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Student journalism: Killer on the loose with a 50 nanometre diameter

05:45 17/08/2021

The Bulletin launched its inaugural student journalism competition in the knowledge that adolescents risk being Covid’s “lost generation”. On top of the normal stresses of being a teenager, the social distancing and interruption to routine caused by the pandemic have taken an emotional toll.

So we felt it was important to hear their voices and give them a platform. How has the virus affected their studies and their lives? What has the experience taught them, and how has it changed them? Students aged 15 to 18 from international schools in and around Brussels responded. Although the competition was in English, all the entrants were multilingual, with experience of living in other countries.

Together, their essays reflect the difficult but frequently mundane reality of lockdown, or living under “house arrest” as one young writer described it. Their remarkable honesty shines a light on an unprecedented period in their lives. We were impressed by their creativity, their storytelling skills and their capacity for self-reflection, and would like to thank each of them, and their schools, for their enthusiastic participation.

This week: Killer on the loose with a 50 nanometre diameter, by Hiya Gandhi

Surgical masks, lockdown, social bubbles, quarantine, sanitisers, another variant, R rate and social distancing. These oft-repeated words keep reverberating in my mind, making my head spin. My ears are quite sore, but I heave a sigh of relief that my healthy body did not succumb to the havoc this virus is wreaking around the world, sparing nobody.

Like my peers, I’ve grown quite weary of precautions and warnings as I watch with bated breath to see when restrictions will be totally lifted, normality as we knew it will be restored and we can finally celebrate freedom.

I’m enthusiastically dreaming of an open-air festival, an IMAX film, hanging out with friends, participating in group sports activities and also being physically present in a school classroom. After all, haven't we suffered enough from computer vision and computer neck syndrome? Not forgetting the house arrest!

Meanwhile, in Belgium this dreadful virus has already marked its first anniversary, having taken a toll on so many innocent lives.

Scaremongering? Paranoia? Really!

Most of my friends (please include me too) have transformed from fit and sportive individuals to putting on kilos primarily because of overeating, lack of exercise and tackling boredom with food and lots of it. Our socialising has been restricted to family, which is indeed an unprecedented situation.

However, even in the midst of this dreadful crisis, we have helped and cheered one another virtually; we’ve extended a helping hand to the weak and the vulnerable in the community too.

I still recall the days when uncertainty prevailed and the crisis encouraged some people to reveal their prehistoric trait – hoarding toilet paper for instance. Was this some sort of coping mechanism or was there a misconception about the symptoms of the disease? Was it compulsive obsessive neurotic behaviour?

According to the mathematician Christian Yates, if every one of these teeny-weeny particles were to be collected from all around the world, it would fit into a soft drink can. So difficult to believe, right? What a capacity to cause harm for something so small!

The days of being homebound were exhausting and I soon got accustomed to disrespecting inertia. To keep my sanity alive, I relied on my creativity: painting, writing entries in a lockdown diary and dancing the blues away while loud music blasted through the speakers. My desperate attempts at banishing pessimism! I tailored my early morning routine to engage in meditation and listen to the birdsong. I benefited from these hours of existential contemplation especially since the roads were deserted and the din of traffic was missing.

There were days when I was reeling under the emotional and mental strain. Ignoring rumours and digesting evidence-based articles was how I kept my hopes alive.

Today, pharmaceutical companies are supplying vaccines, promising a cure, and I sincerely hope the virus is starting to feel very uneasy because of the many crowns that it wears and which the scientists hope to behead!

Written by Hiya Gandhi