Find out what life is really like at Durham University

InternationalStudent experienceUndergraduate

Why I chose the UK and the North East

At 14 years old, after meeting a family friend who was studying abroad, I started dreaming of studying at university in England. In the summer of 2020, my wild wish of studying abroad was about to become true. As I was registering my module choices it dawned on me how big of a decision I had made.  Why did I choose a university so far from home? And how was I going to manage university level classes in English? It’s normal to get a little stressed before such a big change and you might have some similar worries. So let me take you through why studying in the North East was ideal for me!

Why I chose to study in the UK

As I explained, the idea to come study in the UK originated after meeting someone who was studying abroad. Before then, I’d never considered leaving France, especially since my home city is known for having some of the best universities in the world. And yet I decided to go to the UK. Initially what drew me to studying abroad was the possibility to go on a long-term adventure in a foreign country. I also wanted to improve my English language skills to a near native level.

As I started researching courses in the UK, I realised that courses in Modern Language and History were much more malleable in England. From my very first year, I was able to choose some modules, decide to study the areas of history I was most interested in, and choose the culture modules I was most interested in. I found that universities in the UK allowed students wide flexibility, often with the possibility to take a year out to study abroad or complete a work placement. This was enhanced by the realisation that university in the UK was not just about the academics! Participation in sports and various societies, volunteering and wider student experiences are all valued as part of the University experience. University in the UK is not just about becoming a pro in your subject, it’s also about becoming a balanced and fulfilled individual!

Reading in the sun while enjoying the views of the Cathedral!

Why the North East?

OK, so now I was certain that the UK was the place for me… but why choose a university in the North East? I’ll be honest when I saw on a map that Durham was on the same latitude as Denmark – I got scared. My fears were that it would be freezing cold, that it would rain all the time and that the sun would set at 2 pm in the winter. In the end, I realised it was not that cold. Because Durham is close to the coast, the climate is surprisingly mild! It never gets too hot nor too cold, it rains occasionally but even these rainy days have a moment of sunshine!

Apart from the weather one of the main reasons I chose Durham was the size of the city. For my university experience, I wanted a smaller city, in a region with friendly people and where I could easily make friends. Durham is perfect for that- the mix between the collegiate system and a smaller city makes it easy to make friends and helps when familiarising with a new environment. When I go back home, I miss the views of the riverside and the Cathedral, after only two years Durham has already become a home away from home.

The North East has many fun places to visit. This is Liv and I at Beamish, a living museum near Durham. The most exciting bit was finding a dog to pet!

Support for international students

The most important thing to remember when studying away from home is that you are not alone. Moving to a foreign country and studying there can be daunting, but you’ll find there will be plenty of other students who are in the same position. At Durham we are lucky to have various societies and students’ groups that can help foreign students meet each other and feel a bit more at home. Going to the events of the French society and the mixed soc (a society for students of mixed cultural identities) was helpful for finding other students that I identified with.

My college also had international Freps (Fresher Representatives), fellow students who welcomed us new students in our college and to whom I asked various logistical questions.  Durham University also has an international office, a helpful place where you can find advice and help when settling in England. If you want extra support to improve your English skills, the university also offers courses to improve your grammar, writing skills as well as speaking skills. Personally, using these resources was really helpful, by the end of my first year I truly felt that my language skills were strong enough to be successful at university and the friends I made from all over the world really reassured me that my choice to come to the North East was the right one!

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Noa Mensch

Hi! I’m Noa, a second year student from Grey studying Modern Languages and Cultures and History. I’m also an international student from France, if you see someone rocking a striped top it’s probably me!
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