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Since 2020, Yianni's birthday celebrations have been shaped by lockdown restrictions

Lockdown Stories: Yianni Christodoulou

After spending his eighteenth and nineteenth birthdays in Mansfield, Yianni Christodoulou was determined to celebrate his twentieth in style once lockdown restrictions were eased.

During the first lockdown I turned eighteen. I had planned to go on a massive night out with all my mates clubbing somewhere in the UK for the first time (legally). However, three weeks prior to my eighteenth birthday, we all received news that we were going to be kept at home indefinitely due to the corona outbreak. While I was really quite happy I wasn’t going to be doing my A Level exams, I was also extremely annoyed that I was going to be spending arguably the most significant birthday of my life stuck at home in Mansfield doing nothing.

However, it turns out everything wasn’t so bad. My family and I managed to hold a clandestine garden party, obviously being 100% covid safe. It was just my close family, my grandma and my new puppy all sat two metres apart in our garden relaxing and having drinks when the sun was out. While this wasn’t exactly Jägerbombs in a sweaty club, it was still really good, and we made the most of it.

Fast forward a year to 2021 and the majority of lockdown restrictions had been lifted. Yey. Life was finally going back to normal; or so we thought. The government announced that there was going to be another full lockdown, around two months before my nineteenth birthday. This was amazing news, and I couldn’t wait to cancel all my birthday plans once again. Fortunately, a week before my actual birthday, part of the restrictions were lifted so that two households could meet outside. This meant that I could have the same birthday gathering I held the year before, but legally this time! Joking aside, it was really nice to be able to see some of my family that I hadn’t seen for a year, even though most of the conversation was about the horrible virus that had plagued our lives for the past twelve months.

By 2022, most of the coronavirus restrictions were being lifted and things were getting better. But having been here twice before, I tried not to get too excited. I successfully applied to be part of a ‘Levelling Up’ project advertised through the Global School at university and went on an amazing trip through Europe which was fully funded, too. We visited France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. We saw some amazing things and had such a good time. I spent my twentieth birthday having breakfast in a pâtisserie in Lille - which is like a posh version of Greggs - interrailed through Belgium; and spent a night at the world-famous Premier Inn in Cologne.

As much as I love my family and hanging about in their front room, I was really happy to be travelling and experiencing such exciting things on my birthday, it definitely made up for the past two years of lockdown. The only downside to the trip was that I was no longer a teenager when I returned to the UK, so I’m now officially getting old.

Overall, my birthdays during lockdown weren’t so bad and my birthday this year more than made up for them. The purpose of the ‘Levelling Up’ trip was to gain inspiration and experience from other countries, so this has now set a precedent for future birthdays where I will ensure I’m always out travelling and having fun.

'Degrees of Isolation' is based on the experiences of University students who were interviewed between 2020 and 2022’.

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