Durham: The Best of (Part Two)

Durham University: more than just a low crime rate…

Just in case the last list proved to be not quite enough for you, here we provide even more students’ top tips for the best things to do whilst studying in Durham. It’s not only the lowest crime rates and the best quality of life that the city can offer, but a whole host of other opportunities… They’re sure to whet your appetite for the years ahead and get you planning your route around freshers’ fair in anticipation!

“As an ex-Fresher reminiscing fondly over the thrills of an invigorating first year, it seems difficult to pinpoint a favourite experience. However, through the haze of exciting first year experiences, a certain exhilarating thirty-six hours in November comes to mind: Jailbreak. A weekend of practising the art of charm, persuasion and just downright bullshitting to get as far from Durham as possible within thirty-six hours. All without spending a penny! Two friends and I managed to blag and hitchhike all the way to London. We underwent a full spectrum of emotions: the grey despondency and hopelessness when we thought we would make it no further than Leeds, to the fierce elation we felt when a drunk man inadvertently got us free coach tickets to London. Our Jailbreak adventure was unforgettable and an once-in-a-lifetime experience. How many people can say they were made to pray in the middle of Westminster Bridge with a collection of Colombian Christians, had no choice but to sleep in Victoria Coach Station on a frosty November night and brightened the day of Londoners by giving out free hugs on Oxford Street? We managed to raise £190 for Help for Heroes and take part in one of the most fun, unique and best experiences of our lives!”

Shalaka Darshane, second year, English Literature

“When moving to another country there’s bound to be a number of things about their culture that will strike you as unusual, peculiar, or downright weird. The British society displays too many such oddities to list here, but examples include an almost religious devotion to wall to wall-carpets, a reluctance to apply the metric system and the impractical way their bathroom sinks work. It has even permeated the English language: how could it be that the term ‘tea’ refers to the meal that we intuitively would call ‘dinner’, and that very similar words such as ‘tough’ and ‘through’ bear no resemblance whatsoever in their pronunciation.

Here’s the thing, though – in my experience, people seem fully aware that aspects of British culture and behaviour, from the perspective of an outsider, do not make any sense at all. Thus, my most useful insight from my initial weeks in Durham was realizing that in most situations when one experiences confusion with regards to how it’s expected that one should behave or what a particular term or phrase means, a sensible strategy would be to ask a friendly face something along the lines of ‘I’m terribly sorry, but I did not have the blessed fate of being born and raised in your great nation, I therefore need someone to provide an elaboration of how/why/the meaning of [insert source of confusion],’ and all will be joy and merriment.”

Simen Dalehavn Faaberg, third year, Combined Honours

“We all know that Durham is a remarkable city, but one of the best things you can do during your time here is to get out of the Durham bubble and see some of the gorgeous countryside that the area has to offer. County Durham is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK, and one of the best ways to see them (and simultaneously to clear that work/hangover clogged brain) is by cycling along Durham’s vast network of disused railways (http://www.durham.gov.uk/Pages/Service.aspx?ServiceId=8213), which are now being cleared and maintained for cyclists’ use. The best place for Freshers to head to on a sunny day has to be English Heritage Site Finchale Priory, where you can picnic among the ruins or paddle in the clear waters of the River Wear. Even better, if you plan ahead your journey shouldn’t cost you a penny; the free bike-hire at Freeman’s Quay leisure centre means that you can get out of the city for a day without impinging on your student loan.* So whether it be the moors, the lakes or the many historical castles and monuments, pick a point of interest on the map and set off into the horizon… Admittedly, there might not be much more than gorse bushes, crumbling stones and an ominous-looking raincloud when you get there, but then, maybe it’s not the destination that’s important.”

*Note: Bike rental is free for registered members. Membership is free for Durham students. Bikes must be booked 24 hours in advance (drop in to Reception or ring 03000 268 488)

Cat Collins, third year, English Literature

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