Chinese students share learning
abroad in Lincoln during a global pandemic
Send a link to a friend
[May 21, 2020]
Being away from home is not easy for anyone, so going far away to a
completely different culture that speaks a different language is
monumental. Now imagine being in a foreign country and facing the
challenges brought on by the pandemic.
That is the situation some of the international students found
themselves in at Lincoln College.
Through an exchange program with a Shenyang Jianzhu University in
China, eight students: Peter Haoze Liu, Belle Shanshan Wang, Michele
Chang Chang, Katrina Ruoxuan Wu, Sheila Xinjie Zhi, Joyce Zihe
Zhang, Carol Xilang Zhang and Jason Ziwen Liu, chose to study at the
college this year. They came from various cities and provinces, but
all had been students at Shenyang Jianzhu University.
On this end, the first year program was spearheaded by Dr. Jonathan
Pierce, Division Chair of the MacKinnon School of Business at
Lincoln College. The College hopes to establish a long-term exchange
relationship with Shenyang Jianzhu University in China.
In an ordinary year, we might wonder how the students liked being in
Lincoln and what they thought of their United States education. But
this year’s mid-second-term campus shutdown, social isolation and
travel restrictions certainly has been a game changer. How did they
feel about it? What have they been doing?
We asked lots of questions and the students graciously shared the
highlights of their year here and how they are now coping with an
unanticipated extended stay. Most of the student answers were
similar and could be summarized as a group response, but we’ve
included their unique answers as well.
To start, why did each decide to come to Lincoln College?
In commonality, each one felt they would benefit from learning about
cultural differences and see whether they could get used to a
Not surprisingly, some of the students are English majors who felt
studying in America would improve their English skills. Others were
curious about American education.
Moving into the present circumstance, they were asked how the
shelter-in-place has affected them, how it has changed student life,
and what has been difficult.
For the most part, all said they have felt safe due to the
protective measures offered by the college.
Though one student noted having to stay around the school can be
boring, the college has strived to find ways to keep that from
happening. As part of the measures, LC President David Gerlach lent
them some DVD’s. Professors Ron Keller and Eric Grunder invited them
to visit during break. Mary Pierce, wife of Lincoln College
Professor Jonathan Pierce, even brought them Asian food from the
To help ensure their well-being, LC nurse Diane Stephenson checks
the students’ temperatures daily. The school chef has prepared food
every day and asked their needs and wants.
Belle Shanshan Wang said, “The pandemic makes people feel bad, but
we are so lucky that we still can be well taken care [of] no matter
how far [we are] from home.”
Fortunately, modern technology has made it so the students have
talked often to those back home through video calls. These video
calls provide their families with comfort and reassurance when they
see the college caring for their kids. And, the students said that
talking to their family helped them to cope more effectively and
Being so far away from home, and having family in China, had special
challenges as their homeland was the first to go through Covid-19
and little was known about it. Several students initially felt
worried, anxious or scared. Katrina Ruoxuan Wu, whose father is a
doctor, said she did not feel panicked though.
Student Michelle Chang Chang remembers when China experienced SARS
during 2002 and 2003 and recalls that by following the government’s
instructions, eventually necessities were restored. Belle Shanshan
Wang said that following the government’s instructions to wear masks
and stay home has made her family feel less scared.
With so few students being on campus, their lives have definitely
changed. Peter Hoaze Liu sleeps in later without early classes.
Others said that they missed being face-to-face with the professor
and classmates and sharing knowledge. In general, the students found
the material harder to absorb online. And, Katrina Ruoxuan Wu, a
theater major, misses being able to do theater work in Johnston
Since these students are among the very few left on campus, they
miss interactions and discussions with classmates. They missed
eating together in the cafeteria with its happy and noisy
atmosphere. One student commented on the frustration of not being
able to shop in normal ways.
Several students cited how travel limitations hurt them. Some would
be going home this month, but they are “stranded.” They are unable
to even book their tickets.
