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Due to COVID-19, across the world people are finding themselves in a shared situation, and there is plenty to learn and appreciate from how other countries are handling the crisis.

South West College Confucius Hub Tutors have experienced being far away from their family and friends, when Coronavirus was at it’s worst in China. Now, they’re experiencing life in Northern Ireland, a country ‘foreign’ to them, at a time of national crisis.

Here, they have shared honest and heartfelt accounts, providing insights into their feelings, worries and concerns on both sides of their experience. These accounts are published anonymously, but the tutors involved wish to thank the staff that help and support them at South West College, to whom they are indebted for their support and for “making us feel we are not alone”.

LIVING IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY AT A TIME OF NATIONAL CRISIS

“This is a very difficult time, and to be honest, I often feel very worried and even scared. When Coronavirus first arrived in Northern Ireland, I wondered why local people wouldn’t wear masks, because in China everyone had to wear a mask – you would be fined if you didn’t wear a mask in public. I have a mask I brought from China, which I wanted to wear, but didn’t, because I was afraid of the strange looks from people. 

“The second thing that really worries me is what I do if I become very unwell. There is no Chinese medicinal herb and no other Chinese people around me.  I feel I am a foreigner here, and I wonder: who can help me?  Yes, I know I have support from South West College and staff there, but they live so far from me, so I do often worry what will happen should I need help in an emergency.

“I feel a little better and less worried now, because everyone is staying home and appreciating the situation we are all in, and I know I have enough food for one month. I am just staying home and waiting the turning point.  Let us keep calm and carry on.  We are always together.”

“In the beginning, I was safe in the UK, and the situation in China was very serious. There were patients everywhere, and my hometown was no exception.  Because coronavirus is an exaggerated epidemic, everyone is very scared of it, I was worried about my family members; particularly my father and mother.

“As a Chinese living in the UK, at this time, there will be many misunderstandings and bad emotions towards the Chinese.  Some people think that the Chinese brought the virus to Britain, and some of my friends living in London were abused and even attacked by other guys on the subway for no reason.  I was sad to hear such news.  Because this virus is a disaster across the world, we should face it together, encourage and help each other, overcome difficulties and defeat the virus.  Resentment, hatred, and discrimination are totally wrong.

“Fortunately, I live in the small town of Enniskillen, a place that is so peaceful.  Most of the local residents are very friendly.  I am very grateful for all the convenience provided by South West College. When the college announced that it would be closed, they gave me a computer to help me work remotely from home.

“I originally planned to take an English test at the end of March, but it was cancelled. In order to defeat the virus, I exercise more at home, eat more nutritious food, improve my immunity, maintain health, and face this problem with a positive attitude. I believe we can overcome the difficulties and it will get better soon.”

“No one in the world wants to see such an international crisis. As we all know, China had many cases and we were all worried about our family, friends and our country. But we knew that there was very little we could do, so we just kept contacting them, telling them to stay home and be safe. The first thing I do when I wake up is check how the number of cases has changed. It’s worrying, but all the teachers and staff I have worked with have made me feel so supported.

“Now, it’s my family who are constantly connecting with me. Actually, the first day I came here I felt very happy, the people here are very nice. I love the fresh air and green grass. To be honest, I feel homesick now, but I believe everyone in NI can defeat the virus.  And we Mandarin teachers are glad to send our best wishes to the people in NI. We hope everyone will get better soon.”

“The last time we faced such a crisis was seventeen years ago. It was SARS and I was eleven years old, I was with my family, and things were not really that hard for me. This time, I am physically alone in the crisis, but to be honest, things are much easier than I thought, because I feel as though I have three bug families around me, which I am very proud of. 

“Firstly, CIUU has been trying to make our quarantine life more meaningful and interesting. We reflect our teaching, discuss teaching skills and communicate problems during online meetings every other day, and at the same time we organise various activities like online gym club, cooking club and such.

“Secondly, South West College has, as always, been very helpful in many ways. Jackie, Linda and Fey have always been by our side like families, which I am very grateful for. Meanwhile I still have some work to complete each day. It’s good to keep yourself properly engaged and as organised as usual during this time.

“Last, but most importantly, I know China, our homeland, is always there to back me up. Though I am alone in a “foreign” country, I have never felt safer in my life. Thank you to all my friends and colleagues here for making Enniskillen & Northern Ireland & UK a home far away from home for me.  I am confident that we will win in the long run. Everybody please stay safe, for our amazing future is still waiting ahead.”

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