Sichuan students stay on course despite earthquake

When a devastating earthquake rocked the Chinese province of Sichuan earlier this month, its impact was felt around the world, including Flinders University where 80 students from the affected region are enrolled.

The disaster spawned several stories of courage and dedication. In Beijing, two students took part in a special graduation ceremony for Flinders’ Masters of Education just days after being caught up in the tragedy.

Having flown out of Sichuan just a few hours before the earthquake struck, Jiutong Zhao an English Teacher of Mianyang Art College, had an agonising wait before finding out his wife and children were still alive, only to be told his nephew had been killed.

Similarly, Chunrong Wang, Deputy Principal of Mianyang Dongchen International School, was driving to Beijing when she was forced to stop the car after feeling as though she was driving on the ocean.

In a statement to the University’s staff and students, Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Barber expressed his deepest condolences to the people of China and urged any students affected by the disaster to speak with the International Student Services Unit or Health and Counselling.

“Our thoughts are with those struggling to cope with the disaster and it is important to be mindful in the weeks and months ahead of the plight of those who have lost their homes, their loved ones, and many other things that we take for granted,” Professor Barber said.

According to Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education, Humanities, Law and Theology, Professor Faith Trent, the fact that both students were determined to graduate from the program alongside their 53 classmates was inspiring.

“IT was truly indicative of the dedication both our Chinese and International students show not only to their studies, but to Flinders University as well.”

In another amazing feat, fellow graduate Xiumei Chen crossed the stage to receive her Masters just five days after giving birth to a baby boy, Theodore.

Professor Trent said she greatly admired the willingness of the Chinese people to help their fellow countrymen.

“Just being there when it happened is something I’ll never forget,” Professor Trent said. “There were massive television screens along the main streets of Beijing streaming live images from the quake zone and groups of people standing in front of them to get the whatever news they could.

“It was an extraordinary outpouring of grief, with hundreds of people lining up at makeshift blood banks across the city or to hand over what little money they could – they simply gave whatever they could to help.”

If you would like to help with the relief effort, donations can be made to the Red Cross in China Earthquake Appeal http://www.redcross.org.au/default.asp

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