When Antonia went to Durham

The PICNIC exchange outside Durham

Durham University offers a wide range of subjects available for Combined Honours (CH) students, such as Anthropology and International Politics and Relations, which I am very interested in - last year I specifically chose similar modules. Aside from being curious about the CH options, I wanted to explore the way Durham’s CH programme operates as I have found the support I’ve been receiving at Newcastle University incredibly helpful.

As I am leading German Intermediate Conversation Groups at Newcastle University’s Language Resource Centre and attending the French Advanced Conversation Group, I wanted to gain insight into Durham’s Modern Language Department. I felt that seeing methods from another institution and its teachers would be beneficial to my own teaching style and my understanding of different ways of learning a language.

I was also keen on exploring Durham University, as I am interested in the International Law and Governance master’s course. Speaking to staff there and experiencing the way lectures are taught was very important to me.

Monday 23rd of April

On our first day Megan Bruce, the CHSS Director welcomed Helen, Mark and I in her office and explained to us our individual PICNIC Project timetable. She also gave us information on the self access campus tour and the crime walk in Durham. We then had a short break during which we decided to look around the University campus.

At midday we met Megan, Jennifer Cooper, the CH programme director, and two CH students; Lilia Manova and Meerav Shah. Over lunch we were able to find out more about the CH degree and the way the programme is structured at Durham University. While Mark and Helen went to a Microeconomics lecture with Lilia, I joined Meerav at an Ideas and Ideologies lecture. This was very interesting as it was a revision lecture and therefore gave an overview of the course and how it was organised.

At 3pm Helen and I met up with Mark Critchley, the Director of the Centre for Foreign Language Study in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. As Helen and I are both leading German Conversation Groups at Newcastle University’s Language Resource Centre, it was interesting to compare the two departments and their range of classes. Mark gave us a detailed overview of the way Durham University  organises and teaches languages to its students, arranging for us to partake in two language classes.

Due to the strikes, it proved difficult to arrange visits for certain lectures and seminars. As a result of the exchange taking place quite late into the academic year, it was also only possible to attend revision lectures. If the PICNIC Scheme were organised earlier in the year, it might have a positive impact on the range of appointments and lectures students could attend.

View from Hatfield College towards Durham Cathedral

Hatfield College: Helen Bremm, Lilia Manova, Megan Bruce, Mark Dam, Meerav Shah

Tuesday, 24th of April

The day started with meeting Meerav in front of Durham Castle at 12:30 for a tour, during which Meerav explained to us the system of colleges and the daily student life. At 2pm we met up with Ben Taylorson, who gave us a detailed tour of the Bill Bryson library.

Meerav Shah, Mark Dam, Helen Bremm, Antonia Geiger

Durham University, Castle Staircase

Thursday, 26th of April

Due to my interest in studying the International Law and Governance master’s course at Durham University, I had the opportunity to meet with Mike Adcock, the admissions officer of the Law department. Mike helped me develop a better understanding of the course, giving me advice regarding my application.

Mark, Helen and I then met at the Durham Student’s Union to meet with Richard Bruce and Rebecca Henderson who coordinate the SU’s activities. We were able to exchange experiences and views on how the respective Student’s Unions work. We then joined Meerav for lunch in the Great Hall, which showed us another facet of University life at Durham.

At 2:30, Helen and I met with Mark Critchley, who introduced us to Laura Wichmann, the DAAD Lektorin in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. Laura gave us the opportunity to sit in her German Advanced Oral Class and interact with her students.

Friday, 27th of April

At 11am Helen and I met Craig Barclay, head of museums, who gave us a detailed tour of the Oriental Museum. At 1pm Helen and I met Christopher da Silva, an Assistant Teaching Fellow at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, we were then able to sit in a French Grammar class.

Overall, I found this exchange incredibly useful towards my future endeavours and I believe that this experience contributed greatly to my desire to pursue a master’s degree. The PICNIC Scheme allowed me to meet academic staff and fellow Combined Honours students, showing me how different but equally efficient other Universities operate. I would most definitely recommend the PICNIC Scheme.


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