You don’t need a newspaper to tell you that we’re living in uncertain times. It’s everywhere you look – each day, we’re waking up knowing that a new notification, text message or email might change how we live our lives for the foreseeable future. In the last week alone, meeting another household indoors has become illegal, and most Durham students are in the middle of a week of online teaching.
Typically, this editorial is the space in which a sage third-year Editor offers advice on how to navigate being a fresher based on their own experiences. Rest assured, neither of us profess to have much wisdom to offer, and this is an uncertain time for us all.
Starting university, even in normal times, can be trying. For many, it marks moving to a new city – or even a new country – full of strangers who, whether you like it or not, are going to be your friends and classmates for the next few years. That person you meet on move-in day might become your Co-President of a society in your final year, or you might never see them again. The popular assertion that university will be ‘the best three years of your life’ puts huge pressure on freshers to enjoy every moment of what is, actually, a hugely nerve-wracking experience, pandemic or not.
In the last six months, you’ll have heard many people proclaim that ‘we’re all in this together’. At Durham, that remains true; we’re all facing the same uncertainty. A year group of freshers are navigating a whole new city, and everyone is getting used to an entirely different way of learning and living at university. There is so much that students have to adapt to really quickly, this year more than ever.
Palatinate has not been immune to this uncertainty. What started out as an email telling us that no funding had been allocated for our print budget this term very quickly became a lot bigger. Within days we had written an article and amassed hundreds of signatures for an open letter, among them Jeremy Vine and Bill Bryson. Palatinate was featured in national newspapers. The ITV presenter and Palatinate alumnus Dan Rivers started his own fundraising campaign, and we created a donation page which has now raised over £3500, enough to print this term.
Trying to manage this for the last month has been challenging for us both, as we found ourselves in the middle of a situation that demanded near-constant attention every day of the week. It is not an exaggeration to say that, collectively, hundreds of hours have gone into Palatinate 830; the time spent writing, editing and producing it, and working to make it happen at all throughout September.
We are very grateful to the entire Editorial Board, who have written and commissioned so much fantastic content for this paper, and for our website all summer. To everyone who made a donation or signed our letter, offered to help, or just asked us ‘are you okay?’ – we want to thank you, too. It’s really important to look after yourself during difficult times, whether that means switching off from social media, or asking for support when you need it – a piece of advice that our fresher selves could have done with, too.
However, it is often through hardship that university life is at its most formative. It’s hard to comprehend how much space there is to grow and change during your time at Durham. Two years ago, we had no idea we’d end up here – both in the sense of being Editors-in-Chief, and living in a world where we can’t be within 2m of each other. Imogen spent her first term of first year as a very nervous Deputy Features Editor who was too scared to say anything in meetings, while it wouldn’t be until January of her second year that Tash joined Palatinate. Now, Imogen won’t stop talking in meetings and Palatinate is something Tash lives and breathes.
This term isn’t going to be like anything we’ve experienced before, not least because we have no idea how things will change. Back in March, Palatinate kept students updated as Durham started to close down when coronavirus reached the North East. Now, we will continue to be there for students, with reliable coverage of this fast-changing world, and plenty of other features to distract you from it, too. Palatinate relies on its student editors, contributors, and readers – even when we have to run it from our bedrooms rather than an office.
We hope to see lots of you getting involved with Palatinate this term, whatever the world may throw at us.
Image: Terry Straehly via Flickr