Humans of Ustinov

Exploring the college one person at a time


What had you heard of the UK before you came?

“Not very positive things actually! No no, actually I didn’t know much about it, the only thing I know is like this, a bit loud party people coming to Turkey for their all-inclusive holidays. But I know a lot from my friends who study English language and literature that it’s very sophisticated as well, I have both these positive and negative things but I try not to be biased so that I can experience it myself and see what it is.”

What made you choose Durham?

“My supervisor, I didn’t even know Durham, didn’t know the city, I only came to work with this person. I was writing my thesis in the Netherlands, I was looking for references, I was coming up with the same name over and over and I was like ‘I’m just going to write to her and say I want to work with you and we do very similar things and I love your work’. So I did, and I think she liked my work too, then we got a scholarship together so I came here.”

What are your thoughts on Durham?

“That’s a hard one. It is a very complete contrast of other cities I’ve lived in, I lived in Istanbul which is like huge and then Amsterdam, so it is super small. I liked it very much at the very first two months or so, but then I realised that’s all… yeah it’s okay but I think it’s too small, it’s not the city for me, I can’t imagine myself staying here longer than my PhD… I think I will work in the middle east a bit, and I think in Europe because I was in Europe before, I wanna try the U.S. as well before I decide… but first before I decide I wanna go and try the U.S. because I always wanted to go since I was like teenager. When I was studying, I was working with people from U.S., I always wanted to go there, everyone went there, all my friends – actually I was the only one who went Europe, I heard a lot about universities, I talked to a lot of people about it, so I know all their stories but I still want to have my own before I decide.”

Do you have any advice you would give to new Ustinovians coming in the future?

“I think it’s a very subjective experience before. It depends on what you’ve seen before and what you’ve been through before. Like you, it’s a different story for anyone. So I can’t really give any advice, but if I have to… I think the only thing I learned about being in the North east and especially in Durham, I started enjoying nature more than ‘only people’. I’m a people person, but there are not many people here! I really started appreciating the beautiful environment, the nature here. In terms of city, the university again I can’t generalise, I’m only working with one person in a little tiny department in a little tiny office, but I know that it’s a good one.”



“I really love small cities, I used to study in Southampton which is kind of small town, but I really didn’t expect Durham to be this small… 

Any advice for new Ustinovians?

“I’m guessing they won’t be visiting fisher house anymore, they’ll be in Stockton, probably just enjoy the most time. Probably, don’t sit in the room, don’t only make friends with your flat mates, there’s a lot of good places around Durham to explore. When I came here, I always thought that coming from the south, that I’ll be visiting Edinburgh or Glasgow a lot. But I haven’t been to Edinburgh yet, and Glasgow just for two days, that’s it.  So probably just to travel outside because it’s not really that expensive to go around, and now with air BnB, it’s really nice to live around as well. Travel as much as you can, for the international students especially, because once you visit the UK to study you probably won’t come back again.”

What do you love most about life?

“The thing I love about life is how unpredictable it is, before coming to UK I was very adamant that I will not go to UK to study, I will go to U.S., because my uncle is from Southampton as well, and I did not want to be part of the heritage that goes to the same place again and again. That was one of the reason why I went to Durham, no one in my family has studied from Durham, but, similarly life changes so much.”





“I came with the expectation of it being a very old, heritage filled city, something like Harry Potter, that was the main reason why I came to Durham. I hadn’t heard of it at all, like nothing at all, but then I research and realise the university is very good, especially for Law, one of the top universities. I checked out the university website, saw the city, and it looked pretty good to me because I did not want to go to a big city like London or somewhere, I want something really small, that’s my scene, and I decided Durham was the place”

Thoughts when you got here? Did it live up to that?

“Yeah I was actually mesmerised, I went to the cathedral on the second day, it was a nice experience. Ustinov was very welcoming, I came on the very first day when we got accommodation, so a lot of people and yeah it was a nice experience. The very first experience was definitely nice, I actually have flash backs right now… I think you get to interact with people more, you come down to fisher house, you’re not alone at all. I don’t think even for a second over here I’ve felt homesick – like not even once which is surprising because I have always been homesick when I was back home…. I think it’s nice because you tend to make more friends, I don’t think people in other cities are able to do that, I talk to my friends and they’re limited to their own apartment friends.”

Any downsides which you’ve encountered?

“Not really, I don’t want to leave!”

What’s the plan after you finish?

“I’m planning to stay back for a few months maybe, maybe apply for jobs but I think I’ll be moving back to India for good, to settle down for the rest of my life, India.” 

Any advice for new arrivals to Ustinov?

