Wonder what other students are up to on the other side of your front door? Here’s how they’re coping…

Rosie JoyceWest London

Back before life as we knew it was turned on its head, when we could hug a friend we bumped into on the street, when we didn’t have to play trolley tetris when trying to walk down a supermarket aisle and when I could choose what I fancied eating that day and go to a restaurant which provided it, I would never have dreamed of spending as much time as I currently do nurturing a flour and water slime. But seeing as I now have more time on my hands than I know what to do with, I thought I may as well figure out how to make something I will occasionally spend an extortionate amount of money on as a treat. I’m making my own sourdough bread.

You see, I have a dissertation to write. Well, two dissertations technically. And an exam. However, with the world being a little bit over and all, I can’t really focus on them. Instead, I’ve decided that what would alleviate my stress is growing a very needy mixture of flour and water that begins as a ‘starter’, is fed two or three times daily with more flour and water until it turns into a ‘levain’, and then making a dough which seemingly requires 6 billion proves and mixes and folds and… time, until I can bake it for 22 minutes with a lid and then 22 minutes without a lid, not forgetting to keep it at the ideal temperature throughout; not too hot, no direct sunlight, but also not too cold… don’t even get me started on trying to locate flour in these apocalyptic times. In short, making bread is not therapeutic and it is indeed very stressful. 

I mean, the bread is bloody delicious. It’s crusty and crunchy on the outside, light and moist (sorry) on the inside. It’s great with a poached egg on top, with some fake bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiched between slices, or even toasted and blended up with oil and garlic into breadcrumbs to top pasta with. But it’s bloody laboursome. 

When I’m asked what I’ve learned from quarantine in an attempt to create positivity in an otherwise rather negative time, I say that I am not ready to have a child for a very long time. 

If you fancy seeing how my bread parenthood took shape, check out my exciting new blog at https://www.porkbellyandtofu.com and my longstanding foodie Instagram @porkbellyandtofu.

Veronica Wong Nok KwanHong Kong

I returned to my homeland, Hong Kong on 21 March under the advisory action of my home institution. (Yes, I am an exchange student and leaving the UK was one of the hardest decisions in my life) and underwent 14 days of mandatory quarantine alone at my aunt’s house. It was a crazy time for me, given that I have not lived alone, especially in a considerably unfamiliar environment. Since I have gone through this challenging period, I would love to share my story plus some tips and tricks to all of you encountering lockdown. 

First and foremost is the adaptation. Hong Kong is usually eight hours ahead of the UK, but seven as it’s summertime. Insomnia arising from jetlag hit me so bad for the first week. I would either  be sleeping three hours every day or staying up till 8 in the morning and waking at 6 in the evening. It was a struggle, a suffering and a sabotage. To tackle this horrendous nightmare, my best advice is not to take a nap in the afternoon and let your body clock pick up the regular rhythm. Besides, wearing a blindfold to prevent any sunlight penetrating could greatly alleviate insomnia. (Imagine falling asleep at 10 am and the sun greets, “Good morning!” through the window blind)

The most indispensable issue is face-to-face conversations. Having some regular conversations is so important. Facetime or Zoom (be careful with its security) helps to lower your emptiness and loneliness during this horrible phase. Binge-watching Netflix (I love the Stranger and Sex Ed) and YouTube (my pick would be beauty and cooking videos) is probably too general as a tip but having something to distract is great as an escape. 

Last but not least, learning something new is also fabulous to kill time. You would say the current zoom lectures and tutorials are not the best option when it comes to learning. Instead of academic-oriented knowledge, there are always new things we are yet to explore like Dalgona Coffee. There will be something you are into; the start of a new hobby. 

Those 14 days were crazy to me. I would never forget that I have never felt more grateful than when I completed quarantine and saw the light from the outside. There is dawning being blotted out during the epidemic but the sun will bathe the land again.  

Gemma LawsBexley, Greater London

Before actually sitting down and writing this, I wanted to give the impression that, despite the chaos around me, I am managing to function as normal. It’s the same thing I want to tell my friend at the other end of the phone, my mum after a long day of trying to be productive and myself when I awake to another day of lockdown. But we are all affected by this, albeit to varying degrees. Do not fault yourself for not functioning perfectly. It is the situation that is frustrating, not you. My experiences with long-term depression and anxiety have taught me to take pride in the small things in times of (personal or global) crisis. Establishing larger goals and projects can work for some people, but I’m learning not to punish myself for not ‘making the most out of this time’ by learning a new language or reading 100 books or establishing an ambitious at-home exercise regime.

Besides, my dissertation means that I already have a substantial project to work towards for the foreseeable future, which I’m sure is the same for many students. Difficulty focusing seems to be universal right now, and ‘brain fog’ has been a recurrent problem for me. Under these conditions, getting anything down is a start. If I know the day is likely to turn into hours of staring at a blank screen, I instead turn to free-writing – usually by hand, then typing it up. I’ve also started having regular calls with a few coursemates, as a way to talk through our research and ideas and make working on our assessments feel less lonely.

Lockdown has also meant that my relationship with my partner of a few months has suddenly become long-distance. The uncertainty is difficult, but we’re managing it by setting time aside for chats and Netflix-watching sessions. I am lucky in that I also have a wonderful (albeit currently virtual) support group of close friends – to distract me or to hear my complaints. It is important to keep in mind that I’m in a relatively privileged position, but that doesn’t make my frustration and sadness any less real. So connecting with friends has been a healthy mix of playing Animal Crossing together and letting off steam over a cup of tea – or a glass of wine. 

As with most people, I’m still finding my feet one day at a time. But I remind myself to stay grateful for other people – for my partner and close friends as well as the strangers doing essential work. If things cannot go back to normal, I hope that at least we will be more kind and patient with ourselves and others – because all we have are these connections.

Picture credits: @porkbellyandtofu

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