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Overseas Scholars Feel Free to Study
Burundian student Thomas Tabayabaya's answer to anyone who wants to come to China but has been afraid of the SARS outbreak is: "Come if you like, and do not worry. There is nothing to worry about."

Tabayabaya will soon get a doctorate at the University of Science and Technology in Beijing. "Of course, everyone was afraid at the beginning," he said. "But now, there is no problem."

Tabayabaya's view was shared by many, as the Admissions Office for International Students at Beijing Language and Culture University was also crowded with new foreign students this week as they came to register for the next term.

One was a young woman from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, who said she had asked some friends about the situation in Beijing before traveling from Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

The student, who asked not to be named, said the last of her worries disappeared shortly after she arrived in Beijing.

"I could see everything was OK here so I decided to study at this university," she said.

Michelle Chow, a student from Vancouver in Canada, said she was satisfied with the measures taken by Beijing Language and Culture University during the SARS outbreak.

The university, which mainly targets foreign students and has the largest number of foreign students in China, postponed the classes due to take place between April 26 and June 23 to the period from June 25 to August 15.

Zheng Chengjun, deputy director of the university's Department of International Students, said: "Taking the SARS situation into consideration, we suggested that foreign students at the university go back home and take a vacation during the interval."

More than 3,800 of the 4,300 foreign students at the university went back to their home countries. Some foreign students left the school but remained in Beijing.

A total of 192 foreign students stayed at the school.

Chow, who has been learning Chinese at the university for eight months, was one of those who stayed. But she said: "I had thought of going back (to Canada)."

But she eventually decided to stay. "I thought, with the measures taken by the university, it was safe staying on the campus," she said.

During the epidemic period, she got up at 6:30 every morning and went running every day. The university's running track was kept open longer than usual each day so the students staying on could exercise.

Zheng said: "We tried our best to take care of these remaining students."

Each day, the student dormitories were disinfected, and the students were discouraged from leaving the university frequently.

The university also organized some activities for the foreign students. Some were taught shadow boxing or taijiquan, a traditional Chinese martial art.

Chow was one of several foreign students who wrote an article for the university's campaign against SARS, expressing their feelings about the disease and describing their lives during the epidemic.

Part of her article read: "Although we do not have classes now, I am still busy learning together with my friends and do not feel idle at all.

"SARS does bring us some inconvenience, but our lives are still enjoyable and colorful thanks to the care of the university leaders and teachers."

The university has now restarted its classes and those foreign students who went back home have begun to return. Zheng said more than 1,000 students have already come back and all the students are expected to return by this weekend.

(China Daily July 4, 2003)

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