What life is like living under quarantine as an Erasmus student in Spain

Don’t worry, I’ve stockpiled sangria

It’s been a mad few weeks. As of Monday 16th March, Spain was officially put on a nationwide lockdown, which will last until after Easter. And guess where I am? In Spain, on the tiny island of Gran Canaria in Las Palmas, off the coast of West Africa.

The week before, my life was pretty normal. On Thursday, I went to uni and gave a class, and on Friday a student I teach elbow bumped me instead of shaking hands and we laughed about all this chaos and the announcements from the Spanish Government. On Saturday, my overly paranoid landlord messaged our flat group chat in all caps: “SUPERMARKETS ARE CLOSING TOMORROW GO OUT AND BUY ALL YOU CAN!”

Deserted streets in Las Palmas

I could walk across the streets blindfolded here and not worry about being hit by a car

It was a false alarm, supermarkets are staying open, and pharmacies too. But as of 16 March, we are on full lockdown. No cafes, no restaurants, no going to the beach, no going out for runs or walks and absolutely no mad flat parties. Despite all the restrictions and deserted streets and police telling people to stay in their homes, it’s really not scary at all or as ‘post-apocalyptic’ a scene as people make it out to be. I’m not afraid and I’m not panicking. But I am concerned. One thing that I’m very concerned about is my home country, the UK.

Watching from afar, I can see the exact same thing happening in the UK that happened to Spain. I can hear all your denial that we first had over here, “oh but it’s not that bad here, there’s only a few cases up where I live.” Yeah, there’s only a few cases so far. But this thing spreads faster than a fresher can strawpedo a VK. At the start of the week, there were around 2,000 cases in Spain, now, there are nearly 14,000, with the number fast rising. The UK will be catching up soon.

Madrid was worst hit with the virus. Last week, the president of the Comunidad de Madrid stated that going into a lockdown was not planned or on the table. Well, well, well, look at us now. The whole country’s going into lockdown for basically a whole month, who knows if it will be extended. But it’s necessary and it’s our responsibility to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Great Britain, please learn from your European neighbours and take serious preventive action now. It’s washing over all of us like a tidal wave, and it’s coming in drips now but it will hit the UK full force. Staying at home is the best thing we can do. Yes, the economy will suffer, but many small family-run businesses in Spain realise the seriousness of the situation and that sacrifices need to be made.

New stickers in Spanish supermarkets telling us to keep a 1 metre distance from others

And what will I be doing over these next month of self-isolation? To quote Harry Potter, I’ll be in my room, making no noise and pretending I don’t exist. Nah but really, it’s only a few days into this whole self-isolation malarkey and my flatmate has already baked gingerbread men, pancakes and banana bread. Maybe I’ll take up yoga, maybe I’ll finally get round to learning Italian, who knows, the possibilities for new hobbies are endless. And with all this stress of having to be in my bed 24/7, I have stockpiled up on face masks and scented candles and will be aggressively practicing self-care. My flatmates and I also bought Monopoly to help us pass the time. If coronavirus doesn’t get to us, we will certainly kill each other fighting over who needs to go to jail and who’s been cheating.

Of course, it is quite morale-dampening having to stay inside 24/7 now. But just as we’ve seen in Italy, Spain pulled through and showed solidarity for its people. At 10pm on Saturday night (9pm Canarian time), people went out onto their balconies and started applauding, whistling and cheering to say thank you to all the doctors, nurses, cleaners, interpreters and other workers for their hard work during this crisis. A truly heart warming sight to see. And this act of solidarity will happen every night, throughout the duration of the lockdown.

But the question remains, if the UK closes its borders to Spain or vice versa and urged all British citizens to return, would I even want to go back? Why would I want to go from quarantine in one country to go into quarantine into another country that is not taking meaningful measures.

Also, I think I’ve gotten to used to the weather here. Going back to rainy Scotland? No thank you. If you need me, I’ll be self-isolating on my balcony, sipping sangria and soaking up the sun.

Toodle-loo and I wish you all a merry quarantine.