Leaving Shanghai During the Lockdown

I left China during the Shanghai lockdown following the success of several other NYU Shanghai international students.

After Vice-Chancellor Lehman announced that classes will be taught remotely for the remainder of the semester, many international students decided to leave Shanghai before the semester ends. As the first wave of international students successfully left, I felt confident in deciding that the best decision for myself would be to leave Shanghai as well. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai, it was very difficult to leave the residence hall and physically get on the flight. Most NYU Shanghai students living in residence halls needed an exit permit from the neighborhood committee arranged by the school, privately booked transportation, a negative Covid test, and, in some destination or transit countries, vaccination records. With the number of steps needed to complete in order to get on the flight, leaving Shanghai was not an easy feat. In addition, there were unexpected obstacles I had to solve along with other NYU Shanghai students also on my flight. This flying experience of escaping Shanghai during the restrictive and uncertain time is abnormal and worth remembering because in the pre-Covid world, international flying was never this difficult or stressful. International flight was never seen as a one-way ticket somewhere. Yet, this journey is another experience that the Covid pandemic affected.

(Source: Ha Vi Do Ngoc)

“I am putting on my shoes as the final step before leaving the residence halls. All my luggage is pre-packed for days now in preparation for leaving. Anything not packed in my luggage or backpack will be left behind and either sold or trashed.”

(Source: Maya Spaulding)

“Maddie Shedd, senior, (right) and I are travel buddies. We share the same private transportation and just finished taking our PCR Covid test at Biotecan. Following the Covid test, we will travel together to the airport.”

(Source: Maya Spaulding)

“Maddie and I arrive at the airport at 9:00 p.m., but the airport staff refuse to let us enter because we do not have a Covid test taken in the past 48 hours. Because of this new policy, Maddie and I waited at this entrance for six hours to receive our Biotecan results.”

(Source: Maya Spaulding)

“Daiane Chen (left) and Rory Madden (right), both sophomores, are making friendship bracelets to pass time. Rory, Daiane, and Catherine Ellison (not pictured) arrive at the airport after 11 p.m. and are denied entry like Maddie and I. We are already friends, so we all sit together, share food, and make friendship bracelets with Rory’s bag of supplies.”

(Source: Maya Spaulding)

“In the airport, the screen with the upcoming flights scheduled displays only two flights out of the dozens of slots available. Pre-Covid, the board would be filled as Pudong is an international airport, but when I pass by there is one flight going to Japan and one flight going to Taiwan. My flight is not listed because the flight time is over 12 hours away.”

(Source: Maya Spaulding)

“An hour before baggage check-in starts, the NYU Shanghai students on my flight line up, so we can try to get through security before other passengers. Check-in starts at 4:00 p.m., but we noticed at 2:30 p.m. people were already lining up. Therefore, we decided to line up at 3 p.m.” 

(Source: Maya Spaulding)

“The sun is starting to set at an empty boarding gate like dozens of other boarding gates except my own. When walking in the airport after security, it feels like a ghost town. There is no one except the passengers on my flight. There are no restaurants or food stalls open. Vending machines are empty and have not been restocked. Even some restrooms are closed off. It is too quiet and not chaotic at all, which is very unusual for an airport this size.”

(Source: Maya Spaulding)

“I am waiting to scan my boarding pass with other passengers in economy class. We are the last group of passengers to board the plane after several delays. I worried about something going wrong with the plane and not being able to leave Shanghai. As I was boarding, the fact that I am leaving and able to leave finally settled in. Very little could go wrong once I scan my ticket and walk in the tunnel.” 

(Source: Maya Spaulding)

“My flight meal is a choice of either Western or Chinese, and I chose the Chinese meal. This is the first semi-real meal I have had in over 24 hours because we could only bring non-perishable snacks to the airport and restaurants are closed. Therefore, this is the first warm food and juice I have had in a long time. Even during lockdown, the meal boxes were never as good as this one meal.” 

(Source: Maya Spaulding)

“My family, Leigh (left), Gigi (center), Keith Spaulding (right), and I are eating Chick-fil-A, a fastfood chain originating from Georgia where I live, as my first meal back in the United States. After landing in San Francisco, I took two connecting flights to Newark and then to Atlanta by myself. My family met me at the airport and took a detour to Starbucks before coming home.” 

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