OPINION: How I’m getting through my self-isolation in Italy
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OPINION: How I’m getting through my self-isolation in Italy

Former JFS student Rebecca Stein reveals what it's like to be on lockdown while on her year abroad in Padua

Rebecca and her friend Fiona sipping spritzes in the main square of Padova
Rebecca and her friend Fiona sipping spritzes in the main square of Padova

My name is Rebecca Stein and I’m in my third year at The University of Leeds, studying Spanish and Italian. I’m currently on my year out, as part of my Erasmus year, and have been in Padua (or Padova, in Italian), northern Italy, since September.

As a former JFS student and having spent two years at a university renowned for its large Jewish community, it has been interesting being a Reform Jew in Italy, where I have not met any other Jewish students. During Purim, I would normally spend time with my family, dressing up. But these are not normal times and we are in lockdown. 

It has been an intriguing experience comparing the reality of our life in Padova
with how we are seeing it portrayed in the
British media. 

In Padova,  our daily life during the lockdown has changed fairly minimally. Late on Saturday evening, the news of a potential lockdown in 14 regions of northern Italy reached us, just hours before the final train from the red zones – areas placed under quarantine – left to the south of the country.

During Purim, I would normally spend time with my family, dressing up. But these are not normal times and we are in lockdown. 

In a fluster, we deliberated about what would be the best response to take, with two of our German housemates deciding to pack up their lives into suitcases and flee in an attempt to make it home before the impending lockdown. 

The famous San Marco Piazza in Venice. One day before the lockdown was announced whilst Venice was an amber zone.

The following morning, we awoke to see that, despite the chaotic news the evening before, flights and trains seemed to be continuing as normal. This left us confused and frustrated, unaware of exactly what lockdown entailed. 

The first thing we decided to do was head to our local supermarket after seeing news that many were stockpiling products. To our surprise, we were greeted by the sight of a fully stocked supermarket. Granted, the supermarket was slightly busier than usual, with staff enforcing the one-metre rule between individuals when queuing. 

As the day went on and the sun came out, we decided to wander into an open square close to our home. There, we sat for an afternoon spritz among many other natives, celebrating International Women’s Day – another normal day in the city we have come to love. 

As the days have gone on, we have begun to relax into the situation and started our university lectures that have been temporarily uploaded online. However, I, along with fellow students from the UK, was surprised to receive many messages and phone calls from home asking if we are able to leave the house or even reach a supermarket to get food.  

For us, this situation had never crossed our minds, so we were confused about what others had been hearing in the media.

In light of our first-hand experience of the situation, we prefer to refer to the red zone as a safety zone. This is a term we all feel is more appropriate to describe the current situation. 

We all certainly feel safe in this area, especially because, to our knowledge, the city of Padova has no reported cases. Despite concern from universities, family and friends, we have all decided to remain here together as we are hopeful that the situation will improve soon,
as a result of the travel restrictions.

We view the recent implementations as a positive attempt to contain the virus. We hope it does not cause panic or stress among the British public.

Our biggest concern was that, after hours of searching, we were unable to find any hamantashen in our quaint Italian city.

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