Find out what life is really like at Durham University

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My Supported Progression journey

The last few years of my life have come full circle. I began my journey to Durham way back when I was in Year 12 on Supported Progression, an access programme for local students who may otherwise be disadvantaged in applying to university. The week I spent on a residential at Van Mildert college in 2017 was amazing and made me realise that I was meant to be at Durham. My mentor and Durham Student Ambassador, Martin, made university seem so exciting and accessible and after a week absorbed in university culture, I could completely imagine myself there. When the week ended, I didn’t want to leave this new lifestyle I had found myself in – the freedom of going to classes, the social life, the friendship.

Fast forward a year to A-level results day. I had secured my place at Durham to study History and was headed for Grey College. It was daunting, but freshers week flew by. I settled into my new home, I made some amazing friends, I was starting to get a grasp of my subject. For the first few weeks, I barely stopped but within no time I was settled into college and university life. My life in Durham is so busy and here are a few things I have managed to get myself involved in.

The neon ‘bop’ or Bit of a Party at the end of freshers week to meet the college community.

On a college level, I’m part of Grey College Hockey Club. Admittedly, I’m not very good at hockey so playing in a college team means I can get involved and have fun without the pressure of competition. Grey College also does an annual charity fashion show and in my first year, I saw my designs go down the catwalk in the ‘Grey Made‘ section. College also runs fortnightly formals, events where you dress up in formal wear and gowns, with your friends and eat a meal together, that a little fancier than the normal college dinners.

Here I am outside Grey Dining Hall before Sportspersons Formal

Outside of college life, in my first year, I got involved in Durham University Gymnastics and Trampoline Club. I trampolined before I came to university and getting involved in our trampoline club was such an amazing decision. It’s meant that I have been able to travel across the country going to competitions, so I’ve gone on countless socials and even managed to win a few medals. This year, I’ve co-captained the team with my friend Siobhan. While this does mean I had to go to 7 am training, it has been so much fun.

Team photo at the ‘Geordie Cup’

You do actually study at university as well – after all my subject, History is the reason I’m here. Much like on Supported Progression I realised that I would have to adjust to a new method of teaching. The main thing that I had to adjust to was the freedom to lead my own studies and explore what I was interested in. Alongside my history degree, I have been able to partake in the Durham University History Society (DUHS) who put on an amazing Winter Ball which has an Elizabethan theme – even including a five-course banquet and Elizabethan entertainment.

Martin and I outside the Student Union

If you had told little 17-year-old Liv that all these opportunities would be available to her, she wouldn’t have believed you. 17-year-old Liv probably couldn’t imagine going to a ball, never mind captain a team or making clothes for the catwalk. For the last two years I have been a Durham Student Ambassador and last year I was even a mentor on the very same programme that allowed me to come to university. Last year, I did Supported Progression again, but this time from the other side. I worked alongside my previous mentor, now friend, Martin, in the hope that I could give others the confidence and excitement that he managed to give me and the desire to come to Durham.

Now it’s 2022

Looking back at this blog post in 2022, I can’t believe how far I have come. I finished my undergraduate degree in History with first-class honours and I am now just completing my dissertation for a masters in Social and Economic History. My confidence has flourished during my time at Durham and I have done some amazing things that little seventeen year old me could never dream of. I have given speeches and lectures, I have been president of the Gymnastics and Trampolining team, and I have been on my college’s Middle Common Room committee acting as secretary to help make Grey College as vibrant as it can be. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had at Durham and I am even more grateful for access programmes like Supported Progression which made me realise that Durham (and university) was a place for me.

Discover more

Find out more about the Supported Progression Programme here.

Download our latest prospectus and college guide here.

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Liv Bennison

Hi, I am Liv, I graduated with a first-class History degree & I'm now studying for a Master's in Social and Economic History. I am then hoping to continue to do a Ph.D. at Durham.





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