First week at Durham University


As to be expected, the first week at university in a foreign country is going to be interesting, to say the least. While I’m already into my second week, There are a few things I’ve learned so far.

  1. Scheduling is weird
    1. Lectures
      Unlike universities in the States, we take six classes at a time, each called a module. Each module has a lecture once a week for an hour. For me, personally, or at least for the students of Durham, there is a break in the middle of the week. No lecture is scheduled on Wednesday because it’s sports day. Also, the last module finishes by 6 p.m.
    2. Tutorials
      Each module has a tutorial. Each department organises their tutorials differently. For example, I’m in two different departments because I’m taking a combined honors of English and philosophy.
      The Philosophy department allows you a selection of tutorial groups with different times and locations, so you can essentially pick your own schedule. But, that being said, you have to be responsible for the location, and knowing how long it’s going to take you to get from building to building. What’s more, it’s first come, first serve. It’s best to know approximately what tutorial groups you want to sign up for before the day to sign up for them. Each tutorial for each of my philosophy modules meets every other week. This is nice because it’s somewhat regular.
      The English department, on the other hand, schedules it for you. It’s easier, but you’re at the mercy of the scheduler. What’s more, each module meets about once a month. Sometimes the dates fall so that there are two in a month, though I think that’s only happened once with two of my modules. There is definitely irregularity here.
  2. The campus is broken
    1. Aesthetics 
      This campus just ain’t pretty. I might very well be spoiled, given that I come from a town with a technical college, a community college, and a university–the community college and university designed with the surrounding woods and natural habitat in mind. It’s damn beautiful.
      Despite the beauty of Durham City itself and the surrounding county, the campus is just not nice. The library building is nice to look at, but that’s literally the only compliment I can give it.
    2. Location
      The buildings for the whole university are all over the city. This is nice because it gets you out to kind of see what’s around, but it’s also difficult when you’re planning your schedule, or trying to find parking. The college I’m supposed to be in is a mile up the hill from the main university campus, the majority of the classes I’m in are down the hill a mile from the main university campus, and the English department building and the philosophy department building, which is where my tutorials are, are about half a mile from the campus.
      I know, there’s always the risk of gaining weight during studies, and this is a great way of preventing that. I am pretty pleased with that. I”m also pleased that as of yet, the weather has been pretty mild, and at times, downright nice. But there will be days when the pavement is covered in ice, the rain is pummeling horizontally, and I’m walkin a mile to my lecture because I can afford parking by the university but not near the town center.
    3. Functionality
      I’ve recently discovered the student union. It’s right next to the lecture buildings I need to go to, and has really cheap Starbucks lattes and food. But I have a few problems with it.

      1. It’s ugly.
        No joke, really ugly. You walk in and it feels like you’re going to visit your relative in prison kind of ugly.
        In all fairness, once you get in the main kind of lunch room area, it’s not too bad. Lots of light, different styles of tables, televisions everywhere playing music videos, and a nice view of the river. But outside the commons, the ceilings are low, grey and very poorly lit. They remind me a little of the abandoned Holywell hosptal my partner and I explored a few months ago.


        Lluesty Hospital, Holywell, North Wales

      2. It’s broken.
        Seriously. I’ve come across so many lights that are flickering, and in the bathrooms there was a toilet that just wouldn’t flush, and I have yet to come across a soap dispenser or hand dryer that works in any of the bathrooms associated with Durham University.
  3. The Tutorials and Lectures
    They say that the Lectures aren’t mandatory, however, the tutorials are. The latter is where they see how well you’re understanding the material, and what questions you have. This is where you get your participation points. This is where you get into the theory of everything, which is what I personally enjoy. Your tutor is generally pretty down to earth, understands what it’s like being a freshman because it wasn’t long ago that they were there themselves.
    The Lectures are interesting. By this I mean that it depends on the lecturer as to what kind of hour you’re going to have. This might seem obviously, but there seems to be a different lecturer each week. I love my philosophy lectures, and all of my lectures during the first week. I was hungry for the year to come. However, this week, I’ve had a few different ones from the first week, two of which just read their lecture straight off the paper, which I found very difficult to focus on. The good news is that I’ll probably have someone different next week with a different approach.
  4. Reading
    Given that I’m taking two reading-intensive courses, I have been very prepared to buckle down and power through everything. BUt so far it hasn’t been that bad. When I took my literature classes at the community college before coming here, I was looking at reading 10-30 poems in two days, a quarter of a novel as well, and four-five chapters of whatever else text in a week. The worst I’ve experienced so far is having to read Everyman and The Second Shepherd’s Play in a week, which are both fairly short, though very difficult to read because my brain doesn’t translate 15th century literature very well.
    This might change, of course, but for now, it’s certainly manageable.
  5. Workshops
    Durham brags a very high employability rate straight out of university–and I believe it. My email is bombarded with offers for workshops every day. They’re all free, and very helpful. Everything from speed reading, to developing your business idea, to how to use programs, and how to cope with perfectionism and imposter syndrome. I’ve signed up for as many of these as I can in an effort to get as much as I can for my [mom’s] money.

