Student going abroad: Caren, Narrator: Laura, Friend: Randi, Mentor: Ying, Newsreader: Vera
Caren: Hi, I am Caren from Germany and I will spend my next semester in China at the Beijing Institute of Technology. I will leave tomorrow and I am very excited and curious what will happen in the next months.
Laura: Caren is 23 years old and usually lives with her 2 siblings and parents in Hamburg. Since the beginning of her studies in 2009, she has been living in Paderborn at the hall of residence.
Last October Caren saw on Facebook, her favorite social networking platform, a video of the ASBE program. Students of the university of Paderborn, who participate in a economy related curriculum, have the opportunity to take part in the major Asian Studies in Business Economics or in short ASBE Program. The university cooperates with four Asian universities and thereby enables a chosen number of students to go abroad and gain international experience. After watching the video it was clear for Caren that she wants to take part at this program. She downloaded the corresponding forms and wrote a letter of motivation in which she stated her wish to go abroad. Several weeks later, she was invited to an interview. A week later she got the happy and relieving note that she was accepted for the program.
Caren: The last weeks flew by so fast, can’t believe that I already have to pack my suitcase.
Randi: Hey, I just came by to say goodbye. How is the packing, do you need any help?
Caren: Hi, thanks for coming by. The packing turns out to be more complicated than I thought. How am I supposed to fit everything in 1 suitcase???
Randi: That must be really difficult. But before I forget, I just saw something online what might be of interest for you. I sent you the link.
Caren: Now you made me curious, I’ll watch it right away.
Vera: Until today more than fifty cases of the new type of bird flu have been reported in China. Yesterday the first case in its capital Beijing occurred after until then only the megacity Shanghai located in the south and the surrounding provinces on the east coast have been affected.
The representative of the World Health Organization in China Michael O’Leary explains:
“There is no way to predict how the disease will spread but the cases in other regions are not surprising since we are dealing with a sporadically occurring disease. Therefore it can be witnessed elsewhere. With intense watching for this for sure other cases will emerge”
By now the disease not only appeared in the area of Shanghai but also spread to the inland. So far eleven people died from it. Today, there are no signs that this new type of bird flu is transmitted human-to-human.
Caren: Oh, I didn’t recognize that it is that serious again, 11 people did already and there is also a person infected in Beijing… Do you how I can prevent myself?
Randi: I am not an expert, but I have this for you, maybe that will help (Randi hands over a surgical mask)
Caren: Thank you so much. That is such a great idea, I will definitely use it.
Laura: Today is the departure day, Caren is on her way to the airport with her mask in her carry on hoping that it will protect her from the bird flu. (Caren is walking to her car)
Caren: Now on my way to the airport, I am really nervous about what will expect me in China. Last night, I almost didn’t get any sleep because I had to think about the bird flu. But taking everything into consideration, I assume that I am well prepared, especially due to our workshops within the ASBE Program and am really looking forward to the new experience.
Laura: After having arrived in Beijing, Caren was scheduled to meet with her Mentor Ying at the train station. Her mentor Ying is supposed to help Caren during her first weeks in the new city like showing her around and making her familiar with the most important things. But Caren thought that it would not be as difficult to meet someone in such a busy city.
Caren: Oh my god, is that crowded here, how I am supposed to find Ying here? And I also have all my luggage with me, I am never going to fit through that mass of people with it. Ying? Ying? Ying?
Laura: After a little while, Ying found her since she was the only blond girl around.
Ying: Hi, are you Caren?
Caren: Yes, are you Ying my mentor from the Beijing Institute of Technology?
Ying: Yeah, exactly that’s me. Come on let’s go inside the train station and catch the next train to the university campus where I will show you your dorm.
Laura: After having arrived in her new apartment, Caren unpacked her suitcase and got situated. Afterwards she wants to inform her family and friends that she arrived safely via Facebook. But she realizes that it is not that easy.
Caren: Why can’t I log into Facebook, it always tells me that the page cannot be connected, that is weird.
Laura: At the same, Caren gets a Skype call from her friend Randi.
Randi: Hi Carne, how are you?
Caren: Hi Randi, I am ok, I just arrived at my dorm and unpacked my suitcase. I was about to let you know that but I cannot log into Facebook. Can you think of any reasons why Facebook does not work even though I am connected to the Internet?
Randi: I know what you are talking about! I’ve read an article that it is not that easy to log in to Facebook from China! The Chinese are so advanced but deny such a great global network…
Caren: But why would they?! There is nothing bad about it, is it? And there are plenty of other social networking webpages you can use here…
Randi: The article said that it is forbidden by the government in order to protect the Chinese population from bad Western influence and therefore it is not possible to create an account.
Caren: Wow… that surprises me. I would never have thought that they go so far. But what is the difference between Facebook and other local networking platforms?
