Exploring Durham without visiting

Bailey Leis

Borders were closed

In the early months of 2020 after receiving my conditional acceptance from Durham University and another in Ireland, I began to plan travel to physically visit before I made the final decision about where I was going for university. As I was about to purchase the flights, the notification came from the United States government about a mandatory two-week quarantine from COVID-19, which was the result of a global pandemic that went on to affect the world for the past three years. With borders closed, there was no way to visit Durham in person. Since I still wanted to see Durham before making a decision, I had to find new ways to see it without physically being there.

Read everything

After reading everything I could on the official website, I turned to the internet to find out more about life in the city and student experiences. When I applied, I had no knowledge of Unibuddy, an online chatroom with current ambassadors, so I browsed the Durham Student Blog page as well as The Student Room to hear from actual students. I read everything I could online about Durham just by Googling the university-from news articles to ranking lists.

Follow social media accounts

After it felt like I read all I could, I went to YouTube to watch vlogs. The university-led channel The Durham Student let me hear from ambassadors about courses and colleges and allowed me to see how different the US and UK were in education. I spent a lot of time googling slang and ‘Britishisms’ to understand what I would be part of, such as how marking (‘grading’ in the US) worked in the UK since they did not operate on the scale I was used to or what the JCR was. My favorite videos to watch were the non-Durham-endorsed ones uploaded by regular students sharing their daily routines or just talking about Durham life. This really gave me a sense of what I might experience if I went there.

Watch other Durham student tours

One of the most helpful things I did to visit Durham virtually was watch campus tours, room tours, and Freshers Guides on YouTube. This let me see the city and accommodations without physically being there and helped in making my decision, especially on which college I would attend. One of the most popular is Jack Edwards who documented his years at Durham. Another great channel for international students especially is Dream UK, which goes through the entire application, visa, and travel process, as well as explaining things about Britain that international students might not know. This one is not Durham-specific but is extremely helpful for non-UK students.

Virtual walking tour

Virtual walking tours are fantastic for getting to know Durham! The Let’s Walk channel recently put a video up for Durham that is particularly good, but if you search walking tours you will find a ton! I watched a ton of room tours to decide which college I would want to set as my preference and gave me an idea of what to bring or buy for university. The university has a recent app called Durham University Tours that takes you through each college and around the departments! The app is free and very recommended!

Read more student blogs

There are many ways to visit Durham without physically being in Durham! Although it would be ideal to properly visit before accepting a place, that is not always possible, and it is important to make sure the university is a good fit for you. Aside from stalking Durham on Google Maps (which I did and severely underestimated the hills in Durham), watching videos of student accounts and reading blogs (such as these! 😊) is the best way to virtually visit the university and town! Aside from those, following Durham social media and asking questions to ambassadors will help you decide if this is the place for you!

There are lots of other ways to explore Durham too:

Discover more

  • To find out more about student life in Durham follow our students on Instagram,TikTok and YouTube
  • Create your own personalised prospectus here

Bailey Leis

Hi! My name is Bailey, and I am a second-year international undergraduate studying joint honors English Literature and History at Durham! Originally from Minnesota, I moved to the UK for university and am a part of Collingwood College. In addition to my degree, I am the co-president of the Collingwood badminton club and a member of the International Student Association. Outside of studying, I love to travel, hike, and play board games!

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