Michaelmas term came to a close; it was legal to travel, home awaited me, and despite having only one in-person tutorial, I felt satisfied. As a first year English Literature student, I have loved being at Durham so far, but this term had me sighing “Epiphany, wherefore art thou, Epiphany?”
This is because, thanks to the travel ban, Durham had to be admired from afar. Like Romeo and Juliet as star-crossed lovers, I had to keep my distance. Outbursts into Shakespearean verse may also be explained as a side effect of too much time studying the Bard and not enough time outside.
One very welcome break from the books, however, came in the form of Zoom calls with my college (shoutout to St Chad’s), but I was often left wanting more. Teased for being ‘silly fresh’ by fellow students, it is true that I don’t yet know that much about Durham. The view of Castle from my room last term may be one of our many tourist attractions, but further exploration has been lacking. Little did I realise that Epiphany term would be spent entirely at home.
I knew what I needed was a sense of routine and a plan to get me out of my rut; Zumba and yoga classes slotted nicely into the free hours of my day. Lecture halls replaced by Zoom calls and Teams meetings have their benefits, after all. No need to rush the notes or race to get to a lecture on time, instead it’s whatever suits your working hours and learning style. I might miss the freedom of an in-person tutorial and the chance to forge a sense of community with fellow English students, but at least I am still learning.
This time last year, when exams were cancelled and schools were closed, I had no idea what was going to happen. No matter whether in Durham or at home, it has been a tumultuous term for us all but we’ve somehow coped. Lockdown is easing and with Easter term around the corner, it seems like things might just be looking up.
By Eunice Wu
Epiphany term saw the shifting of seasons – from the few weeks of ice and snow in January to the sunny afternoons in March, it was as if Durham was gearing up for the return of its past exuberance. As someone from the subtropical city of Hong Kong, it was my calling to make the most out of the cusp of spring here at Durham.
In January, I somehow managed to evade Observatory Hill in its full snow-clad glory, as it was in its most plain state both times I made the effort to trek up the hill. When it was peak sledding season, we were still contemplating on getting the quintessential red sled. My flatmates had made a victorious attempt to sled with the lid of our recycling bin, which yielded great speed despite its lacklustre appearance. However, we eventually settled to pool our money and experience Durham’s winter in style. As if the weather was mocking our fickleness, all the snow had melted days after we purchased the red sled. Now it longs for attention, except that from the dust in our flat corridor, in vain.
I did, however, successfully partake in another winter activity. We built a tiny snowman at Wharton Park. In hindsight, we could have put our leftover cranberries from baking a Bûche de Noël during Christmas to use. Either way, that was something checked off my bucket list, despite my desire for a more avant-garde snowman. At least there were no reports of our creation being demolished, since crime rates against snowmen were strikingly high for a period of time.
Of course, apart from these little lockdown adventures, I had my fair share of indoor days. Well, that was an understatement, but the fact that I spent 95% of my epiphany term in a reclusive state is painful to admit. This was obviously not a personal choice, but rather one that was presented to me through the university’s introduction of wholly online teaching for the term.
As a psychology student, I was lucky to have a handful of in-person tutorials and practicals during the Michaelmas term, though all of which were stripped from me this term. Switching between Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and Zoom meetings every so often definitely did not equate to the lovely autumn walks to and fro college and trips to the psychology department offered by last term.
The only positive of Zoom was seeing my friends despite being miles apart. We organised a Secret Santa gift exchange and only managed to have everything shipped and delivered during Epiphany term. It was a Zoom call full of excitement and joy – both from seeing one another and receiving belated Christmas presents. We also hosted a couple of different Zoom calls ranging from announcements of lockdown love to birthday celebrations, and they undoubtedly relieved my sense of FOMO seeing people go to yacht parties and quaint cafes back at home while I was stuck in lockdown.
Despite the minor inconvenience of a sudden icy spell cast upon the UK, it seems that spring has officially sprung. I noticed the increase of picnic-goers along the River Wear during my past few grocery runs, and with greater lockdown easing on 12th April, Durham is more crowded than ever. Hopefully, when you catch me carrying my picnic mat and wicker basket out for an afternoon treat, it won’t be two degrees and raining hailstones.
Photograph: Eunice Wu.