Students who had been on a year abroad have now returned home, reports Charlie Young

Written by Charlie Young
2nd Year Social Policy | News Writer | University of Birmingham
Last updated
Images by Glen Bowman

University of Birmingham students who had been on year abroad programmes in China during the coronavirus outbreak have had their programs cancelled, with the students involved being forced to choose between a transfer to a different international institution, a year out of their studies, or a return to UoB. 

Max Neil, an International Business with Language student, spoke to Redbrick about his experience.

Neil, who had been studying at Fudan University in Shanghai on his year abroad programme, came back to Birmingham of his own accord as he began to see borders closing and flights being cancelled. He said, ‘the only way I could get back was through Hong Kong and at that point I knew I had to come back.’

The only way I could get back was through Hong Kong and at that point I knew I had to come back

He had been travelling around China at the time of the outbreak, in contrast to the majority of year abroad students he knew, and so felt alone when he returned to Shanghai, particularly as the streets became more and more desolate. With no fellow students around him in self-isolation, he felt he was ‘going a bit crazy, with no contact,’ which contributed toward the decision to come home.

Interestingly, UoB did not inform him that his programme would be cancelled until he had already arrived home, adding that ‘I basically got the email as I walked through the door.’

Although he feels the experience was ‘frustrating,’ Neil acknowledges ‘in reality, there wasn’t much that could be done’ and praises the efforts of the study abroad team for their help as he decided to return despite not informing him his course would be cut short until the 1st of February.

Despite the stress involved, he stresses his view that this was no one fault, and no one could predict a virus spreading in that manner, and that he would ‘100% go again if given the chance, I had an amazing time.’

A University of Birmingham spokesperson told the Birmingham Tab: ‘partner universities in China made us aware that they were closed until further notice and as such the 14 students on a year abroad in China were recalled last week, many of whom had been travelling during the holiday period and not been in china for a number of weeks. All are now either home safely or continuing their travels outside China and have been asked not to return to China until further notice. We are working to provide these students with alternate study abroad options. The University is regularly updating the advice to staff and students via the intranet and is in regular contact with students directly.’