Coronavirus is Too Close for Comfort for International Students

Senior Jasmine Chen is one of 17 international students currently studying at OHS’s Upper School

By Jasmine Chen

The first case of 2019-nCoV, a novel strain of Coronavirus, was discovered in Wuhan, China, and the virus spread around the country rapidly after the Chinese Lunar New Year in January 2020. Due to Lunar New Year, Chinese people who work or study in other cities were planning to travel back home in order to reunite with their families. After the outbreak, many of them decided to stay where they were and avoid any kind of traveling, which meant they could not even get together with their families for the biggest festival of the entire year. 

The virus, however, still spread out of Hubei, which is the province where the first case was confirmed, in a very fast way, and eventually spread out of the country. As the Coronavirus threatens people’s health in China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, and several other countries, it also brings inconveniences to people’s daily life in terms of working, studying and shopping. “I thought it was gonna be like the flu, some people get sick, but it’s not like as severe as this,” commented sophomore Rosy Bae, an international student from South Korea, studying at Oak Hall’s Upper School. “My mom cannot go out, she has to stay in her home for an entire day, and in Korea, they cannot find hand sanitizer or masks, so people are really scared, they cannot do what they want to do, they cannot do outdoor activities, students cannot go to school,” she added. 

When Chinese people heard about the Coronavirus for the first time, many of them did not expect it to spread so fast. As the virus spread from Wuhan to other cities in Hubei and other provinces (even including Tibet in which the density of population is very low compared to other parts of China) people got more and more concerned. “I didn’t really expect it to spread like that, but given the amount of travel between China and the rest of the world, I think it should be anticipated that the virus can be spread to other countries,” said senior Allen Tong, an international student from China, also at the Upper School. “Both my parents, they have to work at home for about almost a month now, and my dad just recently got back to work,” he continued. 

“My mom wants me to get a mask to cover up my face, because in Korea, it’s really serious right now, especially the city where I lived and my family lives, it’s like the second most serious city in Korea I think,” said fellow international student, sophomore Hailey Park, who’s from South Korea.

Other than causing concern for international students whose families are living in countries that are severely affected, the Coronavirus also troubles their travel plans during spring break and summer break. Many international students planned to travel back to their home countries for vacation during the summer, and some already bought their plane tickets. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, however, they and their parents have reconsidered this decision. “I was preparing to go to Japan this spring break, but it seems that it’s not possible now,” said senior Olivia Zhang, another Upper School international student from China. 

Because of the recent travel ban put in place, it is possible life milestones will be missed by those who mean the most. “My parents are worried about their health, and also about how the U.S. stopped to let in Chinese citizens after the outbreak, they’re worried that they have to cancel their tickets to come to my graduation,” Tong said somberly. “In terms of summer, there’s a worry that I can’t get back to China, my hometown, during the summer, because of the virus and the travel bans,” he continued.

After more than a month of battling against the Coronavirus, the situation has become more and more stable. Every time I’ve talked with my parents on the phone after the outbreak, however, they tell me how their life is different now than what it has been before the Coronavirus became the biggest threat to their health. My father has to buy daily supply online because many of the nearby stores are closed, and he has to wear a N95 mask every time he can go out to buy groceries. Although, sometimes there is a delivery person delivering groceries to families that order them online in the neighborhood where my family lives. My father can only work with his colleagues via internet, and my childhood friends living in China, who are preparing for the national college entrance examination (which is held only once per year) can only stay at home and take online classes. While the Coronavirus is still spreading, it is important that we stay calm and take all necessary precautions to contain this pandemic.