Eight Months in Durham

It was the September of 2018 when I first came to Durham, a day which funnily enough seems just like yesterday but also feels like a long time ago. The days leading up to my departure from my country were rather uneventful. I didn’t feel nervous or excited and no amount of “How’re you feeling?” from family and friends really changed the way I felt. When I set foot in Durham, the realization of the fact that I had left home and would no longer be living with my family and my dogs and more importantly that I’d moved to an entirely different country, different continent even suddenly hit me quite similar to the icy cold winds that had welcomed me to England. The next few days were absolutely miserable for me as I had to endure fellow freshers gushing over Durham’s beauty and I, for one, just couldn’t see it. I had heard a lot about England’s gloomy weather and even witnessed it in a few visits before but I was of the strong opinion that Durham could singlehandedly out-gloom the rest of the world. The tininess of the place made me feel suffocated. I regretted not choosing a London university over Durham and cursed myself for making a decision based on Durham’s postcard perfect beauty. As ridiculous as it may sound, I perceived the permanently lurking dark clouds as my enemies. Their presence just seemed to be a deliberate attempt to sabotage my mood. My unreasonableness didn’t even spare the beautiful Riverwalk which is home to inarguably the greatest sight in the region. The dim lighting of the path and thoughts of falling into the river just added fuel to my intensely growing dislike for Durham. Durham wasn’t bright and sunny like India and it wasn’t hustling and bustling like my hometown Bangalore. The ding-dong of the bells creeped me out, my room in college wasn’t as big as my room at home, the food was bordering on being inedible and I found it extremely difficult to understand the various accents from across the world. I developed, what some people would call, a ‘siege mentality’. I felt that the universe was conspiring against me and making sure that I would be miserable. I was overcome with feelings of homesickness, regret over not studying in India, and hated myself for my inability to strike conversations with just about anyone and making new friends. I made most of my friends after Freshers’ Week ended and in hindsight, I am so grateful for that as I could form my friendships without the pressure of Freshers’ Week bogging me down. I was reasonably settled in after Freshers’ Week ended as the intensity lectures, readings and seminars didn’t really allow me to lie on my bed and mope for days together. While it is true that I was no longer bawling my eyes out on a day to day basis, it would be completely dishonest of me to say that I felt “at home” in Durham. The countdown clock kept ticking loudly in my brain which motivated me to hold it together just until I got home. The end of Christmas break saw a repeat of the start of Michaelmas term when I decided to turn on the waterworks. However, it was in Epiphany term when I had really started to fall in love with Durham. The Riverwalk which I had earlier resented now became my go-to spot when I was stressed or feeling low. The tininess and the near-deafening silence of Durham which was in complete contrast to my hometown was something I had started appreciating. The furiously ticking countdown clock of first term had now resigned somewhere to the back of my head. Still ticking, of course but more softly and not as loud as before. The ringing of the bells enchanted me and the Cathedral never ceased to take my breath away every time I saw it. Towards the end of exams, I started feeling at home but I was filled with regret again. I regretted not enjoying the eight months to the fullest and I regretted making such a fuss about Durham. But the regret also came with its lessons. I learned that nobody, I repeat nobody, is immune to Durham’s beauty. Nobody cannot not fall for it and I learned that in my remaining two years, I should make the best of my time here because these days are never going to come back.

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