Chinese students returning to studies in UK despite COVID-19
Though still concerned about the COVID-19 situation in the United Kingdom, many Chinese students have begun to pack up and return to school.
Seventy-four Chinese students boarded a Hainan Airlines charter flight from Chongqing to Manchester, England, at 1 am on Monday to resume their overseas schooling, which had been disrupted by the coronavirus.
It was the first charter flight operated by a Chinese airline to carry Chinese students back to schools in a foreign country.
Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport and Hainan Airlines made special transfer arrangements for the students, including free luggage storage, free packing, free meals and free lodging.
The airline contacted the students directly for ticket purchases based on lists provided by the UK schools.
Over the next two months, about 20,000 Chinese students from all over the country are expected to fly from Chongqing to Manchester or Bristol, England, on Hainan Airlines.
Chen Qianyu was one of the 74 passengers on the charter flight. She will start her studies at the University of Liverpool as an actuarial mathematics major.
"The charter flight experience was great, and many seats were empty," she said.
After she arrived in Manchester, she took a cab reserved by the university and went directly back to school. Now she is staying in a studio on campus for a 14-day quarantine.
Wang Wenxin, who is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Leeds, took the same flight back to the UK. She had returned to China in late December.
"The pandemic has affected our way of teaching and travel, but most Chinese students are still sticking to their study plans," she said.
"I followed the news closely and made a lot of preparations to maintain both my physical and mental health before going back to school."
Some students, however, changed their plans.
Li Yuche is in her third year of the doctoral program at the University of Warwick, studying creative industries. She returned to China in May due to the pandemic and decided to stay and take a job in Beijing.
"I had a plan to work for a while during the doctoral program, and COVID-19 just made it happen earlier," she said.
The total number of Chinese students studying in the UK currently exceeds 220,000.
Chinese students represent the UK's largest contingent of overseas students. They contribute around 4 billion pounds ($5.17 billion) to the UK's economy annually in tuition fees and other spending, such as housing, a BBC report said.
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of students from China who were studying at the university level in the UK surpassed 120,000 for the first time in the 2018-19 school year, accounting for more than 33 percent of non-European Union students.
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