Find out what life is really like at Durham University

I have lived in China since I was born, but because of the pandemic, I have not been back since August 2019. Many friends have asked how I managed for this long. But to be honest, I don’t feel like I’m ever too far away from home at Durham. It is my home away from home.

Too busy to be homesick

When I first came to Durham, there were so many things going on and so much fun that I didn’t feel lonely or homesick at all. Every day at meal times, I sat at the dining table with people from all kinds of backgrounds. We chatted about the weather, the activities at college and the food. Everything was so refreshing and eye-opening, but I also got used to it very quickly because I made some really good friends.

There are things that I can’t do when I am away from the comfort of my home. For example, one of my British friends told me she had a really bad week so she was going home for a bit. I realised that it is just not an option for me. I can’t just jump on a plane and see my parents in a few hours, it is too expensive and impractical.

Friends and ice-cream

Making the most of my time in Durham

But not having the safe and comfortable option of “just going home for a bit” has never really bothered me. Actually, it made me more focused and really motivated me to work hard. I’ll be wasting all the money and effort I put into studying here if I go back to China for too long during my studies, and I know very well that I’ll be staying for much longer than “a bit” if I were to go back!

More importantly, I never really needed to use the safe option because I have my own support network at Durham. I know that there is always someone I can go to if I am having a bad time. Most of the time, just chatting with my friends and telling them how I felt was enough to cheer me up. They always tell me that they are there for me, even if they might not have the same experience as me. I also video-call my parents most days, which I probably wouldn’t have done if I went to universities closer to home.

Support is available if you need it

When I was feeling very ill during exams, I talked to the staff in the college office. The staff walked me through the process of letting the academic department know about my situation. It was very reassuring to know exactly what I need to do and what might happen afterward. Some international students I know from other universities are a bit scared of asking for help from the university staff. But it wasn’t a problem for me at Durham because I know the college staff from saying hi to them in the corridors and at meal times. Knowing that English is not my first language, they were really patient with me and explained things slowly.

I haven’t used the counselling service at Durham myself, but I heard from my friends that they were extremely helpful and were like angels. The counselling service signposted them to the support that is available and talked to them professionally, which was really useful.

What I miss from home

Sometimes things get difficult, but I know there’s always someone or something that can help.

  • I miss the food from home, so I became a really good cook
  • I miss the Spring Festival, so I organised a big meal with my friends
  • I miss the people, so I kept in touch with them by calling my friends and family regularly.

As long as you keep up a positive attitude, everything will be okay.

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Lijie Dong

 I graduated with a Philosophy and Politics degree last July, currently working for the Campaigns team at Durham University. Big fan of cooking Chinese food and making bubble tea.

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