As Covid-19 spreads across the globe, LCC students from many countries are keeping journals of their own experiences and those of their family and friends. Their stories paint a picture of this extraordinary time in the UK, Europe, the Americas, Asia and beyond.
Viktoria Bielawa (Polish student living in London): April 20–26
Monday 20th April
This week had me mostly preoccupied with writing my essay submission for the course, which took me a lot longer to finish than I first expected. Motivation is scarce, so, whenever I got a short wave, I would jump on my laptop – which sometimes happened at 11 o’clock at night. I’ve been having some trouble sleeping and, apparently, I am not the only one. In a recent Guardian article, it shows that a significant amount of people are affected by insomnia, less exercise and drinking a considerable amount of alcohol. I have to admit that I am guilty of at least two of those things, but, even though I try to practice yoga on the daily basis, it still doesn’t do much to help me fall asleep – that’s where the glass of wine enters.
Wednesday 22nd April
Happy Earth Day!
I decided to do a little good for our planet and take action in the local Earth Day clean-up of my local park. The weather definitely made it more enjoyable. I grabbed my mask, vinyl gloves and a big bin bag and made my way to the park, collecting some cans, bottles and plastic on the way. I was shocked to have a whole 30L bag filled within less than two hours. There were so many plastic bags, glass bottles and very old packets of crisps at nearly every step I took. It was nice to have people walk by and say “you’re such a good person!” and “thank you!”, but what would’ve been nicer is to see more people involved in the clean-up of our home.
Friday 24th April
Today I got a sudden boost of motivation and willingness to try new things. I have been getting emails from Business of Fashion about the current free live talks they are holding every day, and decided to finally give it a good listen. Tim Blanks (BoF Editor-at-Large) was in conversation with Ibrahim Kamara (Stylist, Creative Director, Senior Fashion Editor i-D) about his current take on the pandemic and how he continues to express himself creatively while in lockdown. It was very interesting to hear the perspective of such an accomplished creative about the future of fashion, embracing sustainability and moving forward creatively – especially one who is at the top of the chain for one of my favourite fashion magazines. Immediately, after the live talk was over, I signed up for every talk for the next week. I truly recommend.
Sunday 26th April
Today I decided to take advantage of the sun and enjoy the warm weather with my family’s company, after being cooped up in my room for the last week. We spent the whole day in the garden – my little sisters have been dragging me between the trampoline and the water hose to play games with them. But I have to thank them, as, between the sun and me being soaked, I actually managed to get a tan… and almost forgot about my essay.
I manged to finish it with two days to spare, but I left it to read over the following day with a clear head. Scrolling through social media, I saw that Edward Enninful (Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue) was hosting a talk in the evening with the amazing Grade Coddington on his Instagram live-stream. Another very interesting and informative talk which covered the topics of future of fashion and production of photoshoots after Covid-19, sustainability in fashion and magazines, criticising the old ‘cut-throat’ ways and emphasising the importance of collaboration and small teams.
I am honestly living for these free talks now! Prior to the lockdown, I always enjoyed a good talk from industry professionals that were hosted at the university or by people I followed – but sometimes there just wasn’t enough time. It made it so much easier to watch these talks without the need to travel into central London for 30+ minutes. I am trying to keep track and take notes on each of these talks since we are living in such uncertain times, in order to hear the views and recommendations from industry professionals. If anyone gets the time or has an interest in fashion and publishing, take a look and thank me later!
Stay safe everyone,
Ana Rosário (Portuguese living in London): April 24
So, this week, I got back to school… well, sort of. The Portuguese public television station started transmitting school classes. These broadcasts became the most watched programs of the week and even beat the audience of the most watched morning show of the country. And I’m sure this was not just because of the students that are watching them as a complement to the online classes with their teachers, a lot of adults have also been following them. Some might be the students’ families and others just for nostalgia sake, remembering some stuff from school times or even learn something new. What a lovely thing to unite a country to some extent.
I, for example, decided to start watching the language classes online (since, obviously, I don’t have this specific channel here in London). The French classes have been a nice complement to the online course and I’ve started to learn Spanish. I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to pick it up despite never having a class in my life and these being term 3 classes. It must be because of the similarities with Portuguese. German, on the other hand, was a bit of a lost cause. The languages classes are integrally in the language it’s being taught. I don’t have any basis of German, so I was really confused the whole time. I ended up quitting before getting halfway through the first class.
