Starting university as the first-generation in your family and when coming from a typical state school in Newcastle is a bit of a daunting experience. Durham is different from many universities out there, our collegiate system induces a more tight-knit, decentralised set of student communities with their own set of etiquettes, protocols, and different ways of hosting events. It is quite a culture shock to say the least, and it is easy to lose track of everything that’s going on around you.
For anyone starting out in the next academic year, I suggest letting go of any preconceptions and meticulous plans and have the most open mind possible! Your first year is a great way to discover new passions: from fancy dining in Harry Potter-esque gowns, running for all sorts of positions in societies, trying a sport that the vast majority of people have never played before, to simply attempting notoriety and being known as a BNOC (big name on campus).
In the space of the two terms of second year amid a cancelled third term á la COVID-19, I’d managed to juggle a job, be on the exec of two societies, set up our college formals as an assistant social chair, successfully run a campaign to represent the University as an NUS (National Union of Students) delegate, play for my college’s Ultimate Frisbee team and attend a few balls alongside my contact hour heavy degree!
How did I do all this?
A year-long period of trial and error swiftly followed by maximum time efficiency. Sign up for everything that piques even the slightest of your interest in the first few weeks. Immerse yourself in new and familiar experiences. The secret to all of this is an efficient planning and notification system, with the help of Google Calendar and using automated devices to remind me to keep up with academia in routine timeslots, I was able to put aside time for everything else.
Another bit of advice is to know your limits and not only effectively plan and use every hour but also to rest. If you need to disconnect from what you’re preoccupied with, do it with something which doesn’t involve using brain power or thinking – take a few breathers.
Most importantly of all, however, is to do what you love. Don’t allow yourself to be compelled by other people to do things you’re not necessarily interested in. Pursue activities that you will enjoy long term, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone and being surrounded by unfamiliar people. University is a time for reinvention but also a realisation of what you genuinely enjoy. Having now just about finished 2nd year, I’ve realised that for me, variety is key.
Download our 2021 prospectus here.