This sounds like a fairly bleak entry and review of my first week. But honestly, I do love it. I cannot say how happy I am to be a student, and be in this atmosphere. Being so much older than everyone is taking some getting used to. But thankfully, they serve wine on campus, so that helps.

Durham, Durham

How to Successfully Navigate Your Way Through Induction Week at University (In 10 Tips)

img_3771It’s beautiful, here in Durham. The leaves are changing with my favorite season, the air hasn’t cooled yet to layer-the-f-up temperatures, and the increasing student population is still energetic with their new life at university.

Induction week is the first week for “freshers”, the first-year students arriving, finding their colleges and dorms, exploring the campus, and going to socials, workshops and seminars put on by the university to help ease students into their new home and schedules. And let me tell you–it’s confusing and manic as hell.

First and foremost, before we go on, I’m coming at this from a slightly more unique perspective in that I’m counted as a “mature” (30-year-old) student, and I’m American, so I’m somewhat foreign. While some of this is probably just obvious for the more technologically inclined who are hip to the jive of app-lingo and the whatnot, for others, it can be overwhelming.

So here’s what I learned with my Induction week at Durham University:

  1. Know Your Housing and Travel Routes
    For me, I was in the process of moving, and I didn’t have the luxury of affording on-campus housing. And because of my age, I opted out of student housing as well. I’m sure there are some wonderful 18-year-olds who were born during the time I was going through puberty, but I don’t really want to hold their hand as they learn the responsibilities of taking the trash out, cleaning their dishes, throwing rotten food out, and so on.
    So much did I not want to be in this situation (no offense, freshers, I promise when you get to my age you’ll get it), that I actually found myself housed in the next county down in North Yorkshire, in a place i couldn’t be happier with. However, it means about a 45 minute commute to and from university every day. Because of this, I was picky about what events I went to during Induction.
    What’s more, I had to know my route in advance, know how much time it was going to take, and then also prepare for parking. That was the hardest part. I am still figuring that part out. But as far as I can tell, Park and Ride might be my cheapest option, especially with the option of a student discount on a bus pass (hopefully).
  2. Get on a Computer
    There is so much going on during Induction week. As I mentioned before, I had to pick and choose which events were worth me going to. However, because I had just moved, I hadn’t set up my internet yet. As a result, like most people with smart phones, it became my main source of keeping up with what was going on.
    Except my phone alone wasn’t good enough. I found there were several apps that I needed in order to access the information I needed, and they certainly have some problems. Whereas what I was looking for and trying to do would only take minutes on a computer, it was taking me near an hour per task. What’s more, I found out there was a student email that the university was using that I hadn’t even set up yet, and so I was missing a fair deal.
    Phones are handy and wonderful things, but they’re not the be all and end all. You need to get online one a real computer–not a tablet or iPad, but an actual computer, from time to time.
  3. Get a Planner Before You Arrive
    Again, there is an insane amount going on during Induction week. And I know, I know, you already are getting a planner to deal with all your classes and blah, blah, blah. I held out, and was waiting for my perfect planner to show itself, and thus was slacking during Induction week. But trust me, you want a planner.
    Because I was trying to go for the minimum, I actually missed quite a few things that I wish I had gone to, such as a studies skills seminar, a library resource tour, and so on. I didn’t know I wanted to go to them until I’d missed them and arrived on campus at a complete loss as to where to go for what.
  4. Go to Your College
    I plan on having very little to do with my college. Not out of lack of pride or anything, but because I just don’t have time to do anything there. I’m not living there, I’m not young enough to be there, and I’m working and living on a farm 30 miles south of here. However, as I learned the hard way, it is important to still show your face there from time to time.
    They are there to support you, and to help you navigate your way around university, student life, and tools you might need. Also, if you haven’t told the you’re not actually living there, they will assume you are, and then lecture you for ten minutes when you go to get your verification of registration so that you can get your student ID (no seriously, it doesn’t matter your age, they will sternly talk down to you when they are upset, like you are nine years old and flushed a frog down the toilet and now they have to pay for a plumber).
