January 24th, 2020, was a Friday and the Chinese New Year Eve. I was eating home-made dumplings while watching the replay of the New Year’s Gala with friends at a classmate’s apartment. Dumplings and the Chinese National New Year’s Gala are two critical elements for celebrating the Chinese New Year. However, 2020 was not like any year before. Besides enjoying our favorite C-pop stars’ performance, we were also weeping because a lot of people did not have the chance to see or even talk to their family and friends. Patients and healthcare workers were stuck in hospitals. I ignorantly thought this would be under control soon after witnessing the continuously increased confirmed cases in front of my laptop’s screen. I thought I could still go home during spring break. Two weeks later, Chicago confirmed its first case: an old couple who just came back from Wuhan. Back then, COVID-19 wasn’t called COVID-19. People called it “The Wuhan/Chinese Virus,” “Something like SARS,” and ridiculously “The Kung Flu.” 2020 was the year of the rat, and I was born in the year of the rat. Thus, my year has begun in such an unexpected and confusing way.
Everything else happened pretty fast as well: my flight back to China was canceled; our professors drove back to campus for us to record better quality online classes; dorms needed to be shut down. I was sitting on my tiny chair, and at that moment, it felt like there were thousands of emotions. It was just complicated. I still do not know what would be the exact words to describe how I felt. Fortunately, my aunt and uncle, who live in Indiana, reached out to me and came all the way to Chicago to pick me up. The pandemic did not leave me any notice to prepare. I just packed everything and forced myself to get ready for the indefinite quarantine.
My aunt and uncle took good care of me in Indiana, but I know that there were people whose lives were almost ruined by COVID-19, or put it in another way, the hatred that COVID-19 raised. Innocent Asians and Asian-Americans were bullied, both physically and mentally. While completing a master’s degree in communication, my desire to serve disadvantaged groups in society became stronger. Admittedly, being an international student in a foreign country is not always filled with positive and happy moments. Stereotypes, racism, xenophobia are social issues that I cannot ignore because they are happening every day. Even though some incidents did not directly affect me, emotional hurt takes me more time to recover. Therefore, as the COVID-19 pandemic began in the states, I initiated a fundraising campaign with a non-profit organization called Children’s Eyes on the Globe to fight against racist acts towards the Asian community and feed healthcare heroes in the Greater Indianapolis Area. Additionally, during my last quarter at Northwestern University, I joined a non-profit organization called Project Global Story to develop its Cultural Competency Model. I researched theories and concepts about anti-racism, privilege, and education as well.
During my first quarter at Northwestern University, Professor Michelle Buck taught us a lesson called Gratitude Exercise. It is a simple practice, which is to be hopeful and grateful no matter how hard your life seems to be at the moment. To value the gain and ignore the loss. To convert the negativity into something positive. Therefore, I am writing this article to thank my family, friends, professors, and everyone who has helped me through the journey. Feeling alone or feeling afraid of the future is expected. Please validate your emotions and be thankful. These emotions can be converted to support, encouragement, and motivation.
Same as everyone, I am still faced with life choices. I had always heard people, including myself, saying, “I wish I knew…”, especially when we encountered obstacles. Indeed, no one can guarantee if other choices would make my life more or less successful. However, thanks to the decisions that I made for me, I grew up bravely and resiliently to become who I am today. I am grateful for not giving up at certain moments, and I am excitedly looking forward to what will come to me in the future.