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'There's A Lot Of Risk Either Way' — Bates Senior From China On His Decision To Remain On Campus

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Maine Public file

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of nearly every person in America, including college students, who were sent home last month to limit the spread of the virus. But some, including Yihao Yang, have remained on campus.

Yang, a Bates College senior from China, told Maine Public how COVID-19 has forced him to make some hard decisions over the past month.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

“Well, I think, for most international students from China or Korea, coronavirus actually starts back in January, especially for students from China. We had a kind of uncertainty and anxiety back in January. I worried about family back in China. I worry about what is going on. Or even help them — we bought lots of masks and mailed them back to China.

“Everyone is talking about the virus now. Especially during the one week before our classes got canceled. Everyone couldn’t focus. Everyone was trying to plan what they were going to do next. It was kind of chaotic during that time on campus.

“I was confused during that time. I didn’t know whether to go to China, or whether to stay here. There’s a lot of risk either way, right? Like, how long school will grant me to stay on campus. So for me and other international students had a lot of uncertainty about that situation.

“I’m a senior. So basically, another concern for me is, once I graduate from school, what’s my plan next? So originally, I applied to want to continue to work in the U.S. after college. However, the hiring freeze and stuff really disrupted my plans. Because I was doing interviewing, all the process got delayed. So I really had this week to decide whether to continue to apply to jobs, go to grad school, or should I just go back to China? So it was a time for me to make that choice.

“So I ended up deciding just to stay here. Since Bates offered us to stay on campus. So I do believe it’s a safe place.

“It’s definitely a tragedy for the senior class this year. I’ve been to other graduations for my friends before, just feel upset I cannot have that moment to celebrate together. I cannot have that moment to share that kind of happiness with my family, too. Because my parents were planning to come here. So it’ll be different.

“Most of the concerns are, like, will a recession come after this? I definitely feel like it’s one of the concerns, too. Because in that case, the job market will be tight. It will be challenging. But I talked to some alumni who have been through the financial crisis in 2008. So I think things will be getting normal. It just takes time. I still have this kind of positive attitude. It’s just a short-term thing. And once we get through this, things will be better. There will be more opportunities, for sure. I just have to be prepared when opportunities come.”

If you or someone you know has something to share about life during the pandemic, write to us at TellMeMore@mainepublic.org, and let us know the best way to reach you.