Settling in: life at Durham University

Hello, everyone! My name is Lei Wang and I am from Beijing, China. I am a 3rd-year Economics student at St John’s College and I have been studying at Durham University for four years. During this time I have completed a Foundation programme and I am now going into the final year of my Bachelor degree. In my spare time I act as a Student Ambassador for the International Office and look after the University’s Weibo account.

As an international student, I know how scary moving abroad can be, so in this post I thought I’d talk to you about my experience of moving to the UK and starting my studies at Durham University.

When I arrived in the UK, I flew in to Leeds so I had to make my own way to Queen’s Campus via train. If you fly in to Newcastle International Airport or Durham train station, the International Office organise an International Welcome Service which means you are welcomed by student volunteers and a free coach transfer to your college accommodation is organised so you don’t have to worry about a thing. I was quite nervous, but excited as I had never travelled so far from home before and I had to remember to leave the train at Thornaby, rather than Stockton.

When I got to my college I was greeted by friendly student volunteers and staff who showed me how to use the facilities in my room and in the shared kitchen. They also showed me the Junior Common Room and the nearest supermarket and so on. I even got some free cutlery which meant I didn’t have to use my hands to eat everything on my first day!

I had never lived on my own before I came to the university; thus, many things seemed exciting to me. When I saw my room at John Snow College, I was surprised at how nice my room was. It was an en-suite single room, and everything seemed nice and clean. During the first few days the staff and student volunteers were around the college to help me and other student settle in, which made the college feel like home really quickly.

During my induction week I went along to an information session which provided me with information about setting up a bank account, how to make fee and accommodation payments and how I could use the Language Centre to help me settle into life in the UK.

Durham Students’ Union also put on a Welcome Evening for all the International and Postgraduate students which was a great way to meet people outside of my college who were studying different subjects. It’s definitely one not to miss and you will really enjoy it!

When I began studying at Durham University I also joined the International Students’ Association (ISA). I am now President of the association, and I was College Coordinator the year before last. The association is run by international students for international students and offers support and guidance to enhance their experience at the University.  We hold a variety of events and activities throughout the year. The most well-known event is the ISA Edinburgh Trip. The year before last, it won the Durham Students’ Union Best Student-Led Event award and this year we aim to make it even better than before. I have made many friends through the International Student’s Association and everyone is welcome to join.

I hope you will find all the things I’ve mentioned useful and it’s given you a good insight into life at Durham!

Lei is a member of the Campus Tour team so look out for him if you are planning a visit to the University! 


4 thoughts on “Settling in: life at Durham University

  1. Ritu dhawan

    My daughters are this year freshers.Insteadly we were so much worried about them as how they will adjust in totally new atmosphere,but with due respect i would say you all at durham university have made them feel so much at home that we are really thankful.
    Proud to be a part of durham

  2. piascarpa

    My name is Pia and I am from Italy.
    I have received a offer with conditions, but I am really afraid. I would like to study pharmacy
    But it is in Queen’s campus. I’ve read so many positive comments about Durham city, but everyone hates queen’s . What can you say.
    Thank you,

    1. The Durham Diary Post author

      Hi Pia
      Please don’t worry. Most of our students have a very positive experience at Queen’s Campus. It is different from Durham City as it is more modern and purpose-built.
      The best way to experience Queen’s would be to come to an open day – but as an International student I can understand this is more difficult.
      If you contact the International Office here at I am sure they can offer more advice and information, perhaps putting you in touch with a current Queens student.
      I hope this helps. thanks Marketing Team, Durham.


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