Isabel Staccuneddu and Mariah Lin

Recorded January 14, 2021 Archived January 14, 2021 38:55 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddv000463


Isabel Staccuneddu (25) speaks with her friend and colleague Mariah Lin (23) about their experiences on the Wellesley-Yenching Teaching Fellowship in Nanjing, China, and navigating their lives as teachers and friends during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Subject Log / Time Code

I recalls having to stop her fellowship in China abruptly and leave M there. M says she misses coming home and seeing the lights on and having I around.
They discuss how things have changed in their lives since the pandemic began and how it’s impacted their teaching, in terms of grading and being fully present with students.
I and M reflect on how these experiences have changed their impressions of teaching as a career path. They share some of their favorite student projects.
M shares that it’s been difficult to plan anything for the future, and talks about the mental strain of reading the news. M and I speak about dealing with loneliness and mourning unfulfilled plans during these times.
M recalls some of their favorite memories of being together in Nanjing and shares that the neighbors still ask how I is doing.
I and M talk about planning the students’ upcoming finals and their plans for the weekend. M and I reflect on the push for normalcy during these times and dealing with anxiety.
M and I recall their first meeting in Nanjing after some travel delays and share some of their favorite memories of traveling together. I recalls her glasses falling off of her face into a bowl of soup.
M speaks about being back in Nanjing and doing the same things without I feeling that things aren’t the same.
I tries to recall a moment that was “peak pandemic.” I remembers the first day of Shelter in Place, March 13th, 2020. I says this was probably the height of everyone being on the same page about the Pandemic. M remembers I being concerned about people back in the small villages they’d visited and sending thermometers for them.
They express gratitude to each other and close.


  • Isabel Staccuneddu
  • Mariah Lin

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:02 Hello, my name is Isabelle. I am 25 years old and say is January 14th 2020. I'm on Long Island New York and Mariah is my interview apartment and she is my friend and colleague.

00:22 Hi, my name is Mariah. I'm 23 years old. Today is January 14th, 2021. I'm in Nanjing China and my interview Partners Isabel and we are friends and colleagues.

00:44 So

00:46 So do we spell Tori with doing today as well? Yeah, alright, so I just woke up and you've already had like a whole day and then

01:04 I'm sitting in our list are office space that you haven't seen yet because we did we moved to a new a new place after the pandemic.

01:17 On February 1st, 2020 feels like a very fateful day, and yes, I haven't been back and it's going to be a year first about was supposed to be to your fellowship. So tomorrow.

01:36 What's on the 1st?

01:40 20/20. Wow, I think I noticed it more when.

01:51 Because we all used to live together with another fellow named Asuma and I notice it more when when I like go home at night and I walk up and the lights are off because we live on the third floor.

02:06 And used to be like the lights are always on but but because I'm the only one living there. It's ya that those are times when I when I miss you guys the most

02:16 Yeah, whenever I do activities, I would normally be group activities like eating lunch or

02:28 Clamming license they feel extra lonely because I know I'm supposed to be doing them in a group on Long Island. So that's when it feels like extra like that. We're not all together.

02:48 Yeah, and especially now.

02:51 How do you how have you been?

02:55 Adjusting to like greeting finals this week because

03:00 It's been such a long semester and

03:05 And also the time zone and you know collecting assignments and all that.

03:11 Good question.

03:14 I think that.

03:19 Then I got as present as an instructor as just because like being remote and also like everyone else going on the United States feels like everyday is

03:34 They're like new things to bruise yourself on and new things to be outraged about and things are making us.

03:46 So I think like that's definitely infected.

03:51 My

03:54 Which I am available to students compounded with the time difference makes me extra hard.

04:10 Yeah, just still so I think that's like reflecting on semi-finals grading to like I said because

04:21 I just I don't feel comfortable like assigning like really strict grading policies or like really high expectations because I smile and expectations for myself have not been what they usually are. So I think it's more about just like blacks and giving people the benefit of the doubt. How do you think it's affected you? Yeah.

