My top ten things about Durham student life

Tom Clennett

The student experience in Durham is unlike that in other cities and with the added dimension of the college system I think it is truly unrivalled. Have a read of my personal top ten highlights of the Durham student life.

College formals

Occurring at various frequencies depending on your college, formals are a nice time to come together for a lovely three course meal with your friends in suit and gown. Most colleges will also celebrate certain festivals with a special formal too, like Christmas and Lunar New Year. Some people attend less frequently and go as a birthday treat, but you’ll often find most people down the college bar afterwards for lots of social time.

College balls

Another opportunity to dress to impress, college balls are often the highlight of the social calendar with the biggest and best happening in the summer after exams. Think fairground rides, lots of live music, and one big party running into the next morning. Although the dress code and expectations may seem daunting at first, most students look back fondly of their time at Durham thinking about the balls they went to.


Whether you love to play, watch, or neither, sports are at the heart of the college community. There’s opportunity to play casually at college level, or more seriously with the University and often all of college come together to watch their team play!


You’ve made it through the working week and need a Saturday treat, there are so many amazing independent cafes dotted about the city centre that provide pancakes galore! Whilst I do have my favourites, I like to mix it up every time I go and aim to have tried every menu before I graduate.

River walks

With a city centre on a peninsula, Durham has its fair share of nice walks – especially by the river. Whether you need a study break or want to catch up with a friend over a coffee, the walks round the river are lovely in every season and provide amazing views of the Cathedral. If you’re feeling braver then a walk up to Observatory Hill which gives you views overlooking the whole city.

The Cathedral

An iconic feature in the Durham landscape, the Cathedral represents a broader history of Durham that can be seen throughout the cobbled streets of the Bailey. It’s also the location of graduation and matriculation (the formal welcome into the university held in freshers’ week).

Quiet city life

Unlike many other cities, Durham is a small and quiet space where you’ll find loads of students during term time. You can easily walk through the city in around 20 minutes which means you can generally walk wgherever you need to go (the hills will keep you fit!) this gives a great homely feel. In spite of this, there are still so many opportunities and things to do which makes the student experience great.

Durham in the snow

Nothing gets you through the cold, winter days better than the prospect of snow! An already beautiful city reaches a new level in the winter, and the chance to sledge down the hill is a great way to procrastinate.


While Durham is an amazing place to live, sometimes it’s nice to have a break from this close-knit bubble. Fortunately, Newcastle is just a 15-minute train journey away and can be a great location for a shopping trip or a night out – you really can’t complain!

The beach

Following on this theme, another great break is a quick trip to the beach. If you’re fortunate enough to have a friend with a car theres many beaches in reach but you can get a bus although it takes a bit longer! As someone who grew up by the beach, it’s nice to be able to see the sea every once in a while.

Marsden beach

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Tom Clennett

I’m Tom and I study Sport and Exercise Sciences at University College (Castle). Unsurprisingly, I like to spend my spare time playing sports at both college and university level. Otherwise, you’ll probably find me grabbing a coffee with my friends.

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