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.
Eve Hebron (Welsh student in Llandudno): May 4-7
Monday 4th May 2020
It’s the start of another week in lockdown, and another week of frustration. People have been using hope as a coping mechanism, but it’s beginning to wane. France has drawn out a plan ease their lockdown, with the prime minister explaining this to the nation. Many other countries have done the same. In the United Kingdom, however, we’re hearing nothing – except for the fact our death figures are the highest in Europe. It seems wise to extend the lockdown with this being the case, but it is frustrating having such a lack of communication from the government.
Tuesday 5th May 2020
It’s hard to keep proactive and inspired during this period, as we all know. I had an online class today, which was good. I feel the sessions are improving, considering there was so little time for the university to prepare. But they’re extremely draining and, sometimes, they don’t feel too rewarding. I decide to cycle my bike along the promenade to cheer myself up – a luxury I sometimes take for granted. If someone has told me three months ago that this would be my biggest luxury, I’d be a little confused.
Wednesday 6th May 2020
On Monday, the weather was grey and cloudy. I’ve noticed I’m paying attention to the weather a lot more whilst in lockdown, as it really seems to alter my mood. On Monday, I felt down and demotivated, but it is sunny today and I’ve been able to get a lot of work done. In the words of The Stranglers, there’s “always the sun.” I walk to the beach, and it’s heaving. There are families sitting within two meters of each other, as though there’s not a global pandemic going on right now, talking and laughing. A lot of people are staring at them and one woman shouts over “you need to listen, go home!” What a strange period we’re living in.
Thursday 7th May 2020
Today I have to travel to London to collect my belongings from my flat. I’m really apprehensive about being on the road but, through all the confusion the government have thrown at us, I figure it is deemed “necessary travel” to move home. I’ve had to leave because I can’t afford to pay London rent for an empty room, it’s sad but there’s not much I can do. As we drive, the sun is shining and I realise how bittersweet the moment is. The roads are empty, it’s so quiet and the air is beautifully crisp and clear. I also think about how nice it is to be able to drive down with my Dad, he’s a great help and I’m lucky to have him. But as we arrive into the city, my stomach feels empty.
Ana Rosário (Portuguese living in London): May 8
8th May (Friday)
Hearing the news from back home is making me slightly more optimistic. Portugal has started the first phase of lifting the lockdown and things are starting to go with some care. Face masks are now mandatory for everyone that has to go out their houses and authorities are watching closely on the streets to make sure this rule is respected. Some people are being careful and others are refusing to use the mask and, obviously, being fined for it. However, I must say, the image of people going to hair salons in face masks is a bit amusing.
The Government also declared that they are trying to create conditions for Portuguese emigrants to come visit their families over the summer. I was so happy when I read this! Especially with the air routes starting to re-open slowly. I’ve started to pay attention to the flights in early July (I think that might be a relatively safer time for me to go). It’s much more expensive than what I’m used to, but at least I have the voucher from my cancelled flights, which is a help.
Still, I’m trying to not overthink about it to not get anxious. There’s still a long way to go, more here in the UK than in Portugal. I’m keeping my quarantine and doing my part to not be a cause of spread, even if the amazing weather invites for a long walk. What I wouldn’t give for a nice time on Clissold Park or on the riverbank…
Other people have enjoyed it though. I saw so many sitting and walking outside on my weekly shopping route. And not just shopping like me, some were also sitting or relaxing in any bit of grass. They seemed to be respecting social distancing, I hope that’s enough. A lot of people riding their bicycles as well. I have seen more and more people in bicycles in the last few weeks.
Here in the house, the family I live with did a BBQ in the terrace today and we all in the house went to enjoy a nice end of the afternoon there and some grilled meat. It just felt really nice to have a break in the routine; it really helped forget the weird times that have been the past few months. Who would have said something exceptional could give some normalcy back.