04:47 Well before I talk about that, I just wanted to say like I reach each many of the same students and

04:56 You know, sometimes they mention you in class, but they they always say how much they love your class. Even the ones this semester. I lost most of which were both online. And so I don't think they don't feel at all that you haven't been present. They actually really enjoy your classes in a lot of them are looking forward to the ones next semester even though I like even though we kind of know at least it'll start remote. I'm still holding on to hope that you'll come back which is maybe I shouldn't but but yeah, I still I still imagine that day. We have very similar teaching philosophies and I think we talked about this a lot when you know, we have our random chats here and there or one like I text you about you know, how my day went in that.

05:46 Even though I'm in China and even though I'm back in the classroom, I still feel the toll of the pandemic on the students and I I feel it on myself to until I even though I'm in the classroom. Sometimes I hop I apologize to them and I'm like, I'm sorry. I'm not really present.

06:07 It's also hard. It's it's the completely not fair like we were in the situation because like the government has abandoned us and that's like falling that's not a witch outside calling you and

06:35 It's

06:37 There's really no other way to feel about it other than just awful and

06:44 And it really helps that we we talked in me texts about it from time to time, but I think actually until right now I haven't actually put my feelings into words. I haven't told anyone play. Sometimes I feel like a terrible teacher.

07:01 Because

07:03 I don't know how to describe it like it's just

07:07 Like a tattoo not be present. It makes me feel terrible. But but at the same time, you know, you always remind me to be like that. We're doing the best we can and so yeah, I was actually reading through I did like this little exit interview exercise to get a sense of what students thought about the class and I think it was real. This was like 2 weeks ago and I got some really negative comments from a few people and I think that's that's what what kind of was hard for me. But but I remember texting you at that time and you like you always do you yesterday that we were just doing the best I could

07:47 And we are. We're also I think it's important to remember. We're not trained teachers. And anyway, like we're really doing the show by Arthur. I mean, that's fine. It's like what the program is and it's a great opportunity for us to learn but also like

08:15 We wig like

08:19 We haven't even like scratch the surface of like what is possible in the classroom and that's okay. Like that's like what we were not expected to like be able to do everything because we'll go to school for like years to be able to do that. And we liked each for like a decade before they're like, you know, maybe even accelerate that process buy a lot more doing it like fire so so

08:50 Do you feel like the past year-and-a-half has pushed you in the direction of teaching?

09:04 Yeah, it's just some.

09:07 Another life like really been doing a lot of this the last year, but it is nice to be able to support a student from like start to finish on a project again. Like I haven't been

09:25 You have butt and I do think like I'd like to explore the relationship and

09:42 Saudi a lot that draws me to teacher as a career, I like actually like learning

09:56 That's really exciting. But I was talking to a student of yours. I had a year ago and they were talking about your story book project and I actually really enjoyed it. So I think even though you can't be hear you they feel connected to your class in the material and I think that's a really important thing at least they're like learning and they're really engaged in it.

10:25 I really I actually remember when you first did that type of project when we first got to the Nanjing before the whole pandemic and to see that the things they turned in and how proud they were created at work best for that. Great.

10:55 So now it's the last semester was like hard for you because you had to like transition halfway hard for Libras like halfway through and so thinking of next semester know you'll be there for the whole semester. Like, is there something that's maybe like you're looking forward to or he can that I don't know. Maybe you're worried about I don't know. What are your thoughts on?

11:26 Yeah.

11:29 It sounds kind of silly. Silly butt.

11:36 I'm actually scared to make plans for the future. That sounds very dark. But I mean it in the sense that like

11:45 So much is uncertain that I have. I'm honestly scared to you know, sit down and think about

11:52 How a whole semester along because I'm afraid that something will happen with covid-19, you know something like what happened last Brain will will happen again, but I think a lot of that is because

12:04 Take my family is in California. And so like as I need to tell myself that I should stop reading the news, but it it's been it's kind of hard. And so I think there's I haven't actually thought about that, but I'm but I'm really excited to be teaching a new class on British and American short stories, and I actually am going to teach a book that you Utah before called The House on Mango Street residents.

