Where Friendship Blooms

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I started freshers’ week, as many do, presuming that friends must be sourced from within college and locked down by week’s end. But, as those seven ridiculously mythologised days drifted into the past, I was proven wrong. At my first choir practice of the year, I sat unknowingly across from my future friend (let’s call him J) wondering if one was even allowed to talk to a ‘year above’. (Yes, this is a story about doing extra-curricular activities and reaping the social benefits. Your parents are right, get involved.)

‘Yes, this is a story about doing extra-curricular activities and reaping the social benefits. Your parents are right, get involved.’

A week later and having successfully managed to introduce myself, the choir was thrust together around a bar on a post-rehearsal social. I found myself next to J and we quickly exhausted the tedious cross-examination of where we lived and what we studied. Hours passed and soon enough J was telling me that he ‘couldn’t believe’ I didn’t have him on Snapchat, forcibly adding himself into my phone.
Had I made a friend? Do second years and freshers hang out? Well, soon enough I got over that worry, weeks turned to months and I even became that dreaded second year. Now, two years on, I find myself entering my final year at Durham and J is off pursuing postgrad study elsewhere. Two years of excellent friendship have flown by and it won’t be long before I too venture out of Durham. Make the most of your time here and definitely don’t be afraid to do something you didn’t expect!

 

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As a fresher, I was very scared and, I suppose, very stubborn. I didn’t want change in my life, I ended up really dreading going to uni and was determined to keep my friends from school, while remaining shut as a rotten oyster in Durham. And that’s exactly what happened. I just wasn’t planning to let anybody be my friend. Here are four things I learned:
1. Making new friends is not equal to betraying the people who are already your friends, and it doesn’t mean you are replacing them.

Making new friends is not equal to betraying the people who are already your friends

2. I realised that it’s totally fine not to be compatible with everyone. I was part of a flat of six and, if you think about it, becoming friends with five random people was small chances. They were lovely people and who knows, if I had been more sociable, maybe we would have been very close friends by the end of the year.
3. You need to be trying too, nothing happens if you only let other people be friendly with you! Still, if you don’t feel like being sociable, that is absolutely fine, because sometimes we have to give ourselves
time.
4. Sooner or later, magic always happens. Moving to second year, I was very lucky to know an amazing person from school who I ended up living with, as well as her college friends. A year later, we have shared so many things. It just happened, as if we knew each other all along. Now we are all there for each other on our 24/7 group chat, whether it’s tackling a spider or a ‘should I buy the top’ question to serious life struggles and breakdowns. We are there for each other, and that’s what friends do. So that is what I call magic.

 

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If you’re just arriving in Durham then you are yet to experience your first few lectures, and for most the awkward silences that accompany them. It is only after choosing your seat that you realise the armoury of pleasantries you are able to exchange with the person next to you is severely depleted, and yet you have to fill that seemingly endless space of time before the lecture begins. However, this particular time, I sat down next to a face I vaguely recognised, the pleasantries began. I found that words weren’t being dragged out of me by the painstaking realisation that I had been sitting in silence too long. I was experiencing that wonderful feeling of talking to someone because you have to satisfy your impulse to talk, not to fill a silence, but because the words are spilling out of you.

‘I was experiencing that wonderful feeling of talking to someone because you have to satisfy your impulse to talk, not to fill a silence, but because the words are spilling out of you.’

Three hours later, I found myself sitting next to this person on one of benches along the riverside going towards Hild Bede, having come out of a lecture and spent the best part of the afternoon engrossed in conversation with them about their life, French villages, the best flour for sourdough bread (try and imagine a more Durham conversation, I dare you), and just generally having a wholesome time watching the rowers drift past with the cathedral in the background.
In those first few weeks of term, it was a wonderful feeling to feel this comfortable, this at ease, and I sincerely hope that those of you arriving in Durham for the first time are able to settle in as I did. Don’t be afraid to just talk to the stranger next to you at a lecture, because they could end up becoming one of your very close friends.

 

By
Features Editor

For an otherwise introverted person, I had a rather sociable burst during Freshers’ week. Most people tend to expect the best week of their lives – I expected to have the worst. A teetotal and generally nervous, relatively quiet person who doesn’t like crowds, I was convinced Freshers’ would be hell. But it actually wasn’t. Many things contributed, but the most important one was meeting other people who were a little less-than-happy to party – the relief!
Having flown in from Cyprus, I was one of the first people to move into my college corridor. So, when I heard my next door neighbour arriving with her parents, I had a very unexpected moment of great social energy, popped my head out to the corridor and shouted ‘Hi neighbour!!!’ to someone I didn’t know would go on to become one of my most trusted, valuable friends in Durham.
It turned out we both were English Literature students. Both kinda shy. Both not party people. Two years later, we enter our third year of living together, and often find the fact that we’ve only known each other this little while mind blowing. What if we hadn’t come to Durham, got the grades, gone to Van Mildert, stayed in the same building, in rooms right next to each other, we keep asking. Imagine not meeting someone now so important to you. But that’s the magic of Durham. It’s full of serendipitous moments.

That’s the magic of Durham. It’s full of serendipitous moments.

 

Photograph by Maddie Flisher

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