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Durham University

Undergraduate

David Jasiewicz

Why did you choose to study Chemistry at Durham University?

The university, and especially the chemistry department itself, had very good reputations, including in rankings. Another driving factor that led me to choose Durham was the college system, which I felt would be really helpful for settling into university life.

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

I remember taking part in a number of college-organised events during Fresher’s week, more often than not in fancy dress. I remember matriculation at the cathedral, going to information talks about optional modules and signing up to these modules as well as a variety of clubs and societies. I also remember getting used to lectures and lab sessions that were different to what I’d experienced at school, in that they were longer and were with larger groups of people. At the same time, tutorials were good for going over material in small groups. All the while, I got to know the people around me better. Homesickness did not really affect me. I suspect this was because I always had things to do.

What is student life at Durham University like?

Student life is what you make of it. You have the freedom to decide what to do outside of contact hours, and it can be pretty much anything. Obviously an amount of study is a good idea, but otherwise you get to decide which societies to go to, how much time you spend in the library, and so on. During your first year, life tends to revolve around your college, since that’s where you eat, sleep and make many acquaintances.

What do you enjoy most about studying and living here?

In terms of studying, if I ever have trouble understanding something, knowing that there will be someone willing to help, be it student or staff, is always reassuring. In terms of living here, I like that how, in a large student population, there will almost always be someone with similar interests to you. It’s just a matter of finding them!

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

The college system plays a large role in defining the student community in Durham. Because you spend your first year in college, that’s where you make many of your first contacts. On the other hand, there are societies and sports clubs of every size and description, in which you’ll meet people from all over the university spectrum. Student socials are a frequent occurrence, and are a good opportunity to get to know people better.

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

My biggest challenge may have been in my second year. I had chosen an optional language module which clashed with lab time, so I had to cut my labs short by an hour each day and rush to my language seminar 15 minutes away, often followed by another lecture back at the science site. All things considered, it was stressful but didn’t turn out too badly. My greatest success was probably managing to find a way to spend the fourth year of my degree abroad in Japan, which I had been keen on, but had not been done before in the department.

What are your career plans and goals for the future?

I still don’t have any concrete plans, but I think that I want to carry on with chemistry. This may be in the form of a PhD, but I am also considering starting a career in a company where I can use my knowledge of chemistry.

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

At Durham, I’ve covered a broad range of chemistry which should make me versatile enough for a range of careers in chemistry. I’ve gained research skills such as practical laboratory work and researching scientific literature. Additionally, I’ve been able to take part in a range of sports and other extracurricular activities. All this, as well as Durham University’s considerable standing, should present me favourably to potential employers or supervisors.

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

I would fully recommend studying Chemistry at Durham, but the aspects which may influence your choice may not be academic. Durham is a small city. Is it where you want to live for at least 3 years? Is the college system something you would enjoy? How far away from home would you willing to travel? Try to consider the university experience as a whole. That’s my advice.