The holiday seasons were in full bloom in Germany. Christmas markets filled with Gluehwein, a mulled wine common around the holiday season, and caramelized nuts covered Hamburg. The city lit up with white, glowing lights, and of course, the winter break from university was slowly coming upon the students of the University of Hamburg. I was more than ready to finally take things slowly and enjoy a relaxing holiday season with the friends around me before heading over to Austria to visit family friends of mine during Christmas.
And then, out of nowhere, the breaks were pulled, and I woke up one day feeling achy, tired, freezing, and overheated at the same time with a raging headache. As someone who often gets headaches and has suffered from two colds this past November, I thought this was just another cold or perhaps a bad flu. Yet, as the saying goes, it is always better to be safe than sorry. So, slowly and tiredly, I put on my sweater and cap and walked to the nearest Corona testing center near me.
By the time I had walked back and reached the entrance to my dormitory, my phone began to ring and an unrecognizable German number appeared across the screen. By the time the woman on the phone had said “We have some bad news to share with you,” my heart had dropped. My antigen Covid test had yielded, unfortunately, a positive result. With a heavy heart, I turned around and walked back to the test center, this time for a PCR test.
By the time I had reached my dorm again, this time with no calls from the health officials, I slumped down into my bed and let the exhaustion and acceptance of catching the virus roll over me. Though my symptoms were far from deadly and had only lasted one or two days, I was now required to spend most of my holiday break and all of Christmas in my room, alone. If anything, the holidays, a time of festivities and being around loved ones, was the worst time to catch the virus.
My first day in quarantine was spent making phone calls to friends and family, emailing my professors and dorm manager about my positive infection, texting my flatmates about the news, and having a long phone call with German health officials about my positive test results and rules while in quarantine. Honestly, I had never before in my life felt like a walking disease. Living in a dorm meant that I was now given my own bathroom for the next two weeks while also having to text our group chat when I wanted to use the communal kitchen. Though it did feel strange having these arrangements at my expense, I also realized that this was the best way to keep everyone else living around me safe and healthy.
Though the fourteen-day self-isolation was not my ideal way of spending the holidays, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by helpful neighbors and friends in the city, who either brought me groceries or cooked me dinner. When I was not sleeping in or watching Netflix, I spent my days getting ahead of class readings and working on a small paper due after the break. Being in quarantine also provided me with so much time to catch up with family and friends back in the United States.
Though my self-isolation was far from exciting, I am, at the very least, glad that none of my symptoms were life-threatening. Living and studying abroad during a pandemic has posed many challenges, both emotionally and mentally. Whether you are studying or working during this time or also find yourself alone in quarantine with the virus, just know that you are doing a great job, no matter what it is you are doing. Never has there been such a more uncertain and stressful time to go about life, but know that, in the end, everything will turn out okay, even with a few bumps in the road.
I hope you had safe and happy holiday season, and I wish all readers a happy new year!
Check out how other study abroad students are dealing with the pandemic here.