I am currently on Day 10 of my 14-day quarantine in Shanghai. The last ten days have gone by very slowly, there really isn't much to do when I can't leave the hotel room. I am very excited to be getting out soon and moving onto the next hotel. My current plan is to leave the hotel after the fourteen days and then stay at another hotel in Shanghai, that a bunch of other Schwarzman Scholars have recommended, for another 7 days to complete my medical observation period. After I finish that, then I will be able to take the train from Shanghai to Beijing, where I will spend another 7 days in a hotel in Beijing under medical observation before I can finally enter the college and move into my dorm. This whole process is quite complicated and at any particular moment there are dozens of things that could throw a wrench in the plans, so each day brings its own adventures.
During my ten days in the quarantine hotel I have had quite some interesting experiences. From attempting to eat the hotel meals, which are, how should I say, not my favorite, to trying to order a permanent SIM card for my phone, to attempting to use my credit card to order delivery, to my daily temperature check-up phone calls, I have been challenged to use my very very limited Chinese vocabulary, and it rarely goes well.
The food has been the most interesting part of my time in the hotel. They bring us food at 8:00 AM, 12:00 PM, and 5:00 PM everyday and it is pretty much consistently the same kind of thing: rice, vegetables, a meat (though usually it is fish), a soup, and an additional meat/vegetable. On the first day or two, I had some good meals but after a while it got pretty bland and the meat is usually not the best quality. I was extremely fortunate to have packed tons of snacks, like protein/granola bars, instant ramen noodles and various crackers to help me get through these two weeks. I was advised that there was no way to know if delivery would be available, so don't count on it, which is why I packed so much. However, my hotel does have delivery. It took me a while to figure out how to use the delivery app. I got my first delivery last night as a special Saturday night treat; however, the one downside is that it takes so long to get the food. The delivery took about 30 minutes, which is pretty normal for food delivery, but then it sat in the lobby of the hotel for about 50 minutes before it was delivered to me, which meant that the food was not exactly hot when it got to me. Regardless, I was glad to have ordered food because it was a fresh change of pace from the food I have been getting at the hotel.
I am really looking forward to when I leave the quarantine hotel and head into medical observation. Even though there are restrictions about the kinds of things we can do and see, it will still be cool to be able to walk about and enjoy the city. Also, day 15 in Shanghai is the day before my birthday, so I will get to spend my birthday out of quarantine and I've been talking with some other scholars here and I am sure we will come up with something fun to do.
I have arrived in China!!! After 16+ hours of air time, my flight from DFW to Shanghai finally made it, but I wasn't prepared for the long journey to get out of the airport. Airports are not anyone's favorite system to navigate, whether it be the process of getting there to board or the process of departure, especially in an international terminal. But during COVID and in a place as strict as Shanghai, the process was not fun to say the least. When our plane arrived at the Shanghai airport gate, we were told we needed to wait on the plane until an airport team in PPE gear could come through and take everyone's temperature, no big deal right? Well turns out the airport didn't have enough staff so we had to wait about 30 minutes for enough staff members to do a temperature sweep of the plane, then we finally were able to exit the airplane, but only in small groups.
From then on it was impossible to get lost, no really. Big plastic walls blocked us off into narrow passage ways and we only had one direction, straight forward. After walking for quite a while and making it through about half-a-dozen checkpoints where our health QR codes were checked, I finally arrived at the testing site. Despite being tested 48 hours before the flight at a Chinese government approved lab in Dallas, we had to be tested with nasal and oral swab tests at the airport, which was not fun at all. Next I entered the section for people not intending to stay in Shanghai. My program is in Beijing; however, no international flights are allowed to the capital because of fear of COVID outbreaks, so instead I must remain in Shanghai for a short time before heading onto Beijing. It was here that I filled out all my documents and was assigned to a quarantine hotel in Shanghai.
After four hours at the airport, I finally boarded the bus the quarantine hotel, which was another hour-and-a-half away from the airport. After the long trip I finally made it to the quarantine hotel and am now beginning my 14 day quarantine in the hotel. During this time, I am not allowed to leave my room, aside from opening the door to pick up my food, deposit trash, or report for testing and temperature checking my staff in PPE. It will be interesting to see what I can do to keep myself busy during these 14 days. Luckily, orientation is set to begin on Monday so I will have an opportunity to virtually meet people in my program and share stories about our quarantine experiences. There are already dozens of Schwarzman Scholars scattered all over Shanghai and the rest of China in various stages of quarantine and medical observation.
I can officially announce today that I have been named a Schwarzman Scholar for the 2021-2022 academic year. The Schwarzman Scholarship is a one-year fully-funded masters program at Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. I will be pursuing a Master of Management Science in Global Affairs with an emphasis in Science and Technology Public Policy. This is an awesome program and I encourage anyone interested to read about the program on their announcement as well as the press release that SMU wrote about the award.
I began working on my application for several national fellowships last fall with Dr. Rachel Ball-Phillips at SMU, who is the director of SMU's national fellowship office. During this process, I decided to apply for the Schwarzman because it provided two unique opportunities for me: to continue my study of the chinese language in an immersion setting and to pursue a degree that explored how I can use my background in science for communication and policy. I have always been interested in speaking about the role that science plays in society, and I have realized how important it is for future researchers and scientists to understand the policy-making process as well as how to convey science to the public, government officials and corporations. The Schwarzman Scholars Program offers all these opportunities and more and I am so very excited to embark on this adventure next August when I leave for China.