Barry (right), a college student at Central China Normal University from Gambia, checks a female student's body temperature on August 28, serving as an anti-epidemic volunteer. (Photo: Courtesy of CCNU)
Most students in China's kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools and universities will embrace their fall semester as usual on September 1, marking China's success in containing COVID-19 and providing students with safe campuses.
Foreign students in Wuhan, Hubei Province reached by the Global Times expressed confidence in their school's anti-epidemic efforts, as well as excitement to study together with their classmates. After more than half a year staying in dorms and taking online courses for the whole spring semester to prevent the spread of COVID-19, they can finally enjoy the direct experience of the classroom.
Some said the epidemic made them value face-to-face discussions with professors and classmates, and vowed to study harder in the new term.
Primary and secondary schools, kindergartens, colleges and universities across China have basically opened from August 15 to October 10, according to Ministry of Education. All the 31 provinces and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps have made clear the arrangement for the beginning of the fall semester.
"I can't wait to embrace my classmates and teachers as I have never seen them face-to-face for around seven months because of the epidemic. The regular opening of fall semester in Wuhan, such a brave and heroic city sacrificing a lot for fighting against the virus, makes me excited," said Barry, a 27-year-old Gambian man pursuing his bachelor's degree in mathematics at Central China Normal University (CCNU) in Wuhan, told the Global Times on Saturday.
Barry spent the most severe months of the epidemic on campus. He expressed his gratitude in being able to study safely, contrasted with the high risks of infection from US campuses reopening.
The memorial arch of Wuhan University, Central China's Hubei Province.(Photo: VCG)
Massive students' flowing back to schools throughout China requires higher and stricter anti-epidemic measurements to ensure the safety in campuses. Foreign students said they are not worried about the risk of a new outbreak as they believe the Chinese government has fully evaluated the epidemic and is capable of providing a safe campus.
Many colleges and universities require continuing to strengthen semi-closed campus management. Teachers and students are not allowed to leave the campus unless necessary and off-campus personnel are not allowed to enter the campus without an appointment. College canteens will generally encourage students to have meals avoiding peak hours, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
A negative nucleic acid test and temperature check are required for students returning to schools. Students have to apply for special permission to go outside the campus. Disinfection and ventilation are required thoroughly in public areas every day, Chen Nan, a teacher at CCNU, told the Global Times. There are 500 to 600 foreign students in the university and more than 200 foreign students are living on campus during the epidemic.
Barry said his confidence comes from experiencing how responsible his school and teachers were in taking care of people during his time serving as an anti-epidemic volunteer. Barry checked body temperatures three times a day for more than 140 foreign students in his dorm building, distributing food and masks provided by school authorities as students were quarantined in their dorms.
Barry said his family was initially worried for his safety under the influence of some biased Western reports, and imagined Wuhan's air was "full of the virus." Barry introduced the real situation and explained to his family that Chinese teachers taught them comprehensive epidemic prevention methods, provided anti-epidemic materials and contacted them every day to check their physical and mental health.
Given the severity of the COVID-19 around the world, Barry's family said they feel lucky that he is China.
Foreign students who had to stay at their dormitories amid the outbreak were also required to strictly follow the rules, some students told the Global Times on Friday.
Nina, who has spent three years living in Wuhan, said she was actually traveling outside the city when the coronavirus outbreak began, which forced her to stay in Shanghai for a couple of months. By following the updates through group chats, she said Wuhan University, where she studies, accommodated the students with food and supplies.
"I think what was scariest at that time was just the fear of the unknown," the student from Botswana told the Global Times. But when looking back, she said it was definitely better to stay, as things are under control in Wuhan and the city is able to reopen unlike other places across the world.
"It was really not as bad as I had thought it would have been in my head," Nina said, noting that residents were very optimistic, with a sense of pride and accomplishment in overcoming such a scary and catastrophic moment.
Faced some criticism from Western politicians and media that blamed Wuhan for spreading the virus across the world, some even stigmatized the issue by calling it "Wuhan virus." Nina noted it could have started anywhere, as a disease is not caused by a certain group of people from a certain race or certain country.
"It's worldwide pandemic," she said. "Like you look at HIV and AIDS or cancer -- they all started somewhere. But nobody says this is an American virus or this is an Italian virus," the 24-year-old student said.
Some students said they were eager to begin fall semester despite having been reluctant to end summer vacations in past academic years.
"I miss studying so much," Nadia, a 31-year-old Russian woman who is studying for her PhD degree at CCNU, told the Global Times. She is eager to see her supervisor and talk about her thesis.
Nadia plans to work in China after graduation as she loves Chinese people. She said her love has grown deeper in going through such a pandemic in Wuhan.
Nadia used to visit pubs with her friends to taste different drinks every Friday night. However, the epidemic kept her away pubs for almost eight months.
"I still won't visit pubs at the new term as gathering is not encouraged and going outside campus requires special application. Strict anti-epidemic measurements are conducive to ensuring our safety and study," she said, adding that "However, I wish the epidemic will come into an end soon and we can enjoy our life as normal."
Barry's department opened to register for new semester on Friday, but he has not met any of his classmates yet as everyone is engaged with preparing for their mathematics exam on Friday.
"I prepared well for the exam. As going out was limited, I only play football and watch movies online during the summer vacation, I devoted most of time to study in dorm," Barry said. Barry said he wants to earn a master's degree in CCNU and return Gambia to promote mathematics education.
"Many people lost their lives in the pandemic. We are lucky to live and we have to pursue a higher dream," Barry said, expressing confidence and determination towards the new term.