他们终于回上海啦!Welcome our international students!

Welcome our international students! This semester, we can obviously feel that the cafe has become more lively due to the return of most international students. However, the process of many of them coming back to Shanghai was not smooth, or even very turbulent. We interviewed Kevin Zhao and Stephanie Anderson and let’s have a look at their journeys!

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1. Kevin from Taiwan to Shanghai

2020年1月的时候我和家人去台湾玩,当时计划1月底回上海。结果收学校由于疫情延期开学的通知,上了一段时间online的课。一开始还好,到了3月份有点呆不住了,但当时我家人由于担心上海的疫情,不同意我回上海。

后来中国大陆封锁了,而我在台湾的签证也过期了,只能不断地去延期,护照上敲了七八个章。

(护照其中一页)

所以这么说来,我在疫情期间一直留在台湾。

大二上学期,大约10月份的时候,我有家人在香港工作,而当时有消息称家属可以入境,于是我准备出发去香港。到了机场,买完机票才得知,“家属可以入境”只针对未成年人,于是我继续被“困”台湾。

一直到2020年年底,我在台湾跨完年,1月3日正式回到上海了,开始了14+7的隔离生活。

隔离酒店有很浓的消毒水味,三餐收费100元/天。伙食一般,但没想象中的糟糕。早饭一般是一个鸡蛋,两个馅料很少的菜包,和烧卖,牛奶两三天给一次。我很多情况下都是饿着肚子到中午,所以往往特别期待午饭。房间外的走道会定时消毒,所以如果没有及时取走食物的话,吃到的就是拌着消毒水味的饭菜了。以及隔离酒店的wifi真的很差。

(隔离餐)

隔离生活几乎占了我整个假期,自主隔离结束的第二天就开学了,而这21天的日常基本是:打游戏,睡觉,看书,跟家人视频。从台湾到上海,总共做了5次核酸检测。而且台湾的核酸检测合人民币大约1000/次,每次都要在医院等上半天才能做,因为病人优先。

原本以为隔离结束后就可以正常生活了,但接下来仍然遇到了很多意料之外的麻烦事。

Move-in的那天,我被告知“你的名字不在宿舍名单上”。把相关的申报表以及收到宿舍入住信息的邮件给保安看也没有用。当天宿舍这边没有给我一个好的解决方案,只是让我给student life发邮件。在T2,T4之间来回折腾了一个多小时,终于拖着四个箱子搬进了宿舍。事后我得知不少国际生回宿舍的时候都被告知“名字在宿舍名单上被删除了”,觉得很困惑,而且很影响心态。

开学第二天,我去办理转移签证。然而上海的出入境管理局却不认我在台北签的护照,有个工作人员态度很高傲,只是说不行却又不解释原因。当天花了一个下午也没能解决这件事,还一直担心会被驱逐出境,后来在student life的一个staff的陪同下在上海办理了新护照,也终于尘埃落定了。

回首这一路,其实我决定回上海之前就做好了相关程序会很麻烦的准备,说实话隔离条件比我预期中要好一些。但后续大大小小的事情,宿舍没办法入住、护照的问题等等,才是真正搞心态的。

In January 2020, my family and I went to Taiwan, and we planned to return to Shanghai at the end of January. Then I was informed that the start of school was postponed due to the covid-19, so I took courses online for a while. At first it was fine, but by March it was a too long stay. However, at that time my family didn’t agree to my return to Shanghai because they were worried about the covid-19 there.

Then mainland China went into lockdown and my visa in Taiwan expired, so I had to keep going for extensions and had eight stamps knocked on my passport.

So actually, I have been staying in Taiwan for the first seven month of the covid-19 pandemic.

Around October 2020, the first semester of my sophomore yearI was ready to leave for Hong Kong, since I had family members working in Hong Kong and it was said that family members were allowed to enter Hong Kong.. But when I arrived at the airport and bought my ticket, I was informed that the rule of “family members can enter” was only for juveniles, so I had no choice but remain “trapped” in Taiwan.

I finally returned to Shanghai on 3 January 2021, after spending New Year’s Eve in Taiwan, and began my 14+7 days of quarantine.

There was a strong smell of sterilized water in the quarantine hotel. I was charged 100 RMB/day for three meals. The food was not good, but at least not as bad as  I thought it would be. Breakfast was usually an egg, two vegetable buns with very little filling, and one shao mai. Milk was given once every two or three days. I was hungry until noon in many cases, so I particularly look forward to lunch. The walkway outside the room was regularly disinfected, so if you didn’t pick up your food in time, you would be eating a meal that smelled like disinfected water. Also,  the wifi connection in the quarantine hotel was really poor.

The quarantine took up almost the whole of my holiday. School started the day after the self-health monitoring ended, and the routine for these 21 days was basically playing games, sleeping, reading books and having video calls with my family. From Taiwan to Shanghai, I had taken 5 nucleic acid tests in total. The nucleic acid tests in Taiwan cost about 1000 RMB per test, and each time I had to wait almost half a day at the hospital to have them done because the patients were given priority.

I thought I would be able to live a normal life once the quarantine was over, but then I encountered a lot of unexpected problems.

On the day of Move-in, I was told that “your name is not on the dorm list”. It was no use showing the staff  the relevant declaration form and the move-in  email that I had received. Instead of figuring out a good solution, they just asked me to email Student Life. After an hour or so of going back and forth between Tower 2 and Tower 4, I finally moved into the dorm, carrying my four suitcases. Afterwards I found out that many international students had suffered similar experiences — they have been told that their names had been removed from the dorm list when they returned, which was confusing and distracting.

