6 Years of John’s

by Katharine Cheston John’s Graduate 2018 


Arriving onto the Bailey one Sunday at the end of September 2012, my parents’ car heavy with boxes and my heart heavy with nerves, my life as a Johnian was just beginning. Parking outside St John’s twelfth-century chapel amidst cheering and clapping, I was greeted by a group of friendly, energetic Freshers’ reps who gladly unpacked the car and showed me to my room. It was the best start to life at John’s, and the row of interconnected Georgian townhouses quickly felt like home.

Six years later, as I prepare to leave the familiar, cobbled Durham streets and plunge into new challenges, I naturally reflect on my experience. While a Google search can tell you, for example, that John’s was founded in 1909 and in 1973 was the first of the Durham colleges to become co-educational, there is so much more that makes up the day-to-day life at John’s. Whether you ask freshers or alumni, all Johnians remark upon certain aspects of college life:

Firstly, that John’s is a close-knit community. We are the second smallest college (behind St Chad’s), meaning that friendship groups are inevitably large and extend beyond those sharing your corridor or in your year. Staff know students by name, and one Johnian told me that his favourite bit of the John’s community was the ability to go down to the bar in the evening and always find people to share a drink with. The postgraduates in the MCR (Middle Common Room) have their own social and study space, but regular social events provide ample opportunity to socialise beyond common-room boundaries.

This lends itself well to the welcoming and diverse atmosphere of the College. John’s prides itself on being a community where, regardless of your background, you can fit in. There are a huge amount of societies to join – from the Bailey Theatre Company, to John’s Music Society, to Cheese Society – so there’s always something to get involved in – and you can even create your own. Sport at John’s is inclusive and the range of sports is hugely varied, with both men and women’s teams competing at College level, and we boast a successful Boat Club for those who wish to improve or to start rowing.

John’s is a very supportive environment, enabling students to get the most out of university life. The Senior Tutor and her team are the first point of call to discuss any challenges you may encounter during your time at university, and every undergraduate is allocated a Pastoral Tutor to meet with termly. There is also a peer-support system run by the SJCR Welfare team, who run daily drop-in sessions, and also organise activities such as yoga sessions and movie nights.

There are also brilliant social events. John’s students organise two balls every year for the whole College community: Bailey Ball in November, and Summer Ball in June. There’s also John’s Day, held in June after exams, where the whole of College gets together (hopefully in the sun!) to enjoy the famous raft race on the river, live music, and entertainment on the college lawns. Day-to-day, there is a lot of social space to be found around college, including our popular cellar bar and the recently renovated common room. The College dining room, which looks out over the gardens, also provides opportunity to chat to friends over mealtimes and to meet new people. Both John’s students and even students of other colleges say that John’s food is the best of all the Durham colleges, and being a catered college definitely contributes to the friendly atmosphere.

Finally, whether John’s was your first choice or if you were randomly allocated, everyone comes to agree that John’s is the best. It’s often said that once a Johnian, always a Johnian, and whether you move on after graduation, or stay for 6 years like myself (or even more!), you’ll always be welcomed back.

Sam and Katrina

Sam Broster (2006-2010 / Theoretical Physics) and Katrina Darby (2007-2010 / Law) married at The Great Barn, Aynho on 21st April 2018 surrounded by family, friends and many fellow John’s Alumni. Sam and Katrina began dating in late 2009, after a night out in Klute where they finally revealed their feelings for one another, many months after their initial meeting! They graduated, moved to London to take up their careers and currently enjoy residing in the house they bought together in Hertfordshire.

Moving on…

By Rosi Jelfs

John’s is incredible – we all know that. You only need to stand outside no. 3 on Freshers’ Sunday to feel the mutual support and love rush around our ‘character-full’ buildings. Everybody gets something different out of their time here, and as I get ready to leave (again!), I’ve been thinking about what John’s has given me 10 years on from my Freshers’ Sunday.

John’s was the first place I ever felt like I belonged – as a Brit who grew up abroad I’d never felt at home in the UK until I moved to the Bailey. I learnt it was ok to be a bit different, to not have it all figured out, to dream. Not ready to leave after my degree I decided to stay on for another year – which turned into two.

I spent some time wandering aimlessly after I finished my MA, not sure what I really wanted to do with my life. An opportunity to be a resident tutor came up at John’s and I was sold – why wouldn’t I want to come home?! The job is hard work but a privilege to do – and it gave me the luxury and time to try things and make mistakes, and then fall into a career as a librarian, which I love.

I still don’t have it all figured out, but as I pack boxes for moving day I think about how lucky I am to have stumbled on John’s, and that its community took me in and enabled to shape myself into who I am. We are all lucky – John’s is incredible.

Love Stories

Rumour has it that 72% of Durham students meet their future spouse while here. And we’re not talking about College marriage. We can’t be alone in wondering if this statistic is all it’s cracked up to be. What’s the story from those who’ve been and gone, and know their stuff?

We want to hear from you – Johnians who fell in love with Johnians. Have you got a tale of unrequited love? Was it a match made in heaven (or hell)? Married before the 5 Year Reunion? Are you 3 kids and 1 grandchild down the line? Get in touch!

Your stories will make up our first installment of ‘Dear John’ letters. Don’t worry if you’re not part of the 72% (or want to speak on behalf of the other 28%), there’ll be plenty more opportunities to contribute other tales – watch this space.

Dear John