Basics of the Quarantine Experience, Returning to NYUSH

Students all over the world have been immensely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in various ways, whether it be continuing to study solely online or by navigating complex regulations in returning to campus. For NYU Shanghai students in particular, the situation has proven itself to become a very complex one. The Chinese government's approval for our students to return in October has allowed for some fortunate students to travel back to China. However, the process to return to campus is not as easy as it used to be. Instead of simply walking out the airport doors to return to Shanghai life, one must complete an intense 14-day quarantine and 7-day self-monitoring period. These quarantine regulations seem pretty simple on paper, but take on a much more entirely complicated and difficult process in reality.

With the Chinese government and NYUSH’s approval for students to begin returning to Shanghai, some have successfully returned and completed their required quarantine. The return is not an easy one though, as the process of submitting paperwork, visa applications, health declaration forms, testing for COVID, and finding suitable affordable flights is more than difficult. Here is what to expect and how to navigate quarantine in Shanghai.

Once one is able to jump through the logistical hurdles of flying to Shanghai, they find themselves placed in an unfamiliar maze of a strictly locked-down airport. The second you step off the plane, you find yourself surrounded by workers in hazmat suits. Everyone must visit a series of checkpoints with approved paperwork, one of which includes an intense nasal swab in both nostrils. If you test negative, then hearing no news at the hotel is good news; they will only contact you about your airport COVID test if you test positive. Do not expect to hear anything. You will also be scanning some QR code forms, so make sure your phone is charged and ready. If you do not have a Chinese phone number working when you return, make sure to have one prepared for the airport forms. Some students have used their Chinese roommates or friends numbers to get them through the checkpoints where a working phone number is needed. If you need a contact, use David Pe’s phone number: +862102595312. After getting through the airport security checkpoints, you’ll find yourself at the Pudong hotel transfer table. Here you will wait a couple of hours for a shuttle that will escort you to a specific quarantine hotel of their choosing. Since you will be navigating through the airport for a long time, make sure to bring any food and water with you (and use the restroom before exiting the plane).

After what may seem like too many hours at the airport, next you’ll find yourself in a random hotel lobby. Checking in at the randomly assigned hotel can be hard due to the language barrier, so make sure to have Google Translate ready or your Chinese skills. At check-in you will receive some instructions (usually an English copy is provided) on rules and information regarding the hotel’s quarantine procedure. Make sure to read these thoroughly, as a lot of important info on payment and release approval is noted here. For example, the instructions or staff should remind you that on day 12 or 13, you will do another COVID test before you’re allowed to leave on day 14 (you are allowed to leave at the exact time you arrived). Some hotels do a nasal swab, while the more lucky hotels only may give you a throat swab. If your hotel staff has a WeChat account, make sure to add this (or specifically ask them) so that you can message them for any questions that may come up. This way, you can translate the messages and not worry about speaking Chinese over the phone.

Some of the basic 14-day quarantine rules that apply to almost all the hotels include temperature checks twice a day (either self-monitored OR staff will visit you twice a day), meals three times a day (most hotels do not allow any food delivery, only some packaged products), and of course no leaving the room at any time.

Some of the basic 14-day quarantine rules that apply to almost all the hotels include temperature checks twice a day (either self-monitored OR staff will visit you twice a day), meals three times a day (most hotels do not allow any food delivery, only some packaged products), and of course no leaving the room at any time. The most important rule is checking your temperature twice a day; be prepared for instructions as every hotel does this differently. You may have to self monitor your temperatures on a sheet and submit it twice a day to a QR code. One should try to set alarms for this so you do not forget. It is your ticket out of quarantine, along with your negative COVID results. The hotel will give you a mercury thermometer to check this, be careful not to drop it. Other hotels and students have had the staff come to their doors twice a day to check. It just depends on where you end up.

A lot of NYUSH students so far have mentioned that the hardest aspect of quarantine was the food situation. The meals provided by your hotel will most likely not be very appetizing or filling, so it is highly recommended to bring some snacks in your luggage. If you have a specific dietary requirement (note vegetarian meals are offered), be even more cautious on this! Another common complaint of students quarantine experiences is the cleanliness of the rooms. Remember, most of these hotels are not fully staffed, and nobody will come to clean your room during the 14 days. Therefore, bring cleaning materials or be prepared to order some to your room, as packaged objects and some foods may be allowed to be dropped off at your door. You may also leave your trash outside the door for them to collect.

During my quarantine experience, the hotel only provided one towel, a roll of toilet paper, and a soap bar for the entire time. Make sure you bring enough toiletries to at least last you the 14 days, or you’ll find yourself stressing over delivering to your room. Lastly, another challenging aspect of quarantine for many students has been wifi connection issues. Specifically at my hotel, the wifi barely worked. If you find yourself with the same problem, send Student Mobility an email and they’ll deliver a small portable wifi box as soon as possible to your hotel. I received mine the same day I sent an email out.

Being prepared ahead of time will make the quarantine experience easier, as your jet-lagged exhausted self will not appreciate any more stress during the process. Not only is quarantine physically exhausting to get settled into, but also mentally challenging. There are many WeChat quarantine group chats, so make sure to reach out to students who have already been through the process to get any support you may need. It may be hard knowing after the 14-days you still have to do another 7-days self monitoring for the school, but just know it all goes by pretty quickly.

Quarantine in China may be an unforgettable and difficult experience to get through alone, but remember you are one day closer to returning back to campus and normal Shanghai life.

This article was written by Madison Eberhardt currently based in Shanghai, China. Please send an email to to get in touch.

Photo Credit: Chatham House

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