One does not simply challenge Durham stereotypes

Memes galore

With social media constantly coming up with new ways to express oneself (and, of course, new ways to procrastinate) we thought we’d take a look at the latest craze: memes. As they say, a picture says a thousand words, and it seems people are increasingly using images with simple captions to sum up everything from the latest joke to their lifestyle as a whole. Memes have already sparked the attention of many at Durham University, which now has its own Facebook page specifically dedicated to them (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Durham-University-Memes/321769851201990). Outside the bubble, memes have been widely used to comically readdress the stereotypes surrounding different professions, pitting what other people think someone does at work against what they actually do. Considering the many and varied stereotypes surrounding students, we felt this was the perfect opportunity to set the record straight about a few things we do.

What society thinks I do

(Will) Purple Radio – ‘Radio DJ’ comes with a suggestion of Mark Ronson broadcasting live to a huge audience, and given the simplicity of the technical features of the studio any outsider listening in may be impressed by the quality of the broadcast.

(Sam) Archaeology: Following a steady stream of Indiana Jones films and historical fiction books, society appears to have placed archaeology wholly in the adventure category. “Do you go on digs?” is without doubt the first question that pops out of everyone’s mouth as their imagination runs away with images of people in exotic places retrieving pottery and skulls and, of course, the unique history re-writing treasure that is found in every such story.

(W) Rowing – Think James Cracknall rowing the Atlantic, think Sir Steve Redgrave heading for gold at Sydney; given that the dreams of many future Olympians are born on the river Wear Durham is naturally upheld as one of the countries’ top rowing universities. For this reason Durham College Rowing is able, in the eyes of society at least, to bask in the limelight of its sporting reputation.

(S) Year Abroad: Study at a foreign university or teach English with the British Council: that’s what every linguist does; she must do one of those. 12 hours of work a week, and you’ve got yourself a ‘gap yah’.

(W) English – Number One in the UK for English!? Ahh that takes the sting out of an Oxford rejection like nothing else. Surely it is Durham’s lecture theatres from which our nation’s novelists and critics of the future will emerge? After being ranked one of the UK’s top 3 Universities across the board many may perceive an average Durham student as being just as hard-working and industrious as an Oxford undergraduate.

What my friends think I do

(W) Purple Radio – ‘Sit in the studio, eat Maltesers and choose seemingly fragmented topics of discussion, having made little or no preparation for each broadcast other than scrolling down your iTunes and selecting the day’s music.’ (This comes first hand from a close and supportive housemate).

(S) Archaeology: The initial laughter and disbelief that met my pronouncement that I wanted to take archaeology was soon replaced with the view that I study random aspects of cultures that no longer have any relevance in a department full of men with beards.

(W) Rowing – Well, after being regularly woken up at 5.30am by my motivational pre-rowing music seshes, the number one thing my friends think I do is annoy them at unreasonable hours. The phrase ‘I’ve got rowing’ also serves as an unquestionable excuse for missing a night out.

(S) Year Abroad: Essentially, most have no clue. If they have not mistakenly taken PR to mean ‘Public Radio’ as one friend did, most brains click straight to: “Is PR the same as advertising?” Once they have moved past this minor issue, it is the glamorous lifestyle of a person working for celebrities and empire moguls that fills their thoughts.

(W) English – Set against the scientists with packed timetables, any Arts student is perceived with a general level of academic resentment by some of his peers. The idea that English students do nothing but wander round musing on Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ has only been consolidated by the English Department’s recent decision to make formative essays ‘optional’ for second years in spring term. But hey, I’ve actually been to the library a few times this term – so there!

What I actually do

(W) Purple Radio – Whilst we’d like to think we live up to the standards of BBC Radio the reality is that it’s a great launchpad for students interested in future careers in media, but if the whole system shuts down on the removal of a memory stick I’m no longer surprised, I just stick on the ‘Emergency CD’ left on the sideboard.

(S) Archaeology: Come exam time, this involved many hours poring over dense scientific books in an attempt to get to grips with different excavation methods and how to date remains (a shock to the system for any arts student who strays into the social science world). Granted, our lectures and seminars were certainly fun; there’s something so satisfying about spending a ‘lesson’ in a museum examining ancient artefacts…

(W) Rowing – On a particularly dreary outing last month one senior rower’s question of ‘Does anyone here actually like rowing?’ made me pause and reflect. True, often rowing consists of nothing more than blistered hands and early mornings but the rewards of racing and socials make it all worthwhile for me.

(S) Year Abroad: Working as part of team coordinating PR activities for corporate clients in 27 countries, I seem to have skipped the laid-back Erasmus approach and landed straight in what us students refer to as the “real world”. Though I’ve definitely abandoned some English traits in favour of typical French ones, I have not, however, traded in all food groups for crêpes and baguettes.

(W) English – I honestly think that reading, and to use a term mostly attributed to philosophers ‘thinking about stuff’, is a must for any English student. This may seem relaxed or even lazy but I argue that in reality it’s just as viable and important as any other form of revision.

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