Formatives & Festivities

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Now that we’re past all the Christmas and New Year celebrations, I feel like it’s time to give some tips and tricks on how to really get into the Christmas spirit in Durham. Whether it’s a winter ball, a trip to what seems to be Father Christmas’ favourite holiday location (AKA the beautiful city of York) or some carol singing, England really knows how to get you in the mood for mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and German bratwurst.

The first event that really got me in the mood for Christmas, was the Durham City’s Christmas Lights Switch On, which was on the 30th of November. The warm feeling of people coming together on the market square, combined with the smell of some very yummy food, really sets the mood for Christmas. While a subtle arrangement of levers and pulleys set angels and holy figures on a flight over the market, Christmas music accompanied the narration of the event. This all cumulated in leading the apotheosis of the evening: The switch-on of the lights decorating the big Christmas tree!

The sighting of the first Christmas lights irrefutably induces in me the craving for mulled wine and German bratwurst. These necessities, however, appeared absent from the Durham Christmas scene.

Luckily a few weeks later I went on a trip to York with the Theology Society where we went to visit York Minster and afterwards we strolled around the Christmas market. I definitely recommend visiting York in December, as the city seemed to be tailored to this holiday season. The city has a few Christmas shops that are open all year round and the Christmas market is to die for. It was there that my quest for foreign sausages and heated alcohol was fulfilled. I must say these taste better in an actual German Christmas market, but likewise, the consumption of tea and scones will always be best when indulged in the UK.

Other events that really made me look forward to the 25th of December were the Stephenson Winter Nutcracker Ball, a Christmas party with other international students, the Durham Christian union carol service, and the Durham City’s Nativity Play.

Colleges all over Durham really splash out when it comes to organising a ball. Although at first, I found the prices for these balls a bit expensive as I’m not used to spending a lot of money on student events in my home country, I really think it’s worth going to one or two of these fancy dress balls. They often include a drink on arrival, a three-course meal and some fun surprises during the meal and the subsequent party. Considering that you get to be a part of this typical English tradition of going to a ball, and considering all the things you get to enjoy, it really is worth the expense!

Durham also spoils its citizens and students with lots of carol singing. Be it during the nativity play, where live donkeys and camels accompanied the consort (BIG FAN!), or during a service as exquisite as the cathedral in which it was hosted, the carol singers always knew to hit that festive note. The fact that such typically British carol singing events are open to all, regardless of religious orientation, reflects the atmosphere of openness and celebration that pervaded the Durham air.

With all the fun I had, I almost forgot about my formative deadlines. Despite struggling with the notion of formatives, I duly arrived at the following conclusion: A formative essay is an essay that will be graded, without contributing to the final grade. It helps form the students by providing feedback and guidance while allowing the student the freedom to play with the novel concepts he or she is attaining. While I was reluctant at first to slave away for an assignment which would not count, I did feel that the work I put into my formative bolstered the confidence I will doubtlessly need when writing my summatives during the Epiphany Term.


Tot de volgende!




Are pet camels a thing? 🐪


Beautiful York 😍


Celebrating the season to be jolly with Linda (unicorn accessories are accepted all year
round) 🦄🎄 + cheering for my friend Mirjam who was singing in the choir 🎤🌟


🍴❄️Winter Nutcracker Ball – Stephenson College❄️🍾




















Adventures in books and conquering castles

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There may have been one or two mentions of having to read quite a few books at the moment… Just know that this is not supposed to imply any complaint, as I actually love to read. Of course I enjoy some books more than others, and I usually wouldn’t pick a crime story or a thriller myself, because the slightest tension is just too much for me and does not just give me goose bumps but usually nightmares right away (Yes, even watching an episode of Monk in my case is reason enough to leave the lights on at night). Also I do believe that there is no such thing as a bad book. After all every single book will be able to transport us to a completely different world. I personally think it is incredibly fascinating how a certain combination of words, which already hold a specific meaning to us, when they are standing alone, can actually evoke such vivid pictures in our minds, once they are put together. It is just paper with some ink on it, one might think, and yet it takes us on adventures we never had imagined ourselves, to places we have never been before and to people we have never met.  

As we cannot go away every time faraway places seem to call out for us the best and also the easiest solution to escape and take a journey anyway, is a book. That’s why I pretty much always carry one with me. Which brings me the other great feature of books: they are usually handy enough so that you can simply take them anywhere. Therefore sometimes it may even be possible to combine two of the greatest pass times with each other; just put a book of your choice in your backpack, go to the train station and take a little trip. There are so many interesting destinations you can easily reach from Durham. One of those definitely worth a visit: Holy Island.

Lindisfarne Castle

Without my wonderful classmate from Spanish, who recommended this to me, I don’t know if I had gone. Therfore I must say, i am still very much grateful for this amazing tip. A direct train leads from Durham to Berwick upon Tweed, a little town just a few miles south from the Scottish border. There I went for a little walk along the coast, even got to see a lovely seal just relaxing in the sea and when it started to rain, I found a really cozy Café to warm up in, read, and enjoy the most delicious pumpkin cake, while waiting for the bus. The bus that takes you all the way from Berwick to Holy island has to run according to the tide times and usually only departs twice per day and on good weather conditions, hence it will be wise to check the times in advance. In my case the bus left Berwick sometime after 2pm and got me to this beautiful island in 30 minutes. It is also possible to walk, but you will need a lot more time and will definitely want to bring your wellies for that. Once at the island, I was able to enjoy a stunning view at the sea, the adorable castle of Lindisfarne and an amazing sunset at Lindisfarne Priory, before I escaped from the cold wind and treated myself with a cup of hot tea and some more pages of my book.

Once I got home that day I had not only seen the island St. Cuthbert was the bishop of in his times, but Nelly had also just finished telling me the story about the stirring  lives of Heathcliff and Catherine. So if I haven’t mentioned this very good reason to come to Durham: you will be able to study really interesting topics and take advantage of living in a very beautiful region all at the same time.