What it’s like moving from Africa to Durham

College food should include cooking bananas.

People: “Where are you from?”

Me: “Congo”

People: “Cornwall?”

Me: “No, Congo like the one in Africa.”

This is usually my first encounter with people, and I don’t blame them.

Being from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I really had a culture shock when coming to Durham. No wonder considering everything, from weather to food to language, is totally different.

For one it’s hard to come to terms with the climate when you’re used to the hot and humid weather in Congo. Why do people in Durham dress as if it was summer now?!

I mean, aren’t you cold? It seems like you must have some sort of secret of how to keep warm with no clothes on. Or are your bodies just so incredibly strong they’re invincible? It’s pure insanity.


Getting used to college food was an equally strange experience. I miss my home food (plantains!!!), but saying that the food isn’t actually that different here than back home. I mean, the marvellous college food is almost exactly the same, except for the spices, the cooking methods, the taste, the presentation.. Well actually, basically everything is different.

We do love beans in our culture and we put them in everything, just not in breakfast. Imagine my surprise then when I saw people having them for breakfast. The breakfast could taste worse, but I definitely wouldn’t have it every day.

You also cannot imagine how hard the language barrier can be. I used to watch American movies and tv-shows, and I would be so proud to show all the Brits how good my English was. Oh, how wrong I was.

Not just because I have a distinct French accent, but also because the American accent is different from the British one, so just imagine someone with a French accent trying to speak English with an American accent to British people. Ya feel me?

I love the English student culture, really. But, I don’t understand what’s up with the music taste, and I will never get why people get drunk before the night has even started only to wake up not remembering a thing from the previous night.

Well actually, that last one is a universal phenomenon, so never mind.

I like to meet new people, and I like to have a chat, but I’ll always struggle with some words, jokes, or slang. And when I start speaking I know it’s hard for them to understand what I’m saying. It’s hard being so far away from your home, not being in your comfort zone at all.. But thankfully it’s easy to meet people who will actually try to make you feel better in Durham.

Still, if you meet an international student try to be kind, try to go beyond their appearance and get to know them. Because being international at Durham can be hard.