Films, food parcels and online lectures: The life of a self-isolating law student

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By Adam Mawardi on

Legal Cheek spoke to Lancaster Uni’s Alex Dietrich about her lockdown experience

First year law student Alex Dietrich

The rise of COVID-19 cases at universities across the UK has seen thousands of students forced into lockdown.

With this in mind, Legal Cheek spoke to Aleksandra (Alex) Dietrich, a first-year law student at Lancaster University, who has spent the past two weeks self-isolating in her halls of residence after her flatmate tested positive for coronavirus. Fortunately, no one else in her flat developed any symptoms.

When Dietrich was told by the university to self-isolate immediately, she recalls being “frankly very disheartened”. Although she knew it was necessary for the health and safety of others, it meant she didn’t get to experience Freshers’ Week or mingle with her fellow first-year peers. She explained:

“When others were attending the events organised by the university, I had to stay in my room and isolate. This was very tough on my mental health; I feel like I have missed out on any opportunities to socialise, making the first week of university even more daunting and lonely.”

Then there were the practical challenges of getting food in while being stuck inside for two weeks. “At the time we got instructed to isolate, our fridges were empty since our plan was to do our shopping on that very day. We checked online and there weren’t any delivery slots available for the next four days,” she said.

Though Lancaster University offers a daily food delivery system, which couriers food boxes containing three meals to self-isolating students on campus, the plan costs £17.95 a day — much higher than Dietrich’s average spend of £25 on a weekly food shop. “When we ran out of food, it worked out cheaper for us to order takeaways,” she revealed. When their food eventually arrived after four days in isolation, Dietrich and her flatmates made sure to plan ahead.

Without access to Lancaster’s on-campus laundry rooms, Dietrich also explained that self-isolating students have the option to get their dirty washing picked up and cleaned by a private company for £7 per bag. Dietrich and her flatmates, however, hand-washed what they could, with the rest of their laundry to be cleaned after isolation. “Dressing gowns became a staple,” she told us.

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According to Dietrich, dealing with basic lockdown logistics, from retrieving delivered parcels from the post office to taking the bins out, fell on students. “It was left up to my flat mates and I to take initiative, be pro-active and reach out to the university with a list of queries,” she said.

Keeping Dietrich busy was her timetable of online law lectures, which were more flexible than in-person alternatives. “You’re able to watch them whenever it’s suitable for you, you can rewind, pause or speed-up the lectures too, which I found very convenient,” she explained. Even so, Dietrich said it was difficult to remain positive and motivated over the fortnight. “Being stuck in doors can be so draining, causing my productivity levels to go down dramatically.”

Outside of her studies, Dietrich and her flatmates killed time in the kitchen playing cards and board games, watching films together and tuning into some evening telly. “Watching The Great British Bake Off together in the kitchen has now become a part of the routine on a Tuesday night,” she said.

After the two weeks were up, Dietrich and her friend celebrated her new-found freedom with a walk around the campus, followed by a long-awaited trip to the pub.

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