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Na na Yang (left) and Xue Tao (right), at the chapel on Ashland University, help serve food to international students living in Ashland. Li “Dolly” Dong, minister of the Chinese Church of the First Presbyterian Church of Ashland, started the outreach ministry on March 17. The volunteer group now delivers meals to students every Tuesday and Thursday.

Editor's Note: This ongoing thrive series looks at how students on college campuses are innovating, overcoming challenges and living healthy lives.

ASHLAND — Na na Yang, an international graduate student at Ashland University from Beijing, holds a positive outlook on the future of America despite the recent chaos.  

“I like to view this hard time from two perspectives,” she said. “Not only view it as a horrible thing, but also within time we’ve seen a lot of unity in our people and a lot of empathy toward each other and care for each other. That’s what I think is most important.”

During the last month of quarantine, Yang said she and other international students at AU have felt included by the local community. 

“We can receive our Chinese food twice a week from Chinese Church, which is quite meaningful during this time,” she said. “We’ve received a lot of care and help from our local community and church, as well as from Ashland University.”

Yang said those who have helped her are friendly and have no complaints, and even strangers, whom she meets on walks around her neighborhood, maintain social distance while smiling. “So that is the attitude toward life: passing the positive energy,” she said. 

Yang lives in Ashland with her son and said she feels confident in the Ashland community, as well as the Ashland University community. 

“I think we can overcome this. Quarantine at home is suffering, but we still hold great gratitude and hope because we’ve received a lot of help, comfort and greeting cards from the local people, local church and local community. This is where my faith and confidence comes from,” Yang said.

“Also, I believe that the whole country can survive as long as we are united together with confidence and obedience to the quarantine regulations," she said.

Yang, pursuing her Masters Degree in Education, came to America to study education, as well as the English language. 

She said that international students want more interaction with the professors, so they prefer face-to-face classes, however, they now have to learn online due to the stay-at-home orders.

“Studying at home for so long is a little bit hard for us,” she said. “Especially for the non-native learners since we need more face-to-face communication. Some of my classmates are struggling with anxiety, they feel kind of confused about the online tasks and online assignments.” 

Even so, Yang said the professors have been flexible and President of Ashland University, Carlos Campo has reassured them everything will be OK. 

“The principal of our University sent out a letter to comfort us and let us feel safe to stay here and study here. He showed his sincere welcome and made us feel really included here,” she said.

Xue Tao, assistant director of International Admissions at AU, said some of the international students who wanted to return to their home countries couldn’t.

Xue Tao

Tao has worked at Ashland University for almost seven years. She said although it has been a challenge to completely shift to online classes, it can be an opportunity for everyone to really try a different format. Tao also said the faculty at AU is all about supporting the students and has worked extremely hard to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“Because of the coronavirus, students definitely feel anxious, they feel nervous, they feel scared. They want to go home and stay with their family and friends, which totally makes sense,” Tao said. “Even though they want to go home, are they able to go home? That’s another concern.”

Some international students at AU made the decision early enough to return home and were able to find flights while others still struggle to find a way home. 

Tao said several students continue to purchase new flights because the previous ones were cancelled, and that prices are high while options are limited.

“Due to the travel restrictions, there are no direct flights from U.S. mainland to Chinese mainland. So a lot of students decide to switch or change flights in Japan, Korea, Taiwan or Hong Kong but those can be shut down one by one,” she said.

Yang has made the personal decision not to go back to her home in China. She said that for her, it was more convenient to continue her studies here.

She said that although studying is important, staying safe is the number one priority. During quarantine, Yang said she has tried to read more, as well as do more for the community and friends around her. Her son even made cards to send to those working in hospitals.

“I think contacting each other is quite important,” Yang said. “To show your care. And if you feel worried, to show your worry or anxiety. Talk it out, I mean shout it out, to reduce the anxiety inside.”

Yang said she belongs to a learning group which continues to meet weekly during quarantine on Zoom. “We can share what we have experienced, and also we can read the scriptures,” she said.

Yang encourages everyone to have self control during this time, to eat healthy and, if you can, try to exercise.

“You need to have contact with others, and to learn and to read. Do not separate yourself from each other. Enrich yourselves mentally and physically, develop your own interest then you won’t get fearful, you hold a hope."

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