By Hongyuan Guo || Contributing Writer

The number of years is never important; what’s important is our experiences.

Experiences made this year special for me. At the start of the year, I had already received the letter of admission from F&M, so I knew I wouldn’t have to study quite as hard. Thus, I got a chance to see my cousin, who also studied abroad. He returned to China, and I went to Sanya (a city in China) to meet him. One morning, he asked me:
“Have you heard of the new virus?”
“No.” I answered, “Why?”
“It is spreading in China now, and anyone who gets ill dies.”

Finally, nature starts to punish humans. That was the thing that popped into my mind immediately.

Because there were no flights at that time, I was stuck in Sanya for about three months. I couldn’t even go outside, so it was about the most boring period of time in my life. When people have nothing to do, they always try to go deep in their minds and start to focus on things around them. So did I. I know people shouldn’t generally enjoy boredom or sadness, but I have to say, it tends to be the best time for me to go deeper in my own mind.

Those days in Sanya, I had to deal with all kinds of crazy things. I once heard a Chinese student who studied in America say: “I have to spend another year telling my principal that not all Chinese people eat bats.” I Laughed with sadness after reading. Then I saw another article which said that a Chinese student in Europe had been called a virus in Chinese (病毒). Though I know I shouldn’t have, I became really sensitive about viruses because of these kinds of things.

One day when I was reading a book under a tree, I got an email from Professor Cable, which I had been sent to all the Chinese students. She spoke about her love for China, and I was really moved. Then I started to chat with her over email for several weeks. I was really surprised that she knew a lot about China. She knew a lot of things about my country that even I didn’t know. I slowly realized the truth that it is quite difficult to understand a new, different culture well, and I think it is almost impossible for me.

But then I learned that Professor Cable was sewing masks by herself. Well, that’s one thing I thought was quite meaningful, and I wanted to learn to do it as well. However, laziness beat me again. I didn’t want to learn and do more work. Eventually, Professor Cable told me that she wouldn’t be teaching during the fall semester, so I couldn’t choose to take her class. Later, I realized that she had actually taught a class for Fall semester because of the virus, and I had missed it. This is one of the biggest regrets for me this year.

After about three months, the epidemic became much better in China, so I had a chance to leave Sanya and return home. At the very same time, the epidemic became much more serious abroad. Then I discovered a quite interesting situation: A person said on Weibo (something like Twitter in China) at the beginning of the epidemic:

“Why don’t those countries allow Chinese people to enter? It’s not fair! These countries are bad!”

After a few months, the same person said:

“Why do we still allow other countries’ people to enter China? It’s dangerous! We should prohibit the situation now!”

Soon I discovered more and more people like that, everywhere, in every country. I started to think: if my province is safe, I don’t want others to come in. But if my province was dangerous, maybe I would try to leave it. It’s contradictory and ridiculous. This epidemic made me learn things about myself that now give me a direction to build myself better.

In August, I enrolled in the F&M in Shanghai program. Going back to work after a long break is as familiar as going back to break after a long period of work. I never wanted to study so hard like that before, though I didn’t even know what I wanted to learn. I have to be honest. Though professors worked really hard and they really wanted to make the class wonderful, the classes could never really be as good as they are face to face, especially the labs. We could learn the principle of the whole lab, and we could learn about tools on the internet, but it’s really different from actually doing them by hand. Maybe we could have another option next semester allowing us to skip labs until we return to campus.

Because I really want to take in-person classes, I applied to go to the Bath program in the Fall. But, with what’s happening now, it’s not likely I will get to go to England for the next semester. Before this month, I really, really did not care about international news at all. I always thought that since news from other countries was so far away from me, it was just a waste of time to read. However, nowadays, I start to research countries that are close to England, if the virus mutates in that country, and what the epidemic situation is like around the whole world.

This has been the first time I realized that the whole world is related to me. When I got more knowledge, when I knew the world better, I realized that every country—even every person—is related to me, and that’s why people say that to help others is to help themselves. There is a state beyond the person of a country: the person of the world. However, I know I’m not in that state yet. My knowledge and mind is still stuck on the situation immediately around me, so myself and my country of China are still the most important things to me.

Tomorrow is always better because it hasn’t happened yet. So, goodbye 2020. Nice to meet you, 2021.

First-year Hongyuan Guo is a contributing writer. His email is