Covid A Year On: our reporter shares her experiences

Reporter Maya Derrick has been working from home since starting her job at the Herts Ad in September

Reporter Maya Derrick has been working from home since starting her job at the Herts Ad in September - Credit: Maya Derrick

Marking a year since the UK's first lockdown, reporter Maya Derrick shares her experience of finishing university and starting her job as a journalist in the midst of a global pandemic.

On Tuesday, March 17 2020 I went to uni, the buildings on campus eerily silent. News of a new virus had slowly crept up on us, and we had a confirmed student COVID-19 case.

That week consisted of a lot of 'lasts' - my last seminar, my last show on our student radio station, and the final time I saw my uni campus on the south coast.

With everything on hold and my mum now sick with worry, I hurried home. I honestly didn't know whether this would be for a few weeks or indefinitely, but it’s crazy to think that just a few days prior, I was dancing the night away celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday, not knowing it’d be the last time I'd see the majority of my mates.

The coming Monday - a year ago today - I remember sitting on my sofa with the rest of my family, watching Boris Johnson address the nation and telling us that we would be locking down for three weeks. I remember believing that was true.

Being home was a novelty at first; the local countryside was drenched in almost tropical-like sunshine for the best part of April and May, and I spent my days going on long walks; a daily distraction from my 10,000-word dissertation that I was writing from my childhood bedroom, 150 miles from my uni, library and life.

But as much as I felt fortunate to have had all my practical journalism training under my belt before the pandemic hit, I couldn’t shake the unnerving feeling that I wasn’t experienced enough for the working world.

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I knew that I had to take the leap in launching my career as a journalist. Not an easy venture at the best of times, the ongoing pandemic would hinder the grad job application process.

Admittedly, it initially felt almost impossible to get a job – in journalism especially - when everyone was working remotely, which I knew would make forging relationships with colleagues and the community increasingly difficult.

Maya on a visit to St Albans ahead of starting her job at the Herts Ad in September

Maya on a visit to St Albans ahead of starting her job at the Herts Ad in September - Credit: Maya Derrick

I started working for the Herts Ad in September, just three months after completing my degree. Apart from the odd day in either our St Albans or Stevenage office, I've worked entirely from home, and haven't seen a colleague in the flesh since December.

Actually, I even have some colleagues I've never met.

As much as I was used to working from home as a student, nothing prepared me for how isolated I'd feel working from my makeshift home office, away from my colleagues and my patch of St Albans district - a place I've only been able to visit a handful of times since landing the job.

Yes, I have been extremely fortunate to have built some fantastic relationships with my co-workers and members of the community, but I'm still itching to experience the working world the way it was, to literally go to work. Is that naïve? Will it ever go back to 'normal'?

I started this job craving the hubbub of a busy newsroom, heading out to the scene of a story and being in the thick of it; but now, I must admit, what I was looking forward to now fills me with dread and anxiety. 

Coronavirus forced us to diversify and think outside the box when it came to working from home, but when it's all you've ever known, heading back into the workplace - which everyone is rightly looking forward to - is a daunting prospect.

There have been days where I feel like I'm on top of the world and producing my best ever work, and I feel proud how far I've come. But there have also been days (more than I'd care to admit) that I've felt like a failure, and that I'm not doing my job, colleagues or readership justice. I've come to realise that feeling that way is okay, and also completely normal.

But it's still crushing when you don't have co-workers sat just a computer away to bolster you, reaffirm that you're doing well and to help guide you through the first months of a new job - and profession - at a time which is scary enough without a pandemic added into the mix.

As much as the events of the past 12 months have been devastating and undeniably life-changing, a small part of me can’t quite shake the gratitude for the silver linings that emerged because of it.

I feel in a very fortunate position to reflect on the last year with a glimmer of affection and fondness; the events of 2020 have drastically shaped both my personal life and career, but I oddly couldn’t imagine it any other way.