With the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus over the first months of 2020, the Beifang International Education Group (BIEG) has taken a number of steps to safeguard the mental and physical wellbeing of its overseas alumni under the banner of the Grow Together Initiative, which I was proud to help launch at Regent’s University in London this past October. Most recently, in my work as education consultant for the UK office of BEIG, I had the chance to meet up with Beifang alumni in Leicester. More than just finding out about how they are dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, I also wanted to hear about how they are adjusting to their new studies and everyday life in the UK.
Over dinner, we discussed some of the problems that have come up over their first half year of graduate study, with students sharing their personal stories of lessons learned, and challenges overcome. After completing their respective BAs at the Chengdu College of Arts and Science, Chen Daiwei and He Dongyu started graduate study at the University of Leicester in the fall of last year. Bowen Management College at Guilin University of Technology graduate Wang Lu and Zhujiang College of South China Agriculture University graduate Liu Shujiao meanwhile, both currently attend Loughborough University as graduate students. In sharing their personal experiences, the importance of respecting your own culture while at the same time respecting the culture of your host country was a common theme shared by all four alumni.
One student shared that studying abroad made them feel more self-confident, particularly when it came to using English in the classroom. Being able to express their true feelings, not only increased their interest in their area of study, but also spurred them to look into new areas in professional fields adjacent to their own. All of the students felt that studying abroad improved their self-reliance—especially when it came to cooking! Despite all of their busy studying, the students shared that they were doing their best to take part in extracurricular activities and expand their horizons; helping organize activities with student clubs, and taking part in optional school trips around the UK and Europe. They also expressed interest in helping plan future BEIG alumni trips along the same lines.
Thanks to our meeting, the students were able to trade contact information, and even made plans to attend a football match together. It was a great example of how easy it is to make friends when you meet face to face. The students promised to keep a close eye on the latest developments with the Covid-19 virus in China and expressed their faith that the crisis would soon be turning a corner. For the sake of everyone back home, they would also be taking good care of their own health, and finally thanked the BEIG Alumni Association and the Grow Together Initiative for giving them the opportunity to meet. Finally, they gave a cheer of support, “You can do it Wuhan! Go Wuhan!”