“Be kind and do good.”



“I’m one of those people that have done their undergrad, their master’s degree and then come back for a PhD, so there’s something – a feeling, about this city that, you know, makes people come back. Clearly there’s the architecture, the city itself is beautiful, and then there’s an atmosphere.”

Any advice for new arrivals to Ustinov?

“If you’re staying for one year, It’s a good way of meeting people, so if you live in college you’re right there when the events happen. So it’s an easy way to meet people, whereas when you live out… you know your housemates but there is kinda a separation between the people that live out and the people that live in. I’ve been living away from Durham for two years, so for me it was the idea of living in college and meeting people from different departments which I thought was great.”

Where are you from?

“I’m French, but I’m also Canadian. My parents now live near Paris.”

What’re your hopes for the future?

“I don’t know. I don’t really have plans. I study in the department of archaeology but I study heritage management so I would like to continue to work in that field, could be university… I’m interested in a wide range of things.”

What do you love most about life?

“On a day like this? Sunshine, BBQ, good food, friends. That’s all you need.”



Do you miss anything from Australia?

“Consistent sun. Weather is a big things for us, the weather here affects my mood quite a bit. This is really good [Gestures to blue sky], anything else is really bad. Because this is what Australian weather is like all the time.”

What do you hope to do once you graduate?

“Probably get into conservation, Egyptology, archaeology, something in that field. I like it so why not, it’s like doing sustainability and how we should preserve the world but in a different way. I’d been studying Egyptology for three years and in that whole time we didn’t learn anything about conservation, so now I’m here.”

“There is this thing though that, we only really report monumental finds. There’s a lot of other stuff but people seem to think that Egypt has been completely dug up just because they found the pyramids, which didn’t even need to be dug up.”



“The bourgeoisie made me do it.”



What’s your favourite thing about Durham?

“I like that it’s a small city, full of students. I don’t really love the weather, but it’s a beautiful city overall.”

Where are you from?

“Mexico. I miss the warm weather and the beach, but I like it here.”

Are you hoping to go back after graduation?

“Yes, I’m gonna go back for a while and then I don’t know. We’ll see.”

What’s the hope for the future?

“I don’t know man, just be happy. I have very different targets and goals so we’ll see.”

What do you study?

“Energy and society in the anthropology department. I was in the engineering department, but I changed to the dark side. I was looking more for a meaning in what I do, and in engineering, it’s just too much numbers and I wanted to be working with humans ya know.”

Any advice to others?

“To be honest, I just think that there’s plenty of abundance of happiness in everything, and so just enjoy it. Enjoy the ride.”



“I love that I’m close to so many amazing natural spots. I have loved being a part of the Global Citizenship Programme, because it allows me to use all the skills that I really enjoy. From writing, to photography, film, graphic design, and also just the sheer amount of amazing speakers that we have coming in, whether they be about arts or politics or any type of subject area. I just love the natural beauty around here, it’s my first time in a long time living in a smaller town, so that’s been enjoyable.”

What’re you most looking forward to?

“Moving to Berlin, and I’m excited to start a new chapter of my life, as much as I’m enjoying this year. I’m looking forward to pushing my career forward once again in a new country and exploring Germany.”

Any advice for new arrivals?

“I would tell them to definitely make sure they get involved in college life, get involved with the various GCR events and Ustinov live, the formals… even though we are here for studies let’s not forget that it’s a chance to meet people from all around the world, make lifelong friendships and get a chance to explore not only this area of the UK but also meet people to travel with.”



“I did my Masters here three years ago, came back for my PhD, now I’ve been here for two years. So overall I can see that nothing much has changed in Durham – it’s pretty much the same, but the thing that I really love about Durham in general is the atmosphere. Especially in Ustinov, I don’t go out much but in Ustinov in general is the kind’ve different diverse people that you meet every year and the kind’ve friends you make and the memories you create last longer. So I’ve known that Durham is a place to make great memories.”

Any advice for new arrivals?

“Bring a lot of jackets. It is going to be cold, there’s no such thing as a summer, winter, spring or autumn. It’s just the same weather across the year with a bit of sun here and there so bring a lot of jackets.”

What’re you hoping to do after graduation?

“It’s still a least a year and a half to go, but probably teach. I’ve been in the academic field ever since I started my research, I’ve been also teaching students and I really enjoy it. More importantly, it kind’ve provides me an opportunity to be a part of the college life which I’ve started to really enjoy, so I’d like to stick in the academic field.”



