Whether to return to the UK this autumn is the question which Chinese students, including myself, have felt hesitant about recently. Instead of barriers like political tensions or fee levels, my main anxiety is over whether it is safe to travel to the UK, which is also the first consideration of most Chinese parents since Covid-19 hit.
The journey from China to Sheffield is now full of uncertainties for me. The potential infection risk is always present when in an airport or on a long-flight aircraft as it’s impossible to tell who might be asymptomatic. The truth is that most international aeroplane travel is indirect, which would make the situation worse if I had to transfer in a country that was struggling with the pandemic. My fears have escalated since the research figures started to show the prevalence of the virus in England; it’s been rising for the first time since May, so I began to consider if the adventure is worth buying tickets (which have increased several times in price).
I’m glad that UK universities, including Sheffield University, have come together to plan flights for Chinese students. I would be more persuaded to return if this can be done, as I know most passengers on the plane would have had similar experiences to my own amid this coronavirus period. Somehow this would make me less worried about the infection risk and I would feel a sense of belonging which I would not feel sitting with random strangers from across the world.
The political tensions on Huawei, Hong Kong, and the racist attacks on Chinese international students are not ignorable and have some impact on my desire to return. However, I would rather treat them more positively, as Tucker Elliot said: “There are more good people than bad people, and overall there’s more that’s good in the world than there is that’s bad. We just need to hear about it, we just need to see it.” These confrontations have been continuing for years, so none of them could be changed in a moment. I believe that all of the affairs will be finally resolved in a just and peaceful way. After all, as an international student, my primary wish is always to return to the UK to finish my three-year course successfully and normally.