What is a college?
Throughout the Durham application process, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information there is out there about Durham’s 16 undergraduate colleges. Underneath all of the descriptors like gowned/non-gowned, catered/self-catered, hill/bailey, what actually is a college?
In its simplest form, your college is a community that you remain a part of throughout your undergraduate study, whether you live in or out. Each college has a unique energy and experience that it can offer its students, and this is one of the things that makes Durham so special. I ranked South college highest on my college preferences form for its self-catered facilities and its newness, something I found to be a comforting balance to Durham’s long history and tradition.
College events are, for me, the best thing about the collegiate system. No matter which college you’re a part of, the opportunities are seemingly endless. College formals and end of term balls can be some of the most exciting events of the term, particularly in self-catered colleges such as South, or for second and third years living out, as they hold the promise of good food and no washing up. They’re also a great opportunity to dress up with your friends, and South being a gowned college means we wear gowns to our formals over our clothes – a nice element of Durham tradition for a newer college.
College sports and societies
On a more day-to-day level, for people living in, college means living with and around your friends. For any member of college, sports and societies are a very safe and fun way to try new sports and hobbies or continue ones from school in a recreational way! These opportunities are a great way to get involved in college life, meet new people, and keep that college spirit if you choose to live out in second year and beyond.
Each college also has a JCR (Junior Common Room – often also the college bar), which is run by a group of students and is a shared space for members of the college to get together or attend events organised by the college. One of my first year highlights was gathering all of my friends from South and John Snow (the neighbouring college) to watch the Eurovision Song Contest in the South JCR.
Colleges also have a strong focus on Mental Health Services and Student Support, something which can be integral to managing the step up from school to university. At South, we receive weekly wellbeing check-in emails from the college Vice-Principal, as well as a Wellbeing team whose door is always open, should you need it. During exams last year, South also organised a number of wellbeing events to help manage our stress levels, which included a petting zoo and puppy play on site.
In summary, your college is like one big family under the Durham University umbrella, and while it can seem daunting having to wade through all the information out there and ranking your preferences, take comfort in the fact that it’s a common phrase at Durham that everyone thinks their college is the best college!
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