A Trip Back To York, 20 Years Later

Last summer, as part of a project reconnecting alumni with the university, we hosted a competition to win a weekend back in York.

Alumni Voices caught up with the winner of the competition, Francis Taylor, to hear more about his memories of the university and weekend back in York with family and fellow alumni, 22 years after graduating.

“I studied Economics at York (1998-2001) and although it was only three years of my life I guess it had a significant impact. I really grew up during that time after living at home with my parents. No one in my family had been to university and I hadn’t done an open day or anything. My dad just put me in the car, drove for three hours, dropped me off with a bag and left me! I didn’t know anyone for miles around and was anxious at first but I ended up being totally fine and settled in quickly.

Some of my best friends have come from my time at York. One example is Pete, who was my housemate in Vanbrugh B block. He lived directly below me in first year. We would tap on the floors and ceiling to communicate and then chat out of our windows. Pete met his wife Jane at university the same year. I was on their second date (it was a double date – mine didn’t work out!). They now live in York and have four kids. 

Then there’s also my university friend Sally, who ended up introducing me to my wife. After graduating from York, she moved to London and was having a housewarming party. She emailed out an invite to which I didn’t initially respond. Then she sent me a separate message saying, “You’ve got to come, you’ll love my housemate. She’s exactly the type of girl you would go for!” I ended up going to the party and meeting my wife there. Quite life changing really when you think about it!”

Last summer Francis received an email from York asking to stay in touch. He entered a competition to win a weekend back in York and won, much to his surprise.

“When I filled out the form I hadn’t noticed at the bottom it had said, ‘chance to win a weekend for two in York’. Then when I got an email in November telling me I had won, it was a lovely surprise.

We decided to visit York the weekend of the King’s coronation. Along with my wife, I paid a bit extra and brought my three children. We ended up staying in a place called ‘Precentors Court’ right by York Minster in a beautiful Georgian House. It had a PS4, so my son was happy!

Soon after arriving we met Pete and his family. All the kids played hide and seek together around the house while we chatted and caught up. It was such a nice day we then went out for a walk around York with both of our families. It was one of the first warm days of Spring, and the bells were ringing in the Minster. The whole place just felt amazing. 

Having lived in London for so long, you come back to the city with a new perspective – you realise how beautiful York is.

We stopped at ‘Museum Gardens’, where we bought ice cream for the kids. One of my daughters loves Harry Potter and wanted to see ‘The Shambles’ so we took a walk there. Then later on we ended up at Five Guys for dinner (where we paid a fortune for some burgers).

My kids were really interested in my time at university. I studied Economics, but they called it ‘money’ and asked me, “How did you study money for three years?” They found it quite interesting and my son, who is 11, has started talking about going to university now. He could see that I’d made friends out of it, and discovered a different place to live, he was very intrigued by it all.

Walking around the city definitely brought back lots of memories. You look at it with such different eyes now, being this bit older. We walked past a restaurant called Harkers, which my friend Lisa booked us to go to in the first week of university. Seeing it now, it looked really posh. I thought: “Why did we go there as students in our first year?” 

Me and Pete also kept reminding each other of some very funny stories from university days. Unfortunately, a lot of them are unpublishable! I do remember though, every Wednesday afternoon we’d play football and then all go into town pub crawling along the way. There was one guy nicknamed ‘Joe Wak’, he was so good at telling stories. With around 20 lads all walking into York, he would tell a story that lasted the whole way and he’d have us all laughing so much. On our nights out Pete got the nickname ‘Party Pete’, as he would always ‘get the party started’.

When I met Pete in York he said, ‘Can you imagine if we could have shown each other our lives now in our first week of uni?’ If we could have done a flash forward, I think we would have been happy enough with the ways things have worked out. We’ve both done alright. I have worked for a big record label, Universal Music, for 22 years now. Straight out of university I got put on a 3 month project with some other graduates, where I was eventually encouraged to apply for a job within the company. I’ve had various different roles, and it’s been a brilliant place to work.

I guess life is busy and it’s human nature to always be looking forward to what’s coming next but going back to York made me stop and reflect. After all the uncertainty in my early 20s, it’s nice to think things have worked out okay in the end.

We spent the second morning in York having breakfast at a lovely independent cafe with brilliant staff. It was nice being able to just walk out of the house and be immediately in the centre of town. Then it was off to my wife’s sister’s house out in Acomb for lunch and we spent the afternoon there. We got the train back to London on the Monday morning. Overall, it was a lovely weekend. 

To sum up my experience at York I think I’d say three things. It massively made me grow up (before, my mum definitely did too much for me!). It educated me, so I ended up getting a job that I love. I met lifelong friends, and ultimately ended up meeting my wife through those friends.”

Reuniting with any old friends from university this summer? Planning any reunion trips back to York? 

We would love to welcome you back to campus and help make your reunion visit a memorable one. We can help advertise your trip to your alumni who may want to join, or coordinate a tour of campus to show how campus has changed since you were last here. Get in touch by dropping us an email: alumni@york.ac.uk, or find out more.

We’d like to hear your reunion stories too!

Head to the ‘Share Your Story’ page on our website to get in touch or submit a contribution to our Virtual Memory Map

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