    Please the college administration, and just show up, talk to them, and find out what you need to get in order. In fact, do this as soon as possible.
  5. Wear Good Shoes
    I have no idea how other universities are set up, but this one is spread throughout half the city of Durham. For me, personally, I happen to have a college that is furthest away from the university campus (a mile, straight up a very evil hill, in fact), and 90% of my modules/tutorials are a mile the opposite direction from the university. So if you have a day where you have to hit all three spots, you’re in for a fair bit of exercise. But hey–you’ll easily get your 10,000 steps in for the day!
  6. Make Friends Fast
    I’m pretty socially awkward, and even more so being the older, foreign student that everyone assumes is staff. As a result, those crazy kids just don’t want to talk to me. However, I can say that they talk to each other pretty quickly. I have already watched students befriend each other in the halls, and continue to converse and interact (I believe this is how friends are made, but I’m still learning in all this).
    Two minds are better than one, and one of your fellow students may know where and when something is while you’re still trying to figure out if the upstairs of the cafe is for lecturers only. Web out the knowledge–help each other out.
  7. Get Your Student ID Right Away
    There will be some buildings and areas of the university that you can only access with your student ID. Don’t be like me, where you have to sign up for your modules at a specific time, arrive, realize you can’t get in the building, have to walk two miles up hill to your college to get your verification of registration, get lectured for ten minutes, then half to walk a mile back to the university to get the student ID, and then return the initial building another mile down hill to register your modules. Be smart, don’t be like me.
  8. Don’t Bring Lunch
    This isn’t an every-day-of-the-week bit of advice, mind you. But have a look. During some of the days of Induction, there will be the Student Fair, or something else to this nature. Go to it. I know, it’s riddled with people, but trust me. You will get all sorts of random free things. You’ll also find that you can find your societies and clubs to join along the way. I personally joined–wait for it–an on-campus gin club. For this, I got a free shot of gin. As an American, this is somewhat unheard of, so I was quite thrilled.
  9. Don’t Blow Your Student Loans on Booze
    I know! You’re 18! in the UK! which means you can drink. And it’s especially exciting because you’re away from your parents’ watchful eye for the first time, which means they can’t wag their reproving fingers at your liberties. But I promise, the pubs will be there and open all year. No joke. They do not not close after the first week. That means you can save up your drunken nights for three-day weekends, or those Fridays when you’ve just had an insane week and just need to let go! I promise, your liver will thank you. Be good to that slab of organ.
  10. Don’t Get Overwhelmed
    Yeah, there is a lot to do, and a lot going on. You don’t have to go to every single thing. It’s so important that you remember that this is just to help get you familiar with the departments, the campus, and with each other. While you should take advantage of the events going on, don’t forget to take a step back, breathe, and relax. Even if you don’t make it to any of the events, you’ll still be alright. You’ll have to do a little bit of a (more) confused scramble during the first week of lectures, but you will be ok. After all, you got yourself to uni in the first place!

Durham, Durham

Are there any tips I forgot? What was your first pri-uni week of your freshman year like? Let me know in the comments!


American Vs. British Grammar and Style

Because I’m gearing up to go to university in the UK, and I’ve been brought up to know Americanese, I decided I should look into any potential problems I might come across when writing my essays at uni. I was mostly thinking along the lines of punctuation rules, though as it turns out, there’s quite a few differences!

Singular and Plural Group Nouns

Group nouns are nouns (person, place, or thing) that have to do with a group of people or beings. So, a pack of wolves, the government, the staff, a team, etc. Apparently, while Americans will always have a singular verb following, depending on the context, British English with have either singular or plural.

The examples given by One Stop English are as follows:

My team is winning.
The other team are all sitting down.

