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Students in Asia discuss differences of living at home during the pandemic

Graphic of a healthcare worker wearing a mask holding a eucalyptus necklace with the Indonesian flag behind her.

After returning to their home countries from BYU–Hawaii in the last several months, students from Asia shared how dealing with the coronavirus pandemic looks in their home countries, from military enforced lockdowns and strict social distancing rules to taking care of plants.


As of Sept. 9, 2020, Indonesia has 203,000 cases of COVID-19, according to Google Statistics. Because people are going back to work and many not taking COVID-19 seriously by resuming going to markets and malls, Marissa K. Cahyaningtyas, a senior from Indonesia, said, “I don’t feel any difference living here with COVID.”

Cahyaningtyas, majoring in psychology with a minor in human resources, explains the reasoning behind the high number of cases in Indonesia is society and government. If someone has COVID-19, society members distance themselves from them, she said.

“That causes really negative norms so a lot of people will lie if they have COVID… Sometimes they run away or literally flee to another city because they don’t want to be discriminated against, and then they infect [more] people.”

She said one of the most unique, funny, yet ridiculous events in Indonesia is false cures for COVID-19.

According to the South China Morning Post, the Indonesian Minister of Agriculture claimed a necklace made from eucalyptus would prevent the spread of the virus, and said if worn for 30 minutes, it would kill 80 percent of the virus in the wearer.

According to Cahyaningtyas, many people in Indonesia are superstitious and believe things that have been prayed on or blessed with holy water will work as cures. “It’s funny and a little frustrating at this time people still believe in this thing.” Cahyaningtyas said her wish is for people everywhere to listen to healthcare professionals and to follow official guidelines to help stop the spread of COVID-19. “They’re the ones dealing face to face with COVID-19 … They’re actually sacrificing their [lives].”

Cahyaningtyas’ older sister is a doctor treating COVID-19 patients. “As a family, [we] are really worried because you never know if she’ll get infected.”


Although plants don’t seem to be a cure for COVID-19, they are helpful in dealing with the pandemic effects, said Jinev Villanueva, a junior from the Philippines studying interdisciplinary studies.
Since going back to the Philippines during the coronavirus pandemic, Villanueva said she has been taking pictures of and tending to her mother’s plants.

“It’s been [a] fun and very relaxing activity to do, not just taking photos of them, but also helping my mom to plant.”

Villanueva said her mother has a gift with plants, and she enjoys supporting her hobby. “It’s very calming and soul-enriching. Likewise, helping her in her garden … has been a great way to build our relationship.”

While Villanueva has been home, she said she has also been able to spend time with the rest of her family by singing with her siblings and father, helping her younger sister in reading and math and sometimes doing photoshoots for them.

“Though this time is full of uncertainties, I feel at peace believing that I am where the Lord wants me to be right now, with my family,” she said.

Renea Buenaventura, a junior from the Philippines majoring in accounting and visual arts, said many people in the Philippines “are finding the hobby of cultivating indoor plants like cactus very relaxing… it reduces their anxiety.”

According to Google Statistics, as of Sept. 14, the Philippines has more than 245,000 coronavirus cases. “It hit us really bad ... lots of hospitals have been full and some people with different sicknesses were driven away to different hospitals,” said Buenaventura.

The government sent low-income families relief money, said Buenaventura, but not enough for a family to be able to live off of for one month of “stay-at-home quarantine.”

Although the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult, Buenaventura said it made her realize the importance of her family. “Even just their mere presence, it gives me comfort, and somehow, assurance I have them with me to face the future with. They keep me emotionally balanced and keep my sanity steady. I won’t trade these moments to any financial comfort away from them.”

The resilience of the Filipino people is another thing she said she appreciated.

“People are very resourceful and creative enough to cook different foods, create different crafts, and plant different crops and herbs to sell online and deliver to different houses, giving them sources of income.

“In the Philippines, we call it ‘bayanihan’ where friends and neighbors help each other by giving service and together survive whatever challenge is in front of us.”


Graphic of man in military attire, gun and mask standing in front of the flag of Malaysia.
Graphic of a Malaysian military member with the flag of Malaysia behind him.

Malaysia has taken a much stricter approach in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, said Joseph Pushnam, a recent graduate from Malaysia.

“Compared to neighboring countries, Malaysia did an amazing job handling the situation. “When we soared up to 3,000 cases, the government immediately enacted a military lockdown nationwide.”

Many foreigners did not like the idea of a military lockdown, he said, but “in a short time of two months after the lockdown, we lowered ... cases to almost zero.”

According to The Straits Times, the Malaysian government enacted a nationwide shutdown enforced by the police with assistance from the military on March 22.

“Not many countries [did] it, but Malaysia is one of the few that has … I’m actually okay with it. Many are. I’m sure a lot weren’t at first, but the results are too good to ignore,” said Pushnam.

According to Google Statistics, Malaysia has 9,500 coronavirus cases as of Sept. 9.

Hong Kong

Graphic of a woman wearing a mask holding a thermometer with a thumbs up with the flag of Hong Kong behind her.
Graphic of a woman wearing a mask holding a thermometer with the Hong Kong flag behind her.

According to NPR, instead of issuing stay-at-home orders like Malaysia and others, Hong Kong implemented strict social distancing rules, such as taking temperatures before entering stores and restaurants.

Chung San Chung, a graduate from Hong Kong, said the government started to loosen the rules. However, the number of cases began to rise, so the rules were put back into place. The regulations include restaurants eat-in only from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., and a two-person gathering limit, she explained.

Hong Kong has 5,000 cases of COVID-19 as of Sept. 9, according to Google Statistics. Chung said the government gave out 10,000 Hong Kong dollars, equivalent to about 1,200 U. S. dollars to adults 18 or older, to help relieve those struggling.

However, some people in Hong Kong have taken advantage of this and have tried to use it as an opportunity to scam others out of their money, Chung said.

“Scammers will pretend they’re bank workers or … government workers and then call or text people saying there’s something wrong with [their] identity or [their] information ... to scam [their] money."

Chung said these scams had not affected her, and things seem to be improving now. She said the government is providing saliva tests to infected areas and will soon do widespread testing to anyone who needs it.