Image above – Grey Lawn which hosts lots of events & has a pretty good view
Considering Grey College? Here’s my experience of the college as a liver-in (in first year), a Frep (Fresher’s Representative), and a JCR Officer. If you can’t tell already, I’m a bit Grey-obsessed. You might therefore be surprised that it wasn’t my top choice! Would I want to be anywhere else now? Absolutely not!
If you are planning on living in college at any point during your degree, I’m sure accommodation has been on your mind. Grey has a range when it comes to type of accommodation, with a mix of rooms sharing bathrooms, en-suite rooms, and a few shared rooms too. Personally, I found the accommodation to be great. There are shared pantries (kitchen-like spaces) with cupboards, a sink, toasters, kettles, and fridges, despite the college being catered for. In terms of bedrooms, they either come with single or ¾ double bed. Also, college accommodation is managed by porters, and its communal spaces are cleaned regularly.
I started off with a shared room, and though the idea of sharing with a complete stranger was a little intimidating at first, my college had sent out forms to get a sense of everything from our personalities, to waking hours to match us up well. They did a great job matching up my roommate and I, and we clicked instantly.
Personally, I found that sharing a room made my university start so much more sociable and it stopped me from feeling homesick as I didn’t experience as much loneliness. When sharing a room in Grey, you don’t have to continue sharing all year – it’s organised on a termly basis. You can also be exempted from sharing if you have your reasons, so don’t be put off!
In my second term, I switched out into my own private room (which also had the luxury of a ¾ double bed!), and that was a great experience in other ways. I didn’t have an ensuite at any point in my college experience (as I had opted not to), although I still had a sink with a mirror in my room which was handy (though I suggest bringing some lighting as this was in the darkest corner behind my wardrobe!). If price is a factor, note that in my case it was adjusted accordingly for ensuite, shared, or single rooms.
It should be noted that most Durham colleges have the same menu, so if you are looking to attend a catered college, then there is not much point asking which has the best food because as far as I know, they are all the same apart from St John’s and St Chad’s! A perk about Grey, however, is that they make having set mealtimes easier by providing a packed lunch and late dinner service that you can sign up for if you don’t think you are going to make it to your meal.
Although I have been living through a period of Grey refurbishments (which I’m sure will be an amazing update to the college when they are finished), at the moment Grey has…
- Art room
- Dining hall
- Multi-purpose hall
- Music rooms
- Tennis courts
- Great lawns which have views of the Cathedral
- Toastie bar
- Welfare room
- JCR and MCR.
These spaces are utilised by Grey’s sports, societies, and committees, but some, such as the music rooms, can also be used privately. In comparison to other colleges, I think where Grey stands out is the lawn. Not every college has the privilege of as much outdoor space as there is at Grey. Grey’s Lawn is a great place to chill out in the summer and is centrally located in the college, so it feels like a real hub.
For Grey Day 2022 (a festival-style day for the college) it was the centre of events, with lots of live music. If you love the outdoors, then you will love this college. Even more so, it has great access to the Botanic Gardens, which are beautiful and free for students.
If you are outdoorsy, you will love that the Botanic Gardens are just a five-minute walk from Grey. This is a beautiful space which is free for students to access and has been the site of many de-stress walks, picnic dates and college weddings (a very fun tradition).
In terms of other amenities, Grey is about a twenty-minute walk from Durham town centre, which, fair enough, isn’t the most advantageous if you are hoping to get a quick snack. It is however great for accessing the Science Site – whether this means hitting the books at the Bill Bryson Library, or simply rolling out of bed at 8.55 am for your 9am. It’s ridiculously close to the Maths and Computer Science Building in particular, and also incredibly handy for the TLC (Teaching and Learning Centre), which is where I had all of my first year Marketing and Management (Business) content. It’s also nestled amongst many other colleges, which is great for visiting other colleges’ bars or just hanging out with friends.
Honestly, the worst thing about it is the hill that it sits upon, but the hills are an inescapable part of the Durham lifestyle (plus, it’s one of the ‘Hill Colleges’ for a reason…).
Is it going to impact your day-to-day life? Probably not. But our mascot is Felix the Phoenix, a brilliant mythical bird who is cool and will definitely be flapping about throughout most of Welcome and Orientation Week. Don’t miss out on getting a photo op!
Sports, societies and committees
Grey has a great range of sports, societies and committees which are very easy to participate in and lead as a JCR member. Though this can be said about many other colleges, I think the most notable element of Grey’s opportunities is that if you can make a case for it, you can also start your own sport, society or committee and get funding for it without much difficulty. This means you can shape your college experience to reflect the things you want to do, and you really do get a say. From my own experience, none of the societies, sports or committees has any membership fees apart from rowing, which is super encouraging if you just want to try something new without the pressure of sticking with it.
There are a variety of elections for positions in Grey JCR and within other committees, and these can be held at all different points of the year, so you don’t need to feel as though you have to have it all sorted by week one or two. Many of these are beginner friendly – they just rely on your enthusiasm to participate. This means you have so many opportunities to participate at a committee level which can give you great leadership experience. Just a few committees to get involved in include:
- Charities Committee
- Representatives Committee
- Events Committee
- Arts Committee
Living out of college
Are you planning on living out of college? You can live out in the first year but are still associated with a particular college. If this sounds like you, know that there are still plenty of opportunities to participate in college life! All Grey students can attend college formals (which are gowned) as well as college functions like balls, charity events, and special events like Grey Day.
When living out in second year, I still find myself going back to college all the time, whether it is to take part in society events, attend JCR (Junior Common Room) meetings (which is a great way to get to know everything that goes on in college or see someone’s “fish out of water” impression as they campaign to become the keeper of the college trout), or to meet up with friends. It is such a friendly college, and you will have so many opportunities to make memories.
Every year, Grey has a whole host of events. This is by no means a complete list of events, but here are a few that I would consider Grey’s biggest or most notable:
Winter Ball – an opportunity to dress up for a party that spans a fancy meal and an evening of events! My favourite theme so far has been the masquerade theme – it was very surreal but an amazing night with friends! It had it all: live music, bumper cars, a photo booth, candy floss and so much more.
President’s Guest Night – a special invitation-only event and awards night for everyone who is a big contributor to the college, for example, sitting on college committees, captaining a sports team, or participating in the JCR.
Grey College Charity Fashion Show – a huge charity event with lots of build-up for the big night – expect great music and choreographed walks, all for a great cause.
Grey Day – a free, festival-type event held in the summer term that brings everyone together post-exams.
Phoenix Ball – like winter ball, but even more elaborate and with the party going on until sunrise.
Grey has a range of options on offer when it comes to getting financial support. These include the Grey College Trust’s Opportunity Award and Participation Award, which offer financial support for events, sports and society. There is also the college’s Access Fund and the college has recently been offering £20 supermarket vouchers to assist with shopping costs.
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