Imagine being completely alone in an unknown country far from your loved ones, without close friends and family members, and suddenly being stuck in your room. No one knows when you can go back home or what the future will bring. This uncertain time might be even harder - even more challenging - if you experience it as a foreign exchange student.
This project focuses on the personal experiences of international students, including Maryam Mumladze, the author of this photo project, who were in Aalborg, Denmark during the coronavirus pandemic.
Each student has his or her own way to deal with loneliness, boredom, insecurity, fear and despair. Their decision to create a home away from home unites them, but their response to isolation was unique and largely based on their unique culture, social background, interests and traditions. 
For instance, Proiti and Khayal, both from India, buy ingredients from Middle Eastern grocery stores and spend hours cooking and eating the food they love.
“We often get together to recreate what we miss about home. It is an escape from reality and a way for us to feel a sense of calm in a troubled world.”
Juan, from Colombia, who has been living abroad for 12 years, uses the family photos, letters and special rocks and seashells he always takes with him to create a spiritual corner wherever he goes. 
“As I grow older I realize that this is what helps me carry my home with me, like a snail.”

Juan Pablo, Colombia

Over the last 12 years of my life, my studies and work have taken me to a bunch of different cities in different countries. Everywhere I go, no matter the place or time, I have always carried a portable “altar” with me. Family photos, special rocks and seashells, and meaningful letters make up the ingredients of a spiritual corner I create at each new home, always accompanied by flowers, candles and incense. 
As I grow older I realize that this altar is what helps me carry my home with me, like a snail. Maybe because of my upbringing with a family in love with home activities, my favorite day of the week is Sundays. I get the chance to do everything we love at my home in Colombia: slow cook, play loud music and sing while we shower and clean, have nice long conversations, and take trips to the countryside. During this quarantine isolation, I’ve turned into a snail more than ever, and my spiritual corner is what has kept me safe and sane throughout these times.

Juan Pablo

Juan and Julia

Last year, we started practicing fortune telling using this Spanish deck of cards. However, since we arrived in Denmark, we decided it was a good moment to get an actual tarot card deck. Every once in a while, we get together to do shared readings, to rethink our lives in isolation, wondering when we’re going to be able to swim back to our countries: Julia through the Pacific and Juan through the Atlantic. Reading the tarot deck is like its own type of internet. We connect to the outside world, to the energies around and beyond us. It’s our way to stay in touch.

Julia, Chile

This apartment is the “container” of my days now, half physically here and half digitally immersed elsewhere. I have a couple of favorite spots so far where I hang out.. the bed where I sit or lay, facing up or down, eyes open or closed, is where my body is at ease, where I let go and flow through multiple screens, visiting loved ones, having long conversations, drawing their faces, I wander around in chat rooms and private libraries. My body lets me know when I'm tired, the sounds of the room seem to amplify, I'm back where the sun hits my skin. I have to water the plants.


The hallways of the student residency building are  empty most of the time, people here tend to stay in I guess. I miss the streets, the noise and my neighbors of Santiago, maybe that's why I like to go out in my pink robe, have my coffee and a cigarette while looking around. I say hi to the couple of folks I know here, just Juan, Damasen and Ana, no Danish friends so far. During the morning the sun--when it's out, which is not not often--feels so nice there.

Natacha, Brazil

While in isolation, I imagine myself at home, playing in the garden with my dog and my cat, watching TV with my parents or sleeping in my double bed.

I realised that life hasn’t changed much for me, isolated or not. I used to spend lots of time in my room anyway. Isolation didn't change the struggle of living in another country very much; it just reduced the opportunity to know more people and places.


I created this wearable dress project in my room in Brazil, and to be dressed in it in Denmark is proof that this has paid back all my investment on it: I'm here in computer mediated times, turning myself into a cyborg. I'm bringing this wearable dress to life again so I can remember who I am in this quarantine: the nerd girl who is used to enjoying time for herself.

Riad, Lebanon

Being away feels odd and somehow pleasant, the unfamiliar becomes familiar and you just end up adapting to our new reality. 
The isolation made me question my priorities and relationships. I am much more attached to people and physical presence; I used to take them for granted.
I try my best to go for walks when I am allowed to while still following the government's regulations. It is a good change of pace and being outside has somehow become nostalgic. But maybe that’s my romantic side that likes to glorify everything. But maybe this glorification and nostalgia are what I would call a kind of home.
I enjoy the company of my bed, it is my usual territory and is familiar. I wake up there, I sleep there, I work sometimes there. We grew a bond; me and my bed are inseparable, especially due to my fondness of naps (hahaha).


Proiti, India

Being in isolation far away from home is difficult. I am used to living in a big family, meeting many people every day. This is a stark difference from that. I miss the physical presence of other human beings, even though I enjoy being alone and doing my own thing.
I found out that I am capable of taking care of myself, even though it is hard. Cooking and cleaning for myself can be lonely sometimes, but I am glad to find that I am independent in this regard. I try to cope with my stress by singing a lot, and I also make sure to have plenty of video calls with my friends. I also play online games with a group of friends, which is fun and a good distraction.
In this picture, I am looking out of the window at the horizon. I can see a church and a line of clouds in the distance. Cars are zooming past, and some people are jogging on the sidewalk. I love looking out of this window because there is always something interesting to see.


