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February 20, 2020

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Expats in Shanghai stay put during outbreak

BRITISH teacher Alan Garcia has stayed in Shanghai for almost every Spring Festival over the past eight years. This year, amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, he decided to remain in the city once again.

“I believe there is no difficulty China can’t overcome,” he said. “If we do our part and work together, we can overcome anything.”

Garcia has strictly followed government orders on preventing the spread of the virus.

“I stay at home, no shopping, no friend’s wedding. I think it shows how much I love China,” he said.

He has not been bored during the extended holiday. On the contrary, it has given him more time for learning.

“I went on the Internet to learn everything I could about online teaching, got advice from other teachers, and discovered new courseware and activity ideas,” he said.

Garcia is an English teacher at Shanghai-based Learning Education.

During his eight years in China, he’s felt nothing but gratitude.

“Chinese have been very helpful and kind throughout my time here,” he said. “Shanghai’s reputation is renowned globally. Often, it’s referred to as a very modern metropolis, with an ‘East meets West’ cultural mix. I’m always amazed at how quickly things change for the better in China.”

The English teacher said he’s impressed by Chinese government’s rapid response and resolute action, especially the lockdown of an entire province, and the escalation of precautions.

He admitted he felt some panic, and his family in the UK asked him to come home, but he chose to stay positive and remain in Shanghai.

“The media back home exaggerate and add fear to the actual situation,” he said. My family wanted me to come home, but they respected my decision to stay. I’m constantly updating them on the actual news, since, as I said, media back home can be misleading. That way, my family won’t panic too much.”

Before the viral outbreak, Garcia heavily relied on food-delivery platforms like and restaurants near his office. But the virus limited his food options and forced him to cook.

“I went to supermarkets to find the basics and went online to search for cooking videos, which enabled me to cook more for myself,” he said. “I’ve also searched for exercises to do at home so I can stay healthy. Being at home all the time has huge limitations, but you can always learn something on the Internet.”

He also turned to the Internet to research online education, since offline classes have been canceled.

“An outbreak will not stop the education of our students, which is key in any society,” Garcia said.

His school has an online department which has worked to expand its network of teachers and courseware.

“We’ve dealt with this by interviewing teachers, observing their demonstration classes and arranging trainings for them on how to teach, among other things. We are doing it because we don’t want interruptions in our students’ studies,” said a Learning Education administrator.

Like Garcia, his colleagues are teaching online classes.

Learning Education’s foreign teachers made a video of support for the people of Wuhan with a reminder that the entire world is pulling for them. “To all our friends in Wuhan, stay safe, stay safe. Remember, we care about you.”

Lauren Walton is also British but a relative newcomer to China, having arrived two years ago.

She didn’t hesitate to cancel her flight home after learning about the viral outbreak.

During the extended holiday, she, like Garcia, has continued to work, ensuring her students have English lessons online every day.

“I know the peaceful spirit of the Chinese people will help defeat any challenge they face. Keep fighting. Wuhan! We care about you,” she said.

American Peter Winthrop calls himself a “new Shanghainese” because his wife is a native of the city.

Shanghai has become his favorite place on Earth.

“Shanghai is a city of opposites, skyscrapers around the corner from ancient quarters, local food and international cuisine,” he said. “It is a city of many opportunities to learn new languages, take up old hobbies or just enjoy all the parks and gardens. It is a great place to meet new people and make friends from all over the world.”


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