Anna Komitska (Bulgarian student living in London): Week 8
The BBC has announced that UK travelers landing from abroad might face a 14-day quarantine. I’ll likely have to postpone my flights home yet again until later in the year… As the UK’s awaiting Boris Johnson’s official announcements, the government has, apparently, warned of no ‘dramatic overnight change’ to lockdown.
This week hasn’t been much different to the past month and a half. I’ve been out twice to do my groceries, I keep working out at home, I keep making pancakes every few days, I keep attending meditation workshops and I keep trying to complete my coursework. I had a bit of a scare a couple of days ago when I realized part of my PC’s hardware is most probably damaged and is in need of repair, which would take at least a month. If the worst happens prior to my deadlines, it will mean I’ll end up submitting only a half-done project. It was clearly not the smartest idea to choose working with 3D software given that I’ve got no access to my university’s facilities. I’ve been watching a bit of Joan Rivers’ stand-up to cheer myself up.
Back in Bulgaria, the government is lifting some of its restrictions. Parks and hiking paths are open to the public, sports’ training is allowed and restaurants are allowed to serve their customers outside on terraces. There have been reports that the numbers of Covid-19 patients have in fact been much less than the official statistics, which is a testament to governmental manipulation. Shortly after, the official website of the Ministry of Health removed a table showing monthly statistics allegedly documenting the coronavirus cases.
And happy VE day! It’s a reminder that things could get much worse, and have been already. So, one shouldn’t be complaining and taking freedoms for granted too often.
Mathilda Frotscher (German student in Hamburg): May 1-8
This is my last week of being quarantined in Germany, away from my home in London. After spending hours and hours on Google flights, I finally found something affordable, ish. And it is an arduous journey as well, but you gotta do what you gotta do, I guess. Tuesday morning I will start my 32-hour trip to London. First, a flight to Amsterdam, followed by a whole day and night at the airport and, finally, a flight to Heathrow Wednesday morning. And then two days of sleep and eating my beloved Itsu curry. They deliver right??? Let’s keep in mind that it usually takes five hours from my home in NW to my mother’s place in Central Hamburg. So I deserve all the gyozas and moshis there are.
Speaking of Hamburg (and not moshis), we are coming out of the lockdown. Slowly, but surely. Museums, exhibition houses, memorials, botanical gardens and the outside areas of animal parks are reopening this week. Hotels, cafes and restaurants will follow in two weeks.
What are also going to reopen are the playgrounds. With very odd restrictions, but at least that’s some sort of help for the parents out there. Bavaria, for example, is opening all beer gardens from the 18th of May, but no word about the playgrounds yet. So, the kids will be sent to the beer gardens during the day? Interesting strategy, Bavaria! How to keep the children busy has been one of the hot topics in Hamburg’s public discussion forums. I have been spending a lot of time on those websites and am truly fascinated by it.
The beauty is to see which comments create a transition to the next topic. I’ll demonstrate with an example: The first post that caught my attention was: “Whoever said that ego shooters cause aggression has never worked with Excel or Adobe before, not to mention teaching an 11-year-old who just wants to be entertained”. My favorite comment on this was the random idea to make the drive-in cinema a thing again. Which, to be fair, makes a lot of sense: Keeping the kids busy by experiencing culture in a community, without coming close to each other.
The best transition here was a comment highlighting the aspect of supporting our entertainment industry. Which is plausible as well, because, if you live in Hamburg and make your money with performing on stage or own a theatre or a cinema yourself, you currently have no idea how much time will pass until the curtains will open the next time.
And now guess who created the next transition. Me. I felt inspired because I had just witnessed a short but quite spectacular ceremony (on Thursday the 7th of May).On my daily run, I crossed the famous “Reeperbahn” when I noticed a big crowd gathering around something small and shiny. I couldn’t make up what it was so I (the engaged journalist that I am) put my mask on and became part of this illegal assembly for a moment. It was definitely worth it because the shiny little thing was a broken disco ball, just lying there in the middle of the road. It took me way too long to realize that this was a symbolic gesture for the struggling entertainment industry. I shared that odd experience with the public forum and was very proud to have participated in a discussion that started with kids’ homework and went all the way over drive-in cinemas to a frustrated club owner. (One of the comments to my post was the explanation that it was a strip club owner, who arranged the assembly and broke his club’s biggest disco ball for it.)
