didn't only happen a long time ago. It also happened just ... then! The human story is what archaeology is all about - telling stories of individuals or groups of people through their material culture, through the things that they've left behind whether 10,000 years ago, or yesterday! 

Alongside my role as Professor, I DJ. It’s come from a long-running love of music alongside a deep frustration at not being able to play a musical instrument. I can feel a rhythm, but despite trying to play music I was never able to take that any further ... until now. DJing uses some of the same skills as I've developed as an archaeologist - the idea of trying to collate and curate things, whether into a coherent setlist or an historical narrative. Recently I gave a talk about Berlin techno and the Berlin Wall in the Forty-Five Vinyl Café in town, and followed it with a DJ set from 30 years of Berlin techno. Putting that together involved looking back over time from the mid-1990s to today to create something that represented the changes and diversity of the genre - a stratigraphy of techno! It was fun to do, thinking about the past in different ways and about music archaeologically.”

Professor John Schofield, Archaeology

Learn more about John's research

Meet John

"I'm from Ghana and this is my first time being in the UK. I’m here thanks to the Chevening Scholarship. Chevening exists to educate people so they can go back home and influence the economic and social development of their country. When I finish I look forward to going back home to contribute to the economic development of Ghana with the knowledge I’ve gathered here. Networking is paramount in Chevening and there are regular events that foster connections among scholars.

In October we had the Chevening orientation at London Excel where 1750 scholars from over 141 countries gathered… it was beautiful. The UK is a very fantastic place to study because it’s very cosmopolitan – there’s a whole lot of different people and different cultures. Being in this environment offers a good avenue to learn and develop beyond your academic study - you can improve your emotional intelligence among many other things. That's basically one of the reasons I wanted to do this. I found the process of adapting to the different way of life quite bumpy in the beginning but now I think I’m getting the hang of it.

I miss my family, the food, and the weather back home as it's always summer in Ghana! It’s colder in York and it’s not like cities at home, but that was why I chose to come here. Accra (the capital of Ghana) is very busy and there’s much more traffic, but York is close-knit, quiet and easier to navigate. Unfortunately, though, there are no Ghanaian restaurants… maybe someone should open one!”

John, MSc in Mathematical Finance, James College

Meet Harry

“I heard about the Laidlaw Scholarship quite early on in my first year, but I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to do it as I’d just settled in. Initially I thought you had to be from a science background to apply but there are people from lots of different disciplines. You focus on research for six weeks each summer (over two years) and then there are development centres and workshops throughout the year to develop your leadership skills. You also receive funding for your research which is great as it gives you more freedom.

The beauty of it is that your research can be whatever you want it to be – it’s led by you, with support from a mentor. My research falls under the theme of ‘environment and sustainability’ as I’m looking at fashion, with a focus on making the supply chain more sustainable. Alongside a literature review and speaking to industry professionals, I'm also running a workshop to encourage awareness of the importance of longevity of clothing. I’ll be helping people learn how to sew clothes, make their own clothes and customise their own clothes.

I’m only in second year now but Laidlaw has definitely helped give me direction in terms of my career path. It’s quite aspirational but ideally I’d like to be a creative director in my own fashion brand. It’s something I've always been interested in but now I feel like it's something that's becoming more and more realistic, and that’s partly due to what I’ve been able to do through the Laidlaw project.”

Harry, Business Management, Derwent

Find out more about the Laidlaw scholarship

Meet Zsófia

“What I like most about being a student here is having access to a wide range of opportunities for self-development. There’s a lot of emphasis on career development for students and the university provides me with so many tools to help me achieve my goals. 

Getting involved with the York Strengths Programme has really opened my eyes. It’s helped me recognise my natural talents and discover aspects of my personality that I’d not known of before. As a result I have a better understanding of how I can use my skills and qualities to enhance my career prospects.

I like how many sports teams and societies we can get involved with. I’m part of the United Nations Association and have been working with the Secretariat to organise the York Model United Nations 2020 conference. I’m also the student representative for the Faculty of Social Sciences. As a rep my role is to ensure that the views of students are heard at university-level committees. I’ve gained so much insight into policy-making procedures at the university and a better understanding of how decisions are made. I’ve also met so many like-minded people who are passionate about helping the student community. Being a course or faculty rep really helps you get the most out of your experience at York and have an impact on the future of the university at the same time!”

Zsófia, Politics with International Relations, James College

Meet Chris

“I was the first care leaver from North Yorkshire to attend university under the Leaving Care Act. I studied Computer Science here at York and I graduated in 2010. For a care leaver, university is a very different experience. It affects so many things – like where you live during holiday time but also decisions like studying abroad – where are you going to store your belongings when you’re away?

I didn't have anywhere to go to outside term time and I didn't necessarily have as much money as some students, but I was lucky in that I was supported by my local authority. At the time we understood these things a bit less as an institution, but my experience at university was a great one despite everything.

At school I always achieved well and because I was able, I did have aspirations to go to university as a natural progression in my education, but not everyone has that. Care leavers are five times more likely to end up in prison than university. It’s immensely eye-opening and inspirational as a kid to visit our beautiful campus and learn what it’s like to be a student here. Through work with the county council, we've had over 100 care leavers visit us and as a result some people who didn’t see themselves going to university have now applied. We’re also currently piloting the most comprehensive package of support for care leavers in higher education and that includes provision of accommodation. I'm very proud of that work.

I think the University’s a very welcoming place for people who come from a whole range of backgrounds, including care leavers. I know that universities are here to deliver great teaching and do great research, but for me, I see them as having the ability to truly change lives. University changed my life and I became more employable. It was a place I could apply knowledge, but it also increased my support network. It gave me so many good lifelong friends and I’m really grateful.”

Chris Hoyle, Management Information Analyst (Widening Participation Evidence and Evaluation)

Read about our support package for students who have been in care

Meet Cristina

“I'm originally from Barcelona. I did my undergraduate Biomedical Sciences degree in Surrey (with a placement year in Texas) and then worked as a research technician in London before coming to York for my Masters. I’ve been in the UK for five years so far and I’ve found it very welcoming. There are so many Europeans from different countries in all the cities I've visited. I’ve also met a lot of Spanish people which makes it feel more like home.

Spanish culture is super different, but I don’t regret coming here as I’m enjoying it and learning so much. I mainly miss the weather and seafood, but York is good for restaurants so that makes it easier. Before I started my MSc I’d never been to York before, I’d just seen it in photos but I’m quite adventurous so it was exciting to come here. I really like the cathedral, it’s amazing and there’s a lot to do in the city. I really like the lively atmosphere.

I’ve just started volunteering at a lovely venue called ‘YourCafe’ located at the Tang Hall Community Centre, just a few minutes from campus. The café is run by a very inspiring woman called Margaret, and it aims to promote a community spirit while tackling food waste. It’s such a great project and it’s been a rewarding experience so far.”

Cristina, MSc Molecular Medicine, Wentworth College

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