Coronavirus delays Chinese exchange trip


Image by Gianluca Tomasello. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Madeline Welch, Opinion Editor

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, U-High students participating in the Chinese exchange trip are unable to host students from Beijing who were supposed to arrive Jan. 31. Their arrival and the trip to China U-High students were to take in March have been postponed leading to disappointment among U-High students. 

The annual trip to China, run by the world languages department in coordination with the University of Chicago, allows students to experience Chinese culture. This year, the group of students was the largest yet, with 16 U-High participants. 

“I’m pretty disappointed,” Arji Parsad, a U-High student participant, said. “I was really excited to go on the trip because I’ve always wanted to see China, but due to the virus I won’t be able to. I know it’s for the better if my class and I don’t go, but it’s still a big let down.”

While nothing has been cancelled yet, the trip has been postponed until the situation with the coronavirus improves. Xialoli Zhou, the Chinese teacher who has run the exchange the past two years, said the school is looking into rescheduling the trip for June, but it is challenging to find a time that works for all 16 families who committed to the trip, which was originally planned over spring break. Additionally, the Chinese school system runs on a different schedule, as their summer break begins in mid- to late-July. 

Leading up to the arrival of the Chinese students, the U-High hosts were in contact with their partners and formed a bond over email and social media.

Ms. Zhou said the decision to postpone the visit from Chinese students was made Jan. 24. 

“Everybody involved knows that it was the right decision to make, but everyone who signed up genuinely wanted this experience, so we will try to figure out alternative dates as soon as we are able to,” Ms. Zhou said. “I personally think it’s going to be very difficult to find a time where everyone is available.”

If the trip cannot be rescheduled for June, then the world languages department will most likely move it to next March. In that situation, priority for a 2021 trip would go to the students from the 2020 trip.  If the trip is cancelled, the families of the students who were to participate will be fully refunded.

U-High was one of the first schools to postpone exchange trips, as faculty and administration worked with experts at the University of Chicago throughout last week to take precautionary measures. The University of Chicago has also temporarily closed its educational centers in Beijing and Hong Kong.

“When we told the school in Beijing, they were a little shocked. They were telling us that their students were still allowed to go to countries in Europe at that point,” Ms. Zhou said. “But now, it’s completely different. After we told them, they got notice from the Ministry of Education to postpone all of their exchange trips.”

The Chinese government has taken extreme actions to prevent the spread of the virus, including grounding flights and prohibiting the purchase of tickets at tourist attractions. This impacted the trip’s itinerary, which includes a two-day hike on Abujee Mountain in southwest China. Due to the virus, the tour company refused to book the U-High trip. 

“It’s obviously a bummer, but if the Chinese government doesn’t let us then there’s nothing we can do,” junior Tristan Woods said. “Safety is the most important thing.”