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Over 100 DKU international students authorized to return to China for first time since pandemic

International students attending Duke Kunshan University have been largely absent from the campus in China since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020. 

However, on Tuesday, a group of DKU students received notice that their return to China had been formally authorized, according to an email obtained by The Chronicle sent from Marcia France, associate vice chancellor for undergraduate studies at DKU, to the authorized students. 

Over 100 international students were approved to return in this first group, according to Lydia Jin, DKU’s senior director of strategic marketing and public relations. 

The students represented nine countries—the United States, Ethiopia, France, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan, Russia and Singapore. These students had “previously stated their willingness to return to DKU and comply with all testing and quarantine requirements,” Jin wrote in an email to The Chronicle. 

The Tuesday email outlined the next steps for travel plans, including contingency plans for students slated to spend the fall semester at Duke’s Durham campus or at DKU’s global site in Barcelona.

Students must decide by June 10 to accept the offer to return to China due to the time constraints of the authorization, according to the email. If students choose to return, they would have to withdraw from an existing study abroad plan in Durham or Barcelona for the fall. The email encouraged students to return to China in the fall due to the logistical challenges of the visa application process. 

However, the email stated that DKU “will not require any student to withdraw” from programs in Durham or Barcelona. 

The email also included the requirements for students to enter China, which states that students must travel on a direct flight from their country of nationality.

It also gave country-specific information for pre-travel COVID-19 testing requirements, which vary from 2 nucleic acid rt-PCR tests within 48 hours before departure to week-long periods of closed-loop quarantine before boarding flights to China. 

Upon arrival, students will complete a “14 + 7” quarantine, beginning with two weeks of centralized quarantine—three days in Shanghai and 11 days in Kunshan or Suzhou—followed by a week of home health management expected to be in DKU’s accommodation, according to the email.

Once quarantine measures are completed, “students are responsible for their own health management and are expected to comply with all COVID prevention and control measures,” the email read.

To offset the costs of travel and quarantine, students on financial aid can apply for up to $3,000, according to the email. 

A follow-up email sent by France on Tuesday to all undergraduate DKU students expressed the administration’s plans to “continue to work on getting authorization for all remaining international students” to enter China, including incoming members of the Class of 2026. 

Charlie Colasurdo is Kunshan Report editor and a senior in the second-ever graduating class of the Duke Kunshan campus’s undergraduate program, located outside Shanghai, China.

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