17 February 2020 | By Yang Meiping |
ofiia Semyholovska, a 20-year-old Ukrainian student at Shanghai International Studies University, is posting about the coronavirus and her life in Shanghai on social media to keep her family and friends back home calm.
She told Shanghai Daily that the idea came when she saw friends send her weird messages like “Can I order something from AliExpress? I won’t be infected?” or “When I see Chinese people on the street I’m trying to avoid them, who knows, maybe they are infected.” Her first virus post addressed such questions. In comments, her friends thanked her for the genuine information and some said they pass it on.
“I have a lot of my friends who started to see fake news and started to share with other people and ask me a lot of questions. These questions are quite stupid. So I decided to write something to calm them down. I’m delighted they read them,” she said.
Her parents were worried about her at first, but when she told them the situation in Shanghai, they were happy for her to stay.
“I told them the whole situation and that there was a lot of fake news, and they should trust me,” she said. “I believe if you wear a mask, wash you hands and try to avoid public places, everything will be fine. So they trust me.”
The university has taken measures to ensure health of its students, including about 60 foreigners, who are living in dorms. It closed the campus, banned outsiders from entering, closed most of its public spaces. Both faculty and students are required to wear masks. A WeChat account has been updating official information, such as infection numbers in the city and school arrangements, in both Chinese and English.
Xu Bojun, manager of the SISU Hotel, one of the dorms for international students, said there were 24 foreign students living there now. He and his colleagues make checks every day to ensure every student is healthy.
In the building, Shanghai Daily also saw bilingual notices about virus prevention and control and there were tissues in the lifts for people to press buttons without touching them directly. Students need to register and have their temperature checked when they going out and coming back.
“We suggest them not to go out for more than 2 hours each time,” Xu said.
“The university supplies us with masks and always check our temperature when we go out and go back. They clean our hotel very properly,” said Semyholovska.
It’s the first time she stayed in Shanghai for Spring Festival. She had planned to visit Thailand and Beijing during the winter vacation but all had to be canceled due to the virus outbreak. In her room, she draws a lot, studies a lot and calls her family.
“They are happy to hear my voice much more often than usual,” she said.
Beth Lim Rillera, Semyholovska’s roommate and a doctorate student from the Philippines, said she also had more calls with her family.
She said: “At first they were quite worried about me, there was fake news back in the Philippines and they called me every day. It’s unusual for me because my mom doesn’t really call me that often before. But right now, it's like twice a day. It’s driving me crazy.”
She has promised her mom she would stay in the dorm, the safest place right now.
“It’s pretty pretty safe here in Shanghai since the government has done a lot of things and my school also offers some help for us,” she said.
Rillera said the virus didn't influence her life much. “It’s quite good for me because I’m a kind of indoors person. I like watching movies, reading novels and writing papers,” she said.
Kpedeti Bedel Gilles Faccio Kpogbozan from Benin in West Africa, said he had planned to travel to other cities in China but staying in the dorm makes him feel safe right now.
“For me, it’s just seeing less of my friends, but I can read and play with some musical apps, and have more time to sleep,” he said. “It’s quite safe here since the university has taken a lot of measures and our teachers also check our health every day. All these make me feel safe because I know things won’t get messy.”
“I know people are worried, but it’s not necessary,” he said. “Everything will be fine soon. It’s just a matter of time.”