My First Christmas at Durham University

Hello everyone,

My name is Ali and I am the International Office’s Student Ambassador at Queen’s Campus, Stockton. Being a third year student pursuing a highly demanding and rewarding degree; BA (Hons) Business Finance, I decided to stay back over the Christmas Holidays and focus on getting my dissertation and assignments done.

Many international students stay back in their respective student accommodation at University; be it in College or off-campus as depending on what part of the world students are from, the air fares can be quite expensive and not worth the five weeks. Nevertheless, this was my first experience here at Christmas and prior to it I was told, ‘don’t stay back, it is depressing – you will be depressed when all the students have left!’

However, I was pleasantly surprised; much to do with the stress relief of getting on with my dissertation without having the (distracting) company of friends and family and not feeling lonely when I saw the number of students staying in Durham over Christmas. Furthermore, I had the good fortune of attending the Christmas Lunch at Durham Castle, making this vacation to be one of the best of my life! The University invites all the students staying over Christmas to spend Christmas Day at Durham Castle for a three-course meal. Queen’s Campus students even get a free taxi service provided to the Castle.

Being the International Students Association’s representative at Queen’s Campus, I got to enjoy this lovely meal with our wonderful President; Lei Wang. We were truly honoured to be given a place at the head table, sitting with the host of the occasion; Professor Graham Towl; Pro-Vice Chancellor and Deputy Warden of the Colleges Office as well as other highly distinguished staff members and guests.

The experience was beyond amazing and completely unexpected! The invite said to dress smart-casual, so I expected to it to be a less formal event, Oh was I mistaken! It was a proper sit-down meal with the majority of people wearing suits and formal dresses in the beautiful setting of the Castle’s Great Hall. Ergo, for all you Harry Potter fans out there we had lunch at Hogwarts! The deliciously prepared meals was cooked and served courtesy of the wonderful catering staff from different colleges.

During the Christmas holidays, as most students either embark on a quick tour of Europe or just meet-up with their friends in cities across the UK, I had a different experience. On the 23 of December, Lei and I were invited for a small tea function at the International Office. Both of us felt right at home and with our own university family. We were constantly offered cakes and other goodies and as I have certain dietary restrictions, the Director, Sharne Proctor stood at the table informing me beforehand what was suitable for me and said, ‘I ensured these pastries are not touched by anybody else so you can have them.’

Such love and genuine care is not only shown to us but it is prevalent across the University from the Principal of the College to the wonderful security staff in colleges, Ebsworth and Holiday buildings. Interestingly enough, and this may sound cliché, but the local community here at Stockton and Durham are also quite friendly. I personally have been given smiles by strangers and staff in big chain stores to small green-grocers are always smiling and making me feel welcome. It may just be me, but I genuinely feel at home at Stockton and the past 5 weeks have just flown by.

If you would like to see what Durham University is like through the eyes of students from around the world I would definitely recommend looking at this blog as well at the International Office’s blog.

If there are any questions you may have or may want to know more about Queen’s Campus in Stockton in particular, then please feel to either leave a comment and I’ll try to help!

Hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed living through it!

Ali is in his final year of study and is a student at Stephenson College at Queen’s Campus.

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