12:45 Yeah, it's official.

12:49 Like

12:51 I realized what I can do mine, but it feels decadent to plan for a whole lot happier in advance. So

13:06 I don't know it's hard to.

13:17 Well, I know for a fact that I'll be doing a lot of the sitting in our office or like in cafes by myself greeting and and

13:30 Reading student where I can find classes and that and I know that will also still support each other like over you no texting and phone calls and things like that, but I know that I'll be alone and I think I'm it's funny because that's actually one of the scariest things that

13:49 I was most afraid of let me know before we even started the fellowship. I was like, I don't know anyone and I'm cheating and

13:59 You know, we had a mad and I didn't know what it would be like to to live and work together, but

14:09 Also, like how the stations also like

14:13 Being

14:15 Back here and like in the US and

14:20 Yeah. Yeah. I just I also feel.

14:25 So I am sure you on that.

14:32 How have you dealt dealt with that? I honestly I haven't like I was reflecting.

14:41 On like

14:44 Greatness extra corn sauce and I a lot of

14:50 Things about the pandemic lights was my first time like really thinking about I guess I've been trying to like

14:56 Ocean massage and just kind of like keep looking forward which is not healthy, but it's tempting.

15:06 No, I mean that your uncle living through it. So.

15:12 Yeah, and

15:15 And I remember my last bring.

15:20 Like was it hard for you to adjust being back in the United States? So suddenly and without plan because we were supposed to be going to Hainan then or for vacation time traveling.

15:44 Stop it. I don't know if it was like hard to adjust to being the United States, but it was only hard to accept the fact that like

15:55 The seal so

15:58 Like silly in the grand scheme of things but

16:03 Did like it was really sad play.

16:08 Admit, like I'm not returned to China like this like to your commitment I make it is like a 3-month commitment and

16:19 X-Play

16:22 . Upsetting but I thought was like before I knew there was going to be a vaccine and stuff. So.

16:30 There's like hoping renewed.

16:35 But that first coming back was not fun.

16:42 I think it's possible. You might still come back in some way in some shape or form. I hope so I think about that like that every day because it's funny your shoes and all your belongings. I see your shoes outside on the shoe rack outside.

17:01 Pennsylvania

17:08 Yeah, it's it's hard to like all of my memories in Nanjing or like with you. So every time like I think of you and getting to know when and how about like really abruptly.

17:30 But it was all we did. I think we did a lot in the time that we were there. We had a lot of good memories and I don't know if this is the right word for it like it was very easy.

17:45 We we got lost like we got lost on our first couple of days here and it was fun, but we made friends with people.

17:52 Michael we would get jumping and dumplings easy dumplings and the people of the community members still still remember you and every time I walk by there like, where's your friend? Okay.

18:21 I just know that I have two years together it would have been.

18:30 The best of us to your lover like good time together.

18:41 I mean can also we won't be able to travel together in the future and you know who's to say that we won't live.

18:49 In a different country or together. We have no idea what the I think it happened.

19:17 So, how are you planning on spending your day today?

19:24 I haven't done so for each, you know, how for each.

19:29 Final yeah, I feel like download the final they have to make a rubric for it with the students ideas name. I don't have to do that. So I haven't made any of the rubrics yet. I just walked in keeping tabs in like on a separate paper of like what you shouldn't have to go in today.

20:02 Yes, no, I

20:05 Also, like because we both can't read Chinese very well.

20:11 Just making sure we don't mess up on the characters and the other ideas on the name.

20:18 And also because we have so many students.

20:28 What how are you going to tomorrow is Saturday snow?

20:43 You know what the hearts and Holly just letting your Friday.

20:52 You know, it's funny because I am going to be doing the exact same thing as you and I can just imagine you doing it because you know, we do we done it together before tomorrow. I think I'm going to go to that Cafe. We used to go to Shanghai Road and you know, just just sit there and

21:14 And get it done. We still have some time but but yeah, I don't feel rushed for some reason, but maybe I should finally.

