What it’s really like to self-isolate in your university room, from a student who did it

‘Three words: Deliveroo, Deliveroo, Deliveroo’


This week has seen hundreds of students heading home as universities all over the country close due to the coronavirus pandemic. During this turbulent time, some students are stuck in their flats, or even self-isolating in their own rooms.

The Tab spoke to Ellie Williams, a second year University of Birmingham student, about her experience in self-isolation in her university room. Ellie went into quarantine for five days after returning to the UK from Italy last Saturday, where she was attending an EU Youth Exchange project.

“I returned back from Italy with a cough,” Ellie told the Tab, “so I phoned 111 on Sunday night and was told I was going to be tested for coronavirus the following morning.”

‘Two women in hazmat suits came to my uni room to test me’

“I had three phone calls before the testing team arrived to give me information on what was going to happen, because they aren’t allowed to talk to you much when they actually test you. They cleared a space outside my room to put on their protective gear, and then knocked on the door. They told me not to laugh when they entered the room because they looked so silly in their suits.

“The team consisted of two lovely Brummie ladies, who put a swab in the back in my throat and up my nostril. They told me I’d find out the results in 48 hours, but to call them if I didn’t receive an answer. In reality it took four days before I received a call, so I was stuck in limbo, with a party to host on the Friday that I obviously didn’t want to cancel!

“These results were very important to me, as I had 120 people turning up on Friday for a big party and obviously didn’t want to infect anyone. My housemates suggested putting me in a zorbing ball so we could party anyway.”

Ellie being tested for coronavirus

‘I smoked rollies, meditated and talked to my mates out of our windows to pass the time’

“I knew I had to keep myself busy if I was going to be stuck in my room indefinitely, so I let myself enjoy some contemplation and meditation. For the first couple of days it was quite nice to have some quality time for myself. After a while I started bingeing This Country, to remind me of my Cotswold roots while I was stuck away from home. I wanted to get some exercise done, and as going to the gym was obviously out of the question, I used poetry anthologies as weights. It was bizarre.

“One of the strangest things was how all the days started blurring into one. To signify the end of the day, and get my daily fresh air, I would have a rollie out the window whilst listening to Radio 4. My friends would lean their heads out their windows and chat to me.

“I would really recommend making your room a nice space to be in, this was tricky for me because of how small my room is. But I took the time to deep clean it, light scented candles and put up fairy lights. Then, I would take some time to FaceTime my friends who I don’t normally get to see very often and have a proper catch up.”

Ellie’s room at the University of Birmingham

‘My flatmates would bring food to my door and shout ‘feeding time!”

“My flatmates were really helpful. I sent my friend a shopping list, and then they would cook for me and bring me food, leaving it outside my door. They loved knocking and shouting, ‘feeding time!’. They threatened me with only giving me wraps that they could slide under the door, in case I was really ill. Someone wrote ‘get well soon’ in Marmite on a wrap.”

Not kidding

‘It’s actually a nice break, overall, but don’t expect to do any uni work’

“Deliveroo is essential if your flat mates lack culinary skills, and don’t expect to get much work done as being stuck in your room does not inspire productivity. Get your daily fresh air if you can, create habits to help signify day to night. Try your best to enjoy being your own company and taking a break from hectic uni life. Being self-isolated, even for a few days, made me so grateful for little things in life, even going downstairs!”