The University of York’s acceptance letter…

January 10, 2009

Heslington Hall

Heslington Hall

The University of York’s acceptance letter finally arrived in my New York mailbox earlier this week. I had previously received an email from them informing me that I had been admitted into the Medieval Studies MA program. But I had been looking forward to the physical letter to confirm it and really get excited about the program. I am sure that says something about the limits of technology: I certainly love the convenience of web-based communication, but I need the material item for verity and some kind of aesthetic pleasure. Seeing the Royal Mail seal on the envelope when I pulled it out of the box really thrilled me and made the experience real.

But now that the envelope has arrived, I must say that I was a little disappointed upon opening it. The acceptance packet contained just four short pieces: a one-page acceptance letter (with color stamp to make it official), a one-page acceptance/denial of offer form (to be returned to the University within 6 weeks, if possible), a two-page letter discussing each student housing option available and their cost, and a one-page form to apply for student housing. No return envelopes. No color brochures with pictures and lovely script fonts. No special information about the program. No frills. Nothing. That was it.

I think my conception of what this acceptance packet should have been is largely based on those I had received when I applied for my undergraduate universities. During that time, I received over-sized mailings with colorful brochures, pages offering different takes on scholarships and aid, and invitations to further inspect the universities on family days and open houses. NYU, of which I am very nearly an alum, even sent a glittering packet of goodies. I remember it distinctly: it came with a large booklet with different chapters on college life, similar to a dictionary (with its A-B-C-etc reference page turns that can be seen from the outside so you can find your particular item) but smaller. Even they had something. Now all I get is less than five white pages with black courier font and a blue official York stamp!

It is disappointing. But, you know, in all likelihood (still waiting on Oxford), I will in York next fall. And that makes up for the acceptance’s shortcomings.

Site Dig in York

Site Dig in York

I do find this new story out of York intriguing though. Apparently, the oldest surviving human brain in Britain (over 2000 years old) has just been unearthed inside a BCE skull, as construction teams were excavating York’s Heslington campus expansion. “As Finds Officer Rachel Cubitt cleaned the soil-covered skull’s outer surface, she felt something move inside the cranium. Peering through the base of the skull, she spotted an unusual yellow substance.” That was the brain, I guess, or what remained of it. What fun, though! That is one plus of the university, I suppose, that there are constant archaeological opportunities lying in the ground, waiting to be discovered.

Previous work had unearthed the skeletal remains of a late-Roman man believed to have died of tuberculosis, as well as various other Roman works. The total cost of expansion is over £500 million, and I suspect that each discovery not only delays the construction, but increases the cost. Workers, machines, etc…it gets expensive I would imagine.

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