One of the first things that drew me to Durham University was the focus on a sense of community. The Durham collegiate system means that every student immediately belongs somewhere – and this can be a huge help if you’re a bit nervous about starting your new life here! Your college in Durham will become your home (no matter which one you are allocated) and you will invariably find a sense of family in college no matter where you come from. As an international, postgrad student, I’ve found that one of the best ways to become involved in college is to be a part of the MCR.
What is the MCR?
The MCR is the Middle Common Room which is basically the community of postgraduate students in your college. Each MCR has an executive committee which includes an MCR President, Vice President, Finance Officer, Welfare Officers, Social Secretaries and others. Being a part of the MCR means you have access to welfare meetings, games nights, sports, outings, socials, and loads of exciting ways to take up leadership positions and also make friends and have fun.
As an international student, I found being a part of the MCR at Josephine Butler College a great way to meet people. During the first term of the year, we held elections where we could stand for various MCR Executive positions. This is a great way to take initiative during your time at Durham. As a postgraduate Master’s student, I only have one year in Durham and I wanted to make the most of it from the very beginning. One of the things I love most about Durham is the greenery and access to beautiful gardens and open spaces. So I now work with the MCR’s Welfare team at Butler to organise weekly Welfare Walks with the aim to explore a new part of Durham on foot every week. So far we’ve taken some gorgeous riverside walks at the Racecourse, explored forest trails in Houghall and said hello to the Wickerman of Low Burnhall Woods!
How do you get involved?
At the beginning of the year, usually during Fresher’s Week, you’ll hear from your President via email – look out for emails and make sure you join the Facebook groups or Messenger chats so that you don’t miss out on any updates. You’ll need to pay a fee for your MCR membership which differs from college to college. I would recommend paying this because of all the discounts and access to facilities you get that eventually cover the cost.
What are the advantages of an MCR membership?
You get discounted access to the college gym as well as formals, socials, and other college functions. We’re only halfway through the year but we’ve already had so many events including a Halloween formal, Valentine’s Day formal, One World formal and, of course, the gorgeous Winter Ball. You can attend all of these functions at a discount with your MCR membership.
You will also get access to the MCR lounge which is just a fun place to hang out with other MCR members, watch a movie, play Scrabble, or even tell some ghost stories! At Butler, we also have a Scholarly Activities Officer who plans what we call “Scholar’s Suppers”. At each of these events, a Butler student is given the opportunity to present their research to students in whichever field they are working in, which is followed by pizza, wine, and cheese. It’s a wonderful way to learn about academic research in fields other than your own. So far, I’ve attended talks on everything from phenomenology to engineering.
Apart from the MCR, one of the things I appreciate most about living in Butler is the fact that, no matter what your interests are, you will find something here for you. We have a college paper (The Mound), lots of college bands (I sing with the lovely Folk Band and we do a pretty great rendition of Fairytale of New York if I may say so myself!), sports facilities, art, theatre, and loads more. I found that college is also the place where you can hone old talents and develop new ones. I took up rowing at the beginning of the year and it’s now one of my favourite college activities – in spite of the 6.30am outings in the freezing cold! College sport is quite competitive but even if you just want to learn a new game, you’ll find a welcoming space in your college.
At the end of the day, your time at Durham will be what you make of it. But no matter what you do, it might take time – but you will find a home here with friends who will soon be family if you open yourself up to it.
Learn more about postgraduate study at Durham here
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