Which team is winning?

Which team is/are losing?

To go a little further, The Writer makes mention that Americans have a tendency to view brand names as teams, and thus will treat them as a single entity, while in British English, it is treated as a plural.

Amazon have changed their logo

Google is making a new phone

Take and Have

In American English, some verbs use “take” in front of them. However, in similar verbs, British English would use “have” instead of “take”. .

Have a shower –> Take a shower
Have a holiday –> Take a vacation
Have a nap –> Take a nap

Past Tenses

We’ll work with the generic term of past tense, for now, and just ignore the various past tenses that branch out from taking about events which have gone. However, there are some terms that are used one way in one country, and differently in the other. I’ll only point out the blaring ones, but you can read the whole of the table here.

American | British

Gotten      | got
Pleaded/pled |pleaded
Proven      | proved
Stank/stunk | stank
Woke/waked | woke


When looking at the spelling differences between American English and British English, it’s easy to see the connection to France. Many of the British English spellings are similar to the French spellings of similar words. I can’t say why American English decided they were cool enough to alter language and the history that comes with it, but I suppose that makes a statement about the country itself.


There are some of the obvious ones, that if you speak a latin-based alnaguage on the side of English, happen to live very close to Canada, or just love to read British books, you’ll already know. These ones are the general insertion of the letter u into certain, or the reversing of “er” in other words:


There are exceptions to this. Words like acre, massacre, mediocre, and ogre all carry the same spelling in all versions of English.


Words which end in -og in American English are not exempt from spelling alterations. In British English, this will glue back on some vowels, –ue, to be precise. Words like:


However, as both SpellZone and my American spellcheck assure me, the –ue ending is acceptable in US spellings as well.


Other words trade out an s for a z (by the way, in the UK, and basically every other English-speaking country other than the US, a z is called “zed”). In words ending in -ize in American English, the British kick out the zed and turn it to an s:



However, in American English, we hold on to the s, in some words, while in British English, it might be a c. These are generally words ending in –se such as:


But it gets a little more complicated than that. While in American English, we’re happy to have many words have the same spelling for their verb as their noun, in English spelling they will change the spelling.

American English, words like practice, license, and advice are all spelled the same regardless of whether they’re an action word or a thing. However, in British English:

Noun | Verb

Practice | Practise
Licence | License
Advice | Advise


Then there’s the obscure ones, such as words written with a ae/oe in British English. Those words, when translated into American spellings, shift to just an e. So, words like:



This gets interesting. Let’s start with the basic, present tense. There are American English words which end in -oll and -ill, which when written in British English, drop one of the l’s:


However, if something generally ends in -ll (like skill), but there is a modifier on it which turns it to an adjective, American English will just tack the modifier on without change. British English, will get rid of the l’s in the root word before doing this:


If there is a modifier which alters the verb, but still keeps it a verb, then there is no change in spelling. Example words are:


There is an exception to this rule, and unfortunately, I can’t give any details as to why this is an exception. But in British English, turning label to past tense warrants an extra l in there at the end, whereas in American English, it doesn’t.


There is a more extensive list of these anomalies here, or you can see more sources in the links at the bottom of the page.

Odd ones out

There are more odd ones out, and a few will be listed here (American spelling first, as has been the trend in this post), though a more extensive list can be found this Quora Forum.

Tires–>tyres (the wheel)


Quotation Marks


Most people have read something published in the UK, and might have spotted the difference when it comes to quotation marks. In the US, the double marks are used (as you’ll have seen earlier in this post, but incase you haven’t, these are “double quotations”). In British literature, you’ll see the ‘single quotations’. This is also the only reason why I made sure every one of my Harry Potter books were purchased in the UK.

With other punctuation

This one gets a little tricky to explain, so I’ll take a quote right from the Oxford University Style Guide:

“If the quote would have required punctuation in its original form, place the punctuation inside the quotation marks. (if it is unclear, try writing the whole sentence out without quotation marks and ‘he said’ etc, and replace the resulting punctuation.)

Bob likes cheese –>    ‘Bob’, I said, ‘likes cheese.’ OR
‘Bob likes cheese,’ I said.

Bob, do you like cheese? –>  ‘Bob,’ I asked, ‘do you like cheese?’

Out, damn’d spot!–>  ‘Out,’ said Lady Macbeth, ‘damn’d spot!’