In other Portugal-related business, tomorrow is the 25th April! The 46th anniversary since the dictatorial regime that ruled Portugal for 50 years was overthrown by the militaries. Since it was my shopping day, I tried to find a carnation to celebrate the date, but was not successful. Carnations are the symbol of this revolution because, when the militaries were on the streets of Lisbon to make sure it succeeded, a flower lady started putting these flowers on their gun’s barrels. It’s even more symbolic since this was a peaceful revolution. Carnations instead of bullets!
Despite having to be spent at home, I’m sure most Portuguese will not leave this date uncelebrated. There’s an online call for people to play Zeca Afonso’s ‘Grândola Vila Morena’ (one of the songs to be played on the radio as a passcode to start the revolution) from their windows tomorrow at 3pm. I think I will play it to myself. It’s not a big celebration, but I don’t want to leave this day in blank, even far away. I wouldn’t have been able to do half the things I did or dream half the things I want to do in my life if it weren’t for the 25th April!
Anna Komitska (Bulgarian student living in London): Week 6
The highlight of this week came earlier this Friday morning, as US President Donald Trump outrageously suggested that researchers ought to study whether ‘powerful light’ inside the body and injecting disinfectant could be a possible cure for Covid-19. Shortly after, medical experts warned the public not to experiment with cleaning products at home.
In the UK, vaccine trials are now officially being carried out on humans. TfL announced that 7,000 staff have been furloughed, despite government ministers calling for the provision of a full service on the tube. Up until now, the notion of London without its famed transport system seemed impossible. On a day-to-day level, I have found that people seem angry and impatient. I got almost shouted at by a driver, as well as by a customer in a queue – and in neither situation was I doing anything wrong to provoke their reaction. Supermarket staff, on the other hand, are extremely positive and engage everybody in conversation. Outside, I would find it difficult to go for a walk away from my district, as I would sometimes see empty streets with homeless people following the few pedestrians around.
Whilst governments around the world are proposing contact tracing through an online application – which could be considered controversial as a form of surveillance – Bulgaria has shockingly used ankle bracelets, as one electronic monitoring device normally used on prisoners, to track those who are supposed to stay in quarantine.
At the start of this week, the media temporarily forgot about the epidemic to report from the site of a horrific road incident in which controversial journalist Milen Tsvetkov was killed. He was waiting at a red light before a junction when he was hit from behind by a jeep, allegedly going at 100 km/h, driven by a heavily drugged 22-year-old. Public speakers have subsequently reiterated that the current situation is allowing people to see through the gaps in politics and attention has been directed to issues such as violence, corruption and failed judicial system.
With regards to the near future, Bulgaria’s leaders are cautious to announce any firm decisions. Subsequently, all faith has been put into Europe to announce a collective plan to curb the economic crisis. The government accepts new economic regulations which subsequently get rejected after being deemed redundant by businesses. Bulgaria is equally hoping to receive financial support from the Union.
Covid-19 testing is underway among the gypsy minority, public transport staff and medical staff. The number of positive cases is growing slowly. The government keeps manipulating the nation into the fear of going out at all and the strict measures are still in place. Family and friends have confided that they refuse to go out even as far as their back garden for fear of getting infected. Experts are predicting the complete destruction of Bulgaria’s economic system and this threat would potentially be much greater than that of the pandemic.
Iona Gibson (Scottish student living in Canterbury): April 24
Who knew finding the right plant pot would be so difficult and expensive. I ordered two temporary ones in the meantime. Only one arrived. Customer service had a queue of over an hour. I waited. The lady at the end of the line was about to have her first break since 8am, it was already past midday. She apologised for the delay and arranged for the second plant pot to be sent by next week. I assured her the apology was unnecessary and that I was thankful for her time. We shared a laughter and talked about gardening. She was shocked by my gesture after having dealt with complaints all day. We are all human. We all deserve kindness, patience, and understanding. Now is not the time for hostility, antipathy, or entitlement.
But I catch myself out for being too hopeful.
On that note, I am ashamed to say my landlady has rejected my constant plea for rent deferral without sympathy or remorse. My boss was unwilling to discuss upcoming work, even though I have two weeks left, or offer reason I could not be furloughed instead of let go. I have been told by my university that extensions are not allowed regardless of circumstance, and have been ignored when reaching out about hardship funds. I hope the calls, emails, and paperwork I am drowning in aren’t for nothing. Do you know how it feels to cry in front of someone who does not care? I hope you never have to. I thought I’d treat myself to a pizza with money I don’t have to push those feelings of worthlessness aside. I have not had pizza in at least a year, and have not had it alone for at least four. I made sure to show my appreciation for everyone involved in making my night happy by leaving a message of thanks in the ‘instructions’.
