Stranded Chinese students entrepreneurship

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Clever Chinese students/entrepreneurs have made the most of the pandemic, as the world was turned on its head they found ingenious ways to make money.

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from ABC 23.10.21

it’s said that in life when one door closes, another opens.

After the pandemic shut down international travel, the door of opportunity that opened for travel agent Frank Wang led into an apartment abandoned by a group of Chinese students stuck overseas.

“A friend asked me to pack his belongings and send them to China, and then more friends asked me to do the same for them as a favour as well,” Mr Wang told the ABC.

“I thought it might be a business opportunity.”

Mr Wang started reaching out to potential clients on WeChat and other Chinese-language social media platforms and before long was inundated with jobs.

He mainly helps international students who left Australia early on in the pandemic thinking they would be returning before too long.

He packs up their clothes, shoes and other possessions and sends them to China, and also arranges for the properties to be cleaned.

A man is packing a package.
Frank Wang carefully packs up his client’s belongings before shipping them to China. (Supplied)

“One time, I went to an apartment which had been left unattended for more than a year,” Mr Wang said.

“I had to ventilate the rooms first because they smelled so bad.

“The students had thought they might come back soon.”

Australia first banned travel from mainland China in February last year and some Chinese students who were studying here have been stuck there since.

Some are still studying remotely while others have graduated without returning.

Mr Wang started his new business in early 2020 when the first coronavirus wave hit Australia.

“Now, I have finished more than a thousand orders,” he said.

He said the kind of belongings he sent back varied widely.

“Some items are valuable, and others are more sentimental.”

a plie of luggages and boxes.
Removalists are sending countless boxes containing everything from treasured mementos to cooking gear back to China.(Supplied)

Mr Wang said he felt good about helping desperate Chinese students who were under pressure financially and mentally.

“They feel helpless,” he said.

“If they keep their stuff in the rented places, it will be very costly. They have to keep paying the rent.

“Their friends are international students too, who might not have much experience and don’t know much about Australia. That is why they need our service.”

A Chinese girl at Sydney's harbour
Dorothy Zhou enjoyed studying in Sydney and hopes to come back one day. (Supplied)

‘I had to sell it’

Dorothy Zhou used a similar service to get her belongings from Sydney back to her hometown Wuhan.

Ms Zhou, who was studying media at the University of Sydney, bought a round-trip ticket in January 2020 and headed home for a holiday but never got to use the return trip.

Her biggest regret was that her prized guzheng, a two-metre-long Chinese zither, was considered too big to ship.

“They couldn’t send it to me, so I had to sell it,” she said.

What happens when the pandemic eases?

Emma Luo, a former international student, has started a similar removalist business using online video chat to allow clients to directly instruct the movers.

Ms Luo said 95 per cent of her remote removal business clients were Chinese students.

However, she may have joined the party just as it was winding down.

International students are expected to start coming back to Australia by the end of the year.

The federal government is lifting the ban on international travel for states with an 80 per cent vaccination rate and NSW has announced a pilot program that will welcome 500 students into the state on two chartered flights.

The state also recently removed quarantine requirements and caps for overseas arrivals who have been fully inoculated with a recognised COVID-19 vaccine.

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has recognised the Sinovac vaccine, which is widely administrated in China but is not approved for use in Australia.

A graduate holds on to his hat while talking on his mobile phone
International students will be allowed back into NSW before Chritmas. (Reuters: Patrick T. Fallon)

Ms Luo said she sensed that the client base was shrinking, and with the borders reopening she would have to look for other business opportunities.

“Most of the overseas students who want to leave have already left,” she said.

Mr Wang said he too realised he would have to change his business once international travel resumed.

“Shipping belongings overseas is a temporary business, our company needs transformation,” he said.

“We will serve the new arrivals and help them settle in Australia, offering airport pick-up services, helping them to open bank accounts or selling them the second-hand furniture left behind by the previous students.”

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