Tullia Fraser (International Students’ Representative 2017/18)
If we’ve not met already, my name is Tullia (Julia with a T) – I’m a second-year Archaeology student from Hong Kong, and your International Students’ Rep this year. Myself, along with a wonderful team of International Freshers’ Reps (iFreps) and home Freshers’ Reps (Freps), simply cannot wait to meet you and have fun in your first week in Durham – International Induction Week!
International Induction takes place 4 days before the formal Induction Week. It’s designed to help international students settle down, chill out and also have fun. International Induction Week was one of the main things that helped me calm my nerves of coming to Durham – and trust me when I say I’m a nervous person! Therefore, I’ve made it my personal goal to make this week as useful for you, as it was for me.
This introduction will be a bit heavy on administration for international students, but you’ll see me again in the JCR Handbook, where I’ll be focusing more on my role, as well as some advice when it comes to your first year in university (as a local or an international student).
First of all, it has to be said – Durham is a lovely university and no matter what subject you’re taking, you’ve made a wise choice. Here, in college and beyond, you’ll be immersed in a cultural and intellectual melting pot, with the wildest opportunities just around the corner. Whatever tickles your fancy, will be available: I’m talking volunteering in Peru, to ballroom/swing dancing; from rowing down the River Wear, to playing Quidditch in the snowy winter of Durham. If I could give you one piece of advice, it is to take any opportunity that you can. Something in the back of your mind (probably nerves) will niggle at you and discourage you, but ultimately, all you need to do is take one step and try. When I first came to Durham, I didn’t expect to join any activities and I was incredibly nervous. But since then, I’ve done things like rowing and being elected International Students’ Rep. I’ve explored my interest in photography and had some photos exhibited in college. I’m also involved in several societies in the University as well! Just remember that in the end, all you need to be is brave enough to take the first step.
Secondly, there is nothing more wonderful than the collegiate system and Mary’s. Mary’s is also filled with opportunities and truly lives up to its reputation of being the friendliest college in the university. The thought of meeting strangers and starting over may seem daunting, I know, but you’ll find yourself in a lovely group soon enough. Just remember that all freshers, even the local ones, are just like you – moving to a tiny city called Durham and starting over. As Douglas Adams (A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) says, “DON’T PANIC”.
That being said, I definitely understand the hassle of basically relocating and starting a new life in a different country. This is why myself, along with 6 dedicated International Freps – Rebecca, Ellie, Havi, David, Pamina and Jayna – are here. We are here to help you make this great transition as smoothly as possible. This includes all sorts of administration (bank accounts, passport checks), and even shopping for necessities. We’ve all been through this process and are really eager to help you – starting with an information pack you’ll find under this letter. It contains what we think is crucial information to help you pack and prepare. Each section in the pack is written by one iFrep, so see it as our little pieces of advice for you! We know it’s a lot of information to process – DON’T PANIC, and take your time. At the end of the information pack is also a summary of all the links you should read through or fill in. Take note that this information pack is only a student-written guide, don’t forget to check all emails from college for more information, including the deadlines you’ll have to follow!
Even if you’re not an international student, feel free to browse through the information pack, you might find some information that might be useful to you. Even if you don’t, no bother at all – see it as a tiny taster of the life of an international student!
If you’ve got any questions at all (about anything!), you’re free to message me on Facebook (search: Tullia Fraser) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, even if it’s before you come over! If you’ve got any problems when you actually arrive in Durham, feel free to approach me as well – you’ll catch me running around Mary’s in a purple shirt! Needless to say, you don’t have to be an international student to ask me questions – I may not have had a scone yet, or know that Norfolk is NOT in the North of England (I do now), but I do love a good chat and will try my best to answer your questions!
If you’d like to Keep Up with the Marians, including your fellow freshers, please join:
Our College Freshers’ Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/446265772422392/
It is also worth mentioning that as your International Students’ Rep, I’ll be looking out for your welfare throughout the year. This includes anything from issues with your bank account, SIM card, to just feeling a bit homesick and wanting to chat in a different language for a change (for me: Cantonese and Mandarin). I aim to free up an hour or two per week, so you guys could come and have a chat. I’ll be living in college as well so you’ll definitely see me around. Honestly cannot stress any further about how excited I am for the coming Induction Weeks!
Have a great summer and I’ll be seeing you soon!