The day after school started, I went to apply for a transfer visa. However, the immigration office in Shanghai did not recognise the passport I had signed in Taipei, and one of the staff members was very condescending, just repeating that my passport could not be recognized without explaining why. I spent the whole afternoon trying to solve the problem and was worried that I would be deported, but fortunately, later I was accompanied by a staff member from Student Life to apply for a new passport in Shanghai and the dust finally settled.

Looking back on the journey, actually I was prepared for the hassle before I decided to go back to Shanghai. But other unexpected things such as not being able to move into the dorm, the passport issue and so on, really messed with my mind.

2. Stephanie from NYC to London to Shanghai

On November 4th, 2020, coincidentally my 21st birthday and the best birthday present ever, I landed in Shanghai after being away for nearly 11th months. My Chinese teacher at the time, Bi Jinghong, thought that it would be fun if I documented the process and made a vlog. I had never made a vlog before, but knew that this was going to be quite the trip and a perfect time to start.

(Stephanie’s vlog about flying from NYC to Shanghai)

The trip from New York to Shanghai went smoothly. This was back before health QR codes, and I walked through an airport with no less than six hard-copies of my officially stamped health declaration from the Chinese Consulate in New York. Let’s just say – – I was not leaving ANY chances.

Unfortunately, my checked bag did not make it to Shanghai on our flight. Me and my two fellow NYU Shanghai students, Declan and Carter, waited over an hour trying to figure out where it might have gone which I think consequently got us the short end of the straws for the quarantine hotel. My nickname for it quickly became “Motel 6.”

(Stephanie with her friends on the plane)

As I write back on my experience in quarantine nearly 4 months later, I have difficulty remembering the fine details of it. I am a very experiential person, so since my days were more or less the same for 14 days, I remember going to grab breakfast around 8am when I would wake up. At promptly 11 AM nearly everyday, my lunch would come. 12:30 PM the hazmat suits would appear as they came pounding on my door for the temperature check. 5:30 PM, I would get the final knock for the day as my dinner arrived.

There were two exceptions to this monotony, however, which made the time bearable. The first night, I received a care package from Milly and Lili from Student Life sending me things like soap, shampoo, underwear, and changes of clothes since I would have to wait four days for the next flight from London to come with my suitcase. On the third day, some of my dear friends, Etienne, Wenxin, and Qilin, came to visit us through the window from the street below our 3rd floor room. They also came with gifts. I was so overcome by emotion seeing them. I had been away from Shanghai for so long; one of my favorite cities in the world with some of my favorite people in the world. It was only in this moment, seeing them, that I felt as though I was truly back. Everything up to that point, the stress of gathering all the paperwork, obtaining the visa, the COVID tests, the airports, it didn’t quite seem real as we were trying to accomplish the impossible in our journey back to Shanghai. When I saw them, it was finally real. 

Fourteen days after arriving in Shanghai, we were released to our next holding cell: self-isolation. Since we were the only international students in all of China to be allowed back in Shanghai, and I was among the first ten, we were given special ruling by the SHanghai government that we needed to complete an additional week of self-monitoring. From the school, we were given two rules: don’t go to school, don’t see your friends. Logically, where would the school give us accommodations? The closest physical property to the University that we were not even supposed to look at. At least the school absorbed the cost for the week.

Twenty-one days after landing in Shanghai, we were finally free. Once again, me and my traveling companions gathered for the last segment of our journey: the dorms. The first person that I was able to hug outside of Declan and Carter in Shanghai was one of my first-year students (I was an Orientation Ambassador), Roccio. It was completely coincidental that she happened to be walking out of Tower 3 as I was walking to Tower 4, but I am so glad that she did.

(Thanksgiving message board at NYU Shanghai)

The next day was Thanksgiving. I hadn’t even realized it, but November was spent in two rooms, and I didn’t even realize the holiday was coming up until it arrived. The school hosted a marvelous Thanksgiving dinner, and I was finally reunited with many, many friends and greeted with so many open arms and smiles. It was surreal seeing so many people in the cafeteria all together in one place that night after coming from the United States where, at the time, no more than five to ten people were recommended to gather together. I had much to be thankful for that Thanksgiving.

(Thanksgiving at NYU Shanghai)

Much like the international students who were unable to return home to their homes and families for the December holidays, many of our Chinese friends were also unable to return home for the Lunar New Year. I know how important the holiday is for those who celebrate it, so I wanted to make it as special as possible for my roommate, Kexin. I surprised her with some decorations (春联)the morning of 除夕。 We planned a glorious layout of traditional new year dishes such as fish and dumplings and made many other things as well. We, along with our suitemates, watched 春节晚会 together, rotated our 福 (福到了),and played 麻将 through the night.

(the decorations(春联) I made)
(年夜饭)

Fast forward to today, February 2021, life in Shanghai is amazing. I have the opportunity to play soccer almost everyday, I can explore the city at my leisure, I have found an internship for the spring, I am able to attend classes in-person, and my friends in Shanghai do not have to fear the threat of COVID. I am so happy to be back, and truly hope that everyone else still trying to return is able to do so as swiftly and safely as possible.

This article was written by Jie Min currently based in Shanghai, China. Please send an email to mj2456@nyu.edu to get in touch.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

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