China’s prolonged travel bans have crushed many dreams of students planning to or are currently enrolled in its universities. Since March 2020, its strict zero-COVID-19 policy — harsh measures to eliminate the virus, rather than merely manage it — has turned many into cynics.
Although there are circulating reports that the borders would soon reopen, international students like Md Al Hasibuzzaman from Bangladesh remain sceptical over whether he can ever complete his MBBS at Ningbo University. He’s prepared to be disappointed — and rightly so.
If he’s not able to return within the year, he will never get his degree despite everything his poor family has sacrificed for him to study in China. That’s not all — there are bank loans to pay and jokes about his bleak future to put an end to.
“It’s funny because I should be protecting people from diseases, yet, I can’t seem to save my own life right now,” he says.
We caught up with Hasibuzzaman to learn more about his experience:
What made you choose to study medicine?
I want to become a doctor so I chose to study abroad in China. If I can’t return in one year, I will never get my degree.
It’s always been my dream to become a doctor and now, I will never be one. My family has spent so much money trying to support me which feels like it’s been for nothing.
Coming from a low-income country, I have heavy bank loans and I don’t know what to do. Everyone from my family treats me as a joke as bullying is common in third-world countries. It’s funny because I should be protecting people from diseases, yet, I can’t seem to save my own life right now.
What made you choose to study abroad in China?
As I come from a very poor family, medical schools in Bangladesh are very expensive. I thought that becoming a doctor would help my financial situation.
But since the travel ban impeded my study abroad in China plans, I can’t eat properly. I have to take on part-time jobs in a local shop in Dhaka and my family have stopped supporting me.
My school in China has taken full tuition fees during COVID-19. I started my medical degree in China in 2016 since Ningbo University is well-known for it. I hope I can get back to the country soon.
It’s hard for me to communicate with my family when they ask me questions I don’t have answers to.
With not being able to study abroad in China right now, what’s the toughest thing for you?
I miss the physical classes — with more than one year doing remote studies — it’s been super challenging even though my Chinese teachers are always helpful. I also miss my campus and Chinese food.
I feel like I’m missing out on gaining clinical skills and if I can’t finish my internship on time (in a year), I will lose my degree. You can’t do an internship online and there are lots of students like me who stand a chance to lose everything they’ve worked for.
What are your thoughts on China’s zero-COVID-19 policy and ongoing travel ban?
Only love and prosperity can help us study abroad in China again. We are human too, I learnt about Chinese culture and I have a Chinese name — Fu xiaoxiong – 傅小雄.
What about your uni, is it supporting you enough?
My uni communicates less and less with me — they don’t do much to support the stranded students. I don’t think they talk with the government as well but despite this, I still love Ningbo University and I have hopes to return.
What backup plan do you have?
I have none at all. My family is already in big debt due to my study fees. As my father will retire this year, no one in my family earns an income.
I don’t have a degree to get a job so I don’t know what will happen in the future. I have lost everything I ever hoped for — my studies and my family’s respect.
What’s your advice for those who want to study abroad in China?
I’ve emailed 256 medical schools and 390 hospitals for a clinical internship but it’s ended up nowhere because they can’t issue a visa since it isn’t like an academic programme. I still love the country and I would request others to share positivity about it.