International Students’ Representative 2017/18
Some helpful information written by your International Freshers’ Reps!
Ellie’s advice: Important information to read before arrival
Some of the more tedious tasks of International Induction are the visa-type admin things you will need to do. It might sound stressful now, but once you are here these things will be taken care of in no time, and we have Freps available throughout Induction Week to accompany you and help sort everything out.
The link below gives you all the information you need regarding:
- Collecting your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
- Presenting your passport & visa for verification (Tier 4)
- Presenting your passport & visa for verification (all other immigration categories)
- Attending Medical (TB) Screening (if applicable)
- Registering with the Police (if applicable)
While we don’t want you to stress, it is important that these steps are followed (if they’re necessary for you) so please give the link a read. https://www.dur.ac.uk/immigration/arrival/
If you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to contact us!
Tullia’s advice: How to get to Durham University, St. Mary’s College
This is usually paired with a train journey up to Durham. An obvious choice would of course be Heathrow Airport (London). However, other alternatives include:
- Manchester Airport
- Newcastle Airport
Durham Tees Valley airport is much closer to Durham but is not recommended as the only way to get to and from there is by taxi, which are (frankly) extortionate.
Trains are probably the predominant mode of transport to get to Durham (and around during term time). Trainline.com (and the app) are really useful ways to find out train times and buy train tickets.
You should get a 16-25 railcard, especially if you are going to travel a lot. It gives you a decent discount off train tickets (often 30% off), which can be quite expensive. You can do this online, or ask for a form at any train station, fill them out and give them a passport picture of yourself.
If you do wish to take the train to Durham from your flight, here are some simple directions:
- From Heathrow, London:
take the underground to King’s Cross St. Pancras (no changes required)
take the train to Durham
- From Manchester:
take the train to Newcastle (should call at Durham)
- From Newcastle:
Take the train down to Durham (only a few stops away)
I understand the train system is quite complex, I certainly struggled with it for a while. If you need to do any travelling during term-time, feel free to ask one of the iFreps how to book tickets, et cetera!
By bus: University Welcome Service
This link will give you information on the Welcome Service, which depart from
- Newcastle International Airport, to St. Mary’s College.
Make yourself known to the student volunteers at the platform.
The service requires pre-booking, so please follow the procedures on the website.
Mary’s Freps will also be at Durham Train Station – most likely dressed in purple from head to toe – so keep an eye out for them!
There is a taxi rank outside Platform 2 (To the North) at Durham Train Station. The ride should cost around 5 pounds. For your reference, the full address of Mary’s is:
St. Mary’s College
Elvet Hill Road,
Drop a note:
Please fill out the above Google form, which gives us an idea of when to expect you so we can be ready when you are!
Jayna’s advice: Bank accounts
To open a bank account in the UK, an essential document is a letter from the college that confirms your official status as a student at Durham University. In order to be able to request for this letter, however, you must be fully registered with the university, which basically means your online enrolment, registration, and verification of identity have been completed. Once you have done these things, you can contact Claire Basnett, the Student Support Administrator to request for your letter.
Once you have received your letter, we suggest you open your bank account as soon as possible so that you have it out of the way and can start using your account in the UK. The best way to carry this out is to book an appointment early (ideally in International Induction Week because the appointments fill up fast) by heading down to your bank of choice. The bank staff will be familiar with the process so don’t hesitate to ask for their help, as they will explain the process to you!
If you need help choosing a bank, there will be International Student Banking and Finance Events on Friday the 30th of September where a range of banks will be represented and can give you more information. There is also a daily Barclays pop up in the international office during International Induction Week.
As an international student, you may want to consider if your bank is represented overseas, which may ease your travelling and transferring of money internationally, etc.
For more details, you can check out this link https://www.dur.ac.uk/international/newstudents/lifeatdurham/banking/ that gives you very detailed answers to questions you may have!
David’s advice: Money in the UK
Currency in the UK is in a state of change, during this time both round £1 coins and the traditional paper bank notes are being cycled out of circulation in favour of a new series of polymer bank notes and a new 12-sided £1 coin. All paper notes and round £1 coins now have a set of key dates attached to them which determine when they are no longer legal tender. These dates are outlined below for each in chronological order and grouped with each denomination of currency.
