By Catherine Meyer-Funnell
Exams are over, final summatives handed in, and so begins Durham’s infamous three-week party period.
Without the pressures of academic life, students are free to indulge in as many drinking-related activities as possible – something that has previously earned us a rather unfavourable reputation, especially for those who can recall the whole miners social debacle. But if we’re being honest, isn’t a bit of fun just what we need right now?
The vast majority of our time as students is spent studying, revising, preparing for exams; yet at the same time we are told that these are the best days of our lives and that we should be making the most of our freedom before clambering aboard the incessant treadmill of working life that will run until we’re 70. Therefore, it is little wonder that, given the chance, we like to let our hair down a little. Let’s not forget that Durham remains one of the most highly ranked and regarded universities in the country, with a reputation for academic excellence – so this end of exams celebration can be seen as a nice little reward for a job well done.
Drinking during this time can become a painfully expensive habit
Except, of course, it’s never as simple as that. For some, the expectation to drink can turn into peer pressure, as we are constantly reminded that this is what we need to be doing in order to enjoy ourselves. For others, it becomes a painfully expensive habit, particularly when the student loan has run dry and everyone is starting to feel the pinch. Furthermore, it seems to underline the oft-ignored class divide, as students spend literally hundreds of pounds on balls, dresses, suits, and champagne, while not too far away from us are some of the most deprived parts of the country.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I always look forward to this time in the Durham social calendar. I merely wish to draw attention to the situation as it truly stands, with both positive and negative aspects.
Drinking culture is an accepted part of student life, and one that for many makes up a significant portion of their social activity, with the only inconvenience being the occasional hangover. But there will always be some that view this as a wasted opportunity, and that paying thousands of pounds for the full ‘university experience’ should mean more than getting smashed whenever possible.
This perhaps makes more sense if we look at it from an external perspective. For many international students, the British drinking culture is something to be marvelled at, and not always in a good way. We pay extortionate tuition fees in comparison to students in Europe, will complain about how much we spend on our weekly food shop, yet take no issue with spending a small fortune on a night out. Alcohol and drugs have become so ingrained that we don’t give it a second thought anymore; yet an outsider looking in would be shocked.
This time gives us the chance to actually appreciate being in Durham
There is, of course, a line between being a bit of a party animal and being a full-blown alcoholic. And if we didn’t have this period of down time, what exactly would we replace it with? Going back home to continue the party with our home friends and doing pretty much what we would be doing here anyway? Or something more productive, such as an internship or extra lectures to prepare for the coming academic year?
The student experience that Durham is so famed for is not one that consists of total academic striving and commitment, but rather one that allows its students to enjoy the benefits of other activities in order to create more well-rounded individuals. Relaxation is an essential part of university, as it gives us the opportunity to wind down, reflect on our time here, and actually appreciate being in Durham rather than being chained to a desk.
So my advice to you post exams would simply be this: do what you want. This is your time to enjoy, and whether you’re a Klute regular or plan on spending every evening glued to Love Island, this is at least that one beautiful portion of the year when you don’t need to feel guilty about it.
Photograph: Zoë Boothby
Illustration: Melissa Frateantonio