A fresh start: will the return of Durham traditions leave freshers isolated?

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In a year that’s been anything but traditional, it is no wonder that the revival of Durham traditions and events are welcome additions to our calendars, particularly for us freshers with time on our hands. But whilst for most students this is a reconciliation with a well-practiced lifestyle and a familiar Durham, freshers this year are plunged into yet another pool of uncertainty as Easter term kicks off. 

Of course, as I hear older cohorts quip, it is natural and far from uncommon that new students feel unsettled throughout first year as they navigate a new experience, but the ever changing foundations of university life during a pandemic has undoubtedly made it harder to find one’s feet. Over time, we became immune to the virus’ ability to disrupt — never having been to a uni building became acceptable, cancelled events inevitable, and the yearning for normality a hopeless waste of time. Like others, the day to day monotony of the ‘new normal’ became less ‘unprecedented’. The fabric of a usual freshers year seemed unimaginable, the tales of jam packed weeks of events like a far-fetched fantasy. And so, with expectations lowered, it became easier to enjoy what we had — making the most of it was a far better alternative to dwelling on what we did not. 

It feels like this is finally our moment — a long overdue reward

Fast-forwarding through an Epiphany term that tested our optimism as much as our sanity, Easter term has commenced full of unrecognisable opportunity. With the fun of corridor parties exhausted, much like our ability to conquer zoom fatigue, the emergence of dormant events and traditions is refreshing. It feels like this is finally our moment — a long overdue reward for finishing school, surviving the A Levels results debacle and arriving at Durham, all of which we haven’t had the chance to celebrate properly. The freshers year that we signed up for feels more within reach than ever…despite being a mere two months away from ending. 

That said, it is undeniably daunting. No matter how positive, adapting to change is always exhausting, and I for one feel like we’ve had our fair share. I did not expect to feel like a ‘silly fresh’ for this long, yet I returned with more apprehension for this term than I did for actual freshers week. Perhaps because being faced with events and traditions exposes that all we knew was a shadow of Durham’s true self, a false sense of reality thus providing a false sense of security. Is imposter syndrome meant to last this long? 

Easter term has commenced full of unrecognisable opportunity

The floodgates to the sea of undergraduates are being opened — an overwhelming prospect for those who haven’t even met the students upstairs. It felt fraudulent buying ‘welcome back’ tickets for clubs I had never been to, and the fact that they’ll be full with students who have barely had the chance to go clubbing (*cough* legally *cough*) before is a terrifying thought. Like a child with eyes too big for their stomach, the myriad of societies and sports I’ve joined has swamped my timetable against the backdrop of our first university exam season. Our ability to handle the challenges of student life — most notably time management, organisation and a dwindling bank account — will be tested more than ever, with no safety net ensuring that we’ll meet the challenge. 

This term will be marked with opportunity. Not only to finally experience the events and traditions that make Durham so attractive, but the opportunity to be the freshers that everyone deserves to be in first year — giving things a go, making mistakes and pretending to know what they’re doing 90% of the time. The learning curve that is freshers year has taught us more amidst the turbulence of this year; the ups and downs teaching us invaluable lessons for the rest of our uni careers. We’ve survived a difficult year thus far, bring on the finale. 

Image: Dean Machala via Unsplash

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