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Durham University

Colleges & wider student experience

Student news

Been feeling creative during lockdown?

(18 March 2021)

Woman at a table writing

Our ‘virtual crafting retreats’ have been offering solace to staff and students wanting a break from academia.

Zentangle doodle, mandala and junk journals are just some of the courses being run by Durham Centre for Academic Development (DCAD), offering participants a chance to step away from their work, realign and connect with others.

Light in a time of darkness

Having taken place since late 2019, our crafting retreats took on a new significance amongst the global surge in creativity and art that came with increased restrictions.

To date, the classes have taken on many forms. In February 2021, the most recent course involved ‘junk journals’ – a way for participants to turn scrap paper into a book you can write in.

The most popular have been the summer ‘doodling for relaxation’ retreats, which aim to promote mindfulness and relaxation while developing concentration skills. 

Even the simple act of doodling can improve focus and memory retention. It’s also an easy way to explore your creativity – you just need a pen and paper!

Many of the participants let the team know how relaxing they had found the sessions, with one student saying, "it’s really lovely to know we can just sit here, chat, have a scribble and a cuppa without worrying about the pandemic or any research needing to be done."

Creating new ties

Crafting is more than just a fun hobby, and even a few minutes a day can contribute to your overall health and wellbeing. Taking part in these activities as part of a wider ‘retreat’ helps boost mood and promotes communication on a non-verbal level.

The retreats themselves offer a platform for researchers, students and staff to come together, meet others from different departments and learn what everyone else is up to across the university – all from the comfort of their own home.

With restrictions set to ease, the team at DCAD are planning more face to face sessions for the future, including slow stitch classes and sketching walks in the Botanical Gardens.

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