Jakob Kiessling

as part of Isolation Diaries


Every day, between 9 PM and midnight, a man appears in my flat. He’s tall, approximately 40 years old and a complete stranger. Sometimes he brings his friends. They don’t knock, just peek into the kitchen and leave.

According to rumours, the main source of information at my hall, the nightly visits are for security reasons. COVID-19 cases were rising and students at UCL accommodation were still having parties – an unfortunate combination. So, security try to make sure that my flatmates and I don’t cram 25 drunk and potentially infectious people into our 15m² kitchen.

Understandable, one could say, and, you know what, I might actually agree. It’s just that I’d love to be informed when and why a stranger is going to invade my privacy and my flat. However, the unannounced and unexpected nightly visits are but one symptom of the uncertainty I wake up to every day.

No one has told me how many confirmed COVID cases there are at my halls.

The current COVID rules are vague. Whether or not you have to socially distance in your own flat depends on the security guy’s mood when he pops in for his visit. No one seems to care about the virus in the hallways, though, where people like to wear their masks anywhere but on their face.

Things are chaotic now and I’m not sure I want to know what they’re going to be like in a few weeks’ time. I’m not even confident that UCL accommodation has a plan for when the inevitable lockdown hits.

 

Being a fresher at university in this stupendously horrible year is a lonely experience. We’re in for a new round of self-isolation every few weeks, and us internationals don’t even know if we’ll be home for Christmas. The lack of communication from our halls leaves us with nothing to answer the question that is constantly on our minds: should we stay or should we leave now while it is still possible?

Leaving – the prospect of two weeks of self-isolation when I come back here (no people, no kitchen, nothing) is daunting. No one wants to lose their first tentative friendships, so difficult to find in these isolating times.

Staying – well, we don’t know what life in halls is going to look like during lockdown. If I stay, will I be stuck here? Will I have to spend the holidays alone and away from my family? I’ve never been a particularly emotional guy, but that thought is terrifying.

One thing is for certain, though. We are getting closer to lockdown. It happens all the time now; a flatmate with symptoms, rumours of more cases in the halls – a fresh reason to freak out every few days.

 

All things considered, leaving might just be the sensible thing to do, but whenever I decide to pack my bags first thing in the morning, the next day is sunny and I actually hang out with someone without getting drenched to the bone. That’s when I realize once more that I’m in London – the city is just outside my door – and suddenly I don’t want to leave anymore, no matter what.

It’s a lot to consider, a lot to decide and it would all be easier if communication at the halls was just a bit smoother. After all, we need as much certainty as we can get in these uncertain times.


This appeared in Issue 74