“The thing that I found that I like most, so I’ve come from an undergraduate that doesn’t have a college experience, I found there’s just a natural sense of community that just occurs when you have a college place. You kind’ve… feel very comfortable very quickly in the atmosphere – or I did anyway. You kinda feel people have your back I suppose.”

Any advice for others?

“Participate. Go along even if you don’t know someone, chances are by the end of the night you’re gonna know most people who were at that event. Generally, people are in the same situation. When I was younger, I found it quite difficult to put myself out there and kinda talk to people, whereas it’s definitely easier if you just chat. Before I came to do my PhD, I was given the advice by one of my supervisors to start to ‘look outward’ more. So, in your undergraduate you can sometimes become very… in your own little circle. But now is the kinda time to experience things and enjoy life a little more.”

What’re you most looking forward to?

“Probably one thing that I’m looking forward to during the PhD is travelling, I would like to see other parts of the world. I’d like to go to Canada, it’s because there’s an institution there, very famous, that brings together the biggest minds in your field.”



Any advice to others?

“Don’t get in debt. Which is ironic because we’re all gonna leave college in rather a significant amount of debt. But in the sense of like, if you can’t afford something don’t buy it. Also don’t panic, I think.”

Do you panic often?

“Yeah, I had a right nightmare at the end of my A-levels –  I flunked them. Well, I didn’t flunk them, I got grades but not what I wanted. I was kinda told ‘look at your backup choices’, but then I somehow managed to talk my way in and came out with a really good degree at the end of it. It’s gonna sound really corny but that whole thing that ‘it’ll all work out in the end’.

What are you looking forward to?

“Maybe getting out in the world, I’ve never taken a gap year or any time out, it’s been kinda school then college then uni so… I’d like to go back to South Africa sometime.”

You’ve been there before?

“Twice, for school exchange, and I did my work experience for two weeks that you do at 15. 6-7 weeks total. It’s great, you should go! It’s just a different experience, different kinda world – socially very different.”



What’s your favourite thing about Durham since you’ve been here?

“It’s just the people. The people are great. To be honest it is the people, and the college. Alex Hampton… is alright I guess. But yeah, the college is a big friendly group of people. I feel like I’m being too serious. It’s just a big family at Durham.”

Any advice which has stuck with you?

“Make friends, live fast, die old. Stay in school.”

What do you love most about life?

“Frisbee. And Alex Hampton. Frisbee is a great game, it’s a big friendly game and all the people who do it are good fun, and it’s… just a friendly sport and it’s relaxed and quite a nice environment to play sport in. Also, keeps you fit.”

What do you study?


Why did you pick physics?

“Because I’m good at physics, I’m good at maths and I enjoy doing it. I just like the whole aspect of solving a problem, going through something and being able to prove it with maths and a way of thinking about problems. It also helps that I’m good at it which is always a bonus.”



What is it you like about Durham?

“It’s small, it’s nice, you get to see people all the time, you just go anywhere and you bump into people you know. Not always great, but it’s nice. I moved around quite a lot so it’s nice to be in one place where you know people.”

How long are you staying here for?

“Another… 3 years? 2 years? This is year 5”

Any advice for new arrivals?

“Go out and try some things, it’s so easy to focus on your studies and do the same thing and go to the same place with the same people but there’s so many different arts, societies, pubs, walks, that you can do. Great for procrastination.”

What’s your favourite thing to do here?

“It was always sports, in my undergrad, I did a lot of sport. I’d spend literally any time I was awake doing sports, then going ‘oh wait I have to do the degree I should probably attempt some of that’. Here it’s just trying to get engaged with as many things as I can, and failing at half of them… but trying!”

What do you love about life

“Knowing that you’ve done a good day’s work and sitting back with friends and a beer and just relaxing is quite nice. It helps when there’s sunshine – we rarely get it”



“You have to be really good at time management. Especially, this is the first time that I experience three terms, usually just two terms in my country. It’s very different. And holiday is not really holiday it’s for preparing for exams and essays. So time management is my advice.”

“The best thing for me about Durham is it’s very quiet, it’s not like other big cities… here people are nice, and I enjoy the quiet and peace here. I’m from Taiwan, the capital city is always busy. I don’t like that.”

“I don’t expect I can get a job first, because it’s the end of the year – no one will quit their job at the end of the year in Taiwan so maybe I will rest a little bit, wait for my degree, then get a job.”

“My degree’s in Islamic finance and management. I studied Arabic and business Administration in my undergraduate, so I want to explore more of the Islamic finance, so I joined this program. My course is about the morality and ethical business, so I think it’s really nice. It’s what I think my country will need. We have a lot of issue… labour issue, environment issue, I think those big companies – they should be taking responsibility for these, but they ignore all this.”



