“Relax! This is just a Flu. Plus, it only affects old people. We are fine,” my flatmate harshly said to me. In the first week of the corona outbreak in Denmark, she spent days going in and out of our dorm to parties. She would come home after two or three days, cook whatever she found in our kitchen, watch TV in the common room and go out again. With the news showing how dangerous this could be, I decided to ask her to be more careful. I explained to her that she needs to be responsible, since she lives in student housing and shares some spaces with ten other people. She did not care. There was no reason for her to stop enjoying the “break” she miraculously got, she told me, and who was I to say otherwise?
At the time, I thought it was pointless to argue. You see, I’m an exchange student from Brazil. I got here in February, only one month before this crisis started. I didn’t have much time to get to know my flatmates. I knew their names, room numbers and their countries, that was all. I was the new resident. Therefore, I wasn’t really in a position to determine what people could or could not do. I felt powerless and alone. That was enough to activate my anxiety and lead me to exclude myself in my room.
My flatmates did not know, but I’m a part of the at-risk group for COVID-19. Since I was a kid, I’ve had several health problems because of an immune system deficiency. Your childhood is not that fun when a simple cold can make you stay in the hospital for long periods of time. Miles away from my doctors and family, this virus threat puts me on high alert, and far from my comfort zone, it started to affect my mental health.
It has been three weeks now that Denmark is on lockdown. Two weeks since some of my exchange classmates returned to their home countries to be in quarantine with their family, as the Danish government cancelled classes. Several days went by and I did not leave my room, other than to get food. There was no Netflix, books, music, yoga, painting left to keep the anxiety away. I could hear sounds through the wall coming from the others’ rooms. People trapped in their own little world. It seems lonely. It is. At least I thought. Three days ago, on a very boring afternoon, I decided to activate my Facebook again. Since I didn’t use it that much, I deleted it right after I got here in Denmark to make room on my phone for other apps. I must admit it was the best thing I could have done. There I found several messages from my flatmates asking how I was, if I needed anything, inviting me to watch a film online, to go for a walk outside (with masks and other precautionary items) and so many other things. Those who hadn’t had the opportunity to meet me yet, presented themselves and asked about my life in Brazil, how I was adapting and made themselves available if I needed something. After hours of talking, I told them about my condition and fear. They were very understanding and proposed a “no outside guests” rule and extra cleaning of the common areas so I could use them without worrying. I hadn’t even asked for it, but I was so happy and relieved that they took the initiative.
The next day, I helped clean the kitchen and I prepared a cake to thank everyone. I also joined three flatmates for an online workout class, had lunch, studied and at night got to play some games with them on a video app. I still miss my family and friends, but at least now I feel like I’m a part of something. I’m excited for the rest of this quarantine, which I know that I will enjoy without fear, thanks to my crew at Skjoldhøj 86. They have my back. This was all I needed and more.