21:27 I'm taking my cues from Lab. Yeah, I have.

21:35 They're probably tired and struggling as well.

21:43 We talked about this like a couple months ago, I think about like how you were finding happiness in your everyday life. And I think at the time it was like

21:55 When I fall and you said that you would make like it up pumpkin spice latte. How do you how do you find Joy like at these days?

22:19 The last leg

22:22 It's just it's so weird that everything has to be normal and on like I'm normal.

22:28 Schedule Wolverton this pandemic

22:34 Low

22:37 Yeah, also applying to grad school is like

22:43 Just taking up a lot of my time and

22:49 So that's like

22:54 Just so long as

23:01 Is that things are?

23:04 Finance

23:06 Easy or not?

23:11 Yeah, that's a good point. I still got a lot with that too.

23:18 Because

23:21 Like Yer things are a bit more normal. I think people at least at least on the surface. They look that way.

23:33 But it's hard for me to explain why I'm still anxious all of the time and night. I can't shake that feeling.

23:42 Because I worry so much about what's going on in the US and my family and friends and it's

23:49 I think I have I even feel like guilty sometimes that I didn't go back, you know when when I could have

23:59 But yeah, like you said there's there's some hope at the end of the tunnel, I guess. What's a vaccine?

24:06 Yeah, I hope.

24:10 It accelerates soon and that everyone that you are thinking of every day and all your loved ones are vaccinated because

24:29 Oh, I mean all of your feelings are

24:33 Understandable and

24:42 I like yeah, I just I can't believe that we're living through this. It's

24:51 Yeah, yeah, you're talking about applying to grad school like despite everything like it's I don't understand it's hard for me to wrap my head around that to ya.

25:03 I don't know if if it's better to to just keep moving as if everything were normal or if like as a society we should is seriously like

25:15 Think about how this is not normal. Like I can't believe the the election are the inauguration this next week.

25:24 And that's everything that's happened just in the last week.

25:34 Oh sure, so.

25:39 Yes, yes, I agree. I think it's

25:46 I think you're right. Like you're you're definitely correct that we should it's never healthy just like ignore things and compartments. Eisenbahn. I agree that we should like I would also like us to take a moment to reminisce on happier times such as the time that we first met. I think that was yeah.

26:14 I actually remember that day very well.

26:20 We were supposed to meet at LAX on the plane. We are on the same on the same flight out of LA to Nanjing Isabella's you were coming from that Isabel. You're coming from New York.

26:42 And like I was waiting for you and then I saw your text about how your plane took off late and I started counting like, you know, there's a three-hour time difference. I was like counting and I was like wait, there's not enough hours until my next flight.

26:58 Yeah, but you actually made it with like 10 minutes to spare and you ran through and through like the tunnel.

27:10 Go to like a animal like 1 to 2 or something and you ran and I remember distinctly like there was still time the flight actually took off early, but they've refused to wait for you.

27:33 Yeah, they were like a fool why I wasn't traveling with you. I think that was very confusing and I was like, no we were here so I got to Nanjing.

27:44 An actual there is like seat open on that white tiles. Like I was imagining. Oh if we had been on it together, but I remember you arrives like maybe half a day later and then meeting you at the entrance of Campus you had your two suitcases and like a backpack.

28:03 And we have to roll them up a very Steep Hill of where we live.

28:09 What the cobblestones is nice though because we have been texting for a couple months before that. Just talking about the fellowship and and planning for it like moving abroad. You know how that was going to go, but it was very helpful and very exciting to get to know you even before we met in person.

28:41 Because I could just tell that we would get along.

28:46 Me too.

28:48 I remember going.

28:50 Where I remember what we got for lunch. I was like so determined to stay awake the whole day and we want for lunch. What's a small-plates restaurant that I can try to get? My Vinci's was like sugar. I think it's like cheese or something like that just like

29:28 Get to know one another.

