Yidi arrived in the US at the end of January, just as authorities were realising the true global threat posed by the airborne virus.
He was a student enrolling with UTP High Schools and Beth Drake, chief operating officer at UTP, explained to The PIE News that she made the decision to restrict Yidi – along with Bo, his Chinese roommate – to a period of isolation before joining classes with the rest of their group.
“I had the uncomfortable phone call with the host to ask if she would consider hosting this student when he did come from Wuhan, and she would be technically living with him during an incubation period,” Drake explained.
“She embraced the challenge and has been exceptional.”
The students now have the all clear and have rejoined their group in classes at Saint Anthony’s, where 300 international students are within the school as part of their UTP program.
Drake acknowledged that UTP had worked with Saint Anthony’s and their student body of nearly 3,000 high schools students and their parents.
“We have worked in lockstep with our faculty and administrators to make sure our Chinese students feel welcome and safe,” she related. “Across the entire student body we have worked to inform as best as possible during this rapidly evolving situation.”
The story is set against a backdrop of growing concerns over Asian students fearing they may be victims of negative profiling on school campuses.
As concerns over the novel coronavirus continue to mount, education providers have implemented a range of contingency measures to help discourage such instances of racism and xenophobia.
His Asian Canadian friends had been told to move away or cover their mouths
In the UK, UKCISA’s chief executive, Anne Marie Graham, confirmed that there had been cases of abuse against Chinese students, with the organisation directing students to use their student advice phone line.
At Arizona State University, which counts more than 3,000 people from China among its student body, ASU president Michael Crow told local media there are concerns about students feeling racially profiled as a result of “uninformed behaviour” after one confirmed case of the virus was confirmed there last month.
In Canada, a Chinese-Canadian student at the University of Toronto told the CBC his Asian Canadian friends had been told to move away or cover their mouths. “[It’s] this idea of ‘yellow peril,’ of this Chinese horde coming to destroy Western civilisation,” the student explained.
Universities Canada has asked its members to “remain mindful” that the risk of infection remains relatively low.
“Universities across the country are collaborating with public health agencies and communicating widely with students, staff and faculty to share the most up-to-date information and health advice… while remaining mindful that the risk associated with the virus remains low for Canada and Canadian travellers,” it said in a statement.
In Ireland, Douglas Proctor, director of UCD Global at University College Dublin, told The PIE that with 1,200 students in China via their TNE activity, there is “significant engagement” in the country and they had been working with government agencies and partners.
English UK reminded its member centres to focus on “goodwill” in its business dealings with Chinese study travel businesses
“We are alert but not alarmed, and putting in all of the necessary contingency plans” he said, adding that with no travel ban currently in place in Ireland, or a start to a new academic year, there have not been the same dimensions to contend with as in other countries.
Referencing reports from other countries of Chinese students feeling anxious about being targeted because of their nationality, he said the situation was more muted in Ireland. “We have not needed to remind the UCD community about tolerance and inclusion,” he said.
In the UK, English UK also reminded its member centres to focus on “goodwill” in its business dealings with Chinese study travel businesses, as cancellations would be inevitable as the travel ban in China continued.
A Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group meeting on the coronavirus situation was held, during which traveller-facing organisations have been urged to refund cancelled Chinese trips if possible.
Huan Japes, English UK’s membership director, who attended the TIER meeting, said: “We have a very strong message that while small businesses such as language schools may have certain sunk costs which make refunds more difficult, everyone is strongly encouraged to start by offering credit and moving to a refund if necessary.
“It’s important for the members of all tourism associations, including English UK, show compassion, goodwill and understanding and consider everyone’s long-term as well as short-term interests. We should all remember that Chinese business is relationship-based and it has taken a long time and a great deal of hard work to get us to this point.”
He said it was particularly important for English UK members choosing to cancel booked Chinese students to explain the reasoning clearly and with sensitivity and provide a refund.