COVID-19 AS A MEDICAL STUDENT IN CHINA: MY EXPERIENCE
By Taiwo Phillips
Medical Student Ambassador, China
As a 4th year medical student in Shenyang, China, first semester exams were over and it was the beginning of the Chinese New Year holiday. People were due to travel both across the country and all over the world in order to be with their families, to have fun, relax and enjoy the New Year. However, all of a sudden everything changed: plans, trips and events started to be cancelled, and people started to stay at home as restaurants, shopping malls and tourist sites began to close. I have always known China to be busy, with bustling streets, but something had changed. I began to notice fewer and fewer people outside, and those that I did see were wearing masks and gloves. This material change could be felt across the country, as COVID-19, which seemed to have originated from Wuhan the capital city of Hubei, Central China, began to spread – it felt unsettling to say the least.
It is universally acknowledged that for medical students it is difficult to balance work and rest due to the rigorous nature of our course. As a medical student in China, it can often feel even more challenging, as not only do we acquire knowledge of Western medicine, but we are also taught traditional Chinese medicine. With this in mind, I’m sure you can appreciate that this increased workload leaves little room for rest, relaxation or even procrastination! With an already tight knit schedule, as a medical student, I was apprehensive of the impact that COVID-19 may have on my studies. Given that it was the holiday period, initially students were not too worried about the lockdown measures impacting their studies, and as such continued to follow them without giving it much thought. However, as the number of cases began to increase and measures became more stringent, it became evident that our teaching would be impacted.
As the second academic session drew nearer, concerns grew amongst both students and academic staff across institutions. After planning and management meetings, it was announced that our classes were being reorganised so that they could be delivered virtually. Although some students were pleased with the prospect that classes would be delivered online, I personally wasn’t. This was because I prefer learning in a classroom and find that it works better for me academically. However, I understood that this was the only viable option and that I would need to adapt my learning style to suit this new method. Universities took further measures, including addressing the safety of students living on campus. They ensured that the campus remained in a lockdown state, that food was delivered to the doorstep of accomodation, and that students only engaged in essential travel, for example to buy groceries or attend medical appointments. All of these measures ensured that we could continue to engage in our learning, whilst protecting the health of those around us.
As the world records daily increases in the number of COVID-19 cases, I sincerely urge everyone to follow the social distancing rules and to stay at home. This will help reduce the spread and reduce the already strenuous workload of the healthcare staff working on the frontline. Practice proper hygiene, follow the rules, and together we shall win this battle.