As part of a series of blog posts we are planning to publish during this time, Julia Heimann, a 22-year-old PhD Candidate at the University of Essex has provided some answers to questions about her experience of the Covid-19 crisis. We hope you enjoy reading it!
If you are also happy to talk about your experience during this time, give us a shout by e-mailing Jeni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What did you do the days just before, and at the start of the lockdown?
As soon as I heard that Germany introduced its lockdown from 16th March, it was my priority to get back to my home in the South of Germany as soon as possible. I had originally booked a flight for 24th, but I then changed it to the 18th. It was a crazy rush, getting everything ready to go, changing the tickets and leaving the apartment in an acceptable state. During all this time, the news reports kept flooding in.
On my way home what was striking, however, was the delay in response of the UK as opposed to Germany. By the time Germany had already imposed its lockdown and my family and friends back home were panicking about it, life in the UK was still pretty much normal. This was weird when talking to friends from either country: German friends were like “why aren’t you panicking yet?” while my UK friends still invited me to hang out in town. Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, or “Mutti” was very serious from the beginning.
How is isolation treating you?
I must admit, compared to many other destinies I have come to know about, mine is pretty much “luxurious”. Back in Konstanz, I have a large-ish apartment which has all the “apocalypse” necessities: my work laptop, my gaming PC (playing “Fallout4” and “Age Of Empires”), my balcony, my sewing machine and a smart-TV.
Working from the couch is underrated...
Isolating together is sometimes a blessing, and sometimes a curse. For instance, when there is only one piece of cake left in the fridge. It’s war. Or when you want to watch different things on the TV. Again, war. Or when you want to sing during work – something that (despite my horrendous efforts) my previous office mates never complained about. Shoutout to Nicole, Willem, Shannan & Fate! You rock.
Throwing it back to when MOAs was still open...
Aside from that, it is pretty ok-ish. ??
Where are you stuck and what’s it like there?
Konstanz is also a pretty decent place to be stuck at. Just outside the door we have the “Bismarckturm”, a tower on top of a vineyard hill, from which you have a crazily amazing view of the old town, Switzerland, the Lake of Constance, and sometimes even the Alps!
My house is just down the hill!
When I don’t want to climb the hill, I go to the bank of the Rhine river. The Rhine starts in Konstanz and there is a small medieval tower by the first Rhine meter. It has a crazy picturesque scene and am looking forward to going swimming there when the water is just a tiny bit warmer.
The tower is just behind the bridge.
How do you cope with the situation on a day to day basis?
There are days when I can’t motivate myself and dwell in guilt because of that. I think this is because of the lack of (even small) social commitments, which tact your life in a way that gives you direction and a sense of time. Usually, I’d say “OK, I’m meeting Inma at 2, so I’ll finish this and that before then.” In isolation, these cues do not exist and time seems to be just a massive grey blob rather than a structured timeline. In this way, time passes too slow and too fast at the same time. I look at things I had wanted to do and when I look at the date I opened the file last, I realise in shock that it has already been two weeks. Where did the time go? What did I do?
Now I can relate to the lives of the sheep-y inhabitants of my town much better.
To be entirely honest with you, I still haven’t quite figured out how to combat this feeling. Maybe I’m also not trying hard enough, feeding back into my guilt. Then again, I think how novel this situation is, and how traumatic, really, the uncertainty if, and when, things are going to be back to normal. And then I think I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Maybe, on some days, it’s super OK to lay back and let the situation sink in. Looking at the numbers, reading up on how different countries are dealing with the situation, taking a deep breath in, and out, and just “surviving”, in a sense (OK maybe a bit dramatic).
Watching the wildlife at the lake is a great way for me to calm down.
What keeps you up at night?
One of my biggest fears at the moment is not being able to see some of my friends again – possibly forever, as many of them are leaving Essex after the end of this academic year. When I left Essex just a couple of days before the nationwide lockdown, nobody could anticipate to which scale the pandemic would impact our social lives – especially not for how long. I find it absolutely terrible that we have not had a proper chance to say “goodbye” to each other. Social relations just seemed to be broken off from one day to the next. Zoom is somewhat a consolation, but it can never, ever, ever, replace the social ties we have formed to one another over the past months (or years).
Khadij will be leaving for Norway in July.
Shoutouts (to people I’m likely not going to see again next year) go to: our amazing Sabbs team, it was a pleasure working with you and I will miss you so, so much, my colleagues Khadij & Liza, my SCO colleague Ed, my Essex Start Up pals, like Suraj, Elena and Wini, and people working at SU venues, like Joni.
Throwback to many happy hours in Studio X.
How do you keep in touch with your friends?
Apart from Zoom, Instagram and Whatsapp, I’ve found it to be very satisfying to write some postcards to my friends. Just recently I’ve sent out some cards, along with some different goodies – although limited in variation because of the store closures, all carefully selected for each individual. Some have also received colourful facemasks, which I have sewn for them. I feel that in a time when mostly everything is virtual now, it means so much to spend time thinking back on the time actually spend together and sending, or even crafting something personal for them to hold. This really helps me personally and I do recommend it!
Mask making in progress…