As the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak - the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province - began easing lockdown restrictions towards the end of March, the first thing that Pakistani students studying at the Central China Normal University did was get together for a celebratory dinner.
"We visited nearby meat and vegetable shops open on campus grounds and bought items to prepare mutton karahi and other traditional dishes," said Naseem Baloch, an MPhil student of higher education enrolled at the varsity.
"To say that we celebrated the moments lost [to the outbreak] would not be an understatement."
The celebration, however, adhered to strict social distancing measures and other preventive steps. "Even while celebrating, we were wary enough to observe precautionary measures," he said.
The entire ordeal - from the virus emerging to restrictions on movement - was a traumatic experience for the students living in Wuhan, which caused some, according to Baloch, to become victims of depression.
We were prohibited from visiting each other's rooms and not allowed to cook. The university's administration used to cater to our needs by delivering items to our doorstep, urging us to refrain from venturing outside.
Pakistani students at Central China Normal University in Wuhan celebrate the return to normalcy. - Photo by author
At the very beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, the gravity of the situation coupled with fear and anxiety had led many to urge the government to repatriate the stranded students.
But with the passage of time and a better understanding of the situation, that argument has also died down.
"Since the lockdown has lifted, talks of evacuation have taken a back seat," said Baloch.
We still do not have permission to travel outside of campus grounds, but that is hardly an inconvenience; almost all things are easily available within the varsity's premises.
Despite being confined to their universities, students are overjoyed at finally being able to interact with one another.
"Compared to the last few months, we can at least sit down together for one-and-a-half-hour while having our meals," said Ali Nagri, a PhD student of international relations studying at Wuhan University.
We gather together for sehri and iftar and also offer our prayers together, he said, adding that the Middle Eastern store within campus grounds provides them access to halal food options.
According to Nagri, Pakistani students are now thankful for not being...