Life Under Quarantine for a Bi-Cultural Student

Life Under Quarantine for a Bi-Cultural Student

Julia Brahy © Elizabeth Brahy

It is day one of life under quarantine and frankly, I’m already bored out of my mind. No visits to cafés, hanging out with friends, or going to the movies. Netflix, Spotify, books and games are my social life now. Until my classes move online, I’ll be using this enforced seclusion to write and research, and of course, spend time with my family. If we don’t kill each other first.

As a half French and half American student currently in my first year at the University of Warwick, I tend to assume that everyone I come in contact with knows exactly how the Coronavirus is progressing worldwide. But lately I’ve realized that there is much misinformation being spread regarding the COVID-19 disease, with hoax emails going around recommending sunshine and hot tea to fight the virus. Hard facts are surprisingly hard to come by. Multiple sources have stated that France is the seventh most affected country in the world, with cases rising exponentially. I believe that establishing an insightful source of information regarding Coronavirus is key in ensuring that the situation does not escalate into mass panic.

The upside of quarantine?

Despite the worrying statistics, it is possible that the Coronavirus has shown us new sustainable alternatives to our otherwise untenable routines. For instance, many have opted for more vegetarian eating choices, seeing as the COVID-19 disease originated from an infected animal and that meat, in general, is of single-usage in nature, whereas pasta, rice, and other vegetables come in large batches and can last weeks at a time.

In addition, because of the lockdowns that have taken place in major cities strongly affected by the disease, such as Wuhan or Venice, there have been less carbon emissions as significantly less people have used their cars to travel around the city. People are only allowed to travel in cases of emergency medical appointments or necessary grocery shopping.

The outbreak has also shed light on other work alternatives beneficial to social wellness. With so many individuals having been forced to work from home, we have now come to see firsthand how work obligations can easily be performed remotely, making a better case for sick leave, something which is not properly installed in some major countries such as the United States.

These appear to be the only silver linings in this anxiety-inducing pandemic that has claimed the lives of thousands of people around the world. Now that we have established some of the more positive consequences of the spread of this disease, we must dive into the nitty-gritty of France’s current situation in regards to the virus.

Timeline of a pandemic

It is important to mention that I began writing this on 16 March at 2pm, before our President Emmanuel Macron delivered another speech providing the general public with more information concerning the measures the government will adopt to contain the COVID-19 disease. By the time this post is published, we will know what new policies have been adopted. History is happening and we are just living in it.

To give you an idea as to how the disease impacted France in real time, I will be providing a brief timeline of the Coronavirus’ progression within French territory, along with a small commentary on my part.

14 February 2020: A Chinese tourist dies of the Coronavirus in Paris. This is the French population’s wake-up call, it’s the moment we realized that the virus was no longer just a distant thing that would never affect us. It was here. With us. I vividly remember what I was doing during this time – I had returned to France for a reading week, between February 8th and 17th, while I would normally have been at Warwick.

During the entirety of that week, I had explored the streets of this city I adore so much as much as I possibly could, seeing as I did not often have the opportunity. Everything from the Guimet Museum of Asian Art to Serge Gainsbourg‘s house, and countless Parisian cafés. I completed all of these activities without a care in the world. Now, a bit more than a month later, these simple and regular outings are now unthinkable. It really puts everything into perspective, it makes me infinitely more grateful that I had the opportunity to do all of these things in the first place.

© Lucrezia Carnelos/Unsplash

27-29 February 2020: A collection of small events take place during this time. On the 27th, President Macron visits l’Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, a hospital with many reported cases of the virus. The Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, receives all French political parties to come to a consensus as to what measures to adopt as the situation begins to escalate. On the 28th of February, the contamination rate goes from 18 people to 41. The 29th, all gatherings containing more than 5 000 people are canceled.

The situation becomes more drastic. Slowly but surely. And what was I doing during this time? I was spending a weekend with my mother in London. Once again I completed a host of activities, ranging from a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum to a performance of the fantastic musical The Book of Mormon – both of which contained hundreds of people – without a care in the world. The COVID-19 disease had barely crossed my mind. I was simply focused on the English breakfasts I was having each morning. Meanwhile, schools were beginning to shut down on the Continent, and I had no idea.

© Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

4-9 March 2020: It becomes apparent to both the population and the government that the Coronavirus is now a massive health issue. On the 4th, there are 257 cases of the virus reported within French territory. The 5th, this number jumps to 423, and the death toll reaches 6 individuals. The government prepares itself for Stage Three of the outbreak procedures. The 6th of March, there are 577 confirmed cases with 9 deaths, and the Haut-Rhin region becomes the most drastically affected in France.

As I was going to fitness classes everyday, attending my lectures and drinking in true British fashion, the beginning of Spring Break was approaching. I was scheduled to go home on March 14th. A friend of mine began incessantly researching traveling policies, and it became clear how all our plans would be warped by the presence of the COVID-19. I became accustomed to the idea of not going out very much. Little did I know I wouldn’t be able to leave my own house for weeks at a time.

The new normal

16 March 2020: We have now reached our latest update. It is currently 9 pm, and I have just finished watching President Macron’s latest statements regarding the Coronavirus and the new, stricter measures that will be implemented to contain the disease. The following are the new procedures President Macron established:

  • Total confinement within our homes for 15 days. This means we are forbidden from leaving our residences, with the exception of medical emergencies and appointments or necessary grocery shopping. Police officers will patrol the streets and will sanction anyone outside in the perimeters. If someone wishes to leave their house under the conditions outlined above, they must print an authorization provided by the government. This way, they will not be sanctioned by the French police if they are ever stopped.
  • The EU has closed all Schengen borders for 30 days. Travel to member countries is suspended for all non-EU nationals except long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats, cross-border and healthcare workers, and people transporting goods.
  • There will be financial assistance provided by the government to companies risking bankruptcy due to the virus’ significantly negative impact on their businesses.
  • Taxis and hotels may be used by the government to house those infected by the Coronavirus if there isn’t enough space in hospitals and other sanitary sanctuaries.
  • The second round of the municipal elections will be postponed.

These are the latest updates. We are trying to plan for the weeks ahead. We are trying not to panic. There is more to come I’m sure. Just remember: Keep calm and wash your hands!

A version of this article originally appeared on Julia’s blog Politics from a New Perspective: how Political Issues are Understood Today by Gen Zers.

Half-French, half-American, Julia Brahy recently graduated from the University of Warwick with a BA in Politics and International Studies. She is an admitted fashion addict and a past winner of the American Library in Paris's Young Authors Fiction Festival (YAFF). Julia will be pursuing a Master's in Global Affairs at the University of Toronto in the fall.


  1. A very interesting article, I especially liked it about the advantages of quarantine. Indeed, people have the opportunity to look at their lives from a different angle and change a lot in it and discover new opportunities. For example, during the entire quarantine, I wrote down my thoughts and turned them into essays. Then I realized that I am good at writing and I started writing essays for students on one of the writing services. I realized my abilities and it became useful for others. Quarantine brought such advantages for me.

  2. Thank you for the good read full of reflection and perspective, Elizabeth and Julia. I will be sharing with my family and students. Monica P


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