Recent Literature Graduate Writes Open Letter to York St John University, With Love.

The following post was written by recent Literature graduate (and former  Words Matter Sub-Editor!) Jenna Houston. Read the original post at Jenna’s own blog, Paper and Caffeine

Everyone that goes to uni thinks that their uni is the best. It’s a fact. However, only those that have attended York St. John University can understand the community feel, the kindness, and the acceptance that staff and students just radiate.

It truly is a space unlike any other.


When I was fifteen, I dreamed about being the first in my family to go to university. I was told by my teachers that I was capable of doing a degree, so I set my sights on it. From that moment, everything I did at school; each piece of homework, each test, every painstaking hour of revision was with that end goal in mind. I aced my GCSE’s, getting closer and closer to that end goal. When I was seventeen, I failed my AS Level exams. I was heartbroken… I had worked so hard, but it wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t enough, I told myself.

After a difficult year both at home and at school, I considered dropping out of sixth form altogether. I am so glad that I didn’t.

I refocussed.

I reminded myself that I was not a quitter and focussed on getting into university. I applied to York St. John University (a very big reach grade-wise for a Jenna with few high grades at AS Level) but did it anyway, and was offered a place to study literature starting in 2015. When I was eighteen, I collected my A Level results and was accepted onto the course at York St. John to study English Literature, and I told myself it was just meant to be.

I started at York St. John in September 2015, and immediately it felt like home.

It still does.

I would be lying if I told you that I found university easy, because it isn’t easy.

There is so much personal growth happening, I was meeting so many new people, finding my footing in academia, and simultaneously trying to balance both uni work and a part-time job, and it got stressful at times. My first year felt clouded with settling in and figuring out what was right and wrong in the same way that a five-year old child does. Understanding ‘correct’ academic practices, and finding the ‘right’ social circle to settle in too. But as second year rolled around all of these things became more normal and I am thankful to both my friends in first year, and the staff in the literature department for just baring with me (and the many essay crises) while I found my feet in first year.

Second year was so much better in many ways, I challenged myself to take modules I thought I’d never be able to do (yes, I’m talking about you, Literary Theory) and found the two literary loves of my life: American Literature and The Gothic. I’d like to say that the essay crises were limited to my first year, but they definitely weren’t – and the patience that my tutors showed me during my degree is something I am both grateful for, and aim to show other people in the future – you all knew I could do it, and thank you for showing me that I could.

I think I need to give a little nod to third year, otherwise I don’t think I can publish this post.

Third year, I feel like I really came into my own, both personally and academically.

But it took a while for me to feel so happy and confident. I loved my seminars, for the first time I was choosing to put my hand up and speak, I wanted to share my ideas and felt excited (not scared) by the prospect of doing so. I attended literary events, research talks, spoke on two occasions to groups of other literature students (yep, surprised myself with that one too!) and began writing for the university’s literature blog. I was so involved, and I loved it. My dissertation is by far one of the best and proudest achievements ever and something that I really feel sums up the hard work I put into my degree. I also feel immensely grateful to have worked with my supervisor on it (she was fab), and the girls on my course are some of my best friends. I am thankful that York St. John just so happened to bring us all together, I can’t imagine life without them.

University, was a muddled, exciting and life-changing experience.

I never believed people when they told me that uni changed their lives, but now I do.

To study in York, a place so pretty, with so much going on around me; theatre, literature festivals, talks, museums, has been an honour – it constantly inspires me. After graduating last Thursday (22nd of November 2018), I felt in a position to finally reflect on my experience at university. The students are so welcoming, my friends have provided me with so much love and support (and many ‘I can’t breathe laughing’ moments), my tutors are some of the most generous, intelligent people I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and have given me a truly exceptional education. York St. John, as a whole, has grown my confidence in ways I never thought possible.

I am so proud of the person I am at the end of my degree.

Here’s to the next chapter.✨

lots of love always YSJ,

Jenna x

Dear Jenna,

Thanks for this! What a remarkable letter — you have worked very hard these past few years and now moved us all with this heartfelt reflection!

Don’t be a stranger, do keep in touch and let us know what you do next with #YSJGrad

All the very best,

The Words Matter Team