These public discussions have kept me alive lately; it’s my daily dosage of entertainment. A good way to enjoy the last couple of days in Hamburg. Excited to see if I will make it to London and what to expect.
Izzie Price (English student in Isle of Wight): May 8
My Thoughts On The Tracker App, As Launched On the Isle Of Wight This Week
“Excited to download the app??” asked a friend via Whatsapp, early this week. “IOW’s big moment”, inferred another friend later that day. “Don’t mess it up…everyone’s watching”. This was meant as a joke (I assume), but there was some truth in her words. The eyes of the nation were indeed on the Isle of Wight as the ‘tracker’ app, that aims to inform individuals when they’ve been into contact with someone exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus – and thus encourages them to isolate for two weeks accordingly – rolled out to NHS and council workers last Tuesday (5th May) and the rest of the island yesterday (Thursday, 7th May). As an Isle of Wight dweller (specifically the village of Shorwell, near Newport), it was with mounting interest and excitement yesterday that I visited the NHS website and followed each of the steps to download this app that is so full of promise.
The app seems to be user-friendly and easy to operate, with prompts to help users establish whether they may be showing symptoms of the virus. I haven’t (so far) received any notifications advising me to isolate; but this is most likely due to the fact that I live in a very remote area, and have barely come into contact with anyone. To seek people out just to means test the app seems to somewhat defeat the point of its conception in the first place. It’s ingenious, though, and I’m very interested to hear about what it’s been like in more densely populated areas of the Isle of Wight such as Newport, Cowes and Ryde.
A tracker app is, of course, a step in the journey towards slowing the spread of COVID-19. Anything that might help with this gargantuan task can only be a good thing, and I’m certainly in favour of anything that might help to save as many lives as possible. I was excited before downloading the app, and I’m still excited now about the potential it carries to help us wage our battle against the virus. But I also think we need to proceed with caution.
There is an idea termed “the returning soldier effect”; the phenomenon that more boys are born in the years immediately following a war. One theory proposed for this is that it’s the population naturally righting itself, to compensate for the number of males lost in said war. In a similar way, a friend of mine is convinced that COVID-19 is a result of Mother Nature stepping in to halt the spread of climate change (because we humans seem to be incapable of taking action ourselves, which is certainly true) – and there has been a global drop in CO2 emissions since the pandemic and subsequent national lockdowns began.
I’m more pragmatic, and don’t seriously think that COVID-19 came about because nature decided to hit back at us (although who could blame it if it did?). What I do believe, however, is that social distancing – the acts of naturally drawing away from those we encounter, without the help of man-made technology – should surely still be the first and foremost way we tackle this virus. I’m not saying the app isn’t a good thing – but I am saying that if the app is released to the rest of the UK and lockdown restrictions are eased, we shouldn’t assume that we can effectively cease social distancing all the while we haven’t received any notifications from the app.
I imagine a lot of people reading this will think of that as obvious – that of course we’re still going to continue social distancing, even if/when everyone in the UK has the app. If that’s what you’re thinking, then I’m glad. But I’m writing this on Friday 8th May – VE Day – and #streetparty is currently the second highest trending topic on Twitter. Unbelievably, people are celebrating VE Day by attending street parties and sharing food and drink; which presumably means that social distancing is gradually drifting further away from people’s minds.
Don’t let it drift. The app is a brilliant thing, and I hope it’ll play a large part in slowing the spread of COVID-19. The more people who use it, the better. But, just as our planet isn’t designed to withstand the damage we’ve inflicted upon it, so we’re not designed to carry around our health and wellbeing in a small square in our pockets. I have the app, and I’m going to continue social distancing for the foreseeable future. I invite all of you to (figuratively) join me.
