Photo Credits: Talitha Lewis
Although students have been out of lockdown since the beginning of June, Covid continues to heavily influence the lives of the students that remain on campus in the JinQiao dorms. With the semester wrapping up while still in the midst of lockdown, finals week and the weeks that followed were hectic as students packed their belongings in brown boxes and made arrangements to return home. The termination of the lease for the Jinyang dorms brought another wave of students to JinQiao at the end of May. At the beginning of June, students who had returned home during lockdown were finally able to return to the dorms to collect the belongings they left behind. While some students chose to stay in the dorms for summer classes or internships, for international students who were lucky enough to make it to Shanghai, staying in the dorms seems like the only logical option; going home would risk the possibility of being unable to return, not to mention having to go through the tedious quarantine process again. Mandatory quarantine upon entry of places outside Shanghai has also made traveling within China more difficult.
Once all of the movement of the first weeks passed life at the dorms became fairly quiet. The lack of most of the student body is the most noticeable difference from living in the dorms during the normal semester. This is even more apparent this summer as students are staying in singles throughout the three towers to reduce contact in case of any Covid infections. Although she admits that “having the kitchen to myself is pretty nice,” Sarah Walker shares that the isolation can be challenging at times as she is the only one living on her floor and not aware of anyone living on the floor above or below her own.
For Sophia Johnson, the reduced number of students has made the environment a lot more relaxing and peaceful. Especially with the hot weather, she notes how she has had “a lot more fun going out and then coming back and hanging in the dorms.” Having worked it out with residential life to move into a bigger room next door to her old one, Johnson expressed contentment with having “a little more space to work with” to have friends over and really make it her own.
Whether going out or staying in, the location of the dorms is, as Johnson puts it, “exquisite”. With a subway station located very close to each entrance of the compound, Walker notes the ease at which you can “get connected to the most populated areas of Shanghai.” She also cites the local Aldi’s, Family Mart, street food market, and shopping center as locations which are convenient for those living on campus during summer. On the placement of the dorm towers, Johnson also adds how the proximity of having all three dorm buildings right next to each other “help solidify it’s a community” among the few that are left.
Although overall very convenient, life at the dorms is not without its inconveniences. Depending on the tower and floor level, students have hadvarious experiences with mold, mosquitoes, and leaky air conditioners. The humidity of Shanghai’s summer provides conducive conditions for the growth of mold on the walls and ceiling. For Walker, the mold was a recurring issue in the room that she recently moved out of. When she first noticed the mold on her ceiling and behind her wardrobe, she reached out to the working staff who simply wiped the mold away with the gloves in their hands. Within the first 12 hours she noticed the mold starting to grow back. The same pattern continued for a few weeks until the staff came and sprayed the whole room with bleach. To make matters worse, Walker’s air conditioner leaked water, adding to the humidity of the room. Until the staff came and fixed the problem, Walker recounted how she would leave a bucket out every night and wake up to find that it had overflowed by morning. Through all of this, however, Walker has found that the working staff have been “extremely helpful and trying to resolve any issues I have had.”
When asked if the Shanghai dorms feel like home, Johnson shares how she feels that she has to see it that way given that she, along with most international students, will be in Shanghai for an extended period of time due to Covid restrictions. Johnson believes that many “underestimate how important it is to feel safe in your own space” but with the help of the people she has met, she has found that safe space in the dorms she now calls home.