Shining a light on alumni and how you can support our students

Alex Finlayson – Teacher and Author

Teacher and Author

Class of 2003 and 2005

Theology and Religious Studies and PGCE

If you studied your undergraduate programme at York St John University or founder colleges, did you go on to postgraduate study?

Yes, at York St John University

Why have you chosen this photo as your YSJ snapshot?

This (ridiculous) photo represents the culmination of an idea I had in my first year of study (2000). Walking home to Limes Court I thought it would be cool to write a story about a drunk guy meeting all the famous ghosts in the city. Twenty years later, I did it. The Book and the Blade was released in February 2023.

What are your fondest memories of York St John University?

The people. I loved every second of my time at York St John. I formed life-long friendships there and have also sadly lost touch with a lot of excellent people. It was a wonderful time just before social media and camera phones…so we were free to be idiots without proof!

Why did you choose York St John University or founder colleges?

I got accepted into a few “big” universities… York and Durham… but my visit to St Johns cemented my decision. We had a tour of the campus, some of the residences, and met people from various departments. That sold it for me. It was welcoming, friendly, and felt much more of a community… which is exactly what it turned out to be.

What have you been doing since completing your studies?

I became a teacher in the end. I sort of fell into it and couldn’t be happier. I had “enjoyed” a few years doing not a lot in the city (carrying on the job I got while studying to earn a few extra quid) but then decided to go back and do my PGCE. After that, I moved to Australia and carried on teaching there with a few trips back every now and then and one extended stay where I lived back in Yorkshire and wrote the book I thought of when I was in first year.

What one piece of advice would you give to a current student, or one about to graduate?

For the newbies… make sure the course you want to do is the course you want to do… as a teacher I see so many young people make university decisions based on expectations and what other people think they should do. By the time you graduate, you will have spent years studying something and living relatively independently… don’t let the end result be something that pleases someone else… let it be something you’re happy with.
Graduates… there’s no rush… it’ll work out. And if you have scored a sweet job straight off the bat, don’t be a prat to your mates who haven’t. It’s not a race (happens every year sadly!)

Read Alex’s interview with the YSJ Alumni blog:

The Book and the Blade is available to buy from different outlets including Amazon and Parliament’s website.


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