The Chinese students stuck in a German boarding school amid COVID-19 pandemic
Natalie Carney in Munich

For many of the 16 Chinese students at the Max-Rill Gymnasium high school in the small, Bavarian town of Bad Tolz, going home is not really an option.

When the coronavirus emerged in China, the students were told to stay in Germany.

"We never expected the disease would come to Germany at that time," says Carmen Mendez, the school's headmistress.

"When the epidemic started in China in December, we told them in January to stay here."

Now Germany has become one of the worst-hit countries in the world, with more than 26,000 people infected as of 12:00, 23 March.

Due to the increase in positive cases globally, borders are being closed and strict travel restrictions are being put in place, including quarantine measures. Some countries have even barred the entrance of people coming from EU countries, the epicenter of the pandemic, making the logistics of returning to China difficult for these students.

"Of course I miss my parents, my whole family and all my friends in China" 12th grader Lang tells CGTN Europe. She hasn't seen her family since Christmas.

"I have not gone home because of the coronavirus and because I am in my final year of high school. First, you have to be in quarantine in China for 14 days and then in quarantine for another 14 days when you return to Germany. It is not worth it."

Fellow grade 12 student Wang Wei was last in China in December. 

"I can't go home right now. I'm about to graduate. I have to focus on school. When I'm traveling, I could also catch the virus. My parents are afraid of that."

One student decided to return to China, but now restrictions may not allow him to return in May to sit his final high school exam. This is also a risk most do not want to take.

"Usually, from Monday to Friday, the time is well organized by our teachers," says 16-year-old Li You, from Beijing. "We study by ourselves and we also get assignments from the teachers. In our free time, we play cards, piano or basketball.

"At first I was a bit afraid because we are here in school, with strangers running back and forth," she admits. "But I think Chinese students should not fly back to China right now because many things can happen on the way. You may bring the virus home with you. It's best to stay in quarantine. Although we miss our family, we cannot fly home."

The Max-Rill boarding school, about 45 minutes south of Munich in the Bavarian alps, has become popular with Chinese students wishing to receive an internationally revered private German education.

Being nestled in a rural area, it means students are less at risk, says Mendez. 

"We live quite far away from the towns and decided to forbid going out a month ago. We talked about the disease in biology class and the health system here. Everyone is insured, so they needn't be afraid. They are provided with everything. They give us lists if they need anything and then just one person goes out to buy it. We are a little bit like a paradise on Earth, in a comfortable way."

Germany announced new restrictions on Monday to further limit social contact across the country, but for these students, life inside the Max-Rill boarding school is as good a place as one could be during these unusual times. 

Subscribe here to get the COVID-19 Europe bulletin sent directly to your inbox.