‘You’re engaged to Florence?’ I yipped, looking at him with wild surmise.

“Place any punctuation which does not belong to the quote outside the quotation marks (except closing punctuation if the end of the quote is also the end of the sentence).

After all, tomorrow is another day. –>
‘After all,’ said Scarlett, ‘tomorrow is another day.’ OR
‘After all, tomorrow’, said Scarlett, ‘is another day.’

‘The kitchen’, he said, ‘is the heart of the home.’”


Sentence Ending

This actually has nothing to do with the use of it, but rather the terminology. In American English, the end of the sentence is generally (though not always) concluded with a period. In British English, it’s concluded with a full stop. It’s the same dot at the end, just different ways of comment on it.


Likewise, while there is different terminology for the end of a sentence, there is different terminology at the beginning of it (as well as other applications). The first word of a sentence is always capitalized/capitalised. In the UK, it’s common to say capitalised lettering and small letters, whereas in the States, they’ll be referred to as upper and lower cases.


There are two meanings for the word “bracket”. In the US, a bracket is the square looking things that we might use in math problems, and sometimes in journalism and quoting: [ ]. In the UK, however, they are the rounder ones, the ones that are called, in the US, parentheses, as well as the square ones. They differentiate in terms, calling them round brackets ( ) and square brackets [ ].


Helpful Note

  • According to One Stop English, in international classrooms—so classes on both sides of the pond—both forms of English are accepted.
  • There are plenty of online sources if confusion does occur
  • If you start with British English in a piece/paper, carry through in British English style. Likewise with American English. The moral of the story, is don’t mix and match.

More Links



Have you noticed some key gramatical differences between Englishes? What have I missed? Let me know in the comments!

More updates

I actually saw my first doctor yesterday. I had only seen nurses of various degrees at this point. She was excellent. I really enjoyed talking to her, and I didn’t feel like she was doubting every word I said like most (not all) of the nurses I’ve dealt with as of yet.

The good news is that she didn’t need convincing, that she took me seriously.

The bad news is that she said I do need to see a specialist, which she went on to refer me to. At this point, I have to wait until they decide who I need to see and send, in the mail, an appointment date.

The worse news–I’m supposed to move north in two weeks. I’m supposed to start university in a little over a month. What if I need to have surgery, but I have to have it here in Wales, and so I have to go back and forth?

Never mind the fact that I’m moving to a farm where I’m meant to pull my weight to earn my keep. How am I supposed to do that?

I’m freaking out. My mom keeps telling me to look into Workman’s Comp, but the only thing I’m finding is a weekly pay out of less than a quarter of what I was making when I was working. At least in Washington, when you claimed L&I you got 60% of your pay check.

I’m pretty nervous about everything. The timing could be worse, but it absolutely could be better.

Hunting Medication

So, for the last few days to a week, I’ve been singing the praises of the NHS. I’ve been able to go to the Minor Injury unit in Pwllheli, the Out of Hours in Tremedog, and A and E in Bangor Hospital, all the while procuring three wrist braces and a box of medication–without charge. Hurrah for the NHS!

When I was in Bangor, the nurse practitioner had me double my dose of anti-inflamatories that I’d been given, and told to see my GP about refilling for another week. Fair enough.

By Thursday, I only had a couple of days worth of medication left, so I called Botwnog to get an appointment, telling the exactly what the nurse practitioner told me to tell them–that I needed to make an appointment with a GP to get a refilled perscription, and that my informtion sould be in the system.

I tried to make an appointment, but the person I spoke to said that they had nothing for the day–because it’s a call in the morning to make an appointment if you want to get seen any time before three weeks sort of deal. Ridiculous.

So, since we were going to Bangor any way, we stopped off at the hospital to find out what we could about how to go about this if I couldn’t get in to see a doctor. I went in to the Out of Hours clinic, which apparently you have to go to another section of A and E for, got shouted at by the woman behind the desk for asking the emergency services these questions (despite it clearly saying it was the Out of Hours clinic, mind–how was I to know??), and turned away. Though, she did give me a number to call, though no one answered.

