A Foreigner in Durham

Canadian in Durham City

A Foreigner in Durham By Hanna Hughes

Stepping foot in Durham is enough to take your breath away.  Now, I’m not a huge fan of using clichés in my writing, but I had to remember how to breathe once the train was on the viaduct.

But this shock wore off quickly. A deep sense of coming home set in.

During my short visit, I immediately noticed the buildings.  Built of stone and wood, I felt as if I had taken a step back in time… or onto the set of a movie.  

But these were real—and I was here.

And I still felt a connection.

As I should—many English speaking Canadians did originate from the British Isles, with strong ties to England, Scotland, and Ireland.  As someone of Irish (and Scottish) ancestry, I immediately felt as if I had found a long lost parent while walking around the older parts of Durham, as well as by the river.

Other Canadians (or even other international students who are not from Canada) take note.  There are some things you will immediately notice:

  1. While it may feel familiar, there are some differences in getting around.  The first one is that people do not seem to rely on cars the same way we do in Canada.  Here, it is more like the major metropolitan cities of Toronto… and downtown Toronto at that.  Particularly in London.  Get used to the Metros and Underground.  Toronto—you have a similar set-up with The Path to London’s Underground.  For the life of me, outside of name, I can’t find that much of a difference between the two.
  2. Gas (or Petrol, as it is called here) is far more expensive.  So are cars in general.  However, it’s also a whole lot easier to get by without a car.  Consider using alternate modes of transportation.
  3. Sports & Activities:  There is plenty to do in Durham.  Boating, football (er, soccer for my fellow Canadians), rugby, archery…  Yes, they’re mostly traditional British sports but I have managed to find some North American clubs for baseball and others.  You have to look at a bulletin board, but they can be found.  I even found a local Dungeons & Dragons club, too.
  4. Housing:  Expect a huge variance from modern to historic, but modernized.  Rent runs around the same as Toronto, however, so budget accordingly.
  5. Food & Cuisine:  Oh my God… if you like traditional British fare prepare to have your socks blown off.  There is no shortage of pubs in Durham.  Some great international places as well, but the pubs are definitely where most go.

Unfortunately, my week was too short.  I’ll definitely be back again one day, and perhaps it won’t be to check out where I’m thinking of taking my Masters Degree but actually sticking around and actually doing so.

As a prospective student, however, Durham is definitely at the top of my list.

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