These past two weeks have been jam-packed with work, travel, and exploring a new country and way of life. While in England, I am working with Team Durham’s community outreach program, along with Ashley and Anahita. Our time with the program is primarily broken into two segments. These first two weeks we have been working primarily with adults through a variety of community outreach activities and sports. So far, we’ve done soccer, boxing, tennis, rowing, running, badminton, table tennis, boxing, Nordic walking, archery, cricket, and lacrosse. All that activity, plus all of the walking around town, means we’re active all day long. Today, we worked with a group of disabled adults as they rotated through different stations. We spent most of our time assisting at the archery station, and then planned a lacrosse station for later on in the afternoon. While it was challenging at times, it was so much fun to see them enjoying themselves outside in the beautiful weather (apparently 75 degrees is a heatwave in England).
One of the coolest aspects of the program is that we’ve gotten to work with people from all of the other service sites that the other DukeEngage students are working at. We’ve spent a lot of time working with people from the Fells and Waddington, so it’s fascinating to be able to compare our experiences with the DukeEngage students who work there every day. I think that the interconnectedness of the service sites helps us better reflect on our work and relate to the experiences of the other students.
I’m very excited about a lot of the upcoming events at our service placement. Tomorrow, we are hosting a football (soccer) tournament called the Recovery Cup at Team Durham, which the rest of the DukeEngage students are volunteering at. There are 8 teams from different recovery programs throughout the county who will be competing to win the Recovery Cup championship. There are also prizes for best goalkeeper and fair play. Next week, the camps are starting, which will make up the second segment of our service. I’m excited to get to work with the kids and make up different activities and exercises for them.
Our time in England has been a mixture of work at our placement sites and experiencing the culture of the northeast. We’ve done numerous group activities to better understand how the mining industry shaped (and continues to shape) the towns and cities of the northeast. My personal favorite was our group outing to Beamish last weekend. Beamish is an interactive open air museum that recreates towns and farms from the 19th and 20th centuries. There was even a 1950s themed carnival. We got to see what old British towns were like, and even rode an old steam locomotive (though it went extremely slowly). It was cool to get to actually see, smell, touch, and even taste what life was truly like back then, as you learn much more from doing and experiencing than just hearing or reading.
I also really enjoyed our group activities in Durham this past Wednesday. We started off the day with a tour of the Durham Cathedral. Our tour guide was incredible, and, as we later found out, is one of the top tour guides in all of Britain. She brought the history of the cathedral to life for us, keeping her tour entertaining and informative. The tour ended with us getting to see the place where they filmed parts of Harry Potter. While I’ve never seen Harry Potter so wasn’t too fascinated by the film history aspect of the tour, several group members were absolutely ecstatic to imagine themselves in the halls of Hogwarts. We ended the day with dinner at the Durham Castle. I loved getting to dress up and enjoy a fancy dinner with everyone, as well as meet other international students studying at Durham for the summer. Also, the castle is absolutely stunning, and I’m jealous of all students who actually get to live in and go to school there.
We also have been able to take some group outings outside of the DukeEngage enrichment activities. This past weekend, 8 of us went to Edinburgh. Though we were there less than 24 hours, it truly enriched our understanding of the region. Scotland and England form two separate identities, which is something we’ve noticed from talking to people (and of course the possibility of a referendum for Scottish independence), so it was fascinating to see first hand how different places shape a person’s identity. I also enjoyed seeing many of the sites in Scotland. We hiked Arthur’s Seat in the morning. The view was absolutely breathtaking, despite the nearly hurricane force winds at the top.I’m looking forward to our free weekend in County Durham this weekend and continuing exploring more of Durham and England these next two weeks!