The past weeks have been crazy. I guess they probably have been for most of you, too. Over the past few weeks, I had to make a few difficult decisions and I ended up packing up my entire life in 24 hours to leave the UK and go back home to Germany. But let us start at the beginning.
When I finished my term, the first signs started to occur that my final term of my second year may not happen as it normally would. But instead of being told to leave the university and go back home, my university told us the opposite: stay. They were afraid that travel restrictions and future self-isolation requirements may hinder students from coming back, so they asked us to stay. So I decided to stay. I prepared myself for revising in my dorm room over the break and to then do my third term at Cambridge. But after a few days, my university changed its advice from stay to leave. At that point, this was merely advisory and I decided to stay anyway - I saw no point in causing my family extra costs by flying back for a few weeks only to return later on.
Fast forward a few days. The news are filled with the public health tragedy in Italy. The German government starts expatriations of German citizens abroad. Now I was really worried. And now the university did not merely advise us to leave, but rather urged us to do so. I called up the German Embassy in London to check with them whether they would advise me to leave despite the risk of infection/spreading through the journey. Their advice was 'get out if you can since the NHS (National Health Service of the UK) is underfunded.' So I went online and booked myself a flight. My flight got cancelled, rebooked, re-cancelled, un-cancelled, and then again re-cancelled, but I eventually managed to rebook it to a flight which actually would take off.
By the time it was clear that I had a flight, I had one day to pack up my life, put most of my things into external storage, and pack my bags to leave. Saying that it was stressful to do that alone as a tiny person who has a lot of stuff (I know that sounds like a me problem and it absolutely is but that did not make it any easier) is an understatement. I managed, but it was definitely my worst day of the year so far. If you would like my emotional rollercoaster journey of having flight after flight cancelled and then packing up my life in a day, you can see it in this vlog:
When I left for the airport, I was careful only to touch what I really needed to touch, not to get too close to others and to simply keep to myself as much as I could. The outbreak has definitely changed the way I behave in public settings, how I decide which way to go, how much of a distance I keep to others in a line. But being at the airport also showed me how many people still do not take social distancing seriously enough:
If you are one of the people who do not keep a safe distance to others, please adjust your behaviour. Please leave your sick children at home. They may only have a cough - but they may also have the virus. And while you may not be a high-risk patient, some of the people you pass in public may be. Please protect them.
I am now doing my best to stay at home and only leave when I really have to. Being at home can be especially tough when you have to study since all your distractions - your Netflix account, your bed, your TV, your pet, your sibling, or who- or whatever - are readily available. If you would like to have a study buddy, I am live-streaming study with me sessions from 7am to 11am and from 12pm to 3pm UK time on weekdays.
I do not know how to feel about the time ahead of me in quarantine. There is an element of fear whenever I leave the house and there is a massive degree of uncertainty regarding what the situation will be like in a few weeks. Will our healthcare system be able to handle it? Will someone in my family get sick (the majority of my family lives in the worst-affected area of Germany)? Will I do my third year of university in my bedroom?
These fears paired with the uncertainty can cause a lot of stress and they certainly did for me. Reading helped me a lot - it allows you to escape into a different world for a while and takes your thoughts off what is happening around you. If you need a great fantasy book to do that for me, I would recommend The Starless Sea* by Erin Morgenstern to you.
Lots of Love,
P.S. The title picture of this post was taken while I was still in Cambridge. I did not feel great that day but had no symptoms that aligned with the virus in any way. I nonetheless chose to wear a protective mask which is not protection for the person wearing it but for the people surrounding them - I just wanted to make sure that if I had anything, I would not pass it onto someone else. In hindsight, I was probably not feeling great due to all the stress I was under. I still have these masks because I always have a few of them with me since it is very normal in Hong Kong (where I used to live) to wear them. Nonetheless, I would not recommend buying them at the moment as they are much more needed by healthcare professionals.
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