Before you arrive at Durham, the two JCR Welfare Officers will match you up with a pair of college parents from 2nd/ 3rd/ 4th year along with one or two siblings, who will also be a fresher. College families are put together based on course and similarities in interests. This means that as a standard, at least one of your college parents will be taking the same degree as you, but one or two years further down the line. College siblings can also be from the same degree, though this varies based on the number of students taking different subjects each year and how closely we can pair people up.
The college family system is a long-established tradition within Castle, having run successfully as a peer support system and more for a number of decades. The families stay the same throughout your time at Durham, providing both academic guidance and enabling students to meet a number of others from across a variety of years. In this sense the system is less of a rigid and formalised support system, and often something which creates long lasting friendships within each of the college families. During Freshers week, you traditionally meet your college family on one of the days to get to know one another – be it going to a café, grabbing some food, or just hanging out at college. Following this we have our traditional family formals which the JCR Services Manager and JCR Welfare Officer coordinates, where every college family attends together. Here, the college parents introduce the college kids to a whole host of Castle traditions which are some of the highlights of the college week, and indeed year! Throughout the year there will be many more opportunities like this, though this is typically arranged on an individual family-by-family basis. This coming year we are looking more at embedding family events into the College calendar (Covid depending), but ‘College Family Days’ and textbook exchanges for incoming Freshers are something that is in the works.
Towards the end of your first year, many people choose to get ‘college married’. This may sound a bit strange, but it is no more than just choosing a friend to adopt college kids with the following year – and in many cases the JCR Welfare Team can always match people up if they’d like to take part in the college family system. You can also choose to sign up as an individual college parent, but in any case, we try and make sure to match interests between college kids and parents as closely as possible. This is truly one of the most fantastic aspects of college life and does act as far more than simply an academic aid. If you have any queries, be it course related or to do with University life in general, your college parents will always be there to help guide and support you.