Nick (Chengfan Zhao) was doing a pre-master in Media Studies in Rotterdam, but decided last week to return to his hometown Wenzhou in China. “When I saw the virus reaching Europe, I got very scared of getting stuck in quarantine in the Netherlands. I live alone, and my family back home was worried about me. But I also knew that if I went back to China, I had to be quarantined and lose my freedom for two weeks.” After an anxious night and a phone call with his sister, he decided to pay for an expensive last-minute ticket home.
Getting back home, however, was not easy. It was rumored that some countries would refuse Chinese citizens to transit at their airports. In a total of 50 hours, Nick eventually managed to arrive in Shanghai, having layovers in Helsinki and Singapore. Upon arrival, he had to wait five hours for the government to conduct their first health examinations. Another ten-hour bus ride eventually took him to a hotel in his home province Zhejiang, where he is still in quarantine for a total of 14 days.
“Now that I’m home, all coordination is done through the provincial government. Because the Netherlands is considered a high-risk country, I was not allowed to self-quarantine at home.” Twice a day, doctors in protective suits enter his suite to check his temperature. The government also provides him three meals a day while he waits. In the meantime, Nick still hasn’t seen his family. “They are sending delicious food, which they drop off with the concierge downstairs.”
Slowly back to normal
Outside the hotel, life in China is slowly getting back to normal. Although restrictions remain for citizens who are returning from abroad like Nick, Chinese people are allowed back on the streets. Nick explains: “The Chinese policy was quite different from the European. In Europe, you are focused on slowing down the number of infections, whereas in China we tried to prevent people from getting sick at all.” As far as he knows, there are not a lot of new cases in his province.
Can Nick give any advice to students in the Netherlands who are still in the midst of the crisis? “Stay digitally connected, don’t let yourself get isolated. That will truly get you scared.”
Third-year IBCoM student Zlata flew back to Russia to be with her family. “As soon as I heard on the news that Russia will be closing the border, I decided to go back to Russia. I had my flight two days before the borders were closed.” She is happy to be back with her family but describes the situation in Russia as ‘confusing’. “We don’t have a lot of confirmed corona cases here, but statistics show that we do have an increase of people with corona which is scary. However, all the restaurants and shops are open, and most people are still going to work. The coronavirus is an important topic in news broadcasts, but in a way that it is something that’s happening on another side of the world.” According to Zlata, the Russian public does not take the situation seriously. “I’m afraid that in a few weeks we will face the same situation as Europe, and we all have to be in quarantine.”
Zlata wants to come back to Rotterdam as soon as possible. “I had to leave the city really fast, so half of my stuff is still in the apartment.” For the time being she will stay in Russia to finish her thesis. “I’m stressed about that because it is really hard to discuss the thesis struggles you are facing with your supervisor through Skype.” In the beginning, she did not receive that much support from the university. “I send an e-mail to our department because it was not communicated clearly what international students could do best.” However, she is happy with new initiatives from the university, such as ErasmusTV. “The channel makes it clear to students what should be done during this stressful time.”