Our first week in Durham, England has been an extremely busy, enriching, and fun-filled experience. Every day is packed with activities, ranging from visiting local elementary schools, learning about the mining history via members of the community, interacting with Durham University summer school students, and climbing all 327 steps of the Durham Cathedral. The busyness continued throughout the weekend, as we were able to attend the Miner’s Gala on Saturday and the Brass Festival on Sunday.
So far, one of my most memorable experiences has been the chance to interact on a individual level with various members of the community. Canshu and I are placed at the Durham Employment & Skills (DES) office, which is a government branch that implements a required two-year training program for unemployed citizens. The goal is to make these individuals more employable by teaching them interviewing and communication skills, as well as basic math and English in order to attain higher levels of education certification. Our bosses and co-workers are more than willing to ensure that our three and a half weeks of working here are as meaningful as possible, so Canshu and I are able to choose the goals we want to attain during our time at DES. As our DukeEngage program is centered on the comparison of economic redevelopment between our Durham and this Durham, we decided we wanted to hear firsthand accounts of local citizen’s opinions of the economy. Three middle-aged men native to county Durham informed us of their strong dislike of Margaret Thatcher, explaining that her goals of improving the wealth of London and its surrounding neighbors made conditions worse and worse the further north you got, until the very Northeast region of county Durham. As we spoke with a group who was frustratingly unemployed, they went on further tangents about the state of the economy, upset by the lack of jobs and gap between those unemployed and those living in “posh” city Durham. Having the opportunities to learn about Durham, England and its economy and culture via locals’ personal stories and experiences has made our first week in Durham exceptionally meaningful. I can’t wait to hear more of these stories in our few weeks to come!