Adam Kirkbride interviews Katie Godfrey the 2021 York St John Literature Words Matter Prize Winner. The Words Matter prize is given annually to the first year student with the highest marks across all modules. The prize represents our programme motto Words Matter, as a way of centring our philosophy that books and literature play a hugely important role in the world we all live in.
As somebody who entered university after a large gap in education, and with very little confidence, this award has made the world of difference to me in terms of boosting my self-confidence and self-belief and reassuring me that my efforts are not wasted!
What was it like completing your first year of study during the Pandemic?
While this is probably not the anticipated response, I actually feel that the remote study during the pandemic enabled me to be more productive. I had already been working from home due to lockdown restrictions, so it was a pretty smooth transition for me. I also commute to university, so having the lectures and seminars online enabled me to save over three hours per day of travel, freeing up my time for reading and studying.
Additionally, the York St John lecturers did a fantastic job with the online tools at their disposal, patiently and repeatedly explaining and guiding students through the Teams interface, despite the fact that this method of teaching was all new for them too. The course itself has been dynamic and engaging, with lecturers that are clearly passionate about their individual subjects, and this enthusiasm has carried through even via the online mode in which the material was delivered.
There were certainly some downsides to remote study, such as not being able to meet the other students on my course and occasional technical blips, but it did not negatively impact my overall enjoyment of first year. I think this could also be down to the fact that university was a brand new experience for me and I approached it with an open mind. I imagine that the transition from in-person to online would have been much more difficult had I been a second or third year student who had already adapted to traditional university life.
As in-person classes have now resumed, I’m thoroughly enjoying the back and forth discussion during seminars. It seems that the blanket of shyness has been removed and students are more willing to engage with one another. It has also been a fantastic opportunity to make friends and take advantage of the resources available on campus. One residual benefit of online learning is the recording of lectures. These are now often available on Moodle and are a valuable resource during assignment preparation or simply as a refresher on certain concepts learned throughout each module.
In addition to the diverse range of modules on offer, I have enjoyed reading and analysing texts that I would have otherwise never engaged with. The reading lists for each module are varied enough that there is something for everyone, but I have also learned to view the texts that I wouldn’t necessarily choose through a critical lens, thus enabling me to find enjoyment in reading other than the entertainment value.
I also love being able to really dig in and research in depth the topics that I am assigned. There is such a tremendous wealth of knowledge out there in the form of essays, articles, and critical publications! I genuinely appreciate that this degree has exposed me to it. With this in mind, I am looking forward to the dissertation module next year where I will be able to focus deeply on a topic of my interest.
What advice do you have for new starters?
It may seem obvious, but do the reading! Engage with the course as much as possible and take advantage of the tutorial slots offered. When it comes to assignments, start early to enable you to chip away at them. It’s a lot easier to be creative and express yourself effectively when you are under less pressure from deadlines.
Images by Katie Godfrey (c)