Former PIHS teacher describes life in China, Philippines during COVID-19 outbreak

Mike Hancock (right) teaching in his HuaiHua University classroom in Huaihua, Hunan Province, China. Photo courtesy of Mike Hancock.












By Gaige Davila

Mike Hancock has been teaching at Huaihua University in Huaihua, Hunan Province, China since September 2019, just two months before the first case of novel coronavirus COVID-19 was confirmed in the country. 

Hancock signed a year-long contract with the university after teaching English classes at Port Isabel High School for 6 years. 

Hancock is currently in Ormoc, Philippines, teaching classes online, unable to return to China, after Huaihua University shut its doors in January. To date, there are 81,008 cases of COVID-19 in China, with 3,255 deaths. In the Philippines, there are 307 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 19 deaths.

The PRESS interviewed Hancock via Google Docs on a secure server. 


PRESS: You were teaching in China during the initial COVID-19 outbreak. Walk us through how you learned of the outbreak, where you were, and what restrictions you had to comply with:

Mike Hancock: The first case of NCV (novel coronavirus, COVID-19)  was detected around the middle of November in Wuhan, 400 miles NE of where I was teaching in Huaihua, Hunan, China. My classes ran until January 10th, and we heard nothing up until that point. By the time the virus became global news and restrictions were put into place, I was already in the Philippines, fully expecting to return to the university on February 16th. 

It’s a little eerie to think that I wasn’t far from the epicenter of the outbreak, and it was well on its way to spreading, when I departed from China via Changsha, just weeks before the shutdown. 


Are you teaching now? 

Like most teachers and professors stateside, I’m now teaching online, via wechat, to my 220 students, all of whom are studying from home in Hunan and surrounding provinces. The administration at Huaihua University set my schedule as two basic classes, Oral English and Business English, with the majority being sixteen-week courses that I’d teach online here in the Philippines until we have clearance to come back to campus. By all accounts, that’s around the beginning of May.

My students are studying business terms and foreign cultures, as well as keeping up-to-date with the NCV situation, particularly in the United States. They’ve communicated with my past students indirectly via wechat and Twitter, offering advice from how to deal with self-quarantines to the best online games and movies that keep them entertained while we all wait this thing out.


What is life like for your students in China now? 

My students are phenomenal; their mental toughness is pretty awe-inspiring. Life is better now for them. With the last of the additional hospital units closing due to patients recovering and the dropping number of cases, they can now enjoy a little bit of freedom, able to go outside and socialize more, although they still wear the surgical masks.

Many of their parents have returned to work in their respective offices or warehouses, so we’re seeing normalization returning to the provinces. Despite having been confined to their homes for much of the last couple of months, the citizens still exercise extreme caution when venturing out, and take all precautionary measures.

The solidarity the people have shown during this horrible time is both commendable and something Americans should strive to emulate.

Editor’s note: Read the PRESS’ full interview with Mike Hancock in this week’s edition, on stands now. 

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