One month in Durham: transitions and new beginnings


Someone once said that if you want to experience change, summon chaos. I might have gone
overboard when I decided to leave the comfort of my country to begin my masters in a whole
new country on my own, I guess this signifies that I am now in my ‘big girl’ era. As an
international student, once you get past the teary airport goodbyes, the exhilaration starts to
kick in. It gets injected into your veins, slowly by slowly, and your senses start to come alive. You
want to experience it all, to be present and to make memories, to discover yourself in the
newfound freedom and of course, to get that degree, after all, isn’t that why you left home?
One month later, it’s insane that I have already experienced so much, however, I know that this
is just the tip of the iceberg. So, here goes the good, the shocking to the downright
heartwarming in the one month I’ve been here.
The good.
The beauty of Durham.
I honestly think that Durham is the town it thinks it is. It’s such a sight to behold. From the
architecture to the landscape, the views are breathtaking. Words are simply not enough to
describe the magnificence of the cathedral. It stands so confidently and majestically, well aware
of its beauty. From the towering sandstone pillars to the rose windows in the chapel, not
forgetting the medieval cloister featured in the Harry Potter films. The cathedral is a stunner.
Together with the castle, the cathedral holds the status of a world heritage site and I think they
are both deserving of the title. The beauty of Durham does not end there, it extends to the
marketplace, along River Wear to the botanic gardens. My tourist mode is on
because there’s so much to explore in this beautiful little town.
The University life.
Do you know how intimidating academic life can be? How lecturers can look so unapproachable
and how the thought of going through university life can be daunting? Well, mine has been the
complete opposite. As an international student, it’s more stressful because it feels like we are
starting from scratch. However, I am enjoying my time here, I’ve made friends who are quickly
showing me the ropes and teaching me the Durham lingo, my classes are amazing and that
cheddar cheese sandwich at Billy B café deserves a standing ovation!
The Shocking.
The terrain.
Before I arrived, I did my due diligence and went through videos of Durham, however, no one
warned me of how hilly this place was. This shocked me to the core. The walk back and forth to
school qualifies as an exercise in my books. Every day counts as leg day and at this point, I don’t
think I need a gym membership. The first week had me panting, the locals do it so easily and I
have had to question my fitness several times. Time will tell if I will get used to it.

The Drinking Culture.
Back home, bars are opened at specific times and rarely do you see people drinking outside
during the daylight. As a student, drinking is the last thing you want to be seen doing. However,
Durham said, “hold my beer and let me show you how it’s done”. The pubs and bars are open
during the day and people drink as early as 10a.m which came as a total shock to me.
The downright heartwarming.
The kindness and the beautiful smiles everyone around here exudes are so heartwarming. You
can feel the love of everyone you interact with. I particularly love the names of endearment
everyone uses like ‘love’ and ‘darling’. You’d be grabbing coffee and the barista would hit you
with, “Here is your coffee, love” It puts a big smile on my face, I love it.
I am usually not a dog girl, but the cute puppies I’ve seen around are changing day by day.
I’d say in the month that I have been here, I’ve come across the cutest little dogs to big scary
ones and every time I think I’ve seen a cuter dog, another one passes by and I am here for it.
Bottom line
My one month in Durham has been a beautiful confusion. I have gotten lost in routes that I
have used several times. I am still in a love-hate relationship with the weather and there are
days I feel like the wind will catapult me to the sky. I have discovered beautiful cafés and had
the best chicken nuggets, but most importantly, I am learning more about myself each day and
trusting my instincts as I go and I can’t wait to see how the year unfolds.

Image: Graeme Hall

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