An American Abroad: Sunderland offers plenty of free-time entertainment during the school week

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As my fourth week in Sunderland draws to a close, I finally feel like I belong. Any remnants of homesickness or uncertainty have begun to fade away.
I developed a routine for the school week, and weekdays zoom past until I’m free for the weekend. It frightens me just how fast the days go by. To combat this, I create lists for the weekdays and plan trips for the weekends.
It’s not practical to travel too far from Sunderland during the school week.
I could let this fact make my weekdays dull and forgettable. However, even if I’m not flying to Prague or Rome, I can find places to visit within Sunderland.
My weekday lists feature several to-do items I can complete amongst classes and homework.
For example, this week’s list consists of going to Roker Park near the beach, getting a cappuccino at Costa Coffee and eating at a new restaurant.
Don’t get me wrong. I live for weekend trips to London and Dublin. But I will also remember the days when my flatmates and I find an empty Indian restaurant and gorge ourselves on chicken tikka masala before getting a pint at a dead pub on a Tuesday night. Good times are everywhere.
My flatmate Madison and I planned a daytrip to Durham last Friday because we didn’t want to waste an open day. We could have caught a bus the entire way there, but we’re both new to public transport. Hilarious mistakes ensued.
We took the metro to Newcastle and bought first-class train tickets to Durham because they were only £9.50 (about $15 U.S. dollars).
We thought the train ride would take an hour. It took five minutes, and we couldn’t even find the first-class carriage.
We laughed our way into the city center and followed the looming Durham Cathedral into the older part of town. Cobbled streets wound up to the cathedral.
The architecture reminded me of York Minster, with its grandiose presence felt throughout the city.
Inside, the cathedral’s high ceilings, detailed columns and marble statues were humbling. Madison and I climbed 325 stairs to bask in the view from atop the tower. The entire city and river lay before us, and the wind muted any sound from below.
Durham Castle was closed for student move-in day, but a friendly tour guide took us into Bishop Cosin’s library. A winding staircase led to the open second floor. Ancient books surrounded us on all sides; some of them predated the United States by centuries.
Madison and I found our way out of the city and spent the rest of the day wandering forest trails. Rust orange leaves littered the ground. I welcomed the silence of the woods in contrast to noisy and concrete-laden Sunderland. As any Pennsylvanian will know, trees signify home.
I cannot wait to go to new cities and travel the unbeaten path. But alongside these whirlwind adventures, I cherish the small moments – like sitting in a bookstore café and reading along to the muffled chatter of strangers. Every day, every moment is significant.
Marie Beynon Ray once wrote, “Begin doing what you want to do now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand…”
Until next time, cheers!

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