SARS impedes summer plans for many U Chinese students

by Geoffrey Ziezulewicz

Many University students and staff are finding out just how wide-ranging the effects of SARS can be this summer.

Continued concerns over SARS, have led many Chinese students and researchers at the University to delay visits or returns to China until the disease levels ebb.

Some University groups will attempt to combat the disappointment of Chinese students with summer activities for those who thought they would be back home by this time.

The University’s China Center and other campus and Chinese advocacy groups held a picnic Sunday for the now-stranded students and faculty. They plan to work throughout the summer to provide activities and recreation for the displaced students.

For Stephen Eigles, a radiology department resident, SARS is affecting summer plans for many of his relatives.

Eigles’ wife is Chinese, and his father-in-law was supposed to visit China this summer, but has delayed the trip.

His aunt planned to come to the United States to help Eigles and his wife with their new baby, but that trip has also been delayed.

For Eigles and his family, it is a matter of prudence – rather than a law or mandate – that has made them reconsider travel to China.

Eigles said the problem goes beyond simply traveling to and from China.

“The problem is more in China,” he said. “Travel within China has been difficult. China is quarantining all travelers.”

Eigles’s cousins – who had immigration visas to Toronto and were planning to move there – also had to change their plans.

Eigles said his cousins would face numerous quarantines traveling to Chinese cities where they could then fly to Canada. Then, he added, they face the stigma of arriving from a SARS-afflicted area.

For example, landlords might be reluctant to rent to them, Eigles said.

“They would have to basically quarantine themselves in a hotel for a few weeks and let everyone know that they were OK before they could rent anywhere,” he said.

Concerns over SARS led Eigles to question a possible trip to Toronto to see family this summer. His family is facing a lot of difficult choices this summer, he said.

“They are all being pulled in different directions,” Eigles said.

University biology research assistant and graduate student Ming Li decided to remain in Minneapolis because of SARS and visa concerns, he said.

Li said while the SARS situation appears to be getting better, he worries about being able to return to the University.

“It may be more difficult for me to get back due to SARS,” he said.

While his native Sichuan province has not been hit particularly hard by SARS, friends and family advised him to stay, he said.

“I’m just going to continue my research and experimentation,” Li said. “I am thinking of going back this winter or summer.”

Li said he will remain dedicated to his work, and try not to think too much about his contacts in China.

“I would really like to see my family and friends,” he said. “It is hard not getting back to visit.”

Geoff Ziezulewicz is a freelance writer for The Minnesota Daily.

The freelance editor welcomes comments at [email protected]