Experiences and insights in year of pandemic

Cai Wenjun Tian Shengjie Chen Huizhi Yang Meiping 兀若凡
For Shanghai locals and expats alike, 2020 has offered unforgettable experiences and memories, a year none of us will ever forget.
Cai Wenjun Tian Shengjie Chen Huizhi Yang Meiping 兀若凡

Pan Huilin

Head nurse at Yueyang Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine’s cardiology department

Pan Hullin left Shanghai for the former epicenter of COVID-19 in Wuhan on January 24 — the eve of Chinese Lunar New Year — part of the first medical team from Shanghai to support the capital city of Hubei Province. She worked in Jinyintan Hospital, a designated hospital for the virus.

“I left Shanghai on the most important day for Chinese, when Lunar New Year's Eve brings families together,” she said. “It was a very tough and challenging task, but it was an honor for me. As a medical professional, I had a very special Spring Festival and have very special memories of 2020.”

Experiences and insights in year of pandemic
Ti Gong

Pan Huilin with a COVID-19 patient in Wuhan

Tang Huan

Head nurse at Yueyang Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine’s intensive care unit

Tang Huan went to support Wuhan Third Hospital along with the third Shanghai medical team on the fourth day of Chinese New Year.

“It was be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Tang said. “I didn’t have a good Spring Festival in 2020, because I was busy preparing for my trip to Wuhan. I hope the pandemic ends in 2021 and everyone smiles after removing their face masks.”

Experiences and insights in year of pandemic
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Tang Huan gives an apple to a COVID-19 patient in Wuhan.

Jiang Kai

Doctor at Yueyang Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine’s geriatric department

Jiang Kai went to Wuhan to support Leishenshan Hospital, a makeshift hospital for COVID-19 treatment, along with a traditional Chinese medicine team.

“We made full use of our skills and expertise to treat each patient,” Jiang said. “I was very busy every day. I relaxed after my shift by video-chatting with my daughter and family. I wrote a letter to my baby girl to express my wishes for her during my stay in Wuhan. If there were another disaster in the future, I would go without any hesitation.”

Experiences and insights in year of pandemic
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Jiang Kai in front of Leishenshan Hospital


A 5-year-old boy suffering from a rare genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy

When Velo was 6 months old, doctors said he wouldn’t live beyond his second birthday. His family is trying their best to help him fight the disease.

“In 2020, there have been negative voices and disputes about SMA in society,” Velo’s father Zou Cheng said. “In 2021, I hope there will be more treatments for the rare disease that people can afford.”

Experiences and insights in year of pandemic
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Velo (center) with his father, mother and sister

Linda Painan

Chairwoman of The Expatriate Center

Linda Painan purchased 20,000 medical masks from Indonesia for front-line medics in Shanghai during the pandemic. TEC held a two-day corporate fair in September, a mental health workshop in November and a Christmas charity gala this month to help local expats.

“The most meaningful event for us at TEC this year was the 3E job fair, which was indeed the true mark of unity in overcoming adversity, as everyone did it with love and passion for the community,” said Painan. “For 2021, let us continue to build a home away from home together.”

Experiences and insights in year of pandemic
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Linda Painan delivers a speech during the Christmas Charity Gala held by TEC on December 19.

Peng Hui

Didi driver and volunteer at Mingtianhuacheng residential complex

Peng Hui inadvertently underwent a two-week quarantine in a Pudong residential complex after dropping off a passenger last month just before new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases were reported in Shanghai. During the lockdown, he became a passionate volunteer who took care of residents, including a 9-year-old boy.

“2020 has been an extraordinary and tough year that disrupted everyone’s life,” said Peng. “The past Spring Festival taught us to cherish our families, health and relationships."

Experiences and insights in year of pandemic
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Peng Hui reunites with his girlfriend after a 14-day quarantine.

Roark Bruce Jones

American student at Shanghai New York University 

Roark Bruce Jones is in his second year studying business and finance as well as Chinese at Shanghai New York University, the only joint Sino-US university in the city.

He said he's had a very good experience at the university, where he's met great people and taken advantage of great resources, especially the language environment.

But things became "crazy" in 2020 due to the complicated China-US relationship, the pandemic and the US presidential election.

"I was in the US at the beginning of 2020, then the semester was cancelled because of the coronavirus," he said. "NYU Shanghai felt the effect of COVID-19 from day one. It was bad. I didn't like it at all. But there was nothing we could do."

Despite the risk, Jones came back to Shanghai to spend Spring Festival with his roommate, a Shanghai native, to experience this important part of Chinese culture. When the situation became serious, his father asked him to return to the US, but he insisted on staying. Later, both father and son realized he made the right choice.

"China put forth policies, quarantines and restrictions to mitigate the effects of the virus," he said. "It worked. Now people can walk around in public. You only have to wear a mask and maintain your safety. I think China did a great job. It's only getting worse in the US and the rest of the world, but we will get through it."

But Jones also achieved a lot in 2020.

"I've learned a lot of Chinese, had a lot of new experiences and grown more than if I were in the US," he said.

Now with the release of vaccines, Jones believes the virus will be under control soon and society will return to normal.

"2020 has been crazy," he said. "I think things will get a lot better in 2021. Political affairs will calm down as will the virus because of the vaccines. In 2020, things went horribly wrong, so 2021 can't be any worse. That's what we have to look forward to."

Experiences and insights in year of pandemic

Roark Bruce Jones

Elena Welsch

German student at Shanghai New York University 

Elena Welsch is a first-year student at Shanghai New York University  studying Chinese and the history of the city, including trees, which she believes is helpful for her, especially during the pandemic.

"I think it's important to understand the culture where you're living," she said. "To understand the culture, you have to understand the landscape, the environment, the people and what people care about." 

She learned about the history of a thousand-year-old maidenhair tree near the NYU Shanghai campus that has survived wars and fires.

"Here you can see with the history of the tree how much it has gone through and how it has been protected by people, which teaches you what they care about," she said. "Shanghai is such a modern, growing city. But I think it's also important to come back to the small things, the simple things that people in Shanghai find important."

She pointed out that it's still difficult for some students to get to the campus due to the pandemic, and many people are unhappy.

"But then to see in Shanghai, a city that has gone through disasters and diseases, people, like this tree, have managed well," she said. "For us students struggling right now, to see a tree that almost died many times is still living lets us know we can be hopeful, we can get through 2020 and 2021 is going to be better for all of us."

Experiences and insights in year of pandemic

Elena Welsch

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