Dina Zubi (Norwegian student in Oslo): May 2-7
I went for a long walk today in the woods in North Oslo with my mother. There were so many people out walking in the sunshine, that social distancing was almost tricky to do in some places. A lot of people also go camping in the woods there, and hammocks that you can sleep in have become particularly popular here lately. When we got to a viewpoint in the woods, we could see loads of brightly-colored hammocks spread out around a lake. Though I’m not much of a camping person myself, it did look very nice and almost made me want to try it myself. That is until it rained later in the evening, and I thought of all those wet hammocks the campers had to sleep in.
After a month of online teaching, I still don’t feel like I’m getting used to the format. There have been technical issues that have made me miss parts of lectures, I lose focus a lot easier than I normally do, and I hardly ever speak in class anymore. I just don’t feel very comfortable with it over video or audio. I really hope the universities will be open again in September.
Today, restaurants were allowed to serve alcohol again in Oslo (the rest of the country hasn’t had the same rules), with certain restrictions. There has to be table service, the tables have to be placed with adequate distance from each other and there can only be five guests at each table. It was such a sunny day today as well, so a lot of people flocked to restaurants with outdoor space in order to have the first ‘utepils’ (translates to ‘outside beer’) of the season. I managed to get a table with a couple of friends and it truly felt like everything was back to normal for a while when we were sitting in the sunshine with our overpriced Peronis and pizzas.
Due to the easing up of restrictions, other news stories have made their way to the front page of Norwegian newspapers recently. Today, the trial of a right-wing murderer and (attempted) terrorist started, which has captured the media’s attention. Last week, a missing woman’s millionaire husband was arrested for her murder in a case that has been heavily discussed since early 2019. Though Coronavirus stories still dictate much of the news, these big cases have contributed to shifting the focus a little bit away from the pandemic.
Natalia Zmarzlik (Polish student living in London): May 1-7
1st of May in Poland is the beginning of a traditional longer weekend, and, because of that, I have seen many of my Instagram friends walking in parks and doing BBQs. I am happy to see that everything is kind of ‘going back to normal’, but I am still wondering if it’s safe.
Still nothing has been confirmed about the Presidential Elections that are supposed to take place on 10th May. As for now, the plan is to vote via post, but, honestly, I don’t know a single person who would be enthusiastic about that idea. Firstly, we are in the middle of a pandemic and Poland is the only country that hasn’t rescheduled the general elections. No words.
Secondly, because the elections are supposed to take place via post, Polish people living abroad cannot participate. I, and probably a few more millions Poles who can’t vote, feel offended. I believe it’s against the law to ban a part of society from taking part in such important elections.
LOT Airlines were supposed to start flying again from 15th May, but they extended that date until 30th May. It seems like not everything is coming back to normal.
I went to Sainsbury’s today and, on my way, I’ve seen a bookshelf on the street, next to someone’s house, with books that were free to take. I think it’s a brilliant idea, especially now, when more and more people are getting bored in the quarantine.
Another adorable thing I saw on my way to the store was children’s paintings stuck on the front doors or in windows, mostly rainbows with NHS written on them or pictures of happy families with STAY SAFE captions. I found it adorable.
I also noticed that more people started wearing face masks, well, high time to do so.
Yesterday, I started looking for master’s degrees, since I already know I plan to continue my education in London. I spotted something I liked, signed in for that university’s newsletter to be on track with any upcoming events related to that course and simply forgot about it. I was using my laptop for that. At the end of the day I still have over a year of my BA degree left. One day later, I saw an advert on my Instagram from one non-public education institution from London that offers a 10-weeks long course over the same name as the MA I was looking for the day before. Of course, with a huge discount made especially for me.
I’m not going to lie, I took that offer, it was too attractive not to, and that course seemed to be way better structured than that MA. Not to say I’m nearly as greedy for new knowledge as I am for new books and I didn’t want to wait over a year to get it. Everything sounds perfect, isn’t it? It does, I am just amazed how well SEO has worked in this case and how perfect the timing was.
