Sometimes Durham seems like a world. We have our continents in the form of Gilesgate, Claypath, the City Centre and the Viaduct. Our colleges form our own little countries, and the different courses constitute our different languages. We have aristocracy, and we have revolutionaries. The Student Union is the embodiment of the Durhamite European Union, and the relationship between the students and the locals is our global challenge. In a time where tuition fees are in danger of being raised again and all kinds of college and Student Union elections are coming up, Durham really does start to feel like a whole earth with troubles and concerns, politics and economics. Furthermore we are aware that, after all, we are trained to become the future politicians and brokers, journalists and teachers.
Somewhere in this thriving Durham reality, the distinctions between our different nationalities, ages, backgrounds, religions, and families get blurred, and we all become something new, something distinct; a Durham university student. What is our common identity? We are all crammed into this little place in order to build our future in the big, grand, wide, world. We go to lectures, we go to seminars, we write our essays and do our preparations, but for what? We do it in the hope that sometime, somewhere in the future we can contribute some originality, some incentive, some knowledge that makes any kind of small difference. Thousands of students; year after year after year. But not yet. We do not know who will succeed, who will be successful, who will go where, it doesn´t matter. Right now, we are all within the safe borders of our own international, global community.
As the initial hurt of being rejected from Oxbridge fades away, we let go of our future and allow the everyday life of Durham to take charge of our emotions, passions, and minds. Think about it; what event during the last week of your life was most upsetting to you? Was it that article about the raging IS war in Syria you read in The Guardian? Or was being single on Valentine´s day whilst your friends watched rom-coms and went for romantic dinners with their newfound boyfriends and girlfriends harder on you? Was it an argument you had with your friend? Or that horrible day where you had five contact hours with a raging hangover? In a strange way these reflections make it clear how very close and personal Durham feels. How much impact every little event in our student community has on us. It is not harmful. It does not portray everything that is wrong in the world. It does not make us spoilt upper-class brats (although there is no denying we all know some of those too…), it merely means that we should enjoy these last few years in safety. We didn’t get sent straight from our loving homes into a scary future. Instead we landed in this extension of our childhood. A town where every coffee shop feels like home, and every friend feels like a sibling. A world where our mentors provide the guiding advice we used to get from our parents. A world where we rapidly build new relationships and interests, form friendships and find our own place. A place with no frightening threat to our welfare, without any sense impending doom. A world where we can be grown-up without grown-up problems.
My friends in Durham are my daily reminders that loneliness does not exist in my Durham life. You might feel lonely in your room at night, and I trust that you do. But it is not real loneliness. In reality we have never been less alone in our lives. If I need a hug, I go to my wonderful friend next door. If I need a laugh, I only need make a trip downstairs. If I need urgent help or advice at 3 am, I can call up that one friend who will always pick up the phone. No, real loneliness does not exist in Durham. In a few years I believe we will be able to think about our Durham days and realize how safe and well taken care of we really were.
This is what I love about Durham. What other place can become a home after a week. What other place is so full of care and comfort. In all honesty, what other place is filled with so many smiles and so much laughter?
If you can think of one, let me know…