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Tough choices for Chinese students

By XU LIN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-04-01 07:47
Clockwise from top left: Fu Chong, a student at King's College London, is continuing her studies in the British capital; Chen Ziwen, a student at New York University, has decided to stay in the city; Li Ruolin, who is studying at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, waits for a train as she goes shopping for groceries; Li takes life easy before the pandemic emerged.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Many decide to stay and deal with disease as they continue studying

On March 12, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a speech about his government's controversial approach to develop "herd immunity" against COVID-19.

Fu Chong, 31, a postgraduate student at King's College London, said Chinese students in the United Kingdom became nervous and even panicked after hearing the speech, with many considering returning to China.

"We hesitated over whether to go back to the motherland. We needed to make a really important decision quickly, but many of us had never experienced such an urgent situation," she said.

"We didn't have much time, as it became more difficult and expensive to buy air tickets."

Fu decided to stay in London. Many other students from China have also chosen to remain in the countries where they are studying. Their reasons include a desire to continue their studies, the risk of becoming infected on a flight and difficulty in obtaining air tickets.

Fu said Chinese students who chose to stay in London had organized WeChat groups for mutual help. She has joined several of the groups.

Students keep each other informed about the best places and times to go grocery shopping. Those living in the same building are exchanging supplies of necessities.

WeChat groups have also been organized for those who develop symptoms of the disease but are unsure if they are infected.

The Chinese embassy in London has provided students with health packs, which include medical kits and a guidebook on the pandemic. Fu has applied for a pack online.

She said some of her friends who have returned to China are due to graduate this year. They have disposed of possessions in their dormitories in case they do not return to London.

"Our problem is psychological-as the pandemic is spreading quickly in Europe, it's totally normal for many Chinese students here to feel anxious and unsettled," she said.

Confined voluntarily to her dormitory, Fu is using the time to concentrate on her homework and graduation thesis.

"My everyday life is much the same as before the outbreak, except that the university provides lessons online instead of in classrooms. I have enough to eat and drink, and use face masks for protection," she said.

"Some young British students used to pay little attention to the pandemic, but now they are taking it seriously."

Not everyone has been as fortunate as Fu. In the middle of last month, a Chinese student, surnamed Li, was taken to a London hospital by ambulance after having a high fever for four days.

She spent two nights in the hospital, took a test for COVID-19 and was discharged when her condition improved.

Li is now in good health. She was told that her test result would not be known for 48 to 72 hours, but after two weeks, she has yet to receive it.

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