MORE than 200 foreign students enjoyed a Christmas lunch fit for a Queen yesterday.
The students, from, China, Japan, Pakistan, and numerous other countries gathered in Durham Castle’s Great Hall, where the Queen enjoyed lunch in July this year, to sample a traditional Christmas dinner.
The first course was Salmon Caviche, which Her Majesty was served at the same venue, followed by turkey with all the trimmings, followed by Christmas pudding.
The students were also serenaded by choristers from Durham Cathedral before settling down to eat.
Professor Graham Towl, who has lead responsibility for the colleges at Durham University, said the Christmas feast had an important role in cementing the university’s increasing international reputation.
“The days when universities shut down because students went home for holidays no longer apply.
“Increasing air fares at Christmas make it harder for foreign students to go home to countries like China and Japan, so we need to cater for them in Durham during holidays. We cannot just ignore them.
“We decided to put on a Christmas meal at The Great Hall, where the Queen dined in July, to make them feel welcome and to enjoy our Christmas tradition.
“We are hoping this will go out on Facebook and prospective students will look at Durham and decide it is a place they would like to come to study.
“Other universities tend to find families to send students to spend Christmas Day, but we decided to go a step further.”
Brigit Liang-Quio, from northern China, was having dinner with fellow Chinese students Bai Wei and JunFei Lu. “This will be the first time I have had a traditional Christmas dinner,” she said. “We don’t have a Christmas festival where I come from, but I have enjoyed the atmosphere here very much in the build up to today.”
Phil Atkinson, the university’s Senior Community Food Services manager, said around 30 catering staff were working yesterday. “We had no trouble getting volunteers which was fantastic.
Most of them have families but they were prepared to start working here from 7am to give the international students a meal to remember.”
International Student liaison officer Adnan Balloch, from Pakistan, added that buses were being laid on today to take the students to the MetroCentre.
“They can enjoy another British tradition of Boxing Day shopping.
“There is no public transport so those who want to go somewhere different can take advantage of the buses we are providing,” he said.