I saw in the news that primary schools in England are about to re-open on 1st June. No similar update has been made about Polish schools, only dates of equivalents to GCSEs and A-levels were released.
I still feel sorry for people who are about to apply for universities this year. They are dealing with so much stress and insecurities because they don’t know if they can continue their education from September and how it will look like. I believe it’s easier to continue studying (as I am doing) during the pandemic than start a whole new chapter from scratch.
No update has been made on the Presidential Elections in Poland. If nothing changes, the elections will be held via post and it will take place on 10th May. Even the current president in his announcement today was talking about everything but upcoming elections. Even the journalists were disappointed, not to mention the voters.
I also watched a Wizz Air airline YouTube video about changes in boarding due to new health and safety regulations. I was happy to see that no more paper will be wasted on boarding passes, but I was concerned about self-luggage dropping and self-boarding before entering the airplane by scanning relevant documents via scanner. Although it seems very progressive and modern, I think it’s a bit too much for some passengers. I mean, we cannot expect everyone to know the procedures enough to go through them by oneself, not to say that language barrier can stop a lot of people from travelling at all.
I stopped reading Corona news a long while ago, but I heard that lockdown is getting less and less strict. I thought it’s not true unless I went out for a short walk, popped up to the grocery store and saw no one wearing masks, not even staff members, and no one seemed to care about two meters distance.
Taking into consideration that UK has just reached the highest death rate in Europe, I’m concerned if people aren’t cheering too early.
In Poland, moving around the city and meeting others is not prohibited anymore. I see a lot of people on Instagram posting photos and videos from their road trips, gatherings with friends and going to places they were craving for almost two months.
My mom collected the parcel with my bookshop order (I think I mentioned already that I am a compulsive book buyer) and, I swear, seeing that pile of books waiting for be in my former bedroom absolutely made my day.
Shopping malls in Poland re-opened on Monday and, even though everyone expected big crowds, the alleys remained empty. My friends were texting me about that and they mentioned which health & safety regulations have been introduced:
- In order to test a product in a chemist, you need to ask a member of staff for help.
- No fitting rooms are allowed – you must pay for the clothes first, try them at home and return those you don’t like.
- You are no longer allowed to eat inside the mall.
- SEPHORA offers an option for the most concerned customers to leave the shopping list for the sales assistants, they complete the order and you only come to collect your bag.
Not to mention that machines with hand sanitizers are evenly distributed all around the malls and lines are painted on the floor so people knew exactly how much 1.5m is.
Wizz Air also extended the date from when they will be flying to Poland again, from 10th May to the 25th. I am more and more concerned about whether I should be coming back to my parents or not, there is no right answer to that. Whatever I would do, I will be punishing myself for not choosing the other option. Let’s see, I have at least three more weeks to decide.
The most bizarre Coronavirus related situation happened to me today. I heard someone making weird noises in my flat. I could easily recall that it wasn’t coming from my flatmates. I went outside my room and saw the landlord standing in the middle of one of the empty rooms and he announced me that two new people are moving in today.
I was a bit shocked and asked whether it’s safe during the pandemic. He got angry, asked me to define a pandemic, so I did, being encyclopaedically precise and then he said that Coronavirus is all bu@#$%it, that it happens every year and it’s only a common flu. By this moment, I already knew it wouldn’t be an equal conversation, so I kept listening. He also said that it was all artificially created so Bill Gates can earn trillions on GLOBAL VACCINATION.
What is more, he asked me a few times if he should send me the video in which a professor (or ‘so-called’) is explaining that his words are all true. I politely made him sure that I have enough credible sources of information.
I simply cannot believe how someone who can speak six languages, have a successful business and own a property in London, which I know he bought with the money he earned, can say things like that out loud. He left me speechless for a good hour.
Featured Image by Ilse Blanquet.