Belonging in America
An elusive dream

Xinyi Qi


The main emotions that my images talk about are isolation and helplessness. When the COVID-19 pandemic first began sweeping the world, and Rutgers decided to put all of its in-person courses online, after the semester ended I decided to go back to China to be with my parents. But, because of the pandemic, China published a policy that allowed air carriers to fly just once a week, on one route to any country, and foreign airlines to operate just one flight a week to China. So flight prices soared.

Even after ticket prices jumped from about $300 to at least $4,000, it was still extremely difficult to buy a ticket. Many graduates faced the situation of Visa or I20 expiry. Since I was living in the school dorm, if I couldn’t leave before the term ended, I’d also face homelessness. And even if you have booked a ticket, your ticket can be canceled at any time.

In this photo, I am very stressed out, upset and helpless, and homesick. I can’t sleep and I am constantly browsing various websites to try to find a flight. As soon as I’d open my eyes in the morning, I’d check for flights. I just wanted to get home. 

To tell this story, in the foreground of this photo I hang a couple of tickets (or boarding passes). I use a large aperture to focus on my face. There’s a glass door between me and the ticket ahead, to show that I can’t touch the ticket, can’t get it. I just yearn for it.



About Post Author

About the Author

Xinyi Qi

Professor: Nat Clymer
Class: Photojournalism