Find out what life is really like at Durham University

InternationalStudent experienceUndergraduate

Welcome to all international students travelling to Durham!

By now, you are probably buzzing with excitement to have been offered a place to study at Durham. Congratulations on surviving your school exams, we can’t wait to meet you!

It seems just like yesterday I had just discovered I got into Durham and was making plans on things I needed to do from my home country, Nigeria, to ensure I arrived in university on time. Even though I had studied in the UK before as an international student, Durham still seemed so far away to me, and there was lots of preparation to do. Luckily, I got help and support from my older friends in UK universities, and was able to navigate visa applications, and packing. In order to help you get a soft landing, I’ve put together some advice based on my own experience.

Visas and paperwork

In the midst of my joy in getting in, I knew I had to pause for a moment and prepare for my visa application. As an international student, I needed a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies) letter to apply for my visa. Luckily, Durham provided it right on time so I was able to start my process early. It is important to check the UK government visa pages for the visa requirements for your country, as some vary. In order to speed up the process, I checked this while I waited for my CAS and created a file with all the documents I needed.

Once my CAS was released, I was able to get the other documents I needed and filled out the online application form. I booked my appointment early due to the fact that the embassy at home was quite busy, and I had close family and experts review my application with me, in order to be safe. I also cross-checked my application against the requirements to ensure I got it right, as it takes time for reapplication.

Planning your move

After submitting my application, I started planning my arrival. I visited the University Welcome and Induction webpages and stayed abreast of my college fresher’s page for all the information on fresher’s events. I also looked up clubs and societies I was interested in, just to keep myself excited in the midst of the bureaucracy.

The UK visa issue time varies from country to country, but I kept tabs on it to ensure I picked it up when requested to. Once I received my visa, I booked my travel dates in order to arrive on the first day of the international student welcome, as this enabled me to sort out my visa check and other necessary documentation before everyone arrived and the fun began.


Upon arrival at the airport, should you choose to fly into Newcastle, the University has a pickup and welcome service so you will immediately feel welcome. If this is not your vibe, Uber does taxi pick-ups from the airport, or you can get a taxi from outside the airport. You could also catch the train to Durham from Newcastle, or even get the bus. At the airport, you will be able to purchase a sim card and some snacks to refuel you for your move in and get your mobile connected. College Freshers Reps (Freps) will be ready to welcome when you arrive at college and they will help you move your bags to your room!

If you are coming with family, do not worry as there are hotels in Durham and Newcastle to stay in. From the Premier Inn, to the Travelodge or Marriot there are multiple choices, you can check online on websites such as TripAdvisor or to book for your family.

Permission to Study Check

If you are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), the University is required to check that you have (or have applied for) a valid Tier 4 visa, Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or other immigration permission which allows you to study in the UK, you can do all of this at once at one of our permission to study check sessions.

Banking, health care and shopping

Another useful thing to note is that the university provides support in opening a bank account and registering with a doctor. Although I had been studying in the UK prior to Durham, I was able to watch my friends go through the process of opening accounts, and they were provided with proof of residence letters from the university upon request.

While you wait for your bank account to open and your card to arrive, you can always make use of cash. There are a variety of shops in town where you can buy groceries and toiletries. It is also worth looking online at stores like Wilko for your pots and pans if you are in a self, or part catered college. There are beds at college accommodation and other necessary furniture, but do not forget to bring your own sheets and towels! And if you are worried about the extra weight in your suitcase, you can always purchase these in town or order online.

Support local traders by shopping at Durham Indoor Market, read Emily’s blog to find out what’s there.

Find out more about ‘What to bring to University’

Freshers events

I purchased tickets from my college fresher’s events. I was careful to ensure I only purchased university fresher’s events and stayed in university groups, as a lot of venues market fake events. It is important to ensure you buy tickets from your college and official university groups!

St Mary's college Durham Ball

Start planning

Visit the University International Office, New Students 2019 webpage. You will find loads of advice available and it is full of information to help you travel and arrive safely, also tips to help you settle into life in Durham.

This includes the Online Induction Planner where you can create a personalised timetable of events organised by your college and department. You can also check when permission to study checks and banking sessions are taking place.

Check out other Student Blogs to find out more about the range of activities you can get involved in around Durham.

Those are a few of my top tips for your arrival to make it all the more enjoyable. Whatever way you choose to move in, I hope you are excited to come to Durham and we can’t wait to welcome you and see you around on campus!

Seun Onalaja

Hi! My name is Seun Onalaja and I am a third-year Accounting & Finance student from Stephenson College. I am from Lagos, Nigera originally. I am currently on my placement year working with L'Oreal in London. I am a keen photographer and ran @thedurhamstudent Instagram account las year!

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