Life in the Big(ger) City: Durham From Outside

Enough to inspire a yearning for essays?

As I’m still temporarily between Year Abroad placements, I took a little trip to Durham last week. This visit back to Durham is a necessary part of any Year Abroad, not only to save oneself from actually going home (a prospect that seems desperately appealing up until the moment you step through the front door), but also to spend a few days reminding your old friends that you actually do exist.

At first glance, nothing seemed to have changed. Alright, they were digging up the Market Square, Bimbi’s was under new management, and everyone was living in different rooms, but other than that it was just like second year. Better, in fact, because everyone had work to do except me! At this point I feel that I should add that one of the great joys in a Year Abroader’s life is reading everyone else’s summative essay-related Facebook statuses. (Lower your weapons; there is a reason for this!) They soften the blow of the numerous “look at us having fun without you” photos and take our minds off the fact that we will have oral exams in Freshers’ Week come October.

However, being work-free when everyone else is working has its downsides. Remember that time when you finished your exams/summatives/lectures before all of your friends? It seemed brilliant when you first finished, but it soon became boring. You couldn’t celebrate because everyone else was working, and you couldn’t bask in the glow of freedom because doing so would earn you murderous looks from all of your friends. Last week was a bit like that for me. I was back inside the Bubble, but only notionally. Ironically, the very thing which I used to curse from within it was what kept me from being truly a part of it. Surely I couldn’t want to be a stressed student?

But the main reason I wanted to have work was because being in Durham without lectures, assignments or seminars reminded me that I would soon have to leave it. Because while I have seen and done many amazing things in the past four months, and will hopefully see and do many more in the next four (and indeed the four after that), in many ways Durham is still home. Often when I felt homesick in Russia, it was not for the town where I spent the first eighteen years of my life, but for the city where I spent the last two. Because, fight it as you may, Durham takes hold of you, giving you memories that will stay with you for life, and also giving you a yearning to return, no matter how far from the Bubble you may have travelled.

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