Chinese students studying abroad face struggles during the epidemic
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Chinese students leaving for the UK the to start their new semester this year. (Photo:

The plans and rhythms of Chinese students studying abroad were disrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic, and many Chinese students who were accepted into foreign universities this year are now rethinking their plans. Amid the pandemic, how will they adapt and continue their academic paths?

Many foreign universities chose to move their classes online.

Xia from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (URJC) in Spain said that her school had closed its campus and arranged classes online. Yoyo, a political studies student at Waseda University, said that online courses have left her busier than she was before.“I barely go out except for groceries."

Freshman Qi An is in China and still plans to go to the UK to study in October, despite concerns. She believes that online courses will harm her learning experience, because of a lack of group work and field work. “The worst outcome is taking online courses for the entire semester," she said.

Yu Hong got accepted by Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, and decided to stay in China. “Even if I go to Paris, I will still probably take online classes.”She said can accept taking classes online for one semester since her program lasts for two years. Online courses have their own advantages, she said. “I can utilize my time by doing internships in China at the same time."

Jingjing's new semester was also interrupted by the epidemic. Studying in a university in Singapore, her exchange program to Australia this June got cancelled, and all her classes in Singapore after August have moved online, including her graduation thesis guidance. There is no need for her to step onto the campus anymore, since her masters program is halfway done. For this reason, she made a decision to go back to China. Jingjing feels some regret about leaving the campus so soon, but online courses cover a wider range of fields, and are also an opportunity for her to learn more knowledge.

Many Chinese students are choosing to defer their semesters. According to the report by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) , a company specializing in the analysis of higher education institutions around the world, 48 percent of Chinese students surveyed plan to defer their start of classes until next year.

Song Feng's original plan was to go to the University of Chicago, but with worries that enrolling this year amid the pandemic might affect his future career plans, he chose to defer. “Now I see some of my classmates are already studying in their program, it inevitably distresses me,”he said.

Lu Jingtang, a high school student in the US, returned to China because of the epidemic. Lu is still considering studying abroad for college. “This is a tough year for students like us indeed. I wish to find some students who are in the same situation as me and professional counselors, and we could sit down to discuss whether we should do this or not. Personally, I would wait for another year to study abroad.”

Ge, a counselor in this field, suggested that decisions should be based on personal needs. “If you are looking for improving academic qualifications, I would suggest taking online courses first. If you want the exotic experience, or a better learning experience, then deferral is also a good decision."

China's Ministry of Education (MOE) has already issued several notices to help students recently, by giving more options to them. Meanwhile, to simplify the procedures for returning Chinese students, the MOE announced a "Certificate of Returned Overseas Students" will be issued starting November 1, 2020. Also, the MOE said there would be flexibility in granting degree certification, taking into account problems caused by the epidemic.

In the 2020 fall semester, NYU Shanghai welcomed around 3,100 Chinese students from NYU and NYU Abu Dhabi. They will start their new semester together with 1,700 students enrolled at NYU Shanghai. Duke Kunshan University, will accept around 120 students from Duke University.

(Compiled by Ma Xiaoxi)