Coming from Hong Kong, I was ready for big change when I stepped into the UK. Durham seemed like the perfect polar opposite of the incessant and busy urban life that Hong Kong is so well known for. Huge crowds of businessmen and people rushing to get to work in the morning? Not here. Here in Durham, you can literally hear the leaves rustle and the chirping of birds in the morning. And at night, the sky is so dark you can see the twinkling of stars. All this was not remotely possible in Hong Kong. Noise and light pollution are far, far lower than I would have ever expected.
Studying aboard here in Durham University has given me a new perspective of life. A new perspective of thinking. The University has some excellent facilities, all with plenty of space, especially the huge Bill Bryson library located at the University’s main science site. Now in Hong Kong, we are quite proud of our public libraries, but the Bill Bryson library is completely something different. It is massive (yes, admittedly not many floors, but each floor is huge), and stocks more collections of books, articles, you name it, than I could ever possibly imagine. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone here, but in Hong Kong, space is scarce and a luxury! Even my college bedroom is probably larger than the majority of bedrooms in Hong Kong apartments!
A different life – a distinctly different life is one of the main reasons why many international students want to study at Durham. Durham may be the perfect place for some. It’s not a city (as the name “Durham City” might imply) – it’s more of a large town. A large town with a vibrant history. You’ve got historical buildings all around you – Durham Cathedral (where the university matriculation also took place!), Durham Castle, and of course all the university colleges! In Hong Kong, these historical buildings would probably have been demolished to make space for more high-rise apartments! There are also some gorgeous views down the riverside. It’s rare to find these in urbanised areas. Clean air and generous amounts of free space!
The way people live life here is drastically different as well. In Hong Kong, we were mainly concerned about speed, efficiency and results. If the food didn’t get served quickly enough, then one would become greatly annoyed. Here, you can relax: calm down and approach everything in a reassuring manner. Admittedly you cannot find any good Cantonese or Chinese cuisine here, which is a pity. (imitated but never duplicated!) However, the upside is that here you can find foods of all sorts to suit your budget – never fear to try new food!
So, how is the social aspect at Durham? As a Psychology student, we study cross-cultural differences in behaviour – a clear distinction made between individualist and collectivist cultures. Living here in Durham is a real-life example of this. It’s obvious at first glance to an international student like myself that everything here is different, but don’t be afraid to ask questions – if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my time here, it’s that people here are always willing to answer questions (and not glare at you with suspicion!) It’s a friendly atmosphere all right…and I’m thrilled to be spending my next few years of life at Durham University!