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Back in March, a premature halt to the academic year saw me packing up frantically to return home. At the time, Singapore had already imposed a 14-day “stay-home notice” for all returning citizens. Frankly, it was no more than a rose-coloured spin on the word “quarantine” — a feeble attempt to appease those who dreaded the impending struggles of self-isolation. And although I’m not likening the experience to incarceration (as some entitled celebrities would), neither am I denying the unique set of challenges it poses to us as spoilt university students.

“My singular connection with the outside world is carved out by a meagre pair of windows”

Since then, I’ve returned to the UK, where I find myself repeating history once again as I undergo yet another 14-day quarantine stint in Cambridge. Nestled in a quaint little room at the renowned Møller Institute, the miserable lack of human activity leaves me ample time to ponder the consequences of my experience.

So here goes. Everything from my introspective reflections on humanity to petty qualms of confinement, in 600 words or so:

Freedom

In quarantine, I’ve never felt freer to do as I please. Streaming Netflix during ungodly hours of the day — check. Preparing a scrumptious cup of industrially processed instant soup for dinner — also check. See, there’s no incessant need to bow down to the rules of the land. In quarantine, I’m free to author my own, and I’ve never felt more sovereign!

Inner Peace

Step aside Po, a new zen expert is here. What better way to pass the time than to embrace the tranquillity of isolation? I’ll admit, I’ve always seen myself as somewhat of an extrovert, one who enjoys siphoning the energy from friendly human interactions. Though quarantine tips the scales, it’s still certainly a welcome chance to look deeper inward, to find that sense of self and the like.

But I can only face my own insecurities for so long: I would quite like if things went back to normal, please.

Interior Design

In secret, I’ve always appreciated the work of interior designers, and the wonderful people that have done up the Møller Institute are no exception. The sapphire carpets complement the Scandinavian furniture nicely, and I quite enjoy the experience of living in a pseudo IKEA showroom.

Views

Gone are the sprawling suburban flats characteristic of my home country. Here, I’m treated to Churchill College’s ostentatious sports field. The warmth of the green landscape, coupled with gorgeous sunsets, definitely makes for a breath of fresh air. My only complaint is that my singular connection with the outside world is carved out by a meagre pair of windows. As with any museum visit, I can only stare at the same portrait for so long.

Food

My meals get delivered to me like clockwork. I never have to step into a buttery or hall to get them. Rather, I’m free to relax in the comforts of my own room as I patiently await my meals for the day. Though I must admit, these meals are largely a hit-or-miss, ranging from the passable fare to the gastronomical sins.

I guess they always miss — huh?

On the bright side, there’s a recurring child-like excitement as I eagerly anticipate what will come through the door. Plus, I’ve now got loads of regular content to feature on my Instagram: an anthology of quarantine meals for all my loyal followers.

“The miserable lack of human activity leaves me ample time to ponder the consequences of my experience.”

Zoom

Separated from my lovely girlfriend once again, we’re back to relying on the coveted communications software to maintain some semblance of healthy communication. In this new normal, I’m pretty sure we’re not the only couple who’ve had to go through this online arrangement.

I really should’ve put some money into Zoom months ago. Stonks.

Exercise

“This next part … is when you’re doing push-ups or you’re doing sit-ups — whatever. Let’s get it. Another One. Another One. Another One. Another One.”

I may not have proper equipment, but at least I’ve got DJ Khaled to spur me on.

Routine

Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat.

Many would recommend “getting into a routine” to avoid descending into madness. But let’s be serious: what kind of meaningful routine can we honestly get into while self-isolating? That said, I’m quite content with this lazy trifecta —perhaps a nice way to unwind before the hectic student Cambridge life kicks off?


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Mountain View

Glowing up in lockdown

Work, work, work, work, work

Sike — I’m already stressed as it is!

It’s the start of yet another academic year, and that just means I’ll have to reacquaint myself with the bouts of stress distinctive of Cambridge’s 3 relentless terms. So here I am thinking to myself – I’ve got nothing much else to do, why not start early? After all, Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance™. If I walk into my first supervision already pre-seasoned with stress, nothing that Cambridge throws at me will ever faze me!

It’s Genius!

So, there. That's everything I could think of (good and bad) about my quarantine experience so far. Minus the soul-crushing news that Singapore was added to the “quarantine-free” list on the same day I arrived, I’d say I’ve remained largely optimistic about my ordeal. All I can do now is look forward to the end, but till then, let’s just hope the subsequent days don’t chip away my morale too much.

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