Annabelle Saunders, 1st year student of English Literature at St Chad’s College at Durham shares all.

  1. What time do you usually wake up?

I’m desperately trying to wake up at 8 and get started on my day by 8:30, but since most of my lectures are at 10 or 11, I’m sometimes a bit lax… It’s difficult to be responsible with such a free timetable…

2. When do your lectures usually start?

It depends on people’s degrees, I normally start at about 11, but I know scientists have a lot of 9am’s. Durham was actually going to be one to be one of the first universities to introduce 8am lectures, but it was fought against and they never implemented it. Thank goodness…

3. How much homework do you usually get?

Essentially, a lot of the work I have to do isn’t specifically set, it’s wider reading. However, I do have work for my tutorials to do, which is very couple of weeks for each module, and then I have about 6-7 essays a term. I know Oxbridge do a lot more because they have a different system…

4. How much time is spent studying in comparison to relaxing and having fun?

I have no idea, I lose track, it depends when deadlines are… it tends to be that I have a slow start and then the panic settles in about the middle of the term, and everyone really knuckles down and gets on top of their work, which is stage we’re in at the moment! Again, I am lucky timetable-wise because I can be very flexible with the times I can relax and then the times I’m at my most focussed to work. Also, living next door to my friends makes it very easy to socialise, as I can just pop next door when I’m ready. That’s one of the best benefits of living in college accommodation in first year.

5. What if you don’t want the party life of university?

This one really depends on the university. I can only speak for my own experience, but Durham is absolutely amazing at providing a range of options for events, which means I can choose the ones I’m comfortable with, and there is no pressure to drink loads or go clubbing or anything of the sort. There are formal dinners all the time, events throughout the year like Chad’s day which is coming up, dress-up events, socials for different societies, film nights… St Chad’s have been really good for me at organising a range so that everyone can be included and have a good time. I think the model that was used for our fresher’s week, which was to have a going out and a staying in social event every night, is so amazing and should be adopted by every university in the country. It takes off the fear that the only way to meet people and to make friends is to go out clubbing and drinking, which is of course not everyone’s idea of a good time.

6. Do you have to cook for yourself?

I’m catered for in first year while I’m living in college, but we’re all moving out to different accommodation for second year so we’ll have to cook for ourselves then. I’m looking forwards to it, but iv heard a lot of entertaining horror stories about first-time cooks! Things like putting cans of baked beans straight in the microwave, or exploding experimental pizza doughs… interesting things…

7. How expensive is the student life?

There is actually lots of discussion about the cost of student living at Durham at the moment, the campaign is called #rippedoff I think, and it will provide a lot more detail and insight than I am able to give. All I will say is that the student loans available from the government are wonderful in that they reflect household incomes, so that opens up opportunities for people of lower income backgrounds to have the same access as people from higher income backgrounds, which I think is important, and it’s amazing that we have that service. However, accommodation is rather expensive for a lot of people, and also some of the fancier balls are quite steep. The big one for our college was £60, but some of the other colleges sell their tickets at £100, which is a lot for a student to spend on one event. On the other hand, some colleges offer discounted tickets for people with financial difficulties, so it really depends on the university or even college within a university.

8. What is the accommodation like?

My accommodation is lovely, I share my room with another girl, but that’s actually wonderful because it means we have a big, lovely room with an ensuite so we don’t have to share a shower with a whole corridor or anything, and its not as expensive as if we were alone in a room like this. I’m really lucky with my accommodation. Looking at 2nd year houses was interesting, because some were absolutely gorgeous, and one we looked at was awful: one of the rooms only just had enough space to fit in a double bed so that it could be listed as a four-bedroom house with all double beds, but there wasn’t even room for a wardrobe in there. The house I’m living in next year is lovely though, so mostly its very decent in Durham.

9. Which is more fun, primary school, secondary school, or university?

Who knows? They’re all fun in different ways! It tends to be that the older you get, the more freedom you get, which on the one hand is a lot of fun, but that also comes with responsibility. My philosophy is making the most of the stage you’re at, and because of that, all three have been so much fun.

10. What do you want to do after you graduate?

After university I’d love to go into journalism, but I’m very open about which particular area if like to go into. I’m just going to see where life takes me (if that can even be called a plan…)!

by Camille Saunders, Newstead Wood School