“The fact that I wake up every day makes me love life, it’s an opportunity to live more and experience new things. I think that every day brings something new and something different even if it’s small it’s always something different, so that’s what I love about life – the uncertainties of tomorrow.”

“Don’t be too serious. I would say, people should just live a little, don’t be too serious of anything. People tend to look at life in a certain way, especially now in college you’re always expected to meet deadlines and stuff, but don’t forget to live. Live a little!”

Have you always lived by that philosophy?

“No I haven’t, which is why I live by it now. I used to be too serious and I realised I missed a lot out of life. I realised that I didn’t have a lot of good memories because of the risks I didn’t take or of the things that I wanted to do that I didn’t, because I always made excuses. Of having to read, or work more, and stuff like that – I think that’s what changed, that I’m now doing the things that I wanted to do before, now. Bucket list, it’s being ticked off.”

What’s on your bucket list?

“Skydiving, that’s been on my bucket list for a while – and that’s something I missed. I missed a really good deal for a sky diving event, I had to ‘study’ for exams; which I really didn’t have to but my excuse was studying and I really missed out on that.”



“I love… having conversation that make you feel connected. You realise everyone is more similar than different, those kind of conversations in which you feel that you’re not alone. I think it’s easy to feel alone, I think it’s easier to feel alone than it is to feel, ya know, part of a community.”

“My advice is to talk about it, I think that when you shine light into anything it makes the problem so much smaller than what they really are. I think it’s important to talk and to share things…

“You realise you’re not the only person with those problems, you’re not the only person who feels that way – that most people do. Like, most people are afraid to talk about it and when you find that you’re the first person talking about it everybody opens up.”

“That’s a lesson I learned later on though, because I would normally think that people are not going through the same thing and I would just isolate myself… but then I remember, just little things and it can be the smallest things ever; I’m late about this one deadline and I haven’t done this and I haven’t done that. You think everybody’s on top of their stuff, and then you realise that nobody really is… It’s difficult to stay on top of everything and there’s not one person that I can say that’s on top of everything. And if they are then I still haven’t met that person yet.”



“What do I love most about life? I feel like, kindness. Because, when you’re kind to others, for me, makes me happy. And then when people are kind back it’s also really nice. Because I feel like a lot of people have the perception that our souls are bad, so when people are kind it just makes that not true.”

“Ten minutes ago I was just walking from the library and I missed the bus, and he literally stopped in the middle of the street just to let me on. It’s so nice! It was just so nice. And then when I was trying to find my ticket he was like ‘it’s fine – I know, just go’. Super nice, he didn’t have to do that, take his time out, he could’ve been given a fine if the police saw him just stopping in the middle of the street just to let someone on. But he just did. Because he’s a nice person.”



“I am up and about,

There’s work to be done

But I’ll put my feet up,

And bury my head in the sand.”



“You see, what I love most about life, apart from obviously freshwater shrimp – I mean who doesn’t love the sweet sweet taste of freshwater shrimp, is all of my platypups. What’re platypups you ask? It’s what I call all of my wonderful Ustinovians of course! The best part of my day is waking up every morning as the college mascot and thinking to myself ‘how many brilliant Ustinovians am I going to meet today?’. It truly is a blessing. For such a lowly platypus such as I to be elevated to such great heights is a testament to the generous spirit of all you Ustinovians out there, big-love PlatyP appreciates you all.”

“Although, I must admit, lately I have been feeling rather down. I’m only a humble platypus after all. Every time I meet someone new, I realise how many more there are still out there who I haven’t been able to share my joy with. And then begins the downward spiral of an existential crisis as I realise life is but a fleeting speck of dust carried on the wind in a void of nothingness. But then usually I find some insect larvae and I’m back to normal.”



“My favourite thing about life – well, frankly, it’s just living it. It’s just finding out something new day to day, seeing the way things change. It really is just getting to experience new things, trying to make the most of what you have. You try to make things a little bit better – if you can. There are a lot of opportunities out there and it’s about finding the opportunity when it presents itself. One day my advisor said to me ‘hey, there are a few interviews going on – it seems like some local companies are looking to hire a computer scientist.’ I shaved my beard, put on a tie, ran down there, and that’s how I was eventually hired and went on to work for NASA for 12 years. You just have to try and spread as wide a net as possible and try different things – all I knew when I was in college was that I wanted to get into computers and it just so happened that that was what they were looking for and it gave me an amazing, truly astonishing mountain of opportunities. I got to travel to Cape Canaveral to see the satellite I designed software for launched. Sitting there surrounded by colleagues, the people who had been working on this satellite for five years, and seeing the red glare of rockets along the coastline that took it up into the sky – that was truly one of the defining moments of my life.”



