My name is Dan and I am studying the International Foundation Year in Humanities, Law and Social Science at the Durham University International Study Centre. I am from Myanmar (or Burma), in South-East Asia. I initially wanted to study Physics at university but took a somewhat dramatic change to Law, which is why I applied to the International Study Centre.
I am sharing my experiences to help upcoming students cope easier by knowing what to expect, so they can make the most out of their time in Durham.
For flights from Myanmar, the closest airport to Durham was Newcastle International Airport, where the International Study Centre arranged for coaches to pick us up from. I used the coach journey to make friends and exchange social media accounts, before dozing off to sleep after the tiring 13-hour flight.
First look at my accommodation
There are three accommodation options at the International Study Centre: Infinity House, Endeavour Court and Rialto Court. Infinity and Rialto are within 10-15 minutes walking distance from Queen’s Campus. I was lucky to be allocated Endeavour Court, which is only two minutes away – giving me an awesome extra ten minutes of sleep for my 9am classes. My en-suite bedroom is compact and comes with a desk, bookshelf and a notice board, which is typical of most university accommodation rooms. I currently share my kitchen with five other hallmates, who are now amongst my closest friends from our late night pizza get togethers. The kitchen is well-furbished for six students as we are given two refrigerators and two stoves, as well as the basic microwave and toaster.
I signed up for the catering package for all three terms, with dinner and breakfast provided in the Holiday Building on campus from Monday to Friday. The catering company always had a variety of cuisines available, with three options for students to choose from, where one would typically be vegetarian.
First look at Stockton-on-Tees
The Mayor of Stockton made us feel very welcome at the induction week in the town square. I hate to spoil the show for the new and upcoming students, but there will be a pleasant surprise at the end of the day. As someone who grew up in big cities, it was a massive change moving to Stockton as the town is relatively small. A bonus is that this isolation means less distractions. Outside Stockton, there is a wealth of things to do.
Most of our lessons start after the first induction week when everyone has settled in. In my first term, I had to study English Literature, Law1, Sociology, Academic English and Academic Practice. As someone who had previously focused on STEM subjects, these subjects all sounded scary and daunting to me. My advice is to ask as many questions as you can. The teachers are very willing to help you adapt.
Personally, I found that a few dozen questions does wonders in helping improve your understanding of a new subject. I found that my teachers were highly qualified - I remember being dazzled by my Law teacher who previously worked as a solicitor advocate in court. It was even more exciting as he went beyond the syllabus to develop our public speaking skills.
The International Study Centre has a fully equipped sports-centre on campus which comes with an outdoor football field, a gym, and an indoor futsal and basketball court. International Study Centre students are given full access to societies on Durham City Campus, which is 45minutes by train and bus. I found my calling in the Bubble Tea SocieTEA and the Esports Society, where I participated in a nation-wide gaming tournament for UK universities.
Time has passed by so fast and I am already starting my third and final term. My advice for new students is to get outside your comfort zone. Talk to people, travel, make mistakes, ask questions and interact so you learn and develop as a person. And of course, study hard, as a prestigious Durham University degree is challenging, but ultimately rewarding.