Perspectives: In Their Own Words

Sept. 4, 2020 | Interview by Pema Baldwin | Photo courtesy of Rosa Ma

Rosa reflects on a summer and spring marked by COVID-19, but also looks into the future at what lies ahead.

“I think we knew it would come to the U.S., and we kind of prepared mentally and physically for it, for COVID, but we didn’t expect it to affect our lives greatly — like, that we’d have to leave the States. A lot of stuff happened in our life when we prepared to leave.

For example, I left on March 25th and I bought four sets of different plane tickets just to leave the States and to get back to China, and the expenses were pretty high. We have to transfer either in Korea or Taiwan or, like, Canada and stuff. My plane tickets changed rapidly. Two days before my Taiwan ticket, Taiwan borders shut down the transfer option for mainland Chinese residents, so I had to book another one from Seoul to Shanghai.

Honestly that month, from March to April, was pretty depressing for me and my friends because everything was so packed in our minds. It’s just like, we don’t see a solution to all this. We don’t see an ending to this COVID thing.

I’m kind of gradually accepting the fact that this whole situation will accompany us for maybe five or 10 more years, so yeah. That’s the future I’m envisioning.

I live in Shanghai. It definitely changed a lot from January — the first case — to March when I came back, and then to now. So in January the whole city — everyone had to stay at home for quarantine. Then in March, when I came back, I remember really clearly. I had to go to a hotel for quarantine, just wait for my test results, and then the next morning I got on a bus and got home for stay at home quarantine — 14 days. Everyone’s wearing a mask, and there are not a lot of people on the street.

When I got back, that was the beginning of when people got back to working — by the end of March. Now, because I think the Chinese government just said you can not wear a mask in public, we just started not wearing it, but you still have to wear it on public transportation — on the plane, on the metro, on the bus, stuff like that. And people were really cautious when you coughed in March, but right now you can just say, ‘Oh, it’s allergy season.’ Like, no big deal.

In most of China it has gone back to normal, except in Xinjiang right now. They’re still shut down in quarantine, and we don’t see a lot of that news in China, but we see that stuff on Instagram.

I think the biggest worry right now would probably be if there are more cases in fall and winter, and I think it’s not totally going back to normal, or like our original life, for me because right now, this fall semester, I’m going to a local university in Shanghai. Unfortunately they don’t have a lot of film classes. I only got to choose one — Nordic Cinema — from that school, and all the other classes are marketing, econ, business stuff, but it’s also fine because I want to explore that kind of stuff outside CC because CC doesn’t offer a lot of like marketing classes, so it’s good.

I think it’s like normal life but with caution. We know we still have to be careful with all these things.

In Shanghai the cinema just opened a month ago, and then the government released policies that said you have to sit, like, one person, and then you have an empty seat, and then another person. It’s only 30% of maximum people sitting in the cinema, but then on August 25th, it’s the Chinese Valentine’s day, China, in order to boost their sales, they canceled it, and they just did couple seats, and then three empty seats, and then couple seats. So people are loosening their policies for the economy or for other reasons.

When I left in March, I thought I could come back for fall in September because I thought everything would be much better in the States than right now. In China it took two to three months to free out and clear all the cases, but in the States it’s going a totally different way, so it really surprised me. Right now I don’t think I can come back for the winter semester either, so that’s kinda out of my plan.

Oh, also one thing for me is, because I went to high school in the States, my student visa is for five years, so I’m supposed to renew it this summer. Because of COVID, all the ambassadors and everything happening between China and the States shutting down the embassy, they’re postponing all the visa applications, so I don’t have a U.S. visa right now.

From April until now, the biggest thing I’ve been devoting to, I think, is dance. It’s really amazing because I live between Shanghai and the U.S. Like, I travel a lot, so there’s not a lot of ‘whole’ time for me to actually participate in a crew or meet people for a long time, so this year I actually got into a crew, and I’ve met a lot of amazing people, and I’m able to devote a lot of time to dance, and I’m really happy about it.

The crew I’m in right now is called [laughs] Mix Soul Crew. The category I did before is more jazz, jazz funk, but the leader of this crew is more swag, choreo stuff, so I’m like, ‘I really want to try it.’ So, I joined it and then we went to a few performances and commercial shootings. It’s pretty fun, and we’re planning on maybe opening our own dance studio in two or three years.

Also, I took a lot of time this year, I don’t know if it’s because of sophomore to junior transfer or COVID, but I took a lot of time this year to just think about my future and actually do stuff I want to do, so yeah. It’s pretty great.”

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