Randi: First of all the Western influence as I said. And then the possibility of having control over what is written online. The other platforms are inspected by supervisors and eventually comments or blogs with critical content are deleted. Facebook could only enter the Chinese market if they accept the hard conditions and of course they don’t to not loose they open image in the world.
Caren: But that is censorship!! So this means that you cannot talk about your own opinion online?!
Randi: You can… if your opinion is supporting what the government is doing (laughing)
Caren: But freedom of speech is so important!! I could never imagine that Germany did such a thing.
Randi: Well… it’s another culture, don’t be too critical about it. Maybe you can try your VPN from the university of Paderborn to use Facebook.
Caren: Thank you, that is a great idea, I will immediately try it out.
Laura: One week later, we met up with Caren and talked about her first experience.
Caren: When I first arrived, it was some kind of cultural shock, I didn’t expect so many people in one place and that the city is that busy. Furthermore I had some adapting difficulties, like jetlag and homesickness. I also have to get used to the different food here. But yesterday, the classes at university finally started and I already met a lot of nice people. We also made some plans for sightseeing for the next week.
Laura: Today, Caren has a meeting with her mentor Ying to talk about her class schedule.
Ying: Hi Caren, is everything ok with you? Why are you wearing a surgical mask?
Caren: Hi Ying, thank you, I am great, I am just wearing the mask to protect myself from the bird flu.
Ying: Oh, didn’t you know that the H7N9 virus is has not been passed on from person to person?
Caren: Really??? I didn’t know that. Actually, I don’t have any knowledge about it, I just saw a video which showed that the virus is back, also here in Beijing and that 11 people already did because of it.
Ying: Ok, I just hold a presentation about this topic the other week, if you want I will inform you about it.
Caren: That is a great idea, I would like to learn more about the bird flu. Is it ok, if I just ask questions than interest me the most in between?
Ying: Ok, then let’s get started: First of all H7N9 is a subtype of influenza viruses that is sometimes found in birds, but that does not normally infect humans. At the end of March, here in China the first human and bird infections with the H7N9 virus were reported. This form of the virus has never been seen before. Those are the geographically locations of the virus.
Caren: But how are people getting infected when it is not passed on person to person?
Ying: This virus has been found in poultry in China in some of the same areas where human infections have happened. Available evidence suggests that most people have been infected with the virus after having contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments. So the virus is a bird-to-human spread and evidence does not show yet if a human-to-human spread is also possible.
Caren: What kind of contact do you mean? Eating poultry?
Ying: For example if someone touches an infected bird or an environment contaminated with virus and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth, they may be infected with bird flu virus. As long as you fully cook the poultry, you cannot be infected by the virus.
Caren: Ok, good to know. But in case I get infected, how do I recognize it, are there any special symptoms?
Ying: So far, symptoms have started with high fever and cough. A lot of the cases have progressed to very serious illness, including severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock and multi-organ failure leading to death.
Caren: Oh, that sounds serious, is there a vaccine to protect against this new H7N9 virus?
Ying: Unfortunately, right now there is no vaccine to protect against this virus. But they are working to develop a vaccine candidate virus.
Caren: Are there at least medicine to treat illness associated with this virus?
Ying: In the early state of the infection, it is recommended to take anti viral medicaments that are also used for other influenza forms. Furthermore the use of antibiotics can be useful to prevent secondary infections and paracetamol helps to lower the fever.
Caren: Thank you for these information Ying.
Laura: In the next weeks we are not able to accompany Caren but she will continue filming with her own camera:
Caren: Today three of my friends and I went to go sightseeing. The first stop was the famous Tiananmen Square with the great Mao portray which impressed me a lot.
We also visited the Forbidden City in the center of Beijing.
Afterwards we took the metro to the Olympic Green. I already saw the stadium back then in Germany in 2008 and was happy that I got the opportunity to finally explore it in reality.
Laura: One more time, we are visiting Caren and she lets us know about her current status as well as her experience in China so far.
Caren: I am so happy right now! Never had I thought that my time in Beijing would be so awesome! You remember the last time I talked to you guys I had some doubts about the bird flu here in Beijing but by now fortunately the situation improved. At the moment there is no evidence that new people have been infected by the virus this is a great relieve for me and I don’t have to worry anymore. I am happy with my courses in university, which are very interesting and helpful for me back in Germany. Furthermore I made a lot of friends in university with whom I spend a lot of time. However, there is still the problem of staying in touch with my friends at home and the issue of freedom of speech in general still irritates me but thankfully I found a way to cope with it. I know that there are topics which are simply not talked about, like for example politics or human rights. Furthermore, thanks to Randi’s tip using the VPN, I am able to log into Facebook.
So in general I can say that I am very happy that I decided to do this semester abroad and I am looking forward to the rest of it and can only recommend to our viewers to spend some time abroad!