Proiti & Khayal

Food is one of the strongest ways to connect with one's roots when one is away from home. Since we are both Indians (although from different parts of the country), we share a common interest and love for certain spices, flavors and dishes native to our country. In these troubling times, we often get together to recreate what we miss about home. We look up recipes, source ingredients from Middle Eastern or Indian grocery stores, and then spend hours cooking and eating the food we love. It is an escape from reality, and a way for us to feel a sense of calm in a  troubled world.

Khayal, India

It doesn't bother me to be isolated away from home but the fact is that this pandemic is getting to a dangerous point back home, and I am worried about my parents who are in the high risk category. 
I have realized that I can find pleasure in tiny things - and how fragile our world is and has always been. To cope up, I mostly cook, talk to my family back home, and meet friends that I have access to. Cooking helps me a lot, as does watching nice films.Looking up recipes, excited to find tastes similar to those back home, I have found a good friendship in Proiti and I feel home, thanks to this space that we have of cooking, eating and watching something.

Meraj, Iran

The quarantine reminded me that I already was in the lockdown even before these days. It was not more different than so-called normal days. After traveling around the world, I realized how much I kept my thoughts in quarantine because of moving to a new country. I think we have already experienced the desires/needs of staying far from people, while they surrounded us. The quarantine crisis gave me this chance to think more about my fears and mental quarantine, and now it is embedded physically in my daily life. Drawing, as a way of visualizing my thoughts, helps me to find/navigate myself to keep moving forward, instead of immersing.  Fortunately/unfortunately, human beings always adapt themselves with new situations, but mentally? It takes more time. 

Amanda, Brazil 

These have been times of very existential reflections, about big things and real tiny ones. I have been observing daily the constant shifts of distraction and focus. The weight of things to do seems to have changed, and I’m always trying to find some balance. The demands feel more challenging, and free time seems to be nonexistent now that I am the one organizing it. I have to remind myself that it’s not like the normal times, no one should be stressed about their own productivity in the middle of a pandemic, and most don’t even have the chance to slow down. Since I took over my white, empty room before my new flatmate moved in, I started working much better. I have been observing a lot of my behavior and reactions towards the imposition of isolation. Everyday is different. I have the word “routine” written on a piece of paper stuck to my computer, but I am a rebel. I follow my general guidelines but I need to improvise. I need to separate my relaxing and working spaces and I need sun. When this is over, I will surely miss taking breaks to practice some yoga or just stay quiet, lay on the floor. I understand now what sunlight and a change of perspective can do.


Najam, Pakistan

It was challenging to process the reality of our shared world. In the first week, I wanted to go back to Pakistan but due to the unavailability of flights, I had to accept the new scenario as reality. Over the course of the second and third weeks, my apartment in Aalborg became my new home. I felt happy spending time indoors, and with time, I got engrossed in my daily routine. 
I had not coded a website for a long time, so using the time in isolation, I didn't only brush up my coding skills but also revamped my startup website.
A few of the things that I find sufficient to tackle stress include cooking my favorite dishes, nurturing plants, producing music and reading books. 
I am pictured in my apartment-mate's room, which he designed and decorated. Often to avoid boredom and stress, I work from his home studio. In the picture, I am coding a website for our semester project, which entails soundscaping Greenland. The place gives me a feeling of freedom, being in another space, where I am productive - and am not in lock-down, either.


Madeleine, Sweden

Honestly, I'm not very stressed about isolation far away from home. It just feels unnecessary to sit here alone knowing my boyfriend also sits alone in Stockholm. That makes me wish we were sitting together.  
I have also found that I need to see people more often than I thought I needed to in order to feel good. I had thought of myself as a bit of a lone wolf, but that doesn't seem to be the case now when it has been put to the test. 
I have a routine where I get up very early in the morning, which gives me a sort of calm. I am normally a morning person but now that has been taken to the extreme. A slow breakfast listening to Swedish Radio gives me a sense of normalcy. 
I need to have separation in work and free time. So when everything needs to be done from home, I have like a ritual about what needs to be on the table when I study and what needs to be removed when I'm done for the day. It works maybe 50% of the time.


Melinda, Hungary

This special period of isolation brought me into an unexpected situation where I am back in the place where I grew up, spending a temporary period living in the room where I used to spend my days, dream and sleep as a teenage girl. As the days flow by, sometimes I feel I am in the Zone from the movie Stalker, moments passing by remind me of the long takes and silence, testing my patience and teaching me to watch, listen and wait.
But solitary times like these don't have to be lonely.
I like to be immersed in these activities and use the circumstances to practice meditation, which can even take the form of painting my nails just like in the pictures. And of course, all of these things remind me that I am still alive.


