Find out what life is really like at Durham University

SportStudent experienceUndergraduate

A Team Durham Student-Athlete Experience

I have currently been in Durham for 8 weeks; preseason, freshers and half of the first academic term are now behind me and it has flown by! It’s been a very hectic start to University life, and I’d like to share how everything is going with you.


Preseason was the best way to start my time at Durham; I found my way around when the city wasn’t quite as busy and got to know my teammates. The training was tough but enjoyable and good preparation for the British Universities and College Sport (BUCS) season.


Freshers week can be a bit daunting being away from home and not knowing anyone, but there are lots of great welcome events and you meet loads of people during the week. The hardest bit is juggling just how busy (especially as an athlete if you still have preseason!); I was still training a lot and trying to attend as many events as possible.

Matriculation at the Cathedral during Freshers’ week

First weeks of term

I spend around 20-25 hours on the court, in the gym or on the track and have 21-23 contact hours for Maths, as well as problem sheets to do too, so fitting everything in is a challenge. I have support from the University through my college family (students in the year above who do similar subjects and/or activities to you, they are always happy to talk) mentor and from Team Durham through my sport’s performance mentor who helps me manage my time.

The team at Durham Parkrun

First matches

I’ve played both home and away matches. Away days are long as we normally have to leave around 7am and don’t get back to Durham until around 9pm! When you’re not playing, you are supporting your team mates, so the day goes very quickly and there have been some exciting matches to watch. So far I’ve been to St Andrews, Leeds, Loughborough (too many times!), Nottingham and Shrewsbury! Wednesday’s are also team social nights which are great fun and you get to know people across the other 5 women’s and 6 men’s teams. The matches themselves are of a very high standard and are played in a good competitive spirit. Most sports will have league matches, a cup competition (knockout where all the finals across all sports and competitions are played on a ‘big BUCS Wednesday’) and individuals at the end of the year. This year they have introduced a new ‘BUCS play app’ which you must have downloaded and registered with to be able to compete. You can access all results and fixtures across all sports through it so is a really good way to keep up to date with how everyone is getting on!

Top tips for athletes applying or starting at Durham

Being in a catered college has advantages and disadvantages. During pre-season I was in self-catered accommodation for a few weeks and now I’m in St. Chad’s College which is catered. While not having to cook saves time, I personally have found it difficult as training clashes with meal times and if you have Wednesday or weekend fixtures, you have to get packed breakfast, lunch and dinner or miss out on meals that you have paid for, which can end up being quite expensive at the end of the year! However, when you do make meals, it is a great way to catch up with friends and socialise, not to mention the food at St. Chad’s is excellent! In terms of eating healthy and getting as much food as you need, it is possible although there will always be things there tempting you! In short, check roughly what your lecture and training schedule will be like and then decide whether catered is for you!

Apply for scholarships: there are lots of scholarships available for athletes and it’s worth applying! Check it out here

Talk to people you know at Durham: the best advice comes from current students (probably in your sport!). I know I had lots of questions and the tennis coordinator was always friendly and would reply quickly.

Get in touch

If you’d like any advice or have any questions, please check out my social media pages or website and drop me a DM. 🙂

Instagram: @oliviafrenchtennis

Twitter: @livfrenchtennis

Facebook: Olivia French


I am shared ‘a day in my life’ on Instagram story with @thedurhamstudent on December 2nd – check it out 🙂

Olivia French

Hi! My name is Olivia and I am a 2nd year studying Maths. I'm a member of St Chad's College and also of Durham University Tennis, which normally takes up a lot of my time!  You can find me on Instagram.
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