Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Students from different parts of the world struggle as schools reopen during a pandemic

Tiankuo Jiang, (second from left) reads a textbook aloud with other students in in his middle school in Nanjing, China.

Whether students study remotely or in person the learning curve around the world has shifted as new school policies to fight the coronavirus makes learning safely more complex.

Studying remotely from Beijing was the best option for Weichen Du, academically problematic as it could be. The Australian border restriction did not allow Weichen to travel to the country, and Weichen could not find a job due to the pandemic.  Travel possibilities were also limited.

Weichen Du was attends a Zoom tutorial held by the University of Melbourne from his home in Beijing, China. Photo by Xinhui Ying

“I think the quality of teaching, and also the class, has significantly dropped down,” Du, a first-year master’s student in Marketing Communications at the University of Melbourne said.  “It is harder to understand what the professor wants on each assignment.”

At the same time, Weichen felt depressed and isolated from the rest of the class. He believed that everyone in his program felt the same way. The physical distance made him feel less close to professors and discouraged him from reaching out.

 “I tried everything to keep me busy… but my mental health still got worse because of the social distancing,” Weichen said. “I realized that interaction between people was so important for our being.You need to interact with people to keep everything moving.”

Siyi Xie, a sophomore studying Business Administration and Management at the University of Toronto, decided to do the entire academic year remotely from Vancouver. She revealed that the online learning experience was very inconvenient because of the time difference and the fact that students were not used to the instruction mode. However, she believed it would be better over time.

“My biggest fear is about how they would deliver the exams, ” Xie said. “Because people who do courses online have the opportunity to cheat. Therefore, the test they give these people will be harder than those who do the in-person exams. I am afraid of being graded unfairly because I don’t cheat although I take classes online.”

Siyi Xie takes handwriting notes at home in Vancouver, Canada for a University of Toronto course. Photo by Siyi Xie

Xie was also concerned about the safety of living on campus, and that was one of the major reasons she decided not to return to class in-person.

“Just live in close proximity to other people who you don’t know and cannot trust fully, I feel that’s a bit dangerous,” she said.

In terms of social life outside of academics, COVID-19 has made it harder for Xie to hang out with people. Most restaurants in Vancouver were closed for dine-in options. When she interacted with people online, she had to wait for responses.  Also, the tone and meaning behind the words were a bit hazier, as she could not hear or see her friends.

“If it’s just a normal school year, it will be so easy to go to class in person and actually make a few friends,” Siyi said. “So you can swap notes maybe and become study buddies. But right now, because of COVID-19 and because of online delivery, it’s hard to actually just text someone and become close with them.”

Tiankuo Jiang is a freshman in a middle school in Nanjing, China. He started his first day of class on Sept.1.

“I think except the dining, all things are just normal,” Jiang said.  “We just can’t eat together. Every student has one corner of the table, and then you put a cross-shaped plastic between students to make them separate.”

The teachers did not tell students to wear masks, but most students did. In addition, students were not required to keep a 2-meter distance.  But Jiang does not feel stressed about contracting the virus.

“I think it’s just okay, because we had very great protection before and now we don’t have many cases,” Jiang said.



Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

The queer community rallies behind their sacred spaces closed because of COVID-19

Inga Parkel February 23, 2021

Keeping the faith in COVID-19

Courtney Guarino February 3, 2021

Little Italy’s restaurants need indoor dining to survive pandemic

Michelle Diaz February 2, 2021

Stray pets find homes and love during pandemic

Inga Parkel February 1, 2021

No Actors, But the Show Goes On

James Pothen December 5, 2020

New York City, a place of refuge 

Edith Rousselot December 4, 2020

Commuting in a pandemic world

Michelle Diaz December 3, 2020

Battling food insecurities during a pandemic

Courtney Guarino December 3, 2020


Justin McGown December 3, 2020

Honk!: Cars earn a special spot in 2020

Luana Harumi December 3, 2020

Working out looks very different during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang December 2, 2020

One kitchen’s transformation in the age of isolation

Isabel Beer December 2, 2020

Nursing homes are filled with sadness and loss during pandemic shut down

Inga Parkel December 1, 2020

The show goes on

Norah Hogan December 1, 2020

Loyal members help keep independent cinemas afloat

Courtney Guarino December 1, 2020

Musicians deal with the reality of no live shows as covid takes center stage

Paola Michelle Ortiz December 1, 2020

 Black Friday’s Aftermath

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi November 30, 2020

The Spirit of Little Haiti

Savannah Daniels October 14, 2020

Small business owners hope for future relief

Courtney Guarino October 2, 2020

Brooklyn Book Festival held virtually

Chuyan Jiang September 28, 2020

NYC Restaurant owners worry about maintaining business during winter 

Isabel Beer September 27, 2020

The pandemic is causing mental health struggles for many Latinos

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 24, 2020

Politically divided family can agree on one thing, rallies are bad during a pandemic

Michelle Diaz September 23, 2020

New Yorkers are vulnerable to mental issues due to pandemic

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 23, 2020

Healthcare professionals struggle with Trump’s decisions during pandemic

Tori Luecking September 23, 2020

Some Americans Say “Not So Fast” on Operation Warp Speed

James Pothen September 23, 2020

Trump voters unfazed by morality of Trump’s Covid response

Norah Hogan September 22, 2020

Trump rallies continue, despite the rising Covid-19 death toll

Isabel Beer September 22, 2020

Latinos weigh in on President Trump’s management of the pandemic

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 21, 2020

Fast track vaccine causes fear

Kaity Assaf September 21, 2020

It’s business as usual at McSorley’s Old Ale House

Tori Luecking September 20, 2020

Trump defiance to hold indoor rallies amidst COVID-19 sparks polarized responses 

Courtney Guarino September 20, 2020

NYC Cafes and restaurants try and survive the pandemic

Isabel Beer September 19, 2020

A typical afternoon at Shade Bar NYC

Kaity Assaf September 19, 2020

West Village staple, Caffe Reggio, remains open for outdoor dining in the wake of coronavirus restrictions 

Norah Hogan September 19, 2020

Fort Greene’s Dino adds outdoor dining to keep business flowing

Courtney Guarino September 19, 2020

COVID-19 hampers Fashion Week for photographers

Daniel Karel September 18, 2020

On the heels of revelation that Trump downplayed the covid threat, voters question rallies resuming

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 16, 2020

Overburdened mothers in Pakistan are relieved as schools reopens

Quratulain Tejani September 13, 2020

Special needs students face learning obstacles during Covid-19

Courtney Guarino September 12, 2020

Back to school – COVID-19 style 

Isabel Beer September 12, 2020

The new normal for school life is abnormal in Michigan

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 11, 2020

California School District Parents and Teachers Clash About Return to School

Norah Hogan September 10, 2020

A tribute to the mask pioneers

Bohao Liu July 11, 2020

Air pollution in China rebounds to pre-COVID level

Hannah Zhang July 11, 2020

ICE takes aim at international students

Maria Abreu July 10, 2020

Chinese students trapped by new ICE policy

Zishu Sherry Qin July 10, 2020

New ICE policy adds more turmoil to the lives of international students

Shiyu Xu July 10, 2020

Lawsuits follow ICE policy barring international students who are taking online classes

Joanna Lin Su July 10, 2020

Economists say the US needs a bold, generous fiscal response. Congress is likely to disappoint. 

Ahmed Mohamed July 9, 2020