Find out what life is really like at Durham University

As part of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, 300 County Durham schoolchildren recently took to the stage at Durham’s Gala Theatre to perform dance and music from across the Commonwealth. The children were supported by a team of volunteers, which included students from the University’s Volunteering and Outreach team. Second year Education Studies student, Louise Liu, tells her story of what it was like preparing for such a significant event.  

Looking forward to the celebrations at the Gala

I first heard about the Jubilee celebration at another event. One of the organisers told me it would be amazing if we could have international volunteers participating in it. As an international student who is passionate about volunteering and looking forward to experiencing different cultural events in the UK, I accepted his invitation gladly. 

A few days before the event, the volunteer team gathered together and we were briefed on everything we would need to do during the day in detail, which made us feel more confident about the upcoming event. We will be waving national flags from 54 countries. That is such a great honor for me to wave the flag of the UK and stand at the front of the team. We walked through the secret doors and routes behind the scene in the Gala Theatre. To be honest, it was quite a challenge for me to remember all the doors and routes as that was my first time at the Gala Theatre. I tried my best to remember more information as I know on the day, lots of children who are also new to this place will follow me and run from their waiting room to the stage quickly. (Hopefully, all the children can go through all the doors nicely and quietly.)  

I am really looking forward to listening to the performances and learning more information about this celebration event. I hope that with the help of our wonderful volunteer team, children can enjoy their performance on the stage as well as different activities around Durham. I am guessing what kind of questions the children may ask me, as they are curious about my country (China), and I’m trying to prepare some interesting answers now. 

My volunteer experience

As for my personal volunteering experience, I joined Durham University Student Volunteering & Outreach (DUSVO) team when I was a fresher. Due to COVID, freshers’ fair 2020 was online. Thanks to the beautiful and well-designed DUSVO webpage, I found that I was really interested in the project called Scholar into Schools (now called Durham Global Schools). Basically, this project is for international students to introduce their countries’ culture to local school students (most primary schools but also some secondary schools). Volunteers are recommended to give 40 min sessions to children. It would be great to include some interesting videos or even teach children how to speak a few words or sing a song in another language. We did online virtual visits for 2020.  

I found the volunteering work provided me with an opportunity to learn a lot. I would never have had the chance to talk to local school children or introduce different cultures if I didn’t register as a volunteer and work on it. My first year was so interesting with volunteering and I really want to help other international students experience this too. Therefore, I applied to be a project leader this year. I keep the online session going to make sure schools that are far away from Durham City can still access our volunteering without traveling for a long time. At the same time, volunteers are encouraged to work in pairs to go to schools and talk to children face to face. I am so glad that more than 50 volunteers are involved in this project and enjoy their volunteering experience. Volunteering for the Lunar New Year Event, and the Small World Event are definitely the highlights of my university life. I will be the Cultural Chair for DUSVO next year. Hopefully, with the help of DUSVO and the International office in Durham County Council, we can contribute more volunteering opportunities for international students, and also bring diverse culture to our amazing Durham City. 

Discover more

About DUVSO here

Read more about the Jubilee celebrations at the Gala here

Louise Liu

I'm Louise from China & member of Van Mildert College, Year 2 Education Studies & project leader for Durham Global Schools.
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