People all over the world know the story of the coronavirus outbreak from China. They have read the headlines about travel bans, quarantines and face mask shortages. Yet at this time, many people may not know the story of Chinese people who are in their world. There are hundreds of thousands of Chinese students and scholars in the United States and beyond. Though they are not infected with any disease, many of our guests are suffering in ways unknown to us.
The Spring Festival is a joyous time for Chinese people. Because of the spread of sickness this year they flocked to hospitals or stayed home. Chinese students grieve deeply from watching their nation suffer from this disease. They are anxious over the outcome for their own family. One Chinese student lamented, “I wish there was something I could do. I feel helpless.”
As Chinese students walk about campus they wonder what other students think when they look and stare at them. One Chinese student shared he suffered from feeling discriminated. “Somehow I think they blame me..that it’s the fault of Chinese people.” Another Chinese student conveyed that she refrains from coughing or sneezing in public because other students might think she is infected and report her to the University.
To prevent getting infected and passing any type of sickness to others most Chinese students wear face masks. They wear protection not because they are sick but to protect themselves from germs and possible exposure to any virus. This is a common cultural practice in China. However, Chinese students may feel misunderstood because others on campus may think they are sick because they wear protection. Chinese students have suffered emotional pain when other students have uttered mean words or blamed them for the health crisis.
How can you respond to Chinese students on your campus?
- Acknowledge the current reality. Let them know you grieve over the pain and suffering – as well as the sickness and death – of people in their homeland during this time.
- Affirm your love and care for them. Let them know you are glad they are here and sorry they have received blame and felt shame from others.
- Ask about their family. Let them know you understand their feelings of sadness and helplessness as they are apart from their loved ones back home.
- Pray for them. Pray that God would fill their hearts with His comfort and peace. Pray for His protection of their family from sickness. Pray they would turn their hearts towards God.
- Inform them. Help them understand the cross-cultural differences of health and hygiene practices.