Way Back Home

Lucy Chang, Staff Writer

Summer, to the Chinese international students at SMCHS, is always the best time of the year. After taking their last final exam, SM Chinese students, one after another, rush to the airport and take the flight to China. In several days, families are reunited, and the hearts full of homesickness are appeased. However, the breakout of Covid-19 in the spring of 2020 changed this sweet journey to a lengthy and tough process for Chinese students traveling back to home.

The nightmare began with the flight tickets. On March 29, Chinese civil aviation announced the “Five One” policy which drastically cut international flights to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.

In the first week of policy implementation from March 29 to April 4, the number of international flights in China was reduced to 109, a decrease of 85.3%, which was only 1.2% of the number before the outbreak of coronavirus. Tickets were suddenly short in supply. To get a ticket from the limited number of flights, many Chinese students at SM had to reach help to some travel agencies. These agencies provided students with tickets at higher prices and a huge number of agency fees.

“The tickets released by an airline was out in a minute. I clicked on ‘order’, but the in next second it told me ‘sold out’,” said Xinzhuo Zhu, a junior of SM, “I don’t even care about how expensive now a ticket is. Just let me have one, please. I miss my home”

In fact, the increased prices of tickets also stressed out many Chinese students’ families. The price of each ticket increased about 4-5 times. A ticket, from Shanghai, China, to Los Angeles in June, worth about 7,000 Yuan (Approximately $1,000) before, now worth 40,000 Yuan (Approximately $5,700).

After paying for the extremely expensive tickets, Chinese students can finally go on to the flights back home. What was waiting for them, is a flying journey, about 13 hours, with masks on. In fully enclosed cabins with insufficient air circulation, masks largely obstruct people’s breathing. When the flights from the U.S. arrived in China, many passengers had a fever because of the long-time lack of fresh air and tiredness. Fortunately, all the Chinese students in SM went back their hometown with a healthy body. But this is not the end of their journey.

When arriving at the airports of each city in China, all the passengers from the international flights will be directly sent to local hotels for a two-weeks quarantine. During the quarantine, they can only stay in their rooms, and no one is allowed to visit them. This is also the policy of the Chinese government to prevent the entry of coronavirus to china from other countries.

Although passengers paid for hotel quarantine fees by themselves, they cannot choose which hotel to stay in. Instead, they were sent to different hotels randomly. Many hotels for the quarantine in China were old and dirty, some were even lack of clean water.

“I was lucky. I was distributed to a nice hotel. But my friends had a really bad experience,” said Wendy Song, a freshman of SM, “there was blood remained on the bedsheet of her room, and the food provided by the hotel wasn’t even fresh.”

Finishing the two-weeks quarantine in the hotels, SM Chinese students finally went back to their own homes and reunited with their families. One thing for sure, is that none of them will forget about this tired, painful, and expensive way back home.