Durham’s social life moves online

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During quarantine, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Epiphany term ended. I think we’ll all remember the abrupt end of face-to-face teaching – within a week life had changed from boozy Easter meals and club nights with friends, to packing my things and heading home for an early break.

In hindsight, remembering that I said goodbye to everyone with a joke, ‘see you in October!’, makes me want to kick myself.

I naively underestimated the effects the coronavirus would have on my education and now, coming into the strangest exam season we’ve all experienced, there’s no better time to be thankful that I’m just a first year.

We silly fresh get it all the time; off-hand comments about clogging up the library, or insistence that our grades don’t matter, and during coronavirus it’s been no different. I suppose this article might elicit the same response.

But I get it – this year will have no direct impact on my academic record, and first year is about socialising and getting involved with college life, so I shouldn’t be complaining, right?

I can’t help but feel however, that anyone telling us to be completely grateful is missing the point.

It’s very difficult to adjust the experience of living in college to an online environment – we won’t be able to pop down to college bars for ‘just one drink’ anymore, have gyms on our doorsteps, or be completely surrounded by people to socialise with all the time again.

It’s all testament to how important the collegiate system is in Durham

As much as no one will miss the new catering plan, we’ll all miss being able to eat with our favourite people every day. Quarantine has taken us from constant social contact to none, and it sucks.

Despite this, the colleges have been incredible in their response to the coronavirus. My college has organised countless virtual pub quizzes, dance classes, baking competitions and challenges to make us feel like we’re not so far apart.

We’ve also got an online ‘summer ball’ happening in June, and it’s great to have something motivational to look forward to (even if that may be a poor substitute for college days and summer ball, any social contact is welcome at the moment).

Quarantine has taken us from constant social contact to none, and it sucks

Student welfare has continued to support students throughout – the lot of them deserve medals for keeping us all sane.  It’s all testament to how important the collegiate system is in Durham. I can’t imagine how difficult this would be if we weren’t all being backed by such a supportive group of people.

Although the post-exam season booze-up we were promised has turned into a real damp squib, our colleges will still be here next year.

We may have had our first year cut short, but we do still have time to see each other again, and I can’t wait to hug my friends a little tighter once hugging isn’t banned anymore.

Photograph: Mike Fleming via flickr

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