Editorial #832: This term is hard enough as it is

By Imogen Usherwood, Editor-in-Chief

Sometime last week when we were getting the newspaper together, some of the editors started asking if I had any ideas for my editorial yet. “I’ll think of something,” I said airily, “see what’s going in the news, you know.”

Clearly 2020 has taught me nothing, because last week I didn’t expect to be writing this editorial during a second lockdown, or for the Presidential election results to be undecided 48 hours after polls closed. I’ve deliberately been putting off writing this actually, partly because I’m a lifelong procrastinator, but mostly because everything is changing so often that I feared it would go out of date before it made it to print – so I’ll leave the lengthier discussions of current affairs to Politics and Comment.

University, especially final year, is difficult enough without a pandemic to contend with

There’s only so many times that student journalists and University executives can throw around phrases like “this is far from the term we expected”, “online teaching is a new experience for all of us” or, heaven forbid, “we’re living in unprecedented times”. Yet, a second lockdown has come as an unpleasant surprise to us all. The prospect of a month with no cafés, bars or restaurants, no meetings with more than one person (which must be outdoors) and no option of going back home remains a bleak one.

The truth is that university, especially final year, is difficult enough without a pandemic to contend with. Between reading, seminars, my dissertation, Palatinate and everything else, the middle of Michaelmas Term is hitting me hard. And that’s not even factoring in the difficulties of both online and in-person teaching right now (reading glasses and a mask are not a good combination), the fact I haven’t hugged my friends since March and the other, myriad ways that Covid-19 necessarily complicates our lives. As a finalist, I’d like to have my essay crisis in the Billy B without needing to book a study space there first.

A lot of the ways in which students usually mitigate the stress of it all – trips to the pub, movie nights at a friend’s house, big social events and so on – are totally unthinkable now. We can only hope that this lockdown doesn’t send us back to the days of Zoom quizzes. In all seriousness, though, if there was ever a time to look out for each other, it’s now. Message that friend you haven’t spoken to for a few weeks, even if it’s just to ask how they’re doing; arrange a FaceTime with your friend from home; organise an evening in with your housemates. There’s so much going on for everyone at Durham, not to mention in the rest of the world, that being kind to each other is the very least we can do.

There’s so much going on that being kind to each other is the very least we can do

And, of course, as anyone on their college welfare team will tell you, it’s always important to practice self-care, but surely now more than ever. During the first lockdown, there were a lot of comments going around about using the time stuck at home to be ‘productive’, to write a novel, learn a new language or take up running.

This time, in the chilly depths of November, surely we should recognise that a global crisis is enough pressure to put on a person, without expecting them to produce the next King Lear at the same time. Every day, when a lecturer starts their email “I hope this finds you as well as it can at this difficult time”, I’m reminded that, however much we have normalised the Covid-19 era, it remains an extraordinary and, frankly, scary time. We’ll get through it, just like we got through the last one – it’s going to be hard, but we’ll write those essays, go to those seminars (in person or on Zoom), and continue to look out for one another.

It’s not a great time to be anyone right now, and it’s definitely not a good time to be a student or young person. This week, as Thursday’s lockdown loomed, town bustled with students trying to squeeze in their final brunches, pints and last-minute shopping trips before everything except essential services were closed. We’re so young, and we have so much time ahead of us – it doesn’t feel like it now, while the pandemic offers no end in sight, but one day, we’ll get past all of this.

When the lockdown blues inevitably get to you this month, I’d urge you to take a moment to commend yourself on everything you’ve achieved since March. Support services like Samaritans, SHOUT and Durham Nightline are here for you. Whatever happens in the next month, take care of yourself and those around you.

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