To gain a better understanding of how university works in a world impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, I interviewed my sister Charlotte Timmis, a first-year law student at Durham University.

There is always a lot of apprehension and nerves associated with leaving home, becoming more independent, and starting a new chapter. Any change can be daunting, and therefore I hoped that my sister could dispel some of the nerves people may have. When asked how her first year has been in general, Charlotte replied with “In terms of leaving home, it has been very liberating especially considering the several months prior stuck inside. There are obvious challenges with online education, which has made learning and socialising difficult given the lack of engagement, but on the whole, I have really enjoyed living in Durham and being surrounded by new people.”

I was then curious about how universities were responding to the COVID-19 restrictions and how much, if any, teaching was done in person. Charlotte told me: “All lectures have been pre-recorded and uploaded online which I haven’t found ideal as there is no structure to my day. In the first term, I had a handful of seminars face-to-face, which was good although an odd experience, as we sat very far from each other in the lecture hall. However, this allowed me to meet others doing my course, which is always helpful.”

These comments made me question how many opportunities there has been to meet new people and make friends as I know this is a common worry many have about university. Charlotte said that “unfortunately this year it has been difficult to socialise but next year restrictions should ease which means it will become much easier. Hopefully, societies will have had the time to adapt, so students coming next year should not worry.”

To end on a more positive and uplifting note, I questioned Charlotte about what she was looking forward to doing and experiencing next year once things are hopefully back to some semblance of normality. Charlotte said the thing she was most looking forward to doing was getting to know the area by going on a trip to Newcastle and meeting people through societies that can hopefully start up again soon.