#Voices of Tianjin - Laura -


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of  Tianjin

#Voiceoftheday : Laura

Laura is 23 years old and currently an enrolled student in the Master’s program for Chinese Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at Tianjin Foreign Studies University. After being born and raised in the United States, as well as Brazil, her way eventually led her to China. Back in 2016 she came to Tianjin, and experienced China for the first time. The first experience made her fall in love with the country and the city, and she knew she had to come back. So in 2019, she took the opportunity to come back to this beautiful place.

Looking back, what were your feelings and thoughts when news of the virus was announced in  China? 

I remember hearing about it in January and my roommate and I were getting ready to travel in February. So we tried to figure this whole situation out and all the questions that came with it. Should  we cancel everything or not ? What  should we do?  At this point it was hard to tell how serious it was.  

In general, I remember being very unsure of what was going on and what was going to happen. But at no point was I scared or anything like that. I felt really safe in Tianjin and it felt like the government was doing their best to keep people informed. It was just a really unusual and special situation back then.

What made you decide to leave China and how long did it take you to make this decision?

Part of why I decided to leave was the fact that things did not really get better when people expected them to do so. My school was cancelled and it was unclear when it would start back, and there was the big question if we would have online classes or not. It just felt like everything was up in the air. At some point it just seemed it would be better to be home. So I decided to just go home and stay there as long or short as it would be necessary and then come back. 

To make this decision was way harder in real life than it might sound right now. It took me several weeks because I realized how many things there were , with material as well as sentimental value, that I would have to say goodbye to. I did not plan to be home until next summer, so suddenly packing my stuff was a crazy moment. I just enjoy living in China so much that it was really difficult and sad to leave a place that had become my home.


What do you miss most about being in Tianjin?

There are a couple of things that I love that are not necessarily connected to China or Tianjin, but which I just found while living here. I really enjoy living in a big city, and specifically Tianjin just has that amazing mix of being a metropolis, but also radiating a calm and pleasant atmosphere of a smaller city.  I also really enjoy the food, so being able to stroll around the city to explore new amazing restaurants, or enjoying my favorite spots is something that I really miss. 

Besides that, I of course also miss my friends dearly. Just the opportunity to spend time with those people that grew close to me, or even with new people, all from different cultures and backgrounds, and with so many stories to share. I learned so much from being abroad and in Tianjin, and I am really thankful for the opportunity to enjoy the experience.

Being far away from all this really is an emotional challenge. I think there is rarely a day on which I do not think about it. I just cannot wait to be back.

How is your study situation now? 

Right now I have online classes. This semester I have 5 classes in total, but due to the 13h time difference between where I am and China, I am only able to attend one of those classes live. The rest I kind of do the following morning. The teachers have been really great and supportive. In my class, there are 9 students and almost all of us are in different time zones. This turns the organization and implementation of the classes on the teachers’ side, and the attendance on our side is quite a challenge. But the teachers are really understanding and are doing their best to adjust to the new software, and providing us with materials and resources.

It was also very impressive how fast the university reacted and implemented the online classes. We almost started on time with the normal semester schedule. Through that, we wasted almost no time and avoided the risk of lagging behind the original schedule. The whole situation is of course completely new and not ideal, but I think we are all doing our best to make this work.

Any big differences in your daily routine?

Yes! While I was in China I had a clear daily routine especially because of the university schedule. And the rest of my days were filled with normal free-time activities like meeting with friends, going for lunch or going on trips.


Now the only fixed class that I can attend live is at 7 pm on Wednesday, and everything else is really up to me. So I have to set up a schedule on my own, which is a huge change for me. I am still in the process of figuring out how to adjust and what the best way to make everything work would be. It is interesting to realize, and annoying at the same time, how tricky it is to figure this stuff out. One might think it is easy and nice to have everything in your own hands, but I think it really is a challenge.  

The United States is currently the country that is hit the hardest by the pandemic. 

Being in China back then and now being in the States, what are differences that you can perceive between the countries in terms of handling the situation?

I have kind of lived through the same levels in both the US and China. From the very beginning to the realization that we need to figure something out. I feel like China was faster in terms of responding to the problem and preparing and providing needed resources. They extended the holidays without a question so that people could stay home for longer, and new rules were clear and quickly implemented. All of that was really important and helpful to handle the situation.

I think in comparison, the US has been what feels like a little slow to do that. Too much time passed from the start of the problem to the wider realization of it, as well as from the realization to the point where actions were taken. Another factor is that they let states do it individually rather than making any sort of clear federal regulations. In China, it was decided in unity. Obviously I am studying linguistics and not politics, but that is just how it feels like on my end.

Does the fact that you were in China during the first critical phase helps you to handle the situation in the US in a better way?

Definitely. Even when going through customs when I landed at the airport in the US. Everything they told me I already heard in China. They checked my temperature, told me what to expect, and asked me to continue to check all those things. All of that was stuff that I already did and got used to in China. So I was already pretty well-informed and not surprised by anything really. 

For a lot of Americans, or in general people around the world, it has been a pretty difficult adjustment to be so isolated and quarantined. For me this is nothing new, so I think I am able to handle it better in a way. I was a little better prepared in the sense of what it would take mentally and emotionally.


Another funny thing is that all the memes and TikTok videos that are now coming out in the US; I have already seen them back in China. I think they are a pretty good medium, because they do not just entertain people but also have an educating aspect. It is all about staying inside and social distancing, and not just for you but for the community as a whole. I already had this important understanding from my time in China. All in all, I think being in China back then was definitely a benefit for me.


What do you take from this period of time?

I am definitely impressed with the sense of community in China. So many people, Chinese friends, and teachers checked in and wanted to make sure that everything is ok. And not only in China, but also when I got back to the US. They still reached out to me and made sure that I was doing fine and that I have everything that I needed. People offered me to send me things from China, even my landlord. I am really impressed and touched by that because I have not seen or experienced something like this in quite the same way in the US. For me it is really cool to be a part of this community and how warm and welcoming the Chinese people have been to me. I have definitely learned and taken a lot from that.

What are you looking forward to the most when coming back to China?

The thing I am looking forward to the most is for sure to see everyone again, all my friends and my classmates. I am just very excited to return to a place that really feels like a second home. There are so many places and things that I want to explore and learn about, no matter if is related to culture, nature, or the people. My aim is to just try to be as involved as I can be.

What is the first thing you will do or the first place you will go to in Tianjin?

I will probably go and get some nice and delicious Chinese food. I am a huge fan of 炒面(fried noodles), but you can also get me with a good 麻辣烫(Spicy hot pot), or some 饺子 –(dumplings) just any of the really exceptional Chinese dishes.

And then, of course, I will go and meet up with friends and explore the city, strolling through 五大道(WuDaDao - Five Avenues), or enjoying a nice walk in the park or at the riverside. Just getting back to being in China and enjoying it.


Regarding the current situation, what do you hope / wish for the most?

I think what we all hope for is that everyone involved will be able to deal with the situation as quickly and efficient as possible so that people can recover and life returns to normal. I hope we take the lessons that we have learned and can use this experience to be better prepared and more aware from now on.

It is important to move on as a community to support a better and healthier life for all of us. Take good care of yourself, but also check on others, your family, friends, colleagues.

We are all ready for this to be over and in the past. I am happy that China pushed through the hardship and with that set an example for all of us around the world. The country and the people recover from what happened, and life comes back to normal, which makes me even more excited to soon be able to return and be a part of it again.






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Nice article... good luck in your venture.
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