The pizza arrived within 20 minutes. The delivery man smiled from a distance. Our silence was mutual gratitude. Then at the same time, we both said thank you.
We clap for the NHS, but we should not forget everyone else who remains at risk because they keep our society running as normally as can be. Resilience is not easy. Any expression of praise can go a long way. To do that in isolation requires some creativity.
The Canterbury Cathedral bells do not ring once a day, but twice. For whom do they toll? I had a feeling it would not sound without meaning, as it has not sounded like this since the national celebration of WWII ending. Nor has it ever tolled daily, with the exception of funerals, prayers, and weddings. Turns out it’s on a remote timer: the Harry Bell sounds at 8pm, as a mark of remembrance to the victims of Coronavirus. It is the first time it has rung in all of history. The Curfew Bells ring at 8:54pm, which I thought was rather random, but is simply an acknowledgement that the Precinct’s Gates will be closing at 9pm (and it is worth mentioning that no staff are present in the building at night). What I did not take into account until now, was that hearing this sound gave me a sense of belonging in this city. Just as we all share the air and the sky, we also share solidarity in a new episode of history.
Eve Hebron (Welsh student in Llandudno): April 20-23
Monday 20th April 2020
Last week, I most certainly felt myself slipping into a bit of a rut. It appears that living life without a routine requires self-discipline if you want to keep happy and healthy. A routine is something I miss dearly. I miss setting my alarm for class, I miss arranging to meet a friend at a certain time and place, I even miss waiting for the Tube. Routine arranges time in an orderly fashion, it keeps life in sync. Humans seem to like being in control, and understanding we do not have control over time right now is yet another thing to come to terms with.
Tuesday 21st April 2020
A few days ago I ordered a new bike and, according to The Guardian, I am not the only person. I am, however, likely one of the only people to miss travelling by public transport. I have always enjoyed jumping on the Tube, its swiftness and efficiency make me feel liberated and free, as though the whole of London is my oyster. I figured out cycling could do the same, so its arrival today was as exciting as anticipated. With the help of my Dad, I managed to build it and, within the hour, I was off along the promenade. I think its purchase was one of the wisest decisions I’ve made during this pandemic.
Wednesday 22nd April 2020
Another sunny day, I decided to cycle along the beach. A crisp blue sky and a glimmer upon the horizon meant it was the perfect environment to take advantage of Earth Day – despite the current weird conditions of the world. I reflected on the beauty around me and felt thankful. It always amazes me how much nature can impact your feelings, and today nature was able to cheer me up.
Thursday 23rd April 2020
It’s easier to take each day as it comes, but today I felt an overwhelming worry regarded the future and I wasn’t able to hone in on the present. I miss my friends, and the realisation of not being able to see them for perhaps six months makes me feel hollow. I’m grateful for Skype and FaceTime, but the pixelated versions of them don’t match the real thing. I hope that after this, humans start to appreciate each other a little more.
Mathilda Frotscher (German student in Hamburg): April 17-24
Sigh. Here we go again – Week 6 of Quarantine. After reflecting on the last couple of days, I realized that I have grooved myself into a healthy and stable routine that includes a lot of physical time outdoors enjoying the city’s best spots.
Seeing how people in the UK are only allowed to go outside once a day makes me appreciate the freedom we have here in Germany. At the same time, boosts my productivity, because I want to make good use of the extra time we’ve got in our hands.
Mondays to Fridays my day looks like this: the alarm wakes me up at 7.30, I then meditate, go for a run by the river or in the park, get ready, have breakfast and get to my mum’s office by 10.30. There, I do Uni work, write articles and learn Spanish till it’s afternoon and, then, I try to combine socializing (been meeting only two of my friends, don’t worry) and physical activity outdoors in long walks or bicycle tours to the nice beaches. Which have been SO busy due to the weather being lovely; it is impossible to get there by car because of the lack of parking spaces. Well, a treasure trove for the police who is diligently handing out parking tickets to the people that are desperately trying to squeeze their car somewhere acceptable.
Last but not least, I work out and have dinner before going to bed around 12 am. It used to be 4-5 am when my friends and I had just discovered Houseparty, but that resulted in me napping in the evenings instead of going outside. So, I would’ve gone sour and not given Hamburg the attention it deserves.
