When I arrived at Durham University on the first day of Freshers’ Week, I was greeted by the smiling, friendly faces of students proudly wearing their college colours and lots of Durham purple (it’s called Palatinate). I immediately felt at home. I’d returned to the city and University I’d fallen in love with the previous summer and the college whose ethos I identified most with.
The first few weeks were a whirlwind of mixed emotions. There was excitement about studying something I found fascinating, in the place I knew was right for me. Nevertheless, it was easy (and completely normal) to feel overwhelmed. I was moving away from the safety net that was home for the first time and it was daunting. When I arrived, I threw myself into all aspects of University life including sports, volunteering and taking on various roles within my college.
Inspired to be an Ambassador
One thing I knew right from the start was that I was going to apply to be a Durham Student Ambassador (DSA). In the summer between year 12 and 13, I came for a Sutton Trust Summer School and it was the hard work of the mentors on that residential that made me realise that Durham was the right University for me.
I applied to be a DSA as a bit of a long-shot. I knew that the process was extremely competitive and even though it was something I was passionate about, I shouldn’t be too disappointed if unsuccessful. After a multi-stage interview process, I was delighted to be accepted for the role. I wanted to give back to a programme that I benefitted so greatly from and, by sharing both my knowledge and experience, help prospective students figure out if Durham was the right University for them.
A varied role
Being a Student Ambassador is a varied role that encompasses working on Open Days, Post-Offer Visit Days, Summer Schools, School Visits, Graduation, and many more events. Working on Open Days my role can be just as varied. From being the first university representative that prospective students see on transport, to general signposting and working on various information desks, whatever my role is, I can guarantee it’ll be a rewarding one. I feel lucky to be able to help guests shape their visits, answer questions, and usually dispel a few worries that may be crucial to their decision about future studies.
Making the most of your Open Day visit
As a prospective student, Open Days are probably one of the easiest and most effective ways of working out if a university and the course it offers is going to be right for you. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the department you’ll be studying at, see where you’ll be living and explore the facilities that are on offer. Visiting Durham also gives you the chance to explore the colleges and get your head around what the collegiate system is, and what it can offer you. Perhaps most importantly (maybe I’m biased) you’ll get to meet current students who are going to give you an honest insight into what being a student at the University is like.
My top 3 tips:
1) Prioritise your course.
When coming to university, you’re coming to study for a degree, so the course is usually the most important element of choosing where you’re going to study (although it is okay to not know exactly what you want to do yet). Find out what’s involved with your course, modules you might be taking, how many lectures you’re likely to have each week, and work out whether this compliments your individual learning style.
2) Explore the local area.
Durham University is a city university with departments dispersed well throughout. Also, if you move out of college accommodation after your first year, you’ll be living within the local area – so it’s useful to be able to get a feel for Durham as a place, as well as a University. Maybe ask a Student Ambassador where their favourite place to grab a bite to eat or drink is.
3) Ask lots of questions.
And then ask more questions! However small or stupid you think they are, it’s your one chance to work out if Durham is the right place for you – don’t leave without answers to your questions, or contact details for someone that will have the answers.