by Augustina Adzo Bansah
As panic increased throughout the world due to COVID-19, accounts and rumors spread about the lockdown, testing, and who to blame. We at ‘Africans on China’, want to demystify China for Africans and Africa for Chinese. Our September theme for human stories is the China Lockdown Experience.
I left Ghana and arrived in Shanghai on the 24th of August 2019, two years after my last visit to China. Six weeks into the winter semester, we went on a month break for the annual Chinese New Year. It was during the break, in late January, that Shanghai reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case, which happened to be an imported case from Wuhan, eight hundred and forty kilometres away.
When I first heard the news of the virus, I was not really concerned, as we received reassurance and daily updates from our teachers and counselors. I had planned on traveling within China during the Chinese Spring Festival, however, my plans were crushed due to travel restrictions. With the pressure from home and not being able to contain the lockdown, most international students took leave and left for their countries.
Even though the university and the teachers tried their best to implement online classes, it was challenging due to time differences between China and the other countries where my classmates and lecturers are located. Another challenge was minimal concentration and engagement between lecturers and students during online classes, which may have impacted the quality of learning negatively. Also, the lockdown at its peak period had some impact on me because I was confined in my room for the first time and couldn’t go out for weeks. We were also not allowed to visit and enter other rooms due to safety concerns. I had to wear masks anytime I was leaving my room, even if I was going to the kitchen, and my body temperature was taken daily. Shopping online was quite expensive since I had to pay extra for it to be delivered at the school gate. I really missed my family, but I contacted them often through social media.
I was fascinated when I saw in the news and on social media about how health workers all over the country left their families and risked their lives as frontline fighters. I was moved by the resilience and civil obedience of the Chinese people. There was less movement, everyone went out in masks, and supported the government in one way or the other in the fight against the pandemic. Not forgetting workers in the essential sectors who worked tirelessly to provide and deliver goods and services. This indicates the level of selflessness and commitment in working together to ensure that the virus did not spread further and those affected were well taken care of. Teachers and counselors at Shanghai University have always provided the necessary support, especially during these times, and continue to do so now.
During the summer holidays, the restrictions were relaxed. I participated in some outdoor activities and also went sightseeing with friends. A new academic year is about to begin with a continuation of online classes. I am working on my final thesis, so I wouldn’t be taking any online classes in the next semester.
I am optimistic about the future and looking forward to the successful completion of my studies.
Augustina is a graduate student at Shanghai University, in Shanghai, China, studying International Relations and Diplomacy.