What I started noticing whilst being outside is how one specific part of society has changed their behavior, their hotspots and survival strategies: the drug addicts of Hamburg. The bottleneck in the supply of psychoactive substances causes one really visible effect in Hamburg: The newest hotspot and meeting point of public transport. The few times I used an underground to get to my favorite bio market were, to say the least, spooky experiences, because I was clearly the only person on the underground thinking about local asparagus and (stupidly) expensive granola.
When you think about it, trains are the perfect place to be for drug users during this time: getting from one dealer to the next in no time, being away from weather influences, police or similar (the police are mainly by the beach, as I mentioned earlier). So, addicts are simply dominating the public transport right now which I find so fascinating.
The borders have been shut for five weeks, which causes a serious bottleneck in the supply of psychoactive substances, which means that many drug users are experiencing threatening and unaccompanied withdrawal situations. Most of the addiction support facilities are closed, usual meeting points can’t be visited and there are no pedestrians on the high streets for begging. Corona is more and more becoming an existential crisis for addicts.
Anyway, that is the result of my weekly observation exercise. Since most counties are introducing mask requirements, and the weather is supposed to stay nice, next weeks will probably be about beachgoers funny tan fails. Kind of like the replacement for the skiing holiday – skiing mask debacle that we would usually experience around this time of the year.
Natalia Zmarzlik (Polish student living in London): April 17-23
I really can’t believe in what the leading party in Poland is doing under the lockdown. Forcing the most controversial projects to be discussed and maybe put into further legislation in circumstances when people cannot go out on the streets and protest against them.
I saw thousands of Instagram posts with a hashtag #strajkkobiet (women’s strike). Actors, singers, influencers (both men and women) became activists of this movement and are sharing beautiful art pieces artists created about that topic. I had no idea there are so many talented illustrators, animators and photographer on the Polish side of Instagram. I am proud to see so many different people acting together for one cause.
I got an email from the company doing audit of the brand I used to work for requesting me to fill in the details about going for furlough leave. I wasn’t happy about it, I hate middle options, I would rather have no job or have a job. With furlough I am kind of stuck in the middle. Another thing is that I was supposed to get paid for a lot of overtime I did in February and March by the end of April. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see that money on my bank account.
It is devastating for me to even think about this. I have been financially independent since I was 19, I pay all my bills, one of the achievements I was proud of. I can easily accept not being paid for sitting at home, it’s fine, but how cannot I be paid for the work I’ve done already? Really unfair.
The world will not be the same after Corona is over. I believe people will be more aware of the consequences their actions may cause and be more appreciative about what they already have. There is no Planet B.
I watched an Instagram Live with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. I thought I was dreaming or that it was fake when I first saw it, but no. It was one of the best conversations I’ve had a chance to hear this year.
I could talk for hours about the lessons these two gentlemen taught me this afternoon, it was an absolute mind blow for me. But I’ll share only one of them for now: we are underestimating our own achievements simply by not taking enough time to appreciate what we’ve done and not celebrating our victories. Andy Murray recalled a situation when he won an Olympic gold medal in London on a Sunday and, during the medal ceremony, he was already thinking about the tournament he was playing in Canada on Tuesday.
I will let that sink in because after hearing that for the first time (yes, of course I ended up re-watching that transmission to take some notes), I couldn’t think about anything else for a good half an hour. Do you still think you’ll the busiest person on Earth? I immediately stopped.
It’s been exactly a month since I was at work for the last time. I really can’t believe I may not ever go back there again. Even though it wasn’t my dream job I spent there nearly two years of my life. I made a lot of friends, I learnt everything I know about retail industry and high-quality customer service there. And now Corona Virus took all that away from me.
I went to do small groceries today. Beautiful Sunday afternoon, the sun was shining and way too many people were out on the streets. I’ve seen groups of people chatting in front of community corner shops, neighbours sitting together in front of their homes, groups of children playing together and group cycling trips. Exactly as if everything went back to normal already. I was disappointed.
Another week of online uni has started. It feels weird and simply not right that I can’t talk to my classmates and to my tutors in person. During today’s session, one of them said sorry for overusing ‘okay, alright then’ because he can’t see the students nodding. It was adorable but also sad. Who knows when we’ll be able to meet in an offline lecture theatre again? Hopefully, before we graduate.
