I went to Durham: A tale of coffee shops, schnapps and friends

Ramblings from a coffee shop
I have begun writing this post sitting in a coffee shop of which this will be my third visit, partly because it is just so good and mainly because I don’t know where else to go as a non-resident of Durham. It feels a little bittersweet to write a post about how brilliant Durham is as I had my heart set on studying here for so long, so I already knew what a wonderful place it is. In fact, I did have concerns it would be a little upsetting to be here and be so involved with the student lifestyle I once thought I would be living. However, this visit has so far reassured me that although Durham is wonderful, Bristol is the city for me after all and I can continue to write this post about my wonderful trip with no bad blood or dramatic sobs of ‘WHY OH WHY?!’. So now I’m going to carry on sipping my raspberry tea whilst I wait for my friend to join me and enjoy the rest of my time here with a refreshing sense of contentment that everything has worked out for the best.

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The Full(ish) Story

So I think I have only touched on why I am on a gap year very, very briefly in my first post many moons ago, and I feel like I want to explain what happened just a little further, now that I can look back and think, in a very weird kind of way, I’m so glad that it did.

Today, (I am writing this on Saturday, just to confuse matters) I finally sorted out where I was going to live in Bristol next year. If you don’t know already, I will be heading off the Bristol University next September to study French and Russian, and wow, it’s been a long time coming. I’ve know I wanted to study French and Russian since I was about 14 and I was introduced to Russian for the first time, and to be honest, I’ve never really considered any other degree after that. Yes, I momentarily thought ‘ooh, well I am much better at English and Geography, maybe I should do them‘, but as much as I’m sure I would have loved studying them, they both just lacked something for me. I love both those subjects a lot, but they didn’t feel as flexible as a language degree, and I also have always found languages that bit trickier, which is something I personally enjoy.

I know it seems a bit strange that I would choose to do a degree in something I find harder than the other things I study, but I just prefer the challenge. Even my A-Level results show that I’m not as strong at my French, which is partly why I’m not at uni now… Nice segway there.

I actually applied to Durham University as my firm choice for uni (firm basically means top, insurance is your second choice if you don’t get into your firm you go there provided you have the grades). It was a tricky decision as I was set on Bristol for a very long time, and had fallen in love with the city, but after a second visit to Durham, I decided I wanted to push myself to the slightly more prestigious University, with the, in my opinion, better course and more traditional feel. But luckily, I would have been happy with Bristol, because I actually preferred the city itself much more than Durham (although Durham is stunning, don’t get me wrong).

A-Level results day came, and I opened my UCAS Track to find I hadn’t got my place at Durham confirmed, meaning I hadn’t got the grades. Immediately I was sad and worried about what my grades would be, and with my friends all posting that they had got into their top choices (two of which actually going to Durham), I was feeling pretty rubbish. I presumed I’d got really bad grades as my AS grades hadn’t all been what I wanted the year before, so my confidence was pretty low about achieving good grades this year even though I felt my exams went really well.

So I opened my results, and I was surprisingly over the moon. An A* in Geography (from a C at AS, I don’t know either, I sold my soul to Geography), and A* in English Lit, and a B in French. I was so happy with getting two A*s that the B didn’t feel like too much of a disappointment, I mean, how could I be sad with grades like that? I was incredibly lucky and proud. My placed and Durham may have not been confirmed, but it also hadn’t been rejected, so there was still hope on the Durham front.

So after coming to terms with my results, I went off to my college to get some guidance on what to do next. I called up Durham, and they told me that I was on a ‘near miss’ list, and they were still deciding whether I would be accepted and it could take up to a week. Which was awful, but ho hum. I was optimistic, as my offer for Durham had been AAA and A*A*B was technically higher in UCAS points. All proud and happy with my results, I went out partying and clubbing the night away with my friends, not too worried about the fact I still didn’t know where I would be living when September came.

The next day was a bit tougher, as it sort of hit me that I might not get into Durham. I chatted to lots of other near miss students on a Facebook group, and loads kept getting in with lower grades than me, so I stayed hopeful and positive. Next thing I knew, my track updated and it was a rejection.

I cried like a baby, oh my word.

Thing is, if I had just been rejected the day before and not had that wait, I think I would have been okay. I just had got my hopes us; everyone had said that I would definitely get in, and I kind of thought, well yeah, if they think so, I am sure I will. But I didn’t and it felt like I had completely failed, especially with my two best friends both getting in – I felt like I was silly to have even tried.

I got over it though, because I knew that Bristol was an amazing uni, and I still was, at the end of the day, so so proud of my results. I really couldn’t complain with two A*s and a B, again, I felt so ridiculously lucky to have such good results. So I got onto applying to accommodation for Bristol, that was guaranteed for your first year by the Uni.

The way Bristol work is, you can only apply for accommodation when you firm it, so as I had to wait extra time to firm, most of the accommodation had gone, and what was left was not ideal. It was all so expensive, but I thought, oh well, I’ll just have to see what I get and hope for the best.

What I got, however, was a vague email from the University, saying I would be put in a ‘temporary share’ possibly for a whole term. I had no idea what was going on, and I got this email on the way home from a camping trip to the Lakes with my friends, so I was worried and told by my friends that it wasn’t the worst thing ever and just to see what is was all about.

Turns out it meant I’d be sharing someone else’s single room, with no wardrobe to myself, possibly no desk and a bunk bed. I’m fine with the idea of sharing with someone to be honest, I could cope with that. But after everything, and getting grades I was proud of, I just felt like I shouldn’t have to compromise, and I live many hours away from Bristol, so being told I should ‘travel light for the first few weeks, then pop back home to get the rest of my stuff’ was kind of the final straw.

I was told if I deferred my offer, I could have my first choice accommodation next year and after quite a lot deliberating, I thought, let’s do it. People have asked me why I’m not retaking my French and applying to Durham again, or somewhere else, which is a fair point, but to be honest, my heart is back with Bristol. I’ve got so excited about living in such an amazing city, and I think going back from that again would just mess me up.

So now, my accommodation is chosen, and it is actually the accommodation I visited earlier this year on my second visit to Bristol, when I wasn’t even considering Durham. It is so stunning, and is also where they filmed the wedding in BBC’s Sherlock, so has a bit of a claim to fame.

Everything seems to have just worked out for me, and I feel so so so so lucky. It didn’t feel like it was working out well for a while, with the unis seeming to not want me at all (sob), but I’ve ended getting a job I would have never expected at such a young age, got the dream accommodation that is notoriously tricky to get and I’m feeling super happy and positive. So thanks for rejecting me Durham, and thanks for messing up your accommodation Bristol… It has lead me to some amazing experiences, and my gap year has still really only just begun!!

goldney-slider3 slider2 slider3 goldney-hall h) Goldney Hall 5 student flats h) Goldney Hall 1 House gold1

*I definitely don’t own any of those pictures! 🙂