“Other people are the most important thing in life. I think that that’s what you look for. You want to be happy and you want other people to be happy as well.”



Is there anything that you want to share with Ustinovians, the college, or the world?

“I’m saving my legacy.” [He points to the word “sesh” on a blackboard]

And what’s your favourite thing about life?

“What I love about life – actually, I feel pretty lucky being here for so long – you get to kind of go and experience something new every day and because of the community that we have, we get to share these experiences with so many different people. As part of sharing these experiences I get a lot of different perspectives on these experiences as well – it changes the way that I view things and helps me to evolve as a person. Every day I learn something new and it forms the way that I approach things and hopefully that helps me to help other people.”

What is the most memorable thing that has happened during your time at Ustinov?

“Hagen. Hagen is my spirit animal. He worked behind the bar for a long time and he was such a super nice guy. He made working here an absolute pleasure. I used to always tease him about this one time – he’ll hate me for this. It was last year’s induction week and he was working the bar one night for a party. He got really really drunk and started dancing with loads of people. We saw him and thought that he knew these people but it turns out he didn’t. The next day was the Sports and Societies fair and I see him looking very worse for wear. Then I noticed that he was wearing the same clothes from the night before. So I was like why didn’t he go back to his house? I later found out that what had happened the night previous was that he got so drunk he actually fell asleep in our back cellar. He was locked in there all night. Then James came along who was working the bar the next day and when he walked into the back cellar, he just saw a pair of legs sticking out. So from then on I always used to tease him at the end of shifts – ‘Don’t worry sir, we’ve prepared your room for the evening.’ He hated it.”



“One of the reasons why sports people are usually quite successful is because they always have the figure of the coach. You always need someone to tell you that when you’re failing, you’re better than you think, or that when you’re very successful, to tell you that you are human and not a God. It’s very difficult to find that coach and I think Ustinov is a great place where you can find that coaching element among your colleagues.”

And what is your favourite thing about Durham?

“Flat White Pancakes.”



Do you have any pieces of advice that you’d like to share with us?

“The only advice that I think is good is: Follow your intuition.”

Do you have any funny stories from your first term at Ustinov?

“Some of my flatmates bought a washing machine – a really cheap one – and put it in the shower room. They got an extension lead and plugged it in and that’s how they washed their clothes. Obviously it got taken away but they left a sign on it saying ‘please, don’t steal the washing machine from us’. And because I do law they came over to me like ‘Is this legal? Can they take that from me? That’s my property.’ But I was like ‘I’m not a lawyer yet!'”



“There is so much LGBT related cultural stuff out there that no one ever really gets to see because it’s not mainstream. Ustinov is a college that is all about diversity and engagement with different cultures so I thought it would be the perfect place to put on a film series. And apparently they had done one several years beforehand when they last had an LGBT Welfare Officer so I kind of picked up on that. This year people have been suggesting films – it’s been really amazing.”



“I really wanna do psychology at the minute. I wanted to do law first, and then I kinda gone off that one.”

“I like the mind, you know, how people think. At first I was more interested in the criminal psychology side, then when I studied it I wasn’t as good as I thought I was gonna be. So I don’t know, I’ll have to see.”

“You can’t really do anything else but try your best can you. Just go for it and then if it doesn’t go as well as you thought it would then it doesn’t matter really, you tried.”



“In my A-levels I was really focused, so I didn’t really participate much in much of the social side at college… So at university I kind’ve changed and just wanted to participate as much as possible – which was a much better way of doing things.

Also I think if you do that, you have such a greater contrast with your studies. It can help your studies as you’re not focussing just on your studies and nothing else.”



“I was the only one in the flat who stayed for the Christmas. It’s lonely. I don’t really know anyone.”



“It’s a sunny day!”



“I’m so indecisive, because I did economics initially and I was like okay I want to go into finance, but then changed my mind and thought okay you know what I want to go do politics, then I worked for a law firm and thought actually maybe I should do law.

And then I thought maybe I want to be a teacher, I can go off and do that.

And now actually I’m like… maybe I should go be an architect… so who knows what I’ll do.”



“I am from Cyprus… I decided to come to Durham because of the reputation.”

“I think that in Europe, during the courses of mathematics they do the theories behind mathematics. Actually, in Cyprus and Greece as well, we do more practice. That’s why I’m finding it easier, more practical.”

Do you enjoy the practical more than the theory?