Czarina, The Philippines

I enjoy the solitary experience of making art because I find some sort of serenity in it. In times like this-- especially when far from home-isolation can be hard. You miss simple things like a warm sunset by the sea or a kiss for a baby. Perhaps my artworks on the wall somehow capture a certain memory or thoughts and feelings I cannot express with words. The mirror is there not for vanity but for practicality. Although metaphorically speaking, I guess it helps me reflect on things.

Jigme, Bhutan

When the whole world is going through a crisis and when you are in a completely different nation, far from your family and your homeland, it is difficult mentally. Of course, physically you seem to be fine but you miss home more dearly when you are going through a lot. I sometimes worry about what would happen if I become infected and can't make it back to my homeland to see my family again in this lifetime. Isolation has been a time filled with worry, a great deal of homesickness and time for self-reflection.
This pandemic has taught a lot to the world. First thing money can never buy your health. Secondly, it showed us the true reality of the world we live in, filled with uncertainty and insecurity. As for me, I have been doing some reflections on my self-development and some real-time soul searching.
Whenever I feel stressed, I talk to my parents and family back home. Other than that, watching some Buddhist teachings has always helped me calm my mind. I play music and movies from home to make myself feel like home.
Sitting quietly and focusing your mind on the breath has always helped me become calmer. Letting fresh air in and letting the sun fall on me have helped me stay healthy and I have felt the connection to the earth. I am just trying to look into my actions and trying to reflect.


Diana, Belorussia

When I think of this place where I find myself, now that the world’s gone crazy and people are jailed in their own rooms for some indefinite time, I feel first that I should be grateful for my life.
First of all, I'm one of those people who feel comfortable spending time by themselves, quietly doing all those hundreds of things you can do when nothing calls you out to the world. So the “being locked in” situation didn't feel like a jail for me, especially as I still had the possibility to go out and breathe some fresh air, whenever I wanted. 
Second, I like my room! Even if it's just a “temporary dwelling,” I have spent some energy to make it cozy and feeling like home, as much as possible in this life of “being always on the move”. And this is, actually, one of the things that became even more clear for me, in this self-isolation situation, than before: home is where you are, here and now. It doesn't take much to “adopt” a pair of plants to make your windowsill lively, and to carry some close-to-heart images in your suitcase that will make the empty walls of a rented room “warmer.” Instead of waiting (maybe for my whole life?) for “better times,” I want to feel like home, and enjoy life wherever I am. Any time and everywhere, there will be things, places and people to miss, but the feeling of comfort and a harmonic connection with what is around comes first of all from inside of ourselves. So being at home is mostly a matter of choice, rather than being dependent on external conditions.
This is my humble personal insight in these times of global change. And I think that whatever happens on the politico-economic stages, it is still important to remember how to remain yourself and be able to find calm and comfort to keep life going on. And any challenge is, apart from anything else, a good way to learn more about yourself and the people around you.
For me, one of the things that almost always helps to put my thoughts together and feel some inner calm is working on photos, especially physical processes like developing film, disclosing the secrets of how my cameras see the world. Some extra time within the four walls of my room has become a perfect opportunity for more wet discoveries and contemplations...


Olga, Ukraine 

It’s hard for me to live in an apartment if I do not have easy access to fresh air. I feel lucky to be renting my current place, which has a small balcony that has become my top spot during this quarantine.


When the quarantine started, I experienced a feeling of relief-I would finally have more time to get everything done and be able to concentrate better on personal things. There have been days when it went quite well but there have been others when I felt rather sad, even depressed, due to the isolation. For me, the best way to cope with the stress these days is to have a small diary where I can focus on my thoughts and work with them. I write imaginative letters and notes to myself and that is indeed one beautiful thing. Staying in closer touch with my family and those closest to me always gives me a warm feeling and a sense of home wherever I go.

Maryam (Author), Georgia

Living in an unpredictable situation, which is totally out of control--that’s what we all have been experiencing so far. However, when you are thousands of kilometres away from your home and have no idea what will happen in a couple of months, it makes things even tougher. I constantly checked flight tickets, even though I knew there was no option for me. I was checking the news of two countries--Georgia and Denmark--and comparing the state regulations, numbers. 

At the moment, when I was finally adapted to the idea to stay a few more months in Denmark, I received an email from the Georgia Embassy that there was a direct flight from Copenhagen to Tbilisi in two days. They couldn't promise if there would be any direct flight for a few months. You can imagine the mess in my head that time: “Should I stay or should I go?” - I hummed the song unconsciously.
By that time I already knew that the learning process would continue online for the whole semester and I admitted to myself that I would experience less stress and anxiety if I could be physically close to my family and home. 
The night before I left, I went alone to my favorite part of the city, the harbor, with a camera in my hands. Then I packed, said goodbye to my beloved friends and took a train to Copenhagen. 
After a long journey when I finally arrived at Tbilisi International Airport, according to the rules, I still had to go to a special hotel for quarantine for the next two weeks. There, even in the quarantine room, I realized that I was at home. I wanted to document this phase of my life, so I turned on the self-timer on my camera and took this shot on my 14th day of quarantine. 

Maryam (Author)




Chai-khana Survay