‘Is this all a dream?’: my cramped week self-isolating in student halls

‘Is this all a dream?’: my cramped week self-isolating in student halls

Both my fiancee and I are marketing postgraduate students. We live in halls but study at different universities. She lives in London, and I live in Surrey. I am a care leaver while she is an international student from Wuhan, China.

My day begins at 4am, when I lie awake in my girlfriend’s flat. We have been here for three weeks self-isolating. The room is cramped; I am on an airbed next to her single bed (she has a back problem, which is why we sometimes avoid sharing the single). I put the airbed away and make a bitter morning coffee, have a vape out the window and watch the sunrise.

I procrastinate on my phone for four hours looking at memes, avoiding work at all times as anxiety is high. Dinner time comes. We use her rice cooker to make some pasta while putting some tinned food in the electric slow cooker, all in the tiny bedroom. We eat, have a brief argument, watch some YouTube videos and go to bed. We did not even leave the room to use the shared kitchen.

Athanasios Dedeoglou

Athanasios Dedeoglou Photograph: Athanasios Dedeoglou

I get up to my results coming in from my last module. I received 85% (A+). I’m both ecstatic and surprised.

I check my emails again and I see another from my university: it’s now closed. I panic again and start to worry about the uni booting my stuff out of my own halls. I debate whether I should travel through London to my flat but for the sake of mine and my partner’s health, I decide against it. Thankfully, it seems my halls will remain open as I would be homeless if they shut. All my lectures are now online.

Today I was informed by the job centre that I could not get universal credit as I am a postgraduate student. I’m advised to increase my student overdraft. The problem is that I can’t.

I’m a Greek citizen, though I’ve lived in the UK my whole life. I currently don’t have a passport as I lost it and have to wait a year to have another. My bank does not accept Greek identity cards which is the only identity card that I have. I have a limited ID check on my account, so I can’t increase my overdraft. I’m not eligible for a driving licence either because I am bipolar, which is why I cannot have an overdraft or travel anywhere else.

I wake up 20 minutes before my online seminar. Everything goes surprisingly well, apart from microphone problems. I particularly like the fact I can vape while attending class.

After the seminar I gaze outside, pondering how I have managed to stay in a 12m2 room with an ensuite toilet for three weeks and how it resembles the time I was hospitalised under the Mental Health Act. Is this all a dream? Am I still in the hospital? No, I am not, I am with someone who loves me and appreciates me: my partner. I think about how this is hard for her, first her family in lockdown, now her. I am thinking about the sinophobia she and our Chinese friends in the UK, many of who are self-isolating because of their origin, are facing now.

The small flat where Dedeoglou is currently self-isolating.

The small flat where Dedeoglou is currently self-isolating. Photograph: Athanasios Dedeoglou

Since the university is closed, I might as well build a university in my makeshift village in Minecraft. I forget to turn off the zombie raids however; now they are all getting infected. My villagers must study from home as well, it seems. How fitting.

I wake up at 7pm. I need to sort my sleep routine. Boris comes out and announces the lockdown. No weddings, he says – that’s the civil partnership ceremony that my fiancee and I have planned cancelled, then. We both start worrying about being separated after her tier 4 visa expires.