CORONA DIARIES: TRAVELLING IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
Written by Millie Braund
So, I’ve just moved to Germany.
I know what you’re probably thinking – really? In the middle of a pandemic? But, I’ve actually had this planned for a really long time, and moved to Berlin for the year as part of my university course!
Moving to another country whilst the world heads into a second wave of the Coronavirus has not been without its struggles, though. Most of my friends pulled out of their study abroad years and went back to finish their degree but, knowing that most of my last year would be online and with Germany having handled the situation better than the UK, I decided I’d brave it and go anyway!
The process of actually planning to travel abroad was the most stressful. With the possibility of our area of the UK being added to the high risk list (most of the UK was already on there), I had to pay to have a test; if the south had been put on the list last minute, I would have to quarantine for 14 days, and not be allowed into my student accommodation, unless I had a negative test.
The test was an at home kit from Lloyd’s for £120 (ouch), but was really simple to do and seemed a lot less invasive than the in-hospital ones. It consisted of swabbing the back of the mouth and nose and then sending it off in a little test tube to be tested! Luckily (and not so lucky for my wallet), I didn’t end up needing it, but it was a nice peace of mind to know I tested negative.
The airport was, unfortunately, really busy. I was surprised to see so many people leaving the country when the UK was at a solid 17,000 cases, and not a lot of measures taken to distance people or provide sanitisers.
All check-ins were done online before getting to the airport, and we weighed and checked-in our luggage ourselves. It turned out quite inexpensive to upgrade to business, so I did, thinking it would give an extra peace of mind to have a bit more space and have some extra baggage to move all my stuff over to Berlin, but it wasn’t really worth it.
The flight was completely full and, with it being a small European flight, the only difference of business was one space between you and the next person and a mid-flight croissant. All food was also pre-packaged off-flight, although drinks were freely available.
It felt a bit uncomfortable to have so many people crammed into such a small plane, especially when there were no temperature or official passport checks in the airport. When we boarded the plane, we were given hand sanitiser and wipes and a sheet of paper explaining the current regulations for entering the country.
We had to keep our masks on for the full three hour flight which turned out a lot tougher than I thought it would be but, of course, I dealt with it; I have no idea how anyone could travel on a long haul flight at the moment!
The airport in Berlin was even worse than London. Baggage claim was genuinely packed, with no chance for social distancing, and no measures taken by the airport staff. Collecting our baggage caused a bit of anxiety, with flights having come in from all over the world, and took at least 40 minutes.
Since then, though, I have felt really safe in Berlin, and feel that Germany has been handling the situation well. Whilst public transport has been a bit busy, there are constant reminders to wear masks, and security outside all shops ensuring people stick to the rules and only allow a certain number of customers in at any time. At times, I felt like I had to be really cautious in the UK, but I haven’t felt like that here.
Whilst I won’t have the full year abroad experience, with most classes being online, being in the city has been great and the tourist attractions haven’t been too busy, but that’s probably understandable with the current situation. I’ve always wanted to dip out of my comfort zone and try something new, and moving to a beautiful European city is something I’ll definitely remember doing in the middle of a pandemic!
Please remember to stay safe and healthy, and protect others from the spread of Coronavirus. Only travel if necessary. The quicker we get through this, the quicker we can all return to our normal lives!