Most U students not leaving Hong Kong, China

Five of the 11 students studying in China and Asia are staying, despite SARS-related travel warnings.

by Geoffrey Ziezulewicz

Despite government- and University-issued travel warnings resulting from the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreaks, most of the 11 University students studying in Hong Kong and China are not coming home, according to a Global Campus department e-mail.

Five of the 11 students studying in China and Asia have decided to stay, while two students will return to the United States. One student has not yet decided, according to the e-mail.

Al Balkcum, Global Campus study abroad director, said one student is definitely staying in Nankai, China, to complete the spring semester, which ends around the middle of May.

Three University students, one from the Twin Cities and two from the Morris campus, are currently studying in Vietnam and have not responded to the latest advisories, Balkcum said.

Tracking down the students spread across a country as large as China is no simple task, he said. The department asked some students to come home, but department officials have not heard from them.

“We know that they have gotten the information,” he said. “But they haven’t replied to us.”

Jonathan Teichroew, 21, an international business senior, said he plans to stay in Beijing until his program ends Friday.

He said he has been overseas for 10 months, adding that it is unfortunate he will have to depart early. He said his departure is largely due to a technicality within his program.

“My study abroad program is ending early and forcing me out of the dormitory,” Teichroew said.

Teichroew said he does not understand the level of alarm being raised over SARS because he has seen no prominent instances of hysteria in the country that has seen the largest outbreak of the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

“Only a couple of Chinese people who are responsible for my well-being seem nervous,” Teichroew said. “At this point, I have a much higher chance of being struck by a bus crossing a Beijing street than I do from dying of SARS.”

He said the Chinese seem calm and collected, but he added he wears a mask in “enclosed settings.”

Teichroew said more people on the street are wearing masks, but they are still a small section of the total population.

“Since there is a lot of air pollution anyway, it is unclear if people are wearing the masks because of SARS or not,” Teichroew said.

The news coverage on China’s state-run television has covered up the spread of the new variety of virus, he said.

Teichroew said he has heard government officials are quite worried.

“Several friends told me they watched TV and the government has even said that Chinese scientists have a SARS cure,” Teichroew said.

Teichroew said he wishes there were a better solution to the outbreak than the evacuation of University students.

“Any time things get dangerous or risky, Americans run home to be safe,” he said. “What about all the people who have no place to run? Or even, is the U.S. any safer?”

Geoff Ziezulewicz welcomes comments at [email protected]