My time in England has been really transformative. Durham, U.K is very different to Durham, N.C. The greenery, the weather as well as the walking culture are some of the most immediate differences that hit me. Apart from that however, there were more pressing similarities. Both economies had been hit hard by structural unemployment due to declining mining and tobacco industries respectively. Both cities have a lot of population influx due to the student bodies in the universities.
Although my placement in North Carolina was with a creative reuse center, in the United Kingdom my placement is with the Outreach Department of the Durham University Athletic Center commonly referred to as Team Durham. The first week revolved around getting us oriented at our new placement. Team Durham likes to look at sport as a mechanism to provide a productive energy outlet for different members in the community.
We ran with mothers who were on their way to learning how to run a 5k. We boxed and played badminton with men who are living in a hostel. We went Nordic walking with members of the community and learnt a lot about England and the attitudes of the people through discussions during those walks. I learnt about the English love for Disney World. One of the most intriguing things I learnt was that at Durham University over 90% of the student population was involved in one sport or the other. I found that they all are more focused on participation than on performance which was a sentiment that I found resonated with me.
Durham is a treasure, it is filled with beautiful hidden nooks and crannies, rivers, cathedrals and castles but the people are the true gems.