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Freshers’ Week October 6, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Knitting, Lovely people, University.

Well, term Is Go, essentially: the freshers turned up on Saturday and Sunday and Durham has promptly got a lot busier, and a lot noisier.  Everyone’s been rushing around like mad things – I’ve just seen Mathematical Housemate about five minutes ago for the first time since Saturday morning, and he’s disappearing off as soon as he’s had a shower to go back to college, fetch a badger costume and hot-foot it back down the hill.  I kid you not.

First things first, I finished Propello!  It took longer than I’d hoped because it turns out I can’t read instructions even when they’re bolded and italicised in front of me, so I had to rip back about four inches and redo them.  And now I have no access to a camera so here, have a really rubbish webcam picture of me modelling the world’s cutest hat:

Dreadful photo aside, the little I cord bit on the top just kills me.  The whole thing is just so cute.  And, did I mention it’s made of Malabrigo Worsted?  I think I’m in love.

Back to Freshers’ week, I can hear from my open window that matriculation is going on in the cathedral: where new students are entered into the university as students.  I remember my matriculation service – I was surprised to discover that it was really short, that there were no hymns and not so much as an optional prayer.  Durham has an illustrious history of being as divorced from religion as it is possible to be with a theology department and a cathedral smack bang in the middle, and it’s a matter of pride that they were accepting students who weren’t of the UK’s current major religion (I forget which it was at the time) long before Oxford and Cambridge.

Just a little factlet for you there.

I think Durham has something absolutely right about the freshers’ first week, though, which is very nicely illustrated by the shouting and air-horns and bagpipes and loudspeakers blasting the Harry Potter theme tune that have just subsided as they’ve all gone in, and it is this: you turn up, on the Saturday or Sunday, and are presented with teabags, sweets and the phone number of a freshers’ rep.  They then feed you, give you somewhere to sleep, stand around you being disgustingly enthusiastic, show you around the city on a treasure hunt and take you on a bar crawl.  Then, they give you a good list of seven or eight places you can get welfare support: college parents, corrridor reps, college exec, personal and senior tutor, Nightline, probably half a dozen more I’ve forgotten.  The whole time, you’re being indoctrinated with your college song, your college drink, your college banter, and a steady stream of how amazing your college is and how happy everyone is that you’re a part of it too.  And then, a few days later, you head off to matriculation and sing said college song, while clapping wildly, very loudly in the faces of people from other colleges, who are doing likewise.

Essentially, for your first week there, there is no way of escaping the huge community of it all, your college and doing things for your college and people who love your college are the first things you see and for the first week they are synonymous with how you live in Durham.  You start off being really proud of your college, and feeling like it’s where you fit in, and like the people there are going to support you.  They essentially give you four or five days of intensive welcome-to-the-family treatment.  And it works, definitely – it might not stop you getting homesick, or lonely, or sad, but you certainly don’t feel like you don’t fit in.  I hold those first few days directly responsible for the low dropout rate, and while the whole thing reeks a bit of indoctrination and brainwashing (case in point: Mathematical housemate is currently outside the cathedral, dressed as a badger and dancing.  If this is not the result of some glorious powers of persuasion, I don’t know what is) I think it’s exactly what new freshers need.  And I think they’ve got it down to a fine art.

Of course, some people then go away and find other things they love doing, and, for instance, get sucked into the student theatre and never leave (cough), but even if you never go there any more, college is still a little bit special.  Out in the wide world, two Durham students always have a conversation opener before, “What did you study?” and it’s, “What college were you at?”  It always comes first.  And there’s something rather nice about that.



1. Lucy - October 6, 2010

One of the main reasons that I liked Durham so much was for its collegiate system, and all that that entails 🙂

I never matriculated, however. I was ill (as I turned out to be for much of the first term) and the JCR Welfare Rep packed me straight off back to bed.

2. Flix - October 6, 2010


3. teacherface - October 6, 2010

Between you and Lucy, I now have a substantial desire to go and visit Durham 😛

4. Lucy - October 7, 2010

Do it, do it, do it!

5. Fiona - October 8, 2010

I agree with Lucy. Come and see meeeee! 😀

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