"In other words, students – pandemic or not – will become digital commuters, much as will many office workers. Where they live will not matter, at least not all the time."

Every time September rolls around, I can't help but wonder where the summer went. Is it that time of year already? (Surely not); Have I achieved what I set out to over summer? (Don't be silly); Am I prepared to begin learning again? (What's learning?) - Getting ready for the new term is always a shock to the system.

Nonetheless, this year's 'back to school' season is a bigger shock than ever - and is unsurprisingly looking very different. We're either going into our eighth month (year?) of working from home or frantically trying to book study space online. And, if we do go to campus, will we see our family ever again? Fieldwork plans seem like a distant memory, while sleepless nights over class sizes and timetables are accompanied by the looming worry of being blamed for a public health crisis. I think it's fair to say that this is not exactly how any of us imagined navigating a research degree would be.

However, resourceful as we tend to be, we can use this strange period to reimagine how we do research in a way that is inclusive, innovative, and international. In a time where there are far more questions than answers, our network has connected people, solved problems, and provided support across cities, countries, and continents - this newsletter alone is read by likeminded people from three different continents! For many, this community has given us the boost we need to keep pushing through in what is otherwise a fairly lonely profession. It is great to see these support networks taking shape in specific fields. For example, the Veteran's and Families Research Hub has set up a useful thread for military-connected students to discuss their experiences in higher education and the development of uniform-friendly universities. For me, this is a perfect example of how, as 'digital commuters', we can make the best of this unusual new term.

With this in mind, I want to welcome new PhD starters to a truly global cohort. Wherever you are in the world, we want to have you on board! If you were forwarded this by a friend, please head to our website and sign up to our mailing list, and don't forget to connect with us on Twitter (@DefResNet) for our regular Twitter Hours.

Unfortunately, the new school year also means that a few of our team are moving on and around. I am very sad to say that this will be the last newsletter I write to you all. I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has read and engaged with this platform over the past year, it has been an absolute pleasure to write about the wonderful things our community is doing, watch our readership grow, and hear your feedback on Twitter. Particularly in these strange and isolating times, knowing that we can connect as a collective has brought me great comfort - I hope that I have played a little part in bringing this community to you, too. Luckily, endings inevitably lead to new beginnings, and the DRN is looking for someone to take over where I have left off! We are also on the lookout for a Twitter Manager to manage our social media presence. Interested? Read below for more information on how to get involved.

See the full newsletter: Back to School

Visit the Newsletter Catalogue page to catch up on past issues!