Find out what life is really like at Durham University

InternationalStudent experienceUndergraduate

Welcome to all international students travelling to Durham!

By now, you are probably buzzing with excitement to have been offered a place to study at Durham. Congratulations, we can’t wait to meet you!

It seems just like yesterday I had just discovered I got into Durham and was making plans on things I needed to do from my home country, Nigeria, to ensure I arrived at university on time. Even though I had studied in the UK before as an international student, Durham still seemed so far away to me, and there was lots of preparation to do. Luckily, I got help and support from my older friends in UK universities, and was able to navigate visa applications, and packing. In order to help you get a soft landing, I’ve put together some advice based on my own experience.

Visas and paperwork

In the midst of my joy in getting in, I knew I had to pause for a moment and prepare for my visa application. As an international student, I needed a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies) letter to apply for my visa (check if you need a visa here). Luckily, Durham provided it right on time so I was able to start my process early. It is important to check the UK government visa pages for the visa requirements for your country, as some vary. In order to speed up the process, I checked this while I waited for my CAS and created a file with all the documents I needed.

Once my CAS was released, I was able to get the other documents I needed and filled out the online application form. I booked my appointment early due to the fact that the embassy at home was quite busy, and I had close family and experts review my application with me, in order to be safe. I also cross-checked my application against the requirements to ensure I got it right, as it takes time for reapplication.

Planning your move

After submitting my application, I started planning my arrival. I visited the University Welcome and Orientation Week webpages and stayed abreast of my college freshers’ page for all the information on freshers’ events. I also looked up clubs and societies I was interested in, just to keep myself excited in the midst of the bureaucracy!

The UK visa issue time varies from country to country, but I kept tabs on it to ensure I picked it up when requested to. Once I received my visa, I booked my travel dates in order to arrive on the first day of the international student welcome, as this enabled me to sort out my visa check and other necessary documentation before everyone arrived and the fun began.


Check out this information for international arrivals, it’s important to read this as arrangements this year are different due to travel and quarantine restrictions.

Upon arrival at the airport, should you choose to fly into Newcastle, the University has a pickup and welcome service so you will immediately feel welcome. If this is not your vibe, Uber does taxi pick-ups from the airport, or you can get a taxi from outside the airport. You could also catch the train to Durham from Newcastle, or even get the bus. At the airport, you will be able to purchase a sim card and some snacks to refuel you for your move in and get your mobile connected.

College Freshers Reps (Freps) will be ready to welcome you when you arrive at college and they will help you move your bags to your room!

beautiful views await you in Durham

Banking, health care and shopping

Another useful thing to note is that the university provides support in opening a bank account and registering with a doctor, they provided me with a proof of residence letter from the university upon request.

While you wait for your bank account to open and your card to arrive, you can always make use of cash. There are a variety of shops in Durham where you can buy groceries and toiletries. It is also worth looking online at stores for your pots and pans if you are in a self or part-catered college. There is all the basic furniture you will need at college, but do not forget to bring your own sheets and towels! And if you are worried about the extra weight in your suitcase, you can always buy these when you arrive.

Support local traders by shopping at Durham Indoor Market, read Emily’s blog to find out what’s there.

Freshers’ events

I purchased tickets from my college for freshers’ events. I was careful to ensure I only purchased university freshers’ events and stayed in university groups, as a lot of venues market fake events. It is important to ensure you buy tickets from your college and official university groups!

St Mary's college Durham Ball

Start planning

Visit the University Welcome and Orientation Week webpages. You will find loads of advice and it is full of information to help you travel and arrive safely, also tips to help you settle into life in Durham.

This includes the Online Induction Planner where you can create a personalised timetable of events organised by your college and department.

Check out other Student Blogs to find out more about the range of activities you can get involved in and around Durham, the University and our Colleges.

Follow my fellow students on Instagram

Those are a few of my top tips for your arrival to make it all the more enjoyable. Whatever way you choose to move in, I hope you are excited to come to Durham and I can’t wait to welcome you and see you around on campus!

Seun Onalaja

I’m Seun, I'm an international student and have graduated with a BA in Accounting and Finance with a Placement Year.  I completed a DU internship in my final year working as a DICE Marketing intern within the Careers & Enterprise team. I have also written other blogs for the uni about my experiences as an international student at Durham.