29:42 Yeah, we had we were all over the world. They will literally now and then

29:51 And then I remember I think it was the day after we got

29:58 We got noodles at that at that place the Halal place.

30:03 I can do that was so good. I would believe it. But I'm so glad you're broke.

30:26 And then the next day we went to go get glasses.

30:31 And you taught me how to say Twila means broken?

30:41 They actually went there last week to get to get my glasses fixed and they they they remembered us. So I guess I'm

30:55 I'm glad they're well.

30:57 What are ya what are some of your most favorite memories?

31:04 From our life here

31:14 I honestly like I remember a lot of it like pretty well, which would only have a great memory but

31:24 It's just that it was so everyday was great. I think some of my favorite memories is

31:38 Our holiday celebrations like when we get like a big potluck.

31:45 And also at the visiting lecturer was there with us. Yes, that was fun to write and

32:05 Honestly, like those cold mornings were we like solar sleepy and we like like McDonald's and we're like

32:19 Yeah, it's just like a little things that stick out like that sharing a little in the canteen and debriefing artemis's when those feel like the most precious.

32:33 What about you?

32:36 For me to

32:41 Like the little things especially we would take the bus like things that were seem like so far away these days it would take the bus for an hour.

32:52 And then I remember that time we went hiking for like 7 hours, even though we both kind of didn't want to do it and then we got to the top and it was it was not clear but it felt great. I felt like we had accomplished something and I felt like we saw all of Nanjing that day from from the top down.

33:13 Absolutely.

33:15 Yeah, I feel like that for me personally. I kind of like stretched.

33:19 But like I thought I was capable of like I could do was a type like that and Associate and you did it and we had great company, LOL.

33:31 And yeah.

33:36 Yeah, so I also think about the little moments and it's funny because I do I feel like since I've been back in Nanjing so not a couple months. I do the same same things that

33:48 We used to do together.

33:52 And I see the same people and yeah, it's that's that's been.

33:59 It's very interesting. Cuz when I do things alone if they are as fun, but I don't think I realized you know, that was why they were fighting before just Monday and time.

34:10 Like getting over a thousand other and be like, hey, let's go for a walk. Like I really like movies employees in there as nice as a bird. I just want

34:39 But it's not the same and it's probably how everyone feels but.

34:57 So I know we're still living living through this. But what were some of your what's a moment that was like pandemic for you?

35:16 That's a hard question cuz I think maybe

35:26 Like that first day of shelter-in-place March 13th when everybody kind of

35:39 Was on the same not everybody but that would ever be on the same page about it. We're on the same page and Collective sounds alike.

36:03 Yasso

36:07 March was like when you know the United States recognize and I think that for me I think it was actually in early February when I was in Hainan and like things shut down and I was with relatives that I hadn't seen him like 18 years, but they're you know for me I have never felt more lonely, but I just wanted to say like in that moment you are still so.

36:33 You are still there for me, and I appreciate it so much.

36:38 Because I remember being in this tiny village in this rule place and they didn't have thermometers and you were the first one to be like, how can I contribute? How can I help?

36:51 How can we make sure like thermometers got there so they can at least like, you know know if people are.

36:58 At what temperature I need to seek help.

37:01 And the thermometers came and it's they reached this a very well-known puppy with population of older citizens and India. I made sure to talk to show them pictures of you. I don't know if I'll be able to go back during the Lunar New Year this year because you know, that's the new mutation and you know coveted reading a bit here, but

37:29 But for sure if I if I do out I will I will send them show some pictures of how you're doing and hopefully this.

37:43 I got I just want to.

37:47 CA

37:49 Thank you for being my friend and for being always so honest and so yourself and sometimes it's really hard to connect over text.

38:03 Because you can only get like as much as like each other rights or like I feel like we're being honest with each other and

38:16 Yeah, I know.

38:23 Your texts are a highlight to my to my days.

38:28 You're a great listener. Thank you. Mariah.

38:35 How much is it to chat today? At least you know, I want ya. Thank you for speaking with me today Ryan.

38:53 I had some.