After the outbreak of the novel virus, COVID-19, concerns have mounted over universities using dormitories to quarantine international students. However, the issues related to dormitory concerns do not appear to be as serious as reported. In fact, when Ewha Voice contacted universities regarding major concerns – the dormitory capacity and the number of staff, it turned out that both of them were not an issue.
Following the government’s guideline, many universities have separated international students entering from China and Southeast Asia to one dormitory building for two weeks. In regards to this practice, many students and the media expressed concerns over universities’ limited response to the situation.
One of the major concerns arose was that schools lacked the capacity to accommodate all international students from China. According to research by Korean Association of University Professors, among 17 universities in Seoul that have more than 1,000 Chinese international students, only nine had enough room to accommodate more than 50 percent of the students.
Moreover, many doubted whether universities had the ability to control the urgent situation in dorms as the number of medical staff on campus were far fewer than the number of students. For example, Ewha has four medical staff on campus.
However, the numbers shown above do not necessarily represent reality. In fact, it turned out that only a few Chinese international students were choosing to enter dormitories to isolate themselves from keeping in touch with other students.
When Ewha Voice contacted a field staff affiliated to an undisclosed University A in Seoul, who is currently managing Chinese international students, he replied that the dormitory capacity and the number of staff were not an issue.
“Because the school cannot force Chinese students to enter the dormitory, only a few are entering and the rest are deciding to quarantine themselves on their own,” he mentioned. “Based on the number of students I manage, only 1.67 percent stay in the dorm.”
He explained that as the school decided to run the courses online, Chinese students who were expected to come delayed their flight schedule. He further added that even the students already in Korea were deciding to return to China after the rapid increase of patients in Daegu.
“Although it’s hard to generalize, dormitories’ lack of capacity is something people don’t have to worry about,” he commented.
Ewha also replied that only 23 Chinese students put themselves in quarantine at I-house as of March 3. When compared to the total number of Chinese students, which is 1,138 as of Oct. 2019, it means only 2.02 percent of Chinese students are staying in the dorm.
“The capacity is enough and the dormitory system is completely under control,” an officer at the Office of Communications answered. “The school and the staff are working hard to keep the dorm safe and clean. I think students do not have to be concerned about the dormitory issues because we are trying our best to keep everything under control.”