The amount of Instagram live sessions and webinars available now became overwhelming. I keep a separate schedule for those I want to attend, so I don’t miss any of them, but today it was simply impossible. There were three transmissions starting at the same time, and half an hour after a webinar was taking off. I chose to attend one live session, planning to re-watch the rest later, and in the middle of that I reminded myself that I had my French class in a few minutes.
So, of course, I switched to the French class I am paying a lot for and, after I finished that at 8:30PM, I spent another 4h watching re-transmissions. I asked myself how much of self-development is too much, but I haven’t got the answer yet.
Online teaching is not for me. I miss face-to-face conversations when I can get direct feedback from my tutors – it is WAY more effective than discussing my essay ideas via email. Even the longest online conversation can’t replace an offline one.
I’ve tried to make my daily to-do list shorter. I realised I haven’t watched any series for the past year or two, so I came back to my roots in that field and watched a few episodes of favourite childhood’s story. I had no idea how much I missed watching my favourite female lawyer running from one place to another all day long.
I heard that schools in Poland are most likely to remain closed until the end of the school year. Good for safety reasons but thinking about those who were about to take their A-levels in May makes me feel sad. No one knows yet if and when the exams will take place and how the recruitment process for universities will look like this year.
The biggest national park in Poland went on fire, the same way as forests in Australia did at the beginning of 2020. Park’s inner funds for putting the fire out finished after a few days and the fire was getting bigger and bigger. Some of the major funds in Poland started rising money to help reduce the fire.
It is upsetting to think that Corona Virus doesn’t seem to be enough for us to handle and the money that would be spent on helping COVID-19 victims would otherwise be spent of water.
A four-step plan to ‘defrost’ the economy has been released by Polish government, starting from 20th April. They are a bit controversial and seem to be illogical. According to new regulations, one person per every 15 square metres is allowed in churches during the mass. Now imagine priests all around the country measuring the church and dividing the space into squares so meeting the requirements so people can attend Sunday’s mass.
One of the points of the 3rd stage of ‘defrosting’ is providing childcare in nurseries and primary schools, but only one to three children are allowed per room. I am wondering if there are enough teachers to provide that sort of ‘private’ service. I am pretty sure their salaries won’t rise.
Although I truly miss my home city, walks around its tallest buildings and my balcony, I don’t believe it’s best for me to come back any time soon.
Dina Zubi (Norwegian student in Oslo): April 18-23
I feel incredibly lucky to be in a country that hasn’t been as severely affected by the pandemic, for now at least. We have a lot less restrictions than many other countries, which makes this period easier to endure. Still, the time frame of this pandemic is something that I think about a lot. How long will it be before people can go back to work as normal? When will the universities open again? When can we go to gigs, events and bars? Will we have a functioning vaccine within the next year? When will I be able to go back to the UK? No one really has any answers because it’s such an unprecedented situation. It’s difficult to know how to relate to everything when there’s no definitive end to it.
It’s going to be very fascinating to see the social, economic and cultural aftermath of this outbreak in a few years. I’m sure there is going to be so much insightful research on all aspects of our lives, from sociology and psychology to medicine and economics. That’s at least one positive thing to come from this pandemic. There’s been some talk about how, after this pandemic, societies have a chance to restructure themselves for the better. I don’t know if that’s actually going to be the case, but it is definitely an interesting idea to see this abnormal time as an opportunity for growth. It seems a lot of artists are also creating new work during this time, which is something else to look forward to. Maybe next year we’ll have some of the most incredible new music, art and literature, because people were locked inside and could spend all their time working on their projects.
The app that the health authorities released in Norway to help track the spread has already been proven to have flaws that make it easy for hackers to track users and send out information. This is obviously very problematic, but not that unexpected, considering how quickly they created and launched the app. I’m definitely a bit more sceptical of the app now though, and my guess is that a lot of others would be too. It also doesn’t look too good that the Prime Minister publicly announced that everyone should download the app just days before.
There’s been a lot of talk about how Sweden is handling the pandemic, and there is almost a sense of schadenfreude in Norway, which is quite bizarre. Sweden has chosen to aim for herd immunity by imposing minimal restrictions on their population, which has led to a lot of media scrutiny. Some support the herd immunity idea because it’s less damaging for the country’s economy. Others think this approach is endangering the vulnerable parts of the population. It’s most likely too early to say what the ‘correct’ approach to a pandemic like this is, but, at the moment, Sweden has a much higher number of deaths than Norway, Denmark and Finland, even when taking into consideration Sweden’s larger population.
Feautured image by Stevie Deale.