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Take-off: Chinese students face stark choices and a gruelling trip home

When Melbourne entered lockdown 6.0, international students Zifeng Zhang and Xiyu Zha – both enrolled in the University of Melbourne’s master of international journalism – reluctantly booked flights home to China. Continuing our First Person Pandemic series, they document their long journey in this photographic essay. 

Take-off: Chinese students face stark choices and a gruelling trip home

Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

Photographic essay by Xiyu Zha and Zifeng Zhang
 
When Melbourne entered it’s sixth lockdown, international student Zifeng Zhang was confronted with a diffcult choice: endure another lockdown or return home to China. With her parents worried about her welfare, and the cost of living three times cheaper at home, she decided she’d had enough and booked a flight back to China. Packing her whole life into a suitcase, not knowing when or if she’d return, was painful. Here, Zifeng agonises over whether to pack this beautiful, but rarely worn belt. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

When Melbourne entered it’s sixth lockdown, international student Zifeng Zhang was confronted with a diffcult choice: endure another lockdown or return home to China. With her parents worried about her welfare, and the cost of living three times cheaper at home, she decided she’d had enough and booked a flight back to China. Packing her whole life into a suitcase, not knowing when or if she’d return, was painful. Here, Zifeng agonises over whether to pack this beautiful, but rarely worn belt. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

To protect herself from COVID-19, Zifeng wore a N95 mask and a face shield while travelling the long distance on the plane. The flight attendants wore white protection suits. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

To protect herself from COVID-19, Zifeng wore a N95 mask and a face shield while travelling the long distance on the plane. The flight attendants wore white protection suits. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

International student Xiyu Zha also made the difficult choice to return home when Melbourne entered its sixth lockdown. At the international arrivals gate at Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou, China, passengers received COVID-19 epidemiological investigation numbers. Image credit: Xiyu Zha

International student Xiyu Zha also made the difficult choice to return home when Melbourne entered its sixth lockdown. At the international arrivals gate at Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou, China, passengers received COVID-19 epidemiological investigation numbers. Image credit: Xiyu Zha

This was Xiyu’s first stop in her month-long quarantine. She spent 14 days quarantined in this hotel before being transferred to her hometown where she quarantined in another hotel for 7 days. After this, Xiyu completed a final 7-days of health monitoring at home. The first hotel she was quarantined in had a small table at the entrance of each room where her meals would be delivered to. This corridor is the only ‘outside world’ that the Xiyu saw for two weeks. Image credit: Xiyu Zha

This was Xiyu’s first stop in her month-long quarantine. She spent 14 days quarantined in this hotel before being transferred to her hometown where she quarantined in another hotel for 7 days. After this, Xiyu completed a final 7-days of health monitoring at home. The first hotel she was quarantined in had a small table at the entrance of each room where her meals would be delivered to. This corridor is the only ‘outside world’ that the Xiyu saw for two weeks. Image credit: Xiyu Zha

After the flight landed in Guangzhou, Zifeng was sent to the Huangpu District for quarantine. “Wei-ye-na hotel put me in a big room at the end of a corridor on the 14th floor, lucky for me my room had a sunny window,” she said. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

After the flight landed in Guangzhou, Zifeng was sent to the Huangpu District for quarantine. “Wei-ye-na hotel put me in a big room at the end of a corridor on the 14th floor, lucky for me my room had a sunny window,” she said. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

Settling into life in the small hotel room, this desk became Zifeng’s makeshift study and where she entertained herself. At mealtimes, it also served as a dining table. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

Settling into life in the small hotel room, this desk became Zifeng’s makeshift study and where she entertained herself. At mealtimes, it also served as a dining table. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

Zifeng juggled study, online classes, and assignments while quarantined. When she studied late at night, Zifeng liked to order via the hotel’s WeChat app a hot-pot to snack on. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

Zifeng juggled study, online classes, and assignments while quarantined. When she studied late at night, Zifeng liked to order via the hotel’s WeChat app a hot-pot to snack on. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

“Playing computer games was my favourite pastime during the isolation period. I’m playing a Chinese console game called Gujian3,”  Zifeng said. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

“Playing computer games was my favourite pastime during the isolation period. I’m playing a Chinese console game called Gujian3,”  Zifeng said. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

As the days dragged on, Zifeng desperately wanted to go outdoors for a walk. But the COVID-19 quarantine rules in China do not permit the guests to leave their rooms. Zifeng counted down the days until she could be reunited with her parents. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

As the days dragged on, Zifeng desperately wanted to go outdoors for a walk. But the COVID-19 quarantine rules in China do not permit the guests to leave their rooms. Zifeng counted down the days until she could be reunited with her parents. Image credit: Zifeng Zhang

Xiyu managed to keep herself busy during her quarantine period. Part of her daily routine involved attending university classes online. Image credit: Xiyu Zha

Xiyu managed to keep herself busy during her quarantine period. Part of her daily routine involved attending university classes online. Image credit: Xiyu Zha

Day 28 in quarantine. This was drawn by Xiyu in anticipation of only three more days left until she’s released from her month-long quarantine. Image credit: Xiyu Zha

Day 28 in quarantine. This was drawn by Xiyu in anticipation of only three more days left until she’s released from her month-long quarantine. Image credit: Xiyu Zha

About The Citizen

THE CITIZEN is a publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism. It has several aims. Foremost, it is a teaching tool that showcases the work of the students in the University of Melbourne’s Master of Journalism and Master of International Journalism programs, giving them real-world experience in working for publication and to deadline. Find out more →

  • Editor: Jo Chandler
  • Reporter: Jordyn Beazley
  • Audio & Video editor: Louisa Lim
  • Data editor: Craig Butt
  • Editor-In-Chief: Andrew Dodd
  • Business editor: Lucy Smy
Winner — BEST PUBLICATION 2016 Ossie Awards