April 22, 2020
In March, I arrived in Aix-en-Provence, France, to complete the second part of my year abroad. Studying French at university, I’m here to spend a year living in the country to practice the language and immerse myself in the culture.
I Met My Flatmate Weeks Before She Nursed Me Through Coronavirus Symptoms
I moved into a very tiny apartment in the city centre and said hello to my flatmate, Isabella, a 29-year-old PhD student from Italy carrying out research in Aix. She struck me as a very intelligent person, passionate about her work and her family, and always ready to offer advice drawn from her eight extra years of life experience. 
During the week, we mostly kept out of each other’s way; she was busy with her PhD and gave me the impression of being an extremely driven, work-oriented person. Little did we know that we would soon be providing each other’s only real human contact.
In the short time we lived together before lockdown, we became friendly quite quickly. Just before Emmanuel Macron advised everyone to stay at home, we went on our first (and, as it turned out, only) night out together, BREAKING down some boundaries in a way only red wine and vodka shots can.The day lockdown was announced, I sat in my room feeling a little bit shaken, listening to Isabella speaking in rapid-fire Italian on the phone in the next room. We talked, though neither of us knew what to say.The day lockdown was announced, I sat in my room feeling a little bit shaken, listening to Isabella speaking in rapid-fire Italian on the phone in the next room. We later bumped into each other in the kitchen – she in search of some emergency rosé, me in need of a comforting late-night snack. We talked, though neither of us knew what to say.
The next night, I heard Isabella crying to her mum on the phone. I wanted to reach out to her, to give her a hug or make her a cup of tea, but we hadn’t quite reached the point where we would knock on each other’s bedroom doors and I didn’t want to intrude if she needed some time to herself. Although we were together in the same flat, living through the same crazy experience, there was still some distance between us. I was reminded of how little time we had spent together, and how superficial my knowledge of my flatmate and new lockdown partner really was.
Throughout the following weeks, however, all of that rapidly changed. 
I fell ill and was bed-bound for a week, and suddenly Isabella was treating me as though I were her own younger sister. She went to the pharmacy and stocked up on painkillers for me, insisted on doing my grocery shopping and made sure that I ate something, and would leave cups of mint tea and reassuring notes outside my bedroom door. 
Because I wanted to stay in my room as much as possible to minimise the risk of making my flatmate ill, we sent WhatsApp messages to each other from separate rooms. I was surprised by how comforting I found the sound of her laughter coming through the wall as we joked together. On my own, far from my family, the presence of this near-stranger stopped me from feeling alone. Knowing that I had someone who was there for me through thick and thin, regardless of how little time we had spent together, made the whole situation feel much more manageable. Thanks to Isabella, the experience of living in lockdown in a cramped flat somehow became an enjoyable one.The second I recovered, I organised a wine and cheese night to say thank you to Isabella. We lit candles, ate baked camembert with fresh bread, and talked late into the night. We opened up to each other more and more with each hour that passed, and by the time we finally headed to bed I felt as though we had known each other for years. 
That night marked a turning point in our friendship, and the next day we picked up the conversation where we had left off the night before. Curled up on the sofa, cradling our coffees and nursing faint wine headaches, we discussed our worries for our families, our lockdown survival plans, and told each other things that we had previously only disclosed to our closest friends. 
Soon we made a great lockdown team: we made each other laugh, we were always up for a good chat over a cup of tea, and we both understood the need for a reassuring hug sometimes. We now trusted each other completely, and our friendship deepened with each passing day. She cheered me up when I was feeling anxious about my seriously immunocompromised dad back in the UK, and I calmed her down when she was stressed about her decreased productivity and lack of PhD progress. Thanks to Isabella, the experience of living in lockdown in a cramped flat somehowbecame an enjoyable one. 
Unprecedented times create unprecedented friendships, and the time that I have spent with my wonderful Italian flatmate is one positive that I will definitely take away from this scary and uncertain time. In this moment of crisis, we all have the power to look out for those around us more than ever, regardless of whether they are Friends, family, or total strangers. And as we find new ways to connect, I hope that we all form bonds, like mine and Isabella’s, that will endure long after this pandemic.More from HuffPost UK Personal Coronavirus Means Ramadan Will Be More Challenging Than Ever For Muslims Like Me Our Family WhatsApps Are Full Of Coronavirus Misinformation, And We Need To Talk About It Coronavirus Meant We Had To Mourn My Grandpa's Death Online
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