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Going to Durham University was the best decision I ever made. The town is old and pretty, with a stunning Cathedral and Castle and pretty much everything is in walking distance. The college system means it is possible to feel like a big fish in a small pond, and pretty much know everyone in your year.
Sport is good, rowing especially, there is a lively theatre scene and masses of different societies to join. There are a few nightclubs and lots of bars, verging on the cheesy side but made amazing by having fun with your friends. The downsides are if you are from a big town, such as London, it may all seem a bit small, although Newcastle is a ten minute train ride away.
It has a high proportion of private school students and the vast majority of people dress in the same flicky hair/pashmina way - if you can put up with that, great! Also, the high academic standards lead some people to feel pressured and obsess about work (by no means everyone though).
Make sure you choose your college carefully as they vary considerably in age, size and facilities. Durham is overwhelmingly white, middle class and Christian so if you are looking for a more varied social scene I would advise you to look elsewhere. Also if you are big into alternative music there is some but not that much.
The English course at Durham is absolutely first rate, in fact it is statistically the top in the country. Be prepared to do a lot of reading and to manage your own time, as there are not many contact hours. What you put in is really what you get out, so only go if you are really passionate about English. The academics are almost all very inspiring and very kind. It can be frustrating coming from being the top in your year at school to seeming very average at such a good university, so you need to have a thick skin.
Making friends is easy as long as you are prepared to be social, enjoy fresher's week and get stuck in. Studying at Durham has been the happiest time of my life and I think it is a really special place. Make sure you visit to get a feel for the place and do your research to check it is right for you.
Written by duckling on 12th Jan 2009