Students are back in town. Our blissful Durham summertime, town filled with jazz festivals, quirky buskers, quiet strolls by the river, and the odd Japanese tourist, has been dramatically shattered by the invasion of personalised sports attire, late-night chanting, and drunk 18 year-olds wearing bed sheets being sick on the pavements. The city is buzzing with a new injection of energy and ideas, and it’s all a bit overwhelming. But I’m not all that negative about students. After all, I was one not that long ago. And a really keen, stash-covered, the-world-is-this-bubble one too. It’s just that, having emerged the other side and stuck around here, popping that bubble and more and more fiercely defending myself as a ‘local’ who says ‘Newcastle’ and ‘Coxhoe’ properly, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give those students some creative tips to being top-class Durham students – and by that I don’t mean getting a 1st…
1. Value the world outside of the university.
Get to see Durham through the eyes of those who have lived here the longest; the city’s experts. Your freshers’ pack is way off being an exhaustive guide to the city. Chat to someone sitting on the bench in Market Square. Get a bus to the coast, to one of the pit villages, to visit The Hive in Ushaw Moor, and chat to fellow passengers on the way. Or get on your bike and see how stunning these hills are.
2. Buy local.
Invest in your local economy. You’ll be surprised how much cheaper things are. I highly recommend Robinson’s greengrocers, Ciao Ciao for bread and lunch dates, the Indoor Market for anything you’ll ever need, Rusty’s Barbers, charity shops on North Road, Flat White, Treats, (there’s loads of local coffee places – just anywhere other than Starbucks…). Also the weekend outdoor markets are great, always changing and full of interesting new enterprises (like Fruitful Durham).
3. Be cultural.
Go and see some local artists, musicians and poets at Empty Shop HQ, plug in to the sewing expertise of the wonderful old ladies at the Plawsworth Sew Café, go to some things at the Durham Book Festival, head to Sunderland and Newcastle for some great theatre and comedy nights. (Star and Shadow, The Stand, Washington Arts Centre, Theatre Royal, The Sage). There’s a great music scene locally – how about acoustic gigs in a laundrette?!
Did you know that the North East has the highest youth unemployment in the UK? Did you know that there are now 22 emergency Foodbank distribution points around county Durham? There are SO many fantastic charities in county Durham that would give and arm and a leg for the enthusiasm and energy of a student volunteer. It’d be great experience too – something different on your CV. Find out about them through Ideas Hive, Just Love, Durham SCA, or Durham Christian Partnership. Get in touch.
5. Be kind.
Student culture can often be harshly competitive; and you’re all under a lot of pressure. Try not to let it be all-consuming. Take some time out to do what you love doing, and however busy you are don’t let it crowd out time for kindness. Be kind to your fellow students and people around the city. Also, invite your neighbours round for dinner: whether students or not.
6. Look after the city.
Don’t trash the streets, don’t slash on the pavements, don’t chunder on the Bailey.
This County is amazing. Don’t let it pass you by.
This article was first published on numbertwentyfive.org