Yesterday morning I tried my luck again with Botwnnog, calling at 8 in the morning for an appointment. I was on hold for half an hour before I got through, and the nurse wouldn’t let me make an appointment with a doctor because she didn’t have a file on me. I tried to tell her it was in the overall system, that I watched the nurse practitioner at the hospital put it in there, but she wouldn’t listen. I tried to reason with her, asking for an appointment so that I could show the doctor my wrist and then he would prescribe it to me any way. She said unless she had my notes then I couldn’t see anyone. When I tried again, she told me she’s very busy and there’s nothing she can do.

I was able to get ahold of the Out of Hours nurse in Tremadog who faxed my notes along to Botwnnog, though it wasn’t the complete set of notes since they didn’t have them from Bangor (some system). However, she told me to call Botwnnog later to make sure they were there.

A few hours later I did so, and didn’t have to wait very long on hold. I spoke to a very kind, and helpful person who apologised that there weren’t the full notes. In Bangor they doubled the dose I was given in Tremadog, which was information written that the lady on the phone didn’t have. However, she listened, said she would pass it along to a doctor and that it should be in the pharmacy today–and it was.

So that crisis is averted.

But I understand now why so many people complain about the NHS. This, I think, was the result of it. Botwnnog is bursting and busy because the surgery in the village I live in shut down, and who knows how many others. The system that is suppose to work all over doesn’t.

It doesn’t excuse the excessive rudeness I experienced (aside from the last person I spoke to), but I think the rudeness is a symptom.

However, all healthcare systems have their flaws. This is by far infinitely better than what’s provided in the States. And, bonus: When I picked up my prescription today, not only did they give me twice the amount needed, but I didn’t have to pay anything for it.

An injury like this at home would have drained my savings by now and put me in debt. The NHS is flawed, but man, I sure am grateful for it.

Wrist update

The good news is that I have at least ten days off work, which means I’ve managed to escape working August Bank Holiday (if you live in a seaside town in the UK, that’s a big deal). The bad news is that it’s because my diagnosis is Tendonitis.

I went to A and E in Bangor hospital yesterday morning, and for the first time was asked what the extremity of my pain was. I was eventually sent to the Nurse Practitioner, who told me it was tendonitis. She had experienced it to, and thus had really good understanding of it, as well as was very sympathetic to my state.

She said complete and total rest for my right hand, and if it’s not getting better within ten days, then I need to go in and see about a hand surgeon.

Of course, while I can’t use a pen in my hand, I’m still being cheeky and typing. I have my keyboard angled down so it’s not a strain on my wrist, and I have a brace on which basically means I’m using my limp fingers to press buttons.

I’m worried about how this will affect everything–the move to the farm, starting university–all of it. I think it’ll be ok, there are worse times it could have started. I’m choosing to be optomistic about everything. What choice do I have?

Medical Treatment

I think I mentioned in my update that one of the local surgeries said that I had to call at 8:30 to try and make an appointment for that day, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get in. I gave that a go this morning, and it was no dice.

So I decided to go to the minor injuries unit a few villages inland (ish), and see if I could get in there. As it turns out, I could, and I did very quickly. I don’t think I could have been in the waiting room for more than five minutes.

I only saw the nurse though, who said it sounded like I had a developing repetitive strain injury. She gave me a new brace, one with metal in it, and sent me on my way.

My co-pilot had been kind enough to drive me, and when I relayed to him what the nurse had said, he said that I needed to find a way to see a proper doctor. He had seen me near tears in pain just from lightly touching my wrist. If there’s the risk that I won’t be able to use my hand or wrist in the future, then I need to get into see a doctor, rather than a nurse.

The plan is that he’ll take me in tomorrow to the one closer to where he lives and go in with me, so he can make sure the extent of the injury is known. The nurse didn’t ask a lot of questions, including how bad the pain is, or how long it’s been going on. Just asked me what I did, and checked my range of motion.

The good news out of all of this is that I saw someone at least, and got  wrist brace, and it’s all taken care of by the NHS. I didn’y have to provide ID, my NI number, insurence, anything. That is what universal healthcare is about!

However, she did say that I’m to rest it, not to do anything with it. Typing this has been a difficulty, but I’m mostly writing this for the practice. There’s no way I”m going to stop writing while this heals. So I’m trying to find the best way to type without pain or any stress to my wrist. It is my right wrist, and I am right handed, so using a pen is somewhat out of the question.

Either way, I’ll try and keep current on here!