Video: Author of this article Tongyangzi Wu tele-interviews Cathy Dong about how she leads her self-isolation life in Boston, Massachusetts, the United States, on March 27, 2020. (Xinhua)
"This is a difficult time for all. We are going through the hardship together."
BOSTON, the United States, March 28 (Xinhua) -- The schools are shut down; the stay-at-home advisory is for everybody; and the campus runs out of its usual vitality. Amid growing fears over COVID-19, Boston University's (BU) thousands of Chinese students just want to stay safe and be responsible for the concerned sides.
"I knew it was going to get worse. I canceled my spring break to get ready," said Kailun Bai, a first-year graduate student at BU from Shanghai. She started self-isolation in her apartment days before the United States on Thursday surpassed China and Italy to become the country with the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world.
The first known COVID-19 case in the United States was confirmed in January. As of Saturday afternoon, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the number has reached 115,547 with almost 1,900 deaths.
Kailun Bai, Chinese student at Boston University, picks food from her "snack cabin" in Boston, Massachusetts, the United States, on March 27, 2020. (Xinhua)
TAKING CARE OF ONESELF
Chinese students make up one-tenth of BU's recruits, the largest group of international students on campus. None of them expects to fight an anti-virus battle in a foreign land, but most of them have decided to remain in the city out of concerns of safety and academic needs. A trip back to China is deemed impractical and a return trip may be out of the question.
They stay, not knowing when and where the worst scenario lurks. To live through each day is essential.
Bai's so-called "snack cabin" is loaded with goodies purchased at nearby supermarkets. "I don't think I would be able to handle this self-isolation for so long, if I didn't have this cabin filled," she said. "I miss my usual days when I could go outside any time at will."
Usual days are never to return any soon. The worst is yet to come, medical professionals have warned.
Not every Chinese student at BU lives a life as "well-loaded" as Bai. Cathy Dong, another student, said that "I knew many of my friends were buying masks and gloves in January, but I didn't do anything because I didn't think it would get this terrible."
"Maybe I should have bought 4one or two bottles (of hand sanitizers) at that time if I knew it would be impossible to get any in March," she said, adding that she had tried her best to order food online.
"I become able to eat and cook more. I really learned how to take care of myself," she added.
Cathy Dong, Chinese student at Boston University, checks her packed fridge in Boston, Massachusetts, the United States, on March 27, 2020. (Xinhua)
COUNTING ON FRIENDSHIP
Living alone in an isolated room for weeks is not easy. Bai is lucky to have a college mate who is an old friend. "We play games together in our own rooms. It is so easy. We can just yell at each other to communicate."
Friendship has become an important aspect of the Chinese students' life in self-isolation. As Dong said, "During this hard time, I begin to realize how heart-warming my friends can be."
Tina Bai and Muran Shang are both first-year graduate students at BU. The two became good friends shortly after they met during the orientation and are now sticking together to deal with the adversity.
Bai's roommate recently moved back home and she was left alone in two bedrooms. "All of a sudden, I was left alone. I never thought being at home alone could be such a drag on my energy," she said.
Then Shang invited Bai to move in. "Having friends around can help us get through this together," Shang said.
Muran Shang, Chinese student at Boston University, stays with her cat at home in Boston, Massachusetts, the United States, on March 27, 2020. (Xinhua)
CARE MUCH MORE ABOUT COUNTRY, COMMUNITY
As one of the top 50 universities in the United States, BU announced earlier this month that it will switch into remote learning for the rest of the spring 2020 semester. This has added up to the students' anxiety.
Printed materials never appear again and all have to navigate the classes on the website. Dong said, "We used to go to the studios every week to learn how to use the monitors. Now that hands-on experience is gone."
A major in television management, Dong chooses to spend her time binge-watching shows from various channels and countries. However, she is thwarted in some other classes, for the university's online platform is more sophisticated than she expected.
"I selected a picture of beach for the screen of my computer, which helps relieve the anxiety. I just pretend that I were on a vacation," Dong said.
Some other students find online classes quite challenging, too. Shang said, "Zoom is such a powerful tool… I am making a planner so it can better motivate me. It is a good time to recharge myself."
Self-isolation is a whole new life style for BU students to embrace, willingly or not. Living alone for days, they care much more about the others, the campus, even the city and its people. And, particularly, what is happening to China and their families there grabs their hearts firm.
They would like to contribute to the community and their country one way or another, but they are confined to their rooms and the things seem like on a standstill.
"This is a difficult time for all. We are going through the hardship together," said Dong. Enditem
(This article is contributed by Tongyangzi Wu, a Chinese graduate student at BU.)■