In the first week of March, my life was pretty much in the “business as usual” mode. Attending lectures, meeting friends, working on group projects, chilling out. Yeah, nothing special.
In the second week, something began to change. The COVID-19 situation was becoming more and more serious. There was a growing pressure on Imperial to start delivering remote classes as soon as possible. People got concerned about upcoming tests and exams in the last week of term. My coronavirus anxiety increased so much that I started dropping classes to stay in my room in Evelyn Gardens instead (normally, I don’t skip lectures at all!).
However, I didn’t think about going home early yet. My flight was scheduled on 21 March and I couldn’t leave earlier due to a compulsory workshop the day before.
Life can surprise you though…
I began to wonder if Imperial would switch to remote teaching soon. I kept reading news about another European countries shutting down their borders. Eventually, I started thinking if my flight back to Poland would actually take place.
Suddenly, one week became a very, very long time. I realised that doing nothing then was really risky.
A turning point came on 13 March. This was Friday, a deadline day for the programming group project, so I had to go to campus despite my coronavirus worries. While working on the final bits of the project with my team, it became apparent that next week would be completely remote. At the same time, a friend messaged me, asking if I was considering flying home earlier. I couldn’t make any definite decision until the department officially confirmed the rumours (you remember the compulsory workshop, don’t you?).
In the late afternoon, all Computing students got an e-mail from the head of department. It said:
All lectures/tutorials for next week (the last week of this term) will only take place online.
This was a turning point. I was still on campus, but I realised that I had to come back to my hall as soon as possible. I quickly packed my stuff, said “goodbye” to the teammates and rushed back to my room. Why?
Looking for last-minute flights
I immediately made a decision to come back home now, given the growing uncertainty of my country shutting down its borders. As I was ready even for a same-day flight, I couldn’t lose any more time.
When I was back in Evelyn Gardens, I researched my options. After witnessing some price fluctuations (I wanted to get the cheapest flight possible), I bought a ticket for a Sunday flight. Surprisingly enough, a few moments after that, the Saturday flight, which I wanted to buy a ticket for in the first place, became much cheaper. I quickly changed my booking.
30 minutes later, I heard “This Sunday at midnight, Poland is closing its borders to foreigners and suspending all international flights…” in the news. I never felt so lucky before. Ultimately, I managed to book a flight just before the border shutdown!
The rest went flawlessly. The flight itself was safe, with no complications. Just a passenger card to fill in with my contact details in case somebody was infected with SARS-CoV-2 (thankfully, nobody was).
You may ask “Why did you decide to come back to Poland rather than stay in London?”. The answer is simple: my family home is more suitable for lockdown conditions than my room in London. I’m a responsible person though. I took all necessary precautions on my way to an airport and didn’t use public transport in Poland. Also, I did self-isolate for 14 days after arriving home. Voluntarily. And most importantly, I didn’t show any COVID-19 symptoms.
I realise that not everyone is as lucky. If you struggle with anything due to the current COVID-19 situation, please have a look at the Imperial’s dedicated coronavirus page. Also, check out other student posts, especially Charlotte’s, Marine’s and Aishy’s. There’s a lot of mental support available.
Stay healthy and safe!