It is important to note, if you still have any of paper notes or round £1 coins after they cease to be legal tender, most banks (and the post office) should still accept the currency but have no obligation to take it. If your bank will not take the currency, the Bank of England will accept these older forms of currency for all time, as it would for any other Bank note which no longer has legal tender status.
Paper £5 note (No longer legal tender):
13th September 2016 – New polymer note entered circulation.
5th May 2017 – Paper £5 notes ceased to be legal tender and will no longer be accepted by shops.
Round £1 Coin (Most important):
28th March 2017 – New 12-sided £1 entered circulation.
15th October 2017 – Round £1 coins will cease to be legal tender and will no longer be accepted by shops.
Paper £10 note (Exact dates not finalised):
September 2017 – New polymer note enters circulation.
May 2018 – Paper £10 note ceases to be legal tender and will no longer be accepted by shops.
Paper £20 note (Dates TBC):
2020 – New polymer note enters circulation.
2021 – Paper £20 note ceases to be legal tender and will no longer be accepted by shops.
As of July 2017, the Bank of England has no plans to replace the paper £50 note with a polymer series bank note.
General advice on the £50 note:
Although most foreign currency exchangers will give £50 notes when exchanging substantial amounts of currency, these notes are rarely used day-to-day with many small shops being very reluctant to accept these notes. Many vending machines which accept notes do not accept these £50 notes. It is also advisable to deposit all £50 notes into a back account as soon as you enter the UK and only withdraw and carry a small amount of cash at any one time so that if you lose your purse/wallet you do not lose as much money in this process.
The nearest ATM to St Mary’s is located outside Dunelm Foodstores Ltd opposite the Durham Students Union Building at 29 New Elvet, DH13AL. Other ATMs can be found at http://www.link.co.uk/atm-locator/
Rebecca’s advice: Mobile phones and SIM Cards
When it comes to SIM cards and phones, there are so many options that it gets a little overwhelming for some: Orange, Vodafone, EE, 3, O2 etc. All of them have stores in or around Durham’s Market Place and all offer pay-as-you-go and fixed monthly contract packages. Lots of them also do student deals. It’s really up to you what you prefer, but I’d definitely recommend asking around in several stores to find the best deal for you. Feel free to ask us for advice as well! I personally have a pay-as-you-go package with EE and I’ve never had any problems!
Note that there’s very little phone service in college though (with EE at least but one of my friends found T-Mobile a little better) and you often have to go searching around college for signal if you’re trying to make a call. So many students just rely on data and the wifi when they’re in college. I personally don’t make calls or send texts that often, I prefer to use Messenger or Whatsapp.
Also, when you log in to the wifi you’ll be connected whenever you are near any university building. Because Durham is quite small, you’ll generally always be close to one, you don’t have to use much data if you’re careful!
(Fun?) fact: my friend didn’t bother getting a UK sim card for her entire first year and just relied on the wifi – it worked great for her! So don’t worry too much about SIM cards, we’ll help you find the best deal for you!
One last thing: there are no more roaming charges in the EU anymore! So for international students travelling in the EU, you’ll be able to use your data at no additional cost (it’s an EU law though, so who knows how long that will last? No guarantee it will cover you for the 3 or 4 years of your degree, but it’s still useful to know!)
Havi’s advice: Things to Bring
Apart from the usual necessities (which are mentioned in the JCR Handbook), international students should also consider bringing:
- A bank draft/cheque from your country to set up a bank account in the U.K
- All immigration and health documents (see Ellie’s segment in this pack)
- A few passport sized pictures of yourself for your railcard if you choose to get one, or if you are interested in obtaining a UK Driving License.
- Food which reminds you of home (don’t worry too much about it as there are quite a few specialised supermarkets in Newcastle).
- Extension leads and adapters, if you need to convert to a UK three-legged pin.
- Flip flops/slippers as there are communal bathrooms. Comfortable and cozy slippers can also be useful for walking around your room and college.
- A warm coat! Or several warm coats if you’re from the tropics like me – it gets pretty chilly up north! (Durham has a surprising amount of the standard shops for clothes – H&M, TopShop, New Look – so you can buy additional coats here! We’re also planning a trip to Newcastle and one of the main activities is shopping so you won’t have any trouble in this area.)
- There’s no need to worry about pillows, duvets, towels, laundry bags, coat hangers, hair products, and any other heavy/bulky domestic items as they can all be purchased when you arrive. We’ll be conducting shopping trips into town for such essentials and we know the best and most affordable places for them! There is also an IKEA in Newcastle which will have you covered for a lot of the items that you may need!
