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I thought I'd give you a taster of what life is like at Durham university.... why you might ask? because I know when I was first applying to university, you get fed so much information but its never by the students themselves only the staff who don't really appreciate university life...
So lets start from the beginning......
Its Autumn 2002 and I'm deciding which university I want to spend the next few years of my life at! I can tell you now its such a daunting time and there are so many universities around so how do you make the decision? I'd heard about Durham just because its seen as a bit of a red-brick institute! but also that they achieve good results in a nice city. In March 2003 I made my first trip up to the north to visit it. I must admit I was terrified because university seemed such a huge thing. My mum and I arrived in the morning and went in search of my chosen department ( modern languages). I loved the city instantly with its quaint little shops and cobbled streets and I felt I could really feel at home there. The university isnt on a campus but instead spread around the city..... but don't worry its a pretty small place so you won't be walking miles and miles each day! Anyway eventually I arrived at the department and everyone was so welcoming and friendly - I really felt at ease. I think I knew then that this was the university for me so when I got back home I made it my first choice destination!
So that was briefly my perspective before coming to Durham... now for the current students perspective!
I think one of the most distintive features about Durham is its collegiate system whereby every student is assigned a college which is to be their home while they live there. Durham has 11 undergraduate colleges in total :
St.Aidans Collingwood St.Hild & St.Bede Grey Van Mildert Cuthberts Chads University (aka castle) St.Johns Trevelyan St.Marys
My college is St.Aidans and for your first year at uni you live in the college with the 3rd years. Its a real home from home and the community spirit is fantastic. All the colleges have bars ( some better than others!!) and sports and IT facilities. The inter-college rivalry is great along with the college bar crawls
which take you all over Durham city! Being part of a college can be really re-assuring in the first few weeks of uni because there are always people you can rely on or go to for some advice.
~~~ Accommodation~~~ Now I can't speak for all the other colleges but at St.Aidans the accommodation is pretty good! There are 3 straights : A,B & C i.e. corridors housing about 100 people (admittedly these could do with some work but I think they are getting re-furbished during Summer 2004). The we have B and C curves which basically are like travel lodge type rooms! They have been totally re-furbished, all with nternet connection, fridge, sink and modern furniture! Finally we have the houses. These are for 3rd years but each house has two freshers in! I was one of the lucky ones and managed to end up in a House. You get a really nice room with en-suite! and have a livingroom/kitchen at your disposal. It was a bit daunting to be a fresher in a 3rd year house but I really love it now and my housemates are fantastic.
~~~ Food ~~~ I think I can speak for students from most of the colleges here when I say the food is definitely....average! Coming to Durham means you get 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. -Breakfast is good but lets be honest you can't really go wrong with that can you! There is a choice of cooked or continental and at St.Aidans on a Sunday you can get basically all you can eat brunch! -Lunch is okay...there is normally a choice between a baguette or hot food like pizza, chicken nugget. -Dinner is my worst meal of the day because it can vary so much! I think its just the sheer amount of carbohydrates they feed you that puts me off. I always feel like I've eaten about 5 horses afterwards! The meals we have range from lasagne to toad in the hole. However I must stress that food isnt an issue because we have a great pizza bar where you can get a medium pizza for about £3.50!
Apart from college food, there are loads of places to eat in Durham. The DSU (Durham Students Union) serves food from 9am to 5pm at really reasonable prices and also there are restaurants everywhere that do half-proce student nights! ( Bella Italia and Ricardos are two great italian places!)
Now for the reason we all come to university..... the work!!
The university has a huge range of courses available and I think they are all very well taught. For each degree you must do 6 modules in the chosen subject and acheive 40% or over to proceed to the 2nd year. One good thing is the 1st year doesn't count towards your final degree mark so you have a chance to find your feet within your subject.
My department : modern languages is located in Elvet Riverside (a block of buildings close to the centre of town and next to the DSU). I am taught through a series of lectures, seminars(classes of between 10-15) and tutorials(small groups of about 4-6).The number of hours you are actually being taught varies hugely from subject to subject. My course in French and German has about 12 hours a week but I know the scientists have about 30 hours a week! The work load isn't too bad but things do get stressful towards the end of the 2nd term and the beginning of the 3rd when deadlines for summative work (i.e. work that counts towards your end of year grade) and exams are looming. You also have to make sure you buy any books required on the reading list. This can get very expensive so make sure you budget for them. I think I have spent about £120 this year just on books!
~~~The Library~~~ Your first impression of the library will just be .."Woah!..." because its absolutely huge. There are 4 floors, several big computer rooms and study areas. In order to get into the library you will need your camus card which basically identifies you and gets you student discounts!! There are millions and millions of books in the library so at times they can be really hard to find but there is always help on hand from the staff or the library computer system. I can guarantee you will find any book you want in there....!
~~~ The Nightlife~~~ With its cobbles and oldy-wordly feel, Durham isn't the most happening place when it comes to going out. However all is not lost..... - College bars : As I have said, the college bars are great fun to do a tour of plus you can get a pint of beer at £1.40!! - Walkabout : An australian themed bar/pub/nightclub which has student nights. The drinks can be expensive but there is always a good atmosphere! - DH1: A nightclub next door to walkabout although I can't really comment on it because I'm ashamed to say I haven't been there yet!! - Cafe Rock : A bar/club with 3 floors of different music, about £3 to get in. - Yates and Wetherspoons : Chain pubs so you probably all already know about these! - Klute : apparently voted the worst nightclub in Britain by FHM, its very VERY small and plays cheesy music but with a big grou of friends it can be a laugh! -DSU : the students union regularly hold events like Planet of Sound, Back to school which are for students only. Plus they have a bar which again has fantastic student prices!
If all else fails though, go to Newcastle! Its only £3.05 with a railcard on the train and offers some of the best nightlife in Britain!
~~~ Sporting Facilities~~~ I have to say I'm not really a sporty kind of girl but I have a few friends that are and they inform me that the facilities are pretty good. You can play sport for your college as well as the university and there is a big sports complex called Maiden Castle which has loads of football, rugby, hockey etc. pitches. Also each college has their own tennis court and gym.
~~~ Societies and Clubs ~~~ The university has over 150 different clubs and societies ranging from belly dancing to football supporting! You name it its there. When you first come to Durham you will go to a freshers fair where all the societies have stalls telling you what theyre are about. Its good to join a few because you get to go to extra social events etc. Depending on which one you join, depends what activites you end up doing. For example the French society hold french evenings and even arranged a trip to Paris. The cost of joining again depends on the individual society but I think its about £8 for life membership!!
~~~ Cost of Living~~~ Every term in your first year you pay a college bill which includes food, rent and all bills. It is £1000 per term plus the ocassional tenner for damages. Apart from the books which I have already mentioned the only other costs you should incur are social costs! I would say a night out costs between £10-£20 so its not too expensive.
~~~ Disadvantages~~~ I would say the only annoying thing in Durham is the hills! Whenever you go down one you know sooner or later you willhave to go back up! Plus 6 of the colleges are located on a hill which means between a 5-20 minute walk to lectures depending on how far up the hill you are!
So to sum everything up... Durham is a great place to study at and there is always something for everyone!
I'm currently at Manchester and loving it there, nightlife is fantastic! Did look at Durham but I was worried it'd be a little bleak in the winter! Sarah x
anthmack 04.07.2004 19:14
I am going to durham University in september... Unfortunately, as I am a business student I am at the new campus in Stockton! Bleugh! I`m from the county so I know durham quite well.. But although not as happeneing as some of the bigger cities, you can still have a good, if not better night in durham! Brilliant review. Described it perfectly! Antony