COVID-19: An International Student’s Perspective

March 29, 2020

Experiences and Concerns of a Chinese International Student

By: Shihui Chen, MPH candidate, Brown School

When the first case of coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China, the spread was very quick due to the population transition during the Lunar New Year. In the first few weeks, I felt angry about what the Hubei Province Government did: delete social media posts and admonish doctors who warned others to wear facial masks, which exacerbated the severity of the whole situation. At that time, I was worried about my family in my hometown. As you may know, it is a tradition that people visit other relatives and get together to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Therefore, I tried to persuade my family to reschedule the trip and stay home until the mitigation.

After a few days, the government announced the limitation of travel, and several countries decided on the prohibition of Chinese people as well. What my family did during that time was just watch TV series, sleep, and play computer games. Also, industries could not start working, and due to the prohibition, cargos were suspended, which increased the economic burden of my family. When my mom told me that she needed to go back to work, I felt so sorry and sad at that time, but there was little I could do. I felt I was so lucky being at the Brown School. When I had a lunch with a public health guest speaker, I shared my concerns, and after that, so many folks came to ask me how I felt and what they could do to help me. I really appreciated it.

For now, coronavirus is spreading across the States. Based on my knowledge and my family’s experiences, staying at home is the safest way. If it is necessary, I would suggest wearing facial masks. I know people hold different opinions on wearing a mask, but it is absolutely useful to protect ourselves. However, I still dare not to wear masks when I go outside, because of the fear of discrimination.

I felt so sad that the President called it “Chinese Virus”, which exacerbates the vulnerability of Chinese in the States. I have heard several attacks towards Chinese people, or “look like Chinese people” in the States. I think the first mission is to band together and defeat the virus. I really suggest that people can try to gain information from multiple aspects. I know a lot of people may think what the Chinese government did is encroaching human rights, but it is not true. What they want is only to keep people safe and healthy, and if it is possible, I think they are willing to share their experiences and what they already knew to other countries.

Please trust the medical and public health practitioners and accept their recommendations: wash hands, wear masks, and decrease the exposure. Do not excessively worry. If people have any symptoms, please let your doctor know at the first time.

 

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