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When in isolation…

Interviewing Aberdeen University students on their experiences of isolation at the hand of Covid-19

By Skye MacDonald


Photo by Skye MacDonald


Since the Covid-19 pandemic kicked off two years ago, many of us have had to spend time away from loved ones, abiding by the restrictions on household meetings, holidays, and travel. This has been tough for us all, with optimism for the future dwindling as rules tightened on various occasions and the reality of the virus’ power was displayed.


Humans, arguably by nature, need interaction to survive, with human connection, friendship and relationships being pivotal for our mental wellbeing and health. These past two years have been an example of this: being away from family and friends has made us recognise just how important our relationships are for keeping us going, through the good and bad. Whether it has been a walk outdoors or a phone call, spending time with others keeps life from greying and can be just the glimmer of hope we need when things are hard. Having social distancing measures and limitations on who we could see has made us appreciate the time we spend with loved ones significantly.


From talking to friends, this seems to be a universal acknowledgement. The pandemic has made us recognise the beauty of relationships and how we need them to survive the rockiness of life.


So, what happens when you are named a close contact for Covid 19/catch the virus yourself and, for the necessary protection of others, have to self-isolate for 7-10 days? While it might not be the months of quarantining that we all had to do when the pandemic was declared in March 2020, being in isolation, especially if you live alone, can be challenging.


The recent Aberdeen stats show that there were 2,040 confirmed cases between the 12th and 18th of February.

Across Scotland, there has been a rise in Covid cases, and consequently, many people have found themselves in an isolation period. I am going to be interviewing a few students who have experienced isolation and discover what their top tips are, so to hopefully show you that, if you catch the virus, you are not alone with the feelings and experiences of this time.


First off, my friend Celine, a third-year psychology student:


When did you catch Covid-19?

Just before Christmas, I had to self-isolate over the whole festive period. I was back home in Finland and was fortunate to have the provision of a flat above my parents’ house, so I was close by them even if we couldn’t see each other physically.


How did you cope with the emotions of being in isolation, especially at such a time of the year?

I kept my family on Microsoft Teams the whole time; technology is amazing with the fact that it’s real-time, I was able to just do my own thing but have them there.


What is your top tip if you’re in isolation?

Do lots of puzzles. Something about having a focus on a task keeps your endurance up when the days seem long. You can spend hours in the flow, and it’s really helpful to see the fruits of your labour.


What were your coping mechanisms during this time?

Treat yourself to whatever food you like (I was lucky enough that it was Christmas and my parents could bring me good food); but it helps to have some comfort food, especially when the emotions hit.


Is there some Netflix show to recommend?

Fantastic Fungi! Literally, watch it.


Secondly, Aedan, a fourth-year English and Politics student, who just came out of isolation two days ago.


What was your general experience of having to isolate?

Reading! Lots of reading! That’s all I did. I tried to use the time to do my uni work. I also slept a lot; when you’re in isolation, it kind of feels like an eternal experience… Sleep is good. I also facetimed a lot of people, constantly.


What was the hardest thing about isolation?

My plans to go to Dublin were put off, so I had to distract myself with uni work instead.


Top tips to make the time more endurable?

Try to create lots of tasks for yourself, if you feel well enough to do so. Do the dishes, facetime people, cook lots of homely food- just keep yourself busy, the time will go faster.


Top tip for food delivery?

Get a Morrisons delivery full of treats, and lots of comfort food to keep yourself going. Also, do it on the Website, rather than Deliveroo- you don’t have to pay until you know what’s coming.


Thirdly, my flatmate Amy, who isolated with me a month ago, but didn’t catch the virus…


What was your experience of isolation?

It was quite a boring time to be honest, especially since I wasn’t actually ill at all. I was pretty unproductive, despite having all the time in the world. I think this is fairly normal though, and it was a good chance to just be chill and have a break from life.


What did you get up to? Give some of our readers some ideas of things to do if they have to isolate.

I watched a lot of Grey's Anatomy, and also did some art. It was a good chance to get back into drawing.


What would your top tip be if you’re stuck in isolation?

Probably, set a routine. I didn’t do this, but it would have probably been helpful. If you have a lot of stuff to do, keep on top of it. But also, don’t feel bad if you want to just take the time to relax.


Top tip, food-wise?

Have comfort food and try out new recipes. Use BBC good foods a lot!


From interviewing my friends, it was clear that both comfort food and staying in touch with friends and family during their time in isolation was essential to keep their mental wellbeing afloat.


While the 7-10 days may seem like an endless abyss lying before you, there are ways to make the time pass by as quickly as possible. My top tip would be to try to get as much sunlight and fresh air as possible; if you don’t have a garden, stand by your window! Remember that there is always support if you are struggling and that there is no shame in asking for help.

British Red Cross Support Line: 0808 506 2829

The Mix, Free Helpline for under 25’s: 0808 808 4994

The University: student.support@abdn.ac.uk