March 13, 2020, was the last day before the start of the Spring break at the University of San Francisco, and classmates Li Yutong, Jasper Hua, and Tang Jiaer all had different holiday plans. However, what they had in common was a belief they'd be seeing each other again in a week's time.
However, the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the United States surprised many people. Schools all closed down, and students found their only contact was through online classes. It was a life-changing experience.
Li Yutong is a Chinese student living in San Francisco, a city with the number of confirmed cases above the 3,000 mark. San Francisco's plan to return to normal operations in mid-July is making him nervous, because anti-racism demonstrations during the epidemic had brought so many people together, making him nervous to go outside for fear of contact.
He is looking forward to returning to China, but his flight was continuously suspended. From May 20 to June 20, and now July 4 at the earliest, makes him feel he has little hope of returning to China any time soon.
A government-set curfew from 8:00 pm-5:00 a.m. and the closure of restaurants made it difficult to arrange a normal eating pattern, He goes to a Chinese supermarket once a week to buy food. The privations created by the epidemic combined with the threat of racial violence have made him feel insecure.
Jasper Hua is an American living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is now spending more time at home because he does not have to attend classes.
The biggest deprivation involves not being able to meet friends and play basketball together. His parents would not allow him to go to the supermarket. He attended his friend's birthday party for the first time using online video streaming.
He wore a mask every time he went out during the epidemic and kept six feet away from everyone. He had no outside activities except running. A neighbor's family had invited him to go to the beach with them; however, he declined because he was concerned that the people there were not wearing masks and were ignoring social distancing requirements.
Tang Jiaer is a returned overseas student living in Tianjin. He feels safe and cherishes his life. At the beginning of March, he was worried about whether to return to China. Every day at school, he was very nervous. He even lost sleep in early March because of the epidemic and the stress of exams.
In addition class members not daring to eat out, and restricted to takeaways from the school canteen meals, and wearing gloves when choosing meals because the fear of infection, or relying on convenience food, all combined to emphasize the strangeness of everything.
He managed to get a direct flight from San Francisco to Beijing, but he was afraid that he would not be able to return home because the flights were often cancelled. He kept checking the flight information every day. He felt that the moment he stepped onto the plane was when he finally came back to life. Although the isolation in Dalian was very difficult, he still felt very happy.
"The coronavirus has to be stopped," he said, adding that "now many countries are beginning to develop treatments. I believe in the near future we can defeat it, just like happened with other diseases like rabies."