Find out what life is really like at Durham University

CollegesStudent experience

A South College Pioneer

At Durham, a college is more than just somewhere to live, eat and sleep. Colleges are tight-knit communities, where you will meet some of your best friends! The colleges bring together students from all subjects, and offer societies, social events and a platform to express opinions, showcase talents and try something new. Many colleges also have a programme of academic talks and alumni and careers events to push your intellectual curiosity beyond your degree. Another great thing about the collegiate system is the sense of belonging and identity that comes from being part of a smaller community. We will defend any bad word against our college and wear college stash with pride. Best of all, we can be ourselves, as it is so easy to meet similar people in such a small community. 

Pitcairn Building, South College

Becoming a Pioneer Scholar

The opportunity to join South College was something that I just could not say no to. To have a part in building a new college community at a well-established university, is not an opportunity that comes by often. I am so pleased to have joined forty like-minded Pioneer Scholars and I have made so many great friendships already, something that I think will be reflected in our college community. As Pioneer Scholars, we are putting together the best bits from our respective colleges and adding innovative new ideas to make South College a truly unique experience. Of course, these are only the foundations of something great and we cannot wait for your input! I can confidently say that you will have the best time at South College over the coming years!

South College is going to be particularly special. It will truly be OUR college. As pioneers and new students, we are in a unique position where we can shape the direction of our college from the very start. I’m most looking forward to being part of the new community at South College, collectively building a space in which every student feels comfortable and confident in voicing their opinions and showcasing their talents, whether that be on a pitch, in a musical performance or a debate.

South College Townhouse bedroom

Fantastic facilities

I can’t wait to see everyone enjoying the new facilities, including the largest college gym in Durham as well as the modern student bedrooms. Most importantly, I can’t wait for us to become a close community and make memories in the formal hall. By having the opportunity to create new traditions, start new societies and plan events that will become a staple in the South College social calendar, you can really take ownership of your university experience. One college principal once told me that we should not let our degrees get in the way of our education, which is something I really hope we can live by at South College. Whilst we will have a reputation for academic excellence, it is everything else that we do at university that teaches us valuable skills.

The shared Multiple Use Games Area (MUGA) for South and John Snow Colleges

Giving students a voice

Every college has a Junior Common Room (JCR) which is run by a committee of students who work tirelessly to give you the best student experience. The small size of the JCR makes it truly representative of the student body and ideas and suggestions are easily taken onboard and implemented if possible. As South College is brand new, it will rely heavily on our input as the first cohort to establish traditions, social events, welfare and environment campaigns. The current lockdown is a great chance to think of some ideas and suggestions for our first year at South College as this will be the perfect time to set up a new society or an annual ‘wear your tie on your head’ formal (I am joking about that one). There are also brilliant opportunities within the JCR at South College, where you could take on a leadership role such as Vice President, Chair, Treasurer, Senior Welfare Officer or Events Officer. My involvement in the JCR T my previous college Trevelyan College, has been so much fun, not only providing me with a sense of belonging and responsibility, I also love writing motions and reviewing constitution documents. My role in the Trevelyan College Sabbatical President Referendum was particularly cool as the vote is something that will affect students for many years to come.

Ensuring support for South College students

Finally, the welfare systems in place in the individual colleges are an absolute godsend. Not only does South College have a brilliant and supportive leadership team, made up of Tim, Lee and Steven, but it will also have a Senior Welfare Officer, along with Male and Female Welfare Officers backed by a Welfare Committee. They will not only signpost students to relevant information and services, but plan welfare events and play a huge part in welcoming new students during Freshers Week. At Trevs, I was a Fresher’s Representative (a Frep) and a college parent. My involvement in the running of Fresher’s Week and mentoring new students to help build their confidence, has given me great fulfilment so far at university. This work also led me to volunteer as an A-Level tutor for the university’s Student Community Action Programme, which is a rewarding experience and something I highly recommend getting involved in.

My band ‘The Dead L!nes’

I can safely say that my college experience so far has made my university experience infinitely better. The small size of the colleges helped me to build confidence in first year to start a band (shoutout to The Dead L!nes). The college music facilities were perfect for practising, and the college open mic nights were a great place to start with our performances. It also gave me the confidence to jam with other musicians, something I don’t think I would have done if it was not for the tight-knit community feel of the collegiate system.

Stay safe, have a great summer and I look forward to meeting you all in October!

Ben Bassett

Hi, I’m Ben, a second-year History student, originally at Trevelyan College, I am transferring to South College as a Pioneer Student. When I'm not doing my degree, I can be found playing guitar in my band, The Dead L!nes, getting involved in music societies and mentoring local sixth form students.
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