Charles studied BA (Hons) International Business Management at York St John University. In this blog post, he tells us about his experience of university life and his course.
There are so many things I have taken from my time at York St John: relationships, knowledge, academic skill, sports, career development a fresh perspective – however, the one thing I’m most grateful for is the space I was given to encourage an enthusiasm for ‘my topic’.
To begin, I feel it necessary to state a few facts before you read on: I have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E. – a hidden disability), I’ve always wanted to become a Barrister, I don’t have A-Levels, and I wanted to quit university at the end of each year. However, I write this having obtained a First Class in BA(Hons) International Business Management, I’ve been awarded the ‘Prof Steven Watson Prize’ for my contributions to York Business School, I’m undertaking a master’s in law (training to become a Barrister), I write for a monthly publication on environmental law and business, and I’m currently holding an offer to study a PhD at Oxford University investigating environmental finance. I hope my experience can provide some hope for those that want to do things differently.
I attended an open day at York St John University in 2016. I’m aware that what I was looking for in a university was different to most – I searched for teaching quality, engagement with outside world, and personal support. YSJ ticked all my boxes: almost all tutors at York Business School have PhDs (or equivalent), endless programs existed that put me in situations where I interact with businesses, and there was so much support on offer.
Whilst I had access to disability support (who are fantastic), it was my tutors that offered the most support; a ‘door is always open’ policy exists and, thus, any issue I had I brought to whoever I felt was best able to deal with it (subject tutor, head of degree, Dean, Vice-Dean, admin, etc.) and it was dealt with honestly and quickly.
I studied 4 A-Levels but, due to a relapse in my condition, I was unable to sit my final exams. I chose to undertake an Access to Business, applied to YSJ only and received an unconditional a few weeks later.
I wanted to become a Barrister, but I didn’t want to do a law degree (it sounded boring and intensive); during my law A-Level, my tutor told me it would be better to get a degree in what I hope to specialise in, then do a GDL (legal conversion course) afterwards. I took the advice and ran with it. At that time, I wanted to be an international trade lawyer and so I found the best degree for that; I studied International Business Management (now called International Business, I believe).
Entering a degree with a focus helps. I urge everyone to think ahead and whilst you may not know exactly what you want to do (nor do you need to) please begin to cast your mind in the direction of your passion. You must get the most out of your degree – I studied for a purpose and it really helped.
During my first year, I thoroughly enjoying my classes. I tried to focus my learning on legalities where I could, finding that my tutors would often be very accommodating for that, encouraging me to include law and policy in my assignments and debate it’s influence on a subject.
A quick caveat to offer some advice on assignments: they are designed to reflect reality. For example, for marketing my assignment was to produce a marketing report on a local company and then present a PowerPoint to a panel (assessors). I loved it. Because of this, treat it as if it is reality. I met with the business owner and gained valuable insights that helped me achieve a good mark in the subject; I also gained a relationship, and I still speak with him to this day.
However, towards the end of the year I did want to quit. I had procrastinated and left some assignments to the last minute. The pressure felt overwhelming and sacking it in felt like a sensible option. I voiced these feelings to my tutors and head of undergraduate study, both all provided me with support. I received numerous emails and calls about the work I had to do and ended up getting all assignments in and to a good standard. I chose to return after the summer.
Throughout my second and third year I began to develop an enthusiasm for the environment. Just like my first-year tutors encouraging me to include law and policy in assignments, my 2nd and 3rd year tutors allowed me to include environmental issues in assignments. I often asked to alter assignments in order to allow me to make the most of my passions for the subject, after all, I’m paying for the degree. Very often my requests would be met positively, it was only exams or large group projects that didn’t allow flexibility.
Throughout my 1st and 2nd years I knuckled down and committed myself to my course. Living at home still, I had continued access to sports clubs, societies and friends that I had always had. However, in my 3rd year I noticed a need for change and expansion. I joined the American Football team (something new and exciting), became a student ambassador for the Uni, and began to have a little bit more fun.
All in all, my undergraduate experience was about as good as it gets. I made life-long friends, developed myself and my interests, came out with an excellent qualification and have a bright future ahead of me.
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