Find out what life is really like at Durham University

CollegesStudent experienceUndergraduate

University wasn’t what I expected

Like many of you, I have watched a lot of films and TV shows that depict university life. Many of them being American, such as Community or Gilmore Girls. I knew a lot of these shows would not be realistic in their portrayal of American colleges, let alone UK universities. Yet I still found myself building my expectations about university from these shows. This was partly due to the fact I don’t have any family who have been to university, so I had nobody to tell me what student living was actually like.


I do think it’s important to stress the fact that building up expectations isn’t bad, in fact, some of them have been true. For instance, I expected I would meet people from across the UK and further afield, and I expected that living on my own for the first time would be strange but also come with a lot of freedom. What I didn’t expect was to watch the Twilight saga in fresher’s week with my flatmates! That’s not so much an issue with expectations, more an issue with a global pandemic but I would not have it any other way. One big expectation I had was that I would be drinking every night and I would focus on my social life a lot more than my education. What I found whilst people do enjoy drinking, there was never any social pressure to join in, there was also no pressure to do something every single night. At the end of the day, everyone is at university to get a degree and we all worked hard to get here.

Being an adult

I was completely blindsided by the responsibility of being an adult. If you don’t already know, Josephine Butler College is a self-catered hill college. This presented itself with challenges I didn’t expect. The first of which was now that I live by myself, I’m responsible for deciding what I want to cook and when I want to cook it. Whilst it is a huge stereotype that all students eat is pasta, beans and toast, it’s not completely inaccurate as my personal favourite student meal would have to be pesto pasta! However, I cook a bigger variety of food than I thought I would, for instance, I’ve eaten a lot more salads than I ever imagined! As a side note, I did not expect fresh food like fruit and vegetables to go off as quickly as they do. I really surprised myself at how little I knew what to expect in terms of being an “adult”.  


Another thing I didn’t expect is just how independent you are. I am responsible for getting to lectures and going to seminars. No lecturer will chase you up for work like a sixth-form teacher will, but I found out I’m much better at managing my time than I thought I was. It also allowed me to adapt to a timetable that suited me and not one that fit my family. Despite only being in my first year, I have learnt so much that I hope will suit me well in the future. I was nervous about moving to university as I didn’t know what to expect but that’s part of the fun about experiencing university. I’m sure if I were asked this question in a years’ time, there would be so much more I know but for now the main take away is that it’s all the things you don’t expect or even think about that will end up being the most fun!.

Find out more

Download our latest prospectus here.

Follow our students on Instagram and YouTube.

Hollie Bullen

Hello! My name is Hollie. I’m a first-year psychology student. I am from the North East and I am currently at Josephine Butler College.
Related posts
PostgraduateSocietiesStudent experienceUndergraduate

Meet your Durham SU Student Officers

CareersDepartmentsStudent experience

My experience working as an intern with the Careers and Enterprise team

DepartmentsStudent experienceUndergraduate

What's it like studying Anthropology?

ArtsDepartmentsStudent experienceUndergraduate

What's it like studying Visual Arts and Film?

Sign up to our Mailing List