Chinese International Students Overcome Challenges During COVID-19 Pandemic


Junping Xia

Passengers provide Chinese customs officials with their entry documents to review. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the process for entering China is very cumbersome.

By Junping Xia, University of Central Missouri

  For many Chinese international students, being able to live a normal life has been a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some suspended their studies, some switched to online classes and some stayed abroad and could not return to their country.

   For Jize Guo, a second-year graduate student at the University of Southern California, COVID-19 changed many of his habits. In fact, at the beginning of COVID-19, Jize had two options — return to China or stay in the United States. He chose to stay in the United States to take online courses. If he chose to return to China, he would face expensive airline tickets and undergo COVID-19 tests, which have difficult standards to meet. China Customs requires travelers to provide a negative COVID-19 test certificate within 48 hours, otherwise they will not be able to board the plane. If Guo chose to stay in the United States, he would face the risk of infection and would not be able to travel freely.

  Guo chose to stay, and is still in Los Angeles. Gou said he is fairly satisfied with his life. 

  Original: 郭同学说:“我目前有两节课并且作业很多,此外我还是助教。由于COVID-19疫情,我外出时必须戴口罩,这使我的呼吸非常困难。 许多地方都不开放,进入校园时必须进行COVID测试。”

  Translated:  “I currently have two classes with a lot of assignments and I am a student assistant,” Guo said. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have to wear a mask when I go out, which makes my breathing very difficult. Many places are not open, and Covid tests must be taken when entering the campus.”

  As an international student, Guo said he thinks the online courses are very convenient because they can be replayed. However, online courses have brought great challenges to the network status. If the network signal is poor, it may be unpleasant.

  Original: 郭同学说:“尽管我没有面临时差问题,但是我的同学遇到了这种情况。 例如,我在当助教期间,一名学生算错了时区,这使他进入了不应参加的Zoom 会议。此外,夏令时和冬令时的变化,对于许多学生来说是一个复杂的问题。”

  Translated:  “Although I don’t face different time zones, my classmates encountered such a situation.” Guo said. “For example, when I was a student teaching assistant, a student miscalculated the time zone, which caused him to enter the Zoom meeting class that he shouldn’t have entered. There may be changes in summertime and wintertime later, which is a complicated issue for many students.”

China-bound international passengers wait in line for check-in at Los Angeles International Airport. Many of them have been waiting at the airport for more than 6 hours. (Photo by Junping Xia)

  While some international students chose to stay in the U.S. to finish their classes, other Chinese students are overcoming challenges taking online classes in their own country.

  Badam Chen, a fellow student from the University of Southern California, also encountered problems trying to continue her education throughout the pandemic. Chen attends classes and reviews exam material from Monday to Friday, because she has to take the Chartered Financial Analyst exam.

  Original: “网课可以节省很多时间。 我可以立即进入Zoom会议。 但是网课的缺点是在课堂上,学生更容易被iPhone和iPad所吸引,导致学习效率低下。” Badam Chen说。

  Translated: “Online classes save lots of time,” Chen said. “I can enter the Zoom meeting class immediately. However, the disadvantage of the online class is students are more easily attracted by the iPhone and iPad during the class, which leads to inefficient learning.”

For her, the time difference caused her to stay up late to attend classes and take exams, but she has no way to change the current state. 

  Original: “教授会设置参加考试的时间区间。 如果你在自己的国家,则可以选择适合自己参加考试的时间。” Badam Chen说。 “此外,教授还会制作一份问卷调查表,询问学生大多数都在哪个时区,并设定相对合理的办公时间,但是有些教授没有考虑到这个问题,这对学生来说非常不便。”

  Translated: “Professors will set the time interval for taking the exam,” Badam said. “If you are in your own country, you can choose the time that suits you to take the exam. In addition, the professor will make a questionnaire to ask students what time zone most of them are and set a relatively reasonable office hour, but there are some teachers who don’t take this issue into consideration, which is very inconvenient for students in their own country.”

  While classes have changed for Chinese international students taking classes abroad, classes have also changed for students still studying locally in China.

  Tianyang Chen is a graduate student majoring in psychological and health education at Beijing Normal University. COVID-19 has also had a great impact on her.

  “My country’s anti-pandemic measures are very effective,” Tianyang said. “People are basically very cooperative with the government’s policies. I will take the bus and the subway. I believe we are safe.”

  Because of the pandemic, Tianyang Chen took online classes and completed projects online in the second half of last year. Fortunately, she did not face the problems caused by different time zones. 

  “I think online courses are good and save a lot of time,” Tianyang said. “The lack of opportunities to communicate with classmates and teachers is one of the shortcomings of online courses.”

  When asked how to treat international students facing different time zones, Chen mentioned that different time zones will cause many problems for international students, as they cannot spend much time with family and friends. They might even disturb the family’s work and rest. 

  “Different time zones is a very big challenge for international students,” Tianyang Chen said.

  International students have to face the danger of COVID-19, changes in laws regarding international students — such as the United States Immigration Service prohibiting entry of international students who have stayed in China for 14 days — and the anti-pandemic policies of their home countries.

This story was originally published on Muleskinner on March 3, 2021.