An Isolation Experience: Don’t Forget to Wear Your Mask

By Massimo Castelli

Moving into Student Halls is a nerve-racking and exciting experience for all students who make their way to University living. Having to move away from family, being in charge of cooking your own meals and cleaning your own room and worst of all the dreaded laundry run, where you briskly walk from your room in the cover of darkness to wash your boxers. For me, going into second year I kind of already knew what to expect. Although I had never lived on my own before, I spent enough time with friends at student Halls to know the do’s and don’ts of student living. The biggest difference with my move in day however is that on top of all the usual responsibilities I listed, one thing stuck out above all else… Don’t forget to wear your mask.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has changed several aspects of everyday living: from going to the Pub, the cinema, the park or even just going to visit dear old Granny. All of life has slowed down to accommodate this unwanted viral visitor. One aspect that I feel has been heavily impacted on since the start of this pandemic the most is shared living. Since moving into halls on the 5th of September I have encountered several new challenges, from social distancing when using the laundry room to having to wear a mask in communal areas. However, one part of the student accommodation experience that is always ‘interesting’ regardless of the intervention of Covid-19; is meeting your Flatmates. The experience of meeting new people can be a nervous exchange at the best of times, which is only intensified by the fact that the people you have just met are your new social bubble. For me this went off without a hitch. I get on with all my flatmates and this meant that when I got a positive test result for Covid-19, they isolated with me and were a valuable part in me staying sane through the whole process. 

I can remember vividly the feeling I had after going for my test. It was like a mixture of butterflies and sick churning around in the pit of my stomach. For the last few days, I had a temperature and after starting to lose my sense of taste, the words of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon rang in my head like an alarm bell.

“If you are asked to self-isolate – and I know many of you right now are in already in that position – it’s really, really important that you follow that advice.”

So, I did. However, the experience was not an easy one. For those who haven’t had to isolate before it may seem simple, just stay indoors. However the real challenge comes with the effects that a positive test has on those you are living with. All my flatmates had to get tests at various points after mine, taking the time out of their online class filled days to spend 10 minutes having a cotton swab shoved down their throat and up their nose. Another major impact to consider was rent; and for those of us that relied on part-time jobs to pay it. Me and another one of my flat mates found ourselves having to call into work and explain the situation we now found ourselves in, leading to both of us losing shifts that would help us cover rent for the coming month.  

Many aspects of student living had to be restricted further due to my positive result. We could no longer do our washing for the period of our isolation as we were seen as a risk to other residents and we could no longer take rubbish down to the bins, because as one of the reception members put it ‘The Bin-Men are scared of catching the Virus’. This left us all in an interesting position. My 6 flatmates and I however are nothing but resourceful and over our ten or so days of isolation devised several plans to keep ourselves sane while trapped indoors. 

To deal with the washing problem most of us used our sinks to wash items of ‘essential’ clothing. Several times this resulted in me forgetting my socks were in the sink and soaking them with water when washing my hands. The bins became a problem very quickly, resulting in me having to get some friends on the “outside” who lived in our building to take our rubbish downstairs, after the bins had safely been deposited outside our cluster of course. The reception in our building could not have been kinder, helping to  deliver our post and shopping, done by our friends, outside our cluster. 

My lesson, from the personal experience I have had with the virus, is that although there aren’t many positives to be drawn from it, the experience of shared living with the virus has allowed me to understand a new sense of community and camaraderie among my Flatmates. However, the one lesson I have learned that prevails above all is this: Don’t Forget to wear Your Mask.