It’s 8.30pm and I have just showered, got dressed, brushed my teeth and put on my shoes ready to head out. Friends are sitting in the corridor outside my room and I am sporting the latest trends; rolled up trackies, long socks and an oversized hoodie. On my shoulder is the most enormous weekend bag stuffed full with what seems like enough food, blankets and books to survive a week on a remote island. I have no idea how I am going to make the escape this time, but there’s no time to spare. I step out of my room to the anticipated ‘Where are you going?!’. Say something convincing, I tell myself. Instead, I say ‘Just to um.. a party. Yeah!!’. I just hope that the overly-enthusiastic ‘yeah!’ I threw in at the end there will have allayed any suspicions, but who knows. Oh the shame of going to ‘a party’ dressed like this.
I arrive at the Nightline office at 8.45pm and am greeted by the Nightlead, who’s set the office up and makes me a drink. The other person on duty is already there and I am glad to see they look just as ‘comfortable’ as I do. The Nightlead is always an experienced volunteer, who has their phone on all night if we need to call them for any reason. There are also two reserve volunteers every night – so if we ever don’t feel able to take any more calls we can call in a reserve. Reserves are like superheroes; they can be down at the office within 20 minutes at any time.
We chat about our days, and decide who will take the first call when we open. Students can speak us about absolutely anything and can contact us via phone, or via instant messaging through our website. From 9 til 7, every night of term, there are two students awake in the office, happy to listen to anyone about anything for as long as they like, without giving advice or making judgement – and completely confidentially. This is why, other than three ‘public faces’, we do everything we can to protect the anonymity of our 50 volunteers.
From 9pm onwards, the two volunteers in the office take it in turns to be on ‘next call’. People often ask how we stay awake for 10 hours, but it’s surprisingly easy. We drink lots of tea, and when we’re not on calls we can chat/watch films/do work (a nice intention but admittedly, somewhat unlikely in practice). When you spend ten hours in a room with someone and are the only people awake at 4am, you get to know them really well. After the other volunteer’s taken a call, we chat to them about how they’re feeling, and make sure they’re okay.
In the morning, as the duty is finishing, the Nightlead calls the office to chat to us about how our night has been. They check we’re feeling okay, and chat to us about what fun we have filled our 10 hours with. Durham is very quiet walking home at 7am, but you never know when you’ll bump into someone and have to come up with a quick excuse – ‘I’m just urm, taking my bag for a walk’. Sometimes, when I wake up 4 hours later feeling exhausted and have to pretend I have had the best night’s sleep, I ask myself why I do this.
But, I volunteer for Nightline, because I truly believe that to have another student listen to you – non-judgmentally, in complete confidence and without offering advice – is one of the most valuable things in the world. We’ll never label another person’s feelings (you know what you’re feeling better than we ever will) and we’ll never try to stop you feeling the way you do. What we can promise, though, is that we’ll be there for students, from 9 til 7, every night of term, to listen. To anything at all.
Written by a Nightline volunteer.
Nightline is a confidential, non-advisory and non-judgemental listening service, open every night of term between 9pm and 7am. You’ll find our number on the back of your Campus Card, or on the DUO homepage.
We’re also contactable via instant messaging, through our website: (http://community.dur.ac.uk/nightline/)
Any Durham University student is welcome to use our service, whether you are an undergrad, postgrad, home or international student, part-time or on your year abroad. You can contact us about anything at all.
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, keep an eye out for our Training Weekends. They run three times a year (October, February and June). You’ll find updates on our website and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/durhamnightline/).