The realities of my student diet

Claudia Chmura

Students (read: financially challenged young people) are infamous for not prioritising their health when they move away from home for the first time. When taking into account reading lists, and parties, and societies, and parties, and sports, and parties, and sleeping; there’s rarely enough time in the day to concoct and truly balanced meal. Or so I had been led to believe. 

Discovering cooking

The truth is that living away from home was the first time I was in (almost) complete control of my own schedule, bar the times when I was in classes/lectures, the rest of my time was my own. Perhaps my relatively rapid disillusionment with frequent “partying” is more a reflection of my own personality than the typical university experience, but I found that for the first time I enjoyed cooking. Having to keep a fridge stocked with enough food to actually be able to make anything was an initial hurdle, but after I got the hang of that I realised that I can get sick of pasta, and that attempting a more interesting recipe was a welcome change from sitting by a desk and getting through my readings.

This is a traditional Polish meal called ‘Kopytka’ – which literally means “little hooves”- they’re soft, potato-based dumplings a little bit like Italian gnocchi

Building up an appetite

Maybe someone with more contact hours would struggle more than I do to make the time to cook something interesting every day but I find that I look forward to the evenings, when I’m bound to bump into my housemates making their own dinners and catching up on their days. Keeping active during the day through sports and societies (and the endless walking up hills to get anywhere in Durham) also made me to crave more ‘healthy’ options, and the satisfaction of making something ‘good’ for myself is a little daily accomplishment that I can able to tick off even when I’m having trouble with my studies. 

The Kopytka once finished

The perks of catered accommodation

In my first year I was fully catered, so while I did have to adhere to assigned mealtimes at college, I didn’t actually have to cook anything all year AND I enjoyed attending weekly formals – which was a three course meal, usually accompanied by a glass or two of wine. Safe to say it was a pretty comfortable transition into “independent life”, definitely not your stereotypical first year diet. That being said, I’m aware that the main reason why students struggle to cook well is budget and catering isn’t the most budget-friendly option out there, but I also think that as a society we’re leaning towards a way of life that prioritises our health more and I’d like to think young people are joining in with that movement.

(The cheese-board we made for our in-house wine and cheese night)

Trying new things

This year I’m cooking the things I learned at home, things I learned from YouTube, and taking on new traditions we learned at college, like hosting a wine and cheese night with my housemates  (we even put on some jazz at the beginning of the night but by the end we were belting High School Musical songs). Moving away from home can be difficult, but its also an opportunity to find a new normal, to explore what you like, and you can do that by changing simple things – like what you have for breakfast.

The cheese-board we made for our in-house wine and cheese night

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Claudia Chmura


Hi, I’m Claudia and I am an English student at St Chad’s College, this will be my second year as a content creator for Durham University. I’m excited to see what final year studying English year has in store for me and just trying to muddle through somehow! 


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