- Lots and lots of photos! Your room will belong to you for the rest of the year so make it yours. Photos are also great for remembering home when you’re so far away.
Pamina’s advice: Cultural/Religious Societies and Events
Durham University comprises a huge number of societies and clubs of every kind, including sports, arts and culture. You will probably find something that suits you; and if not you can create your own society! The main association for international students is the Durham International Students Association, which organizes and shares cultural events. If a new cultural society is created, you will get all the information you need about it through this Facebook page. Cultural societies are not only a good way to learn about new cultures, it’s also an ideal place to meet up with friends and have a taste of home even if you’re in Durham.
Mary’s has its own cultural societies, including the Christian Union and the Jewish Society. Last year also saw the establishment of the Mary’s Asian and Desi Society (MADS), and more. You’ll meet all these societies in Mary’s Freshers’ Fair during Induction Week.
Also, we have a partnership with the University of Teikyo (Japan) which enables Japanese students to come to Durham for six months to learn English. It also includes a parenting scheme, meaning that Marians could become the college parents of a Japanese student. Tom – the Teikyo Representative – will send you an email about it in October. They are all lovely and it’s an opportunity to make friends with someone from a completely different culture, so don’t hesitate to apply!
List of Cultural/Religious Societies (Uni-wide) – not exhaustive:
DU African & Caribbean Society
DU Arab Society
DU Arabic Society
DU Bruneian Society
DU Caledonian Society
Durham Chinese Students & Scholars Association
DU Cypriot Society
DU Dutch Society
Durham Eastern Europe Society
DU European Society
Durham French Society
DU German Society
DU Hellenic Society
DU Hispanic Society
DU Hong-Kong Society
DU Indian Society
PPI Durham (Durham Indonesian Student Community)
Durham Italian Society
DU Anglo-Japanese Society
DU Korea Society
Durham Kurdish Society
DU Malaysian Society
DU Mexican Society
DU Nigerian Society
DU Northern Society
ANSA Durham (Norwegian Society)
DU Pakistan Society
DU Polish Society
DU Romanian Society
DU Russian Society
DU Scandinavian Society
DU Singapore Society
DU Taiwan Society
DU Thai Society
DU Turkish Society (through Turkish Student Union of UK)
DU Vietnamese Society
DU Welsh Society
Durham International Students Association
Durham Language Cafe
Erasmus and Exchange Society
DU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
DU Buddhist Society
DU Chinese Christian Fellowship
DU Islamic Society
DU Inter-Collegiate Christian Union
DU Jewish Society
DU Nichiren Buddhism Society
DU Orthodox Christian Society
So if you’re interested in any society, like their Facebook page and go to the DSU Freshers Fair in October to know more about it!
Final Note from Tullia: Links and Facebook Group
I know that this is a lot of information to take in, but like I said, don’t panic, and read all this through slowly! The important thing is not to get too stressed out over all the above – we, the iFreps, have all gone through those processes and we know them like the back of our hands. We will do our best to guide you through when you arrive in Durham. If you’ve got any queries about this or literally anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact me on Facebook or at email@example.com. There is no such thing as a silly question!
Furthermore, Mary’s, living up to her friendly reputation, has a Facebook group for the entire college every year. This is to keep all of us updated on all things large or small, so please join the 2017 group to Keep Up with the Marians!
If you’ve not got Facebook, please don’t worry, contact me via email instead!
Finally, here is a summary list of links you should read or fill out, already mentioned above – including the Google Form I mentioned previously. If you struggle to access the Google Form, please contact me and you can reply via email!
- Google Form – Arrival Details: https://goo.gl/forms/dJsEL1Vcz2hu7Sfm1
- Immigration Procedures: https://www.dur.ac.uk/immigration/arrival/
- Welcome Bus Service: https://www.dur.ac.uk/international/newstudents/airport_trainstation_welcomeservice/
- Banking Procedures: https://www.dur.ac.uk/international/newstudents/lifeatdurham/banking/
- ATM Locator: http://www.link.co.uk/atm-locator/
- Mary’s College Durham – Freshers 2017: https://www.facebook.com/groups/446265772422392/
Have a great summer and see you in September!
Tullia, Rebecca, Ellie, David, Pamina, Havi and Jayna