Transformed by a shared experience of community and lifelong friendships, Alumni of International House NYC carry the I-House Spirit wherever they go. Below, a glimpse into life in California. Check back for more stories across the US.
Laurene Wu McClain ’66 Berkeley, CA (Chinese American)
Occupation: College professor and lawyer
“I’ve been spending this time at home with my husband. We’ve been told to shelter at home and go out only for exercise or essential trips such as shopping for food.
What are the most dramatic shifts that you have observed?
Very few in-person social interactions.
What are you appreciating about your community?
Many public health experts and scientists, and many people who want to help others during this pandemic; since the virus is new, I’m missing clarity regarding how this virus spreads.
Even in the worse of times, my community wants to help, such as volunteering for food delivery and attempts to make life at home more interesting with more Zoom interactions and webinars.
While I know that the United States is known for individualism, my neighborhood is more a model of cooperation. Generally, most people try to cooperate in my community, so we haven’t seen the resistance elsewhere to wearing masks and physical distancing.
People in my neighborhood organized “Help Berkeley,” which has solicited restaurants to offer nutritious food at reasonable costs, and has recruited volunteers to deliver the food for free to people’s homes. The program is meant to help seniors and others who may not be able to buy their own groceries or cook. We’ve been contacting friends who are alone in their homes, just to talk or see if they need help, and we’ve stepped up donations to various nonprofits.
What is the most difficult part of this experience for you?
Probably the most difficult part is not celebrating our grand-daughter’s birthday and graduation from high school since she lives out-of-state.
What is something you have taken away from this experience?
Hearing from family and friends just to talk. Also since many people are spending time at home cleaning house or basically re-introducing themselves to their closets, drawers, and files, I received old pictures from years past, of family that I had never seen before. That’s been terrific!
How are you staying connected to others during this time?
Many Zoom get-togethers for virtual wine tastings, classes and meetings, and virtual lunches. Exercising with our regular aerobics instructor by Zoom where we see the other members of the class.
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