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Durham University


Alexandra Tyson

Why did you choose to study Chemistry at Durham University?

Choosing to read Chemistry at University was a relatively last minute decision for me. Originally I had intended to study Medicine, but once I commenced my A levels Chemistry stood out as an enjoyable and interesting subject and I decided to pursue it to degree level instead. When I started looking at different universities I fell in love with Durham instantly. It is a wonderful place to study and provides a beautiful backdrop to life as a student. Being such a small city Durham is a hybrid between the large metropolitan city universities and the campus universities giving it a very niche, yet not overwhelming, student community feel. 

The Chemistry department itself really stood out to me an outstanding research center and ultimately one that would give me a well-respected, well rounded and high class degree due its standing as a top university in the world. Its staff were very welcoming and helpful and I ultimately picked Durham as my firm choice because I believed I would be happiest here.

What are your memories of the first few weeks as a newly arrived undergraduate student in Durham?

To be honest I found the first few weeks of being at University completely overwhelming. Being from the country in the south east I found being so far from home daunting and the work load at times quite intense. It is fair to say it was a rather big adjustment but the departmental staff were really supportive and I quickly settled into life here and began to enjoy both my studies and the social aspects of university life.

What is student life at Durham University like?

Student life in Durham can be whatever you want it to be. Personally I am not a huge drinker so do not go out clubbing as much as others, but I have lots of friends who are like minded and we regularly go out for a sociable cocktails, play board games or watch films. That’s not to say that the night life is not there if you want it. Durham definitely has that option available with many club nights and I have friends that do enjoy that aspect of Durham – personally though I just don’t go out that often.

What do you enjoy most about studying and living here?

I think the thing I enjoy most about Durham is being a Chemistry student. Chemistry is such a uniquely social degree. With comparatively high contact hours with Labs and the Chem Café, the opportunity to engage with a wide range of people, often from completely different backgrounds and educations, is invaluable. Each year I have met new friends and some of my closest friends are from the department. There is a definite community spirit amongst chemists that I don’t believe is there for other subjects. I enjoy being busy and getting involved in different activities and Durham has plenty of opportunities for you to do that with lots of societies and the colleges.

What is the student community and students' social life at Durham like?

- I think I have answered this already -

What was your biggest challenge and your greatest success in your time at Durham so far?

Personally my greatest success in my time at Durham has been learning not to work quite so hard. In first year I felt I needed to work all the time and worried about failing. As time has progressed I have learnt that that doesn’t necessarily work. Yes, you need to work hard but not having any time to relax or socialise is not conducive to a happy lifestyle. University life is a marriage between social life and academia and to be successful you need to be accomplished and happy with both. I found this hard, and often found letting work go difficult, but over time I am getting better and if anything my marks are improving as my time is being used more efficiently.

What are your career plans and goals for the future?

I haven’t got any firm career plans as of yet, which is another reason why I love my degree, it gives you so many opportunities and naturally feeds into many careers due to the vast skill set Durham cultivates. I am however about to apply for a year in Industry in the hope that it will help me focus my career goals for after graduation.

How will a Durham Chemistry degree help you achieve these goals?

Chemistry at Durham gives you such a strong foundation for anything you wish to do. The degree intrinsically involves so many skills that employers look for and Durham is such a good University that I am hopeful that my career prospects will be very strong. 

Is there any advice you'd give to other students thinking about doing Chemistry at Durham?

Durham is a fantastic university and the Chemistry department one of its best. I have loved my time here and look forward to the years to come. Chemistry is hard, but it is also incredibly rewarding with the opportunity to make a wide range of friends, and develop key skills that will make you an inviting prospect for employers. If you enjoy Chemistry and are thinking about reading it at university, Durham is a wonderful place to study and I would recommend you visiting to see for yourself.