'I completed my degree in China amid Covid-19' - graduate who spent 3 months alone in lockdown

Khadijah Masuku. Images supplied.
Khadijah Masuku. Images supplied.
  • Khadijah Masuku is a recent International Trade and Economics graduate after completing her studies in Lin'an, China. 
  • She chose to remain in China from the initial outbreak of the coronavirus despite her concerned family being unsure how safe it would be.
  • The 25-year-old is glad that she stayed to finish her remaining modules, despite it being a challenging time.

Before she went to China in 2016, Khadijah had studied Early Childhood Education and wanted to expand her skill set by studying further.

"I wanted a different study in a different environment and China being the second-best Economy in the world at the time inspired me to use this opportunity," she says.

"I also wanted to learn the language."

Her entire term of study and learning to live in a new environment wasn't easy.

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Initially Khadijah found it challenging to perform basic tasks such as getting a taxi, asking for directions or buying groceries with no comprehension of the local language.

However, leaving Botswana with a family friend who was also going to study and meeting other African students at her university made her stay easier.

"When I first arrived with my friend, I remember how we got lost at the Beijing airport. It's a huge airport, but luckily we had enough time, so we were able to catch up. It was one of my first lessons about how I would have to re-adjust to the new environment," Khadijah says. 

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Towards the end of her first year, she started making friends, getting used to the local cuisine and being accustomed to the air.  

"I had to learn the language so I could get around because many Chinese people don't speak English. In September, I started my major in international trade and economics. Sometimes, because of the language barrier, it would be hard to understand some of the module content, so I spent a lot of time on the internet trying to figure things out," Khadijah remembers.

china, tertiary education, graduation

Khadijah Masuku. Image supplied

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Khadijah stays off-campus alone, and when Covid-19 was first discovered in China, she had to remain indoors. "Around January this year, we had an extreme lockdown. It got so scary at some point, and I started to realise that things were getting out of hand with the virus. I started to ask myself if it meant I was going to die here and won't get to see my family," she says.

"I felt like I was caged. I couldn't move freely or go outside, it was so scary. If you tried to go outside, all you would hear is corona this and corona that, 'wear a mask, wash your hands, don't touch anything'." 

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There were times when her family would ask if she wanted to go home so they could make arrangements.

"I wanted to go home, but I started to think, 'You're in your fourth year, right? And you're required to write compulsory tests to graduate, if you leave now, you can't possibly get your degree'," she says.

Things were so uncertain at that time, and she wondered what would happen if she chose to go home and things fell back into place when she had already left. 

"Also, what if I contracted the virus at the airport on my way home and then infected my family? I had to tell myself that if I stayed away from the airport and remained in my room, my family and I would be safe."

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The university was very supportive throughout and lecturers would check up on her regularly to make sure that while she was alone indoors for three months, from January to March, she was alright.

Khadijah stayed in touch with her family via phone and video calls. She also started journaling to help her through the challenging days. Khadijah has since written her final exam and graduated.

"I am so happy that I graduated, God has been good to me, especially because I had to do my thesis on my own with only phone calls to my supervisor," shares the elated graduate.

Khadijah also admits she got a lot of help from her family and friends in the final stretch of her degree. She is now out of quarantine and able to travel locally, although she has not been able to go back home to Botswana. "We are taking all the necessary precautions. Things are really okay now. I feel safe," Khadijah says.

What's your tertiary journey been like during the pandemic? Tell us about it here.

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