In July, Libby and Matty, two students from Duke University, began a three-week placement at Moving On as part of their DukeEngage Programme. As a matter of pure chance, Duke University is actually located in Durham, North Carolina – yes, seriously! Durham is also an official sister city with our American namesake.
Every year the DukeEngage Programme funds over 400 undergraduates to complete an immersive summer of service by addressing critical human needs to communities both in the United States and across the globe.
Libby and Matty were generous enough to take time out of their busy schedules to write a blog on their experiences working with Moving On, living in England for the first time, as well as addressing the cultural differences between our two countries.
Reflecting on Our Time in Durham
We are two students, Matty and Libby, visiting from America as part of the DukeEngage program. We both attend Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Our summer has been spent studying the differences in economic development between Durham, NC and Durham, UK.
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much in common between these two cities besides their names, but we have come to realize they are much similar than one would think. Both cities are centred around a large, world-class university, and their economics depended heavily upon bygone industries. In North Carolina, this was the tobacco industry whereas in England this was primarily the mining industry.
While both cities have a lot in common, we’ve certainly noticed some differences. One of the first obvious things we noticed after getting off of the plane was how the cars seemed to drive on the wrong side of the road. Even after a few weeks, crossing the road is still a bit scary as we keep forgetting which way to look for oncoming cars. Speaking of cars, we’ve also noticed that almost every car is manual transmission instead of automatic, which is essentially all that we drive in the US. The cars are also much smaller, and so are the beverages, bathrooms and houses. Even apples seem to be tiny here compared to the ones we have! Another unexpected discovery we had was that air conditioning is practically non-existent in the UK. This would probably not have been as noticeable if we weren’t visiting during the hottest week of the year! On the other hand, you would not be able to survive a summer in North Carolina without AC (or aircon as you call it), as temperatures can hover around 35 degrees Celsius and 90% humidity. And finally, a difference that we will certainly miss when we leave the UK is the Cadbury chocolate. We can definitely say that it is far superior to the Hershey’s we are used to in America.
We have really enjoyed exploring Durham so far. We attended both the Miner’s Gala and the Brass Festival, and we’ve taken trips to Beamish and Killhope. We are also excited to tour the castle and Durham Cathedral, and we noticed some of the sites where Harry Potter and Avengers: Endgame were filmed! On our last weekend, we also ventured into London to explore some more. The three-hour train ride was no problem, as we will sometimes drive for a whole day to go on vacation in the US.
Our time at Moving On has been amazing! The first thing we noticed about Moving On is that every single person working here is incredibly nice and genuine. They truly care about their jobs and were very helpful as we were settling in. Although the amount of work can grow to seem overwhelming, the Moving On staff let us accompany them on several inspections and tenant visits. Actually seeing the people and the community being served helped us get a better feel for the kind of work Moving On does and why it is so impactful. Meeting some of their tenants brought the mission of breaking the cycle of youth homelessness to life!
We also enjoyed getting to see the variety of neighbourhoods that Moving On operates in. As part of our DukeEngage program curriculum, we learned about the old mining towns in County Durham and how people in these places didn’t really know what to do after they closed. Visiting Moving On properties in these former mining towns gave us a firsthand feel of their current economic state. Peterlee and Horden are no longer just meaningless names to us, we’ve been on the ground and caught a glimpse of what life may be like there.
Our work has mostly compromised of recommending new fundraising strategies for Moving On. In doing this, it has been interesting to see how charities operate in the UK, as opposed to the US. We were surprised to find out that Moving On gets most of their funding from the government. In the United States, nonprofits are primarily funded by corporations and private donors. Regardless of these differences, charities do important community work in both places.
We have thoroughly enjoyed our time at Moving On and look forward to going home with the insights we have gathered here. We extend a big thank you to all of the Moving On staff that have made our time here so enjoyable.