To keep thoughts positive and upbeat, the students watch television,
funny movies or Netflix and listen to music. The support of friends
and faculty also helps. Professor Peiwen Xu, visiting professor from
China’s Shenyang Jianzhu University, checks on the students every
[to top of second column]
For fun and recreation, some, like Peter Hoaze Liu and Sheila Xinjie
Zhi, enjoyed playing mobile games, spending time and chatting with
the others on campus. Others, like Carol Xilang Zhang, enjoyed
watching movies. Jason Ziwen Lu was thankful that Professor Denise
Lagrassa had provided a keyboard to play music.
The students try to get some exercise by walking or dancing. Katrina
Ruoxuan Wu said she enjoys chasing the bunnies and squirrels on
campus for exercise.
These students observe that the best part of their education in
Lincoln has been various special experiences they have had. Peter
Haoze Liu said they enjoyed the history teacher [Ron Keller] doing
role plays. Katrina Ruoxuan Wu enjoyed working with the theater
The Chinese students began their year hosting a mid-autumn Chinese
Festival that taught other students and the community about their
culture. This magical presentation was open to the community and
tremendously enjoyed by all who saw the performance. It was received
as a beautiful gift bonding us to them.
If they were able to do more while they were here in the United
States, most of the students said that they would have enjoyed
travelling around the states and visiting places like Yellowstone
National Park. Joyce Zihe Zhang had always dreamed of visiting Los
Angeles and had planned a trip there while in the United States. She
was sad that she had to cancel it.
So what were their favorite American foods? All the traditional
foods - like omelets, chicken nuggets, burgers, waffles, pancakes
and cheesecake. Their favorite Chinese foods are hotpot, skewers,
noodles and BBQ Malaking.
Though the students hope to go home in June, a few said they would
return to America if there was another chance.
Going home to China stirs strong emotions and expectations. When the
students get home, they look forward to going to a restaurant to eat
kebabs and other Chinese food like BBQ, hotpot and seafood. And as
would be expected, but even more so under the current world
concerns, many are anxious to simply hug their parents and family.
Even with the Covid-19 Pandemic and all the changes, they say they
will remember their time here fondly.
Jason Ziwen Liu said everything will have a place in his heart.
Others appreciated the helpful faculty, interesting classes,
classmates, friends, beautiful environment and working with the
lightboard in the theater. Michelle Chang Chang had fun celebrating
her twentieth birthday here.
In the distant future, Peter Haoze Liu, Belle Shanshan Wang, Michele
Chang Chang, Katrina Ruoxuan Wu, Sheila Xinjie Zhi, Joyce Zihe
Zhang, Carol Xilang Zhang and Jason Ziwen Liu will have not only
have many stories to tell their children, nieces and nephews, but it
will be as an experience like no past generation has told about what
happened when they studied abroad.
Belle Shanshan Wang, Michelle Chang Chang, Sheila Xinjie Zhi and
Carol Xilang Zhang said they will tell others how Lincoln College
had a calm demeanor, got problems fixed, and delivered food.
Peter Hoaze Liu and Jason Ziwen Liu will share how the college was
loving and caring, protecting them when they were stuck in America.
Belle Shanshan Wang will remember this time has been difficult, but
happy and unforgettable, and the people here are sweet and good. The
circumstances have made at least one student, Sheila Xinjie Zhi,
feel stronger, more independent and courageous.
Sheila Xinjie Zhi will also tell her future family about the charm
of America with the bustling streets of New York and the literary
atmosphere of Boston.
A few will share wisdom they have learned from this experience:
For example, Joyce Zihe Zhang will tell people, “The secret of happy
life is not the location you lived, but the life style you choose.”
Michelle Chang Chang will tell people, “don’t wait to find and
Finally, Peter Haoze Liu learned, “In front of uncontrollable
things, you can only control yourself.”
During these uncertain times, the exchange students seemed to have
taken the proverbial lemons and made them into lemonade. Nobody
cherishes the pandemic, but these displaced and inconvenienced
students demonstrate their appreciation for Lincoln College’s
example of the best of American hospitality, and Lincoln has
benefited having had them here at this time
Lincoln College - Full moon rises on delightful Chinese Autumnal celebration
Students offer insight into their homeland traditions - Album
Evening ends with an amazing full moon outside for departing guests - Album