Find out what life is really like at Durham University

Hi everyone! I’m Lizzie, the admin of @thedurhamstudent Instagram. Recently I asked prospective students to send in their questions about Durham University life. With four years of experience as a student at Durham, I hope my answers will give you an insight into what it’s really like to live and study here.

Do you have any tips for starting university?

Check out my two-part blog for lots of my tips for starting university. The posts include information about moving in, freshers’ fairs, matriculation, formals and more! Overall, my advice would be to enjoy meeting new people and getting involved with new things, but also making sure to take time for yourself to settle in if you need it.

What should I bring?

Check out Ruby’s blog about What to pack and what not to pack!

I’d say the essentials are bedding, clothing, stationery and home comforts. There are lots of shops in Durham, and of course the option to online shop, so don’t worry about packing absolutely everything you might need.

My workspace in my college room

Does the university offer scholarships?

All scholarship information can be found on our website

Is there any new information about my college?

As well as the university webpages about colleges, you can also look at your college’s official social media accounts (links from the individual college webpages), most are on Instagram and/or Facebook and their student common room accounts (JCR and MCR) for up-to-date photos and events information.

How far is my college from everything else?

Online and smartphone maps, as well as the university map site, show the relative location of your college to other places in the city. These virtual maps can tell you how long it takes to walk to the city centre, other colleges, your department, and public transport links. Everything is within walking distance around Durham, but there are also buses and taxis available. The train station is very accessible for travelling home, or for fun trips, for example to Newcastle or the seaside.

Can I join college sports teams if I’m a complete beginner?

Absolutely! It’s encouraged that anyone who wants to get involved in new sports or societies does so, especially at a college level. In the colleges with larger cohorts, there are often several different levels within each sport to account for the number of students. For example, at Collingwood, there are nearly as many football teams as letters in the alphabet! Whereas in smaller colleges, there are usually fewer teams per sport, and most of these welcome completely new starters. College sports and societies offer an amazing chance to try something new throughout your time at university!

Are there university-wide societies or only college ones?

There are so many! There’s University, Student Union AND College societies to choose from. Check out @thedurhamstudent ‘Societies’ Instagram story highlight for more information about just some of these societies at Durham.

Durham University Concert Band performing in the Cathedral

Also, if you have interests that aren’t currently catered for, you have the chance to set up your own sports and societies at college or university level whilst at Durham! For instance, I loved having the chance to set up Dance-Fit and Dance Troupe societies for my college. I even created a Danceathon fundraising event through these societies and invited all interested students from across the university to come along- a great way to meet new people, have fun and raise money for an important local cause!

Durham Charity Danceathon

Are the nightclubs any good?

Although the Durham nightclub scene is smaller than bigger cities, there are still many Durham clubs where you can have a fun night. These include Lloyds, Wiff Waff, Jimmy Allen’s, Klute, Players, Fabio’s, Osbournes and Babylon. For bigger nights out, Newcastle is only 15 minutes away on the train!

Are there any non-alcoholic bars in Durham?

I’m not aware of any specifically non-alcoholic bars in Durham, but there are a wide range of cafes, bubble tea shops, restaurants, pubs, bars, deli’s and clubs in Durham and many of these offer great non-alcoholic options, including mocktails! It’s good to note too that in freshers’ week, many colleges have events specifically catered to non-drinkers, helping like-minded students connect.

Are there good local shops around, like independent clothes shops and cafes?

Definitely! There’s a huge variety of independent cafes and restaurants. These are great to study at and to take family and friends to when they visit. Durham also hosts independent shops for gifts, arts and crafts and vintage clothes. Many local businesses have taken a hit with covid regulations, so students have been spending money there when they can to support them – a good excuse for lots of yummy takeaway food!

How are the university libraries?

I think they’re great! A good mix of modern and traditional spaces with something to suit everyone. Independent and group study spaces are available, ranging from silent areas and private rooms, to more collaborative relaxed areas where you can talk to course-mates or friends. Several libraries have cafes and designated eating areas. There are also computer and printing facilities. The Teaching and Learning Centre was built next to the Science Site very recently to increase the amount of study space available to students. Each college also has its own library, with books and study spaces for its students. Read Emily’s blog about libraries (this was written before TLC opened)

Loads of study space options at the Teaching and Learning Centre

What is your favourite thing about living in Durham?

For me, it’s the amazing scenery- with a mix of traditional buildings, cobbled streets, shopping streets and woodland river walks. Durham is unlike anywhere else I’ve been to, but it will always feel like home to me!

What do you think are the unexpected things that people will love most about Durham?

Prior to the pandemic restrictions, I was always surprised and excited by the huge variety of events in the Durham area that students can get involved in. From Diwali celebrations at the Oriental Museum to the annual Fire and Ice Festival with ice sculptures and demonstrations. One of my favourite events has to be the Lumiere Festival which happens in Durham every two years, with beautiful artworks incorporating light dotted around the city centre. Watch Carina’s video to get a flavour of the festival when she got to have a sneak peek around in 2019. The festival should be back in 2021 (fingers crossed!)

Thank you so much for sending in your great questions to @thedurhamstudent Instagram. I hope the answers are helpful! If you have any more questions you can send these to the University via our Ask Us page, or chat with our students studying your subject, from the UK and/or from your home country.

Discover more

Download our latest prospectus and college guide here.

Follow our students on Instagram and YouTube.

Lizzie English

Hi! I’m a fourth-year student at St. John’s, studying for an Integrated Masters in Biosciences. You can often find me trying to take artsy photos of Durham, moaning about walking up Cardiac Hill, or dreaming up new choreography for St. John’s College Dance Troupe. Follow me on Instagram @imsobaesic
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