International students experience difficulty with phone applications

Students from China say they’ve been unable to use a few of their most frequently used applications to contact friends and family back home

Virginia Kettles and Xiaoxia Yin

Last month, Chinese students found they could not access some of the most popular Chinese websites, softwares and applications.

“I can no longer see the moments in WeChat,” said Yue Pan, a first-year international student from China. “Sometimes it works, but most of the time I cannot open them.”

With many of her friends and family half a world away, Pan usually contacts them via WeChat, the popular Chinese social media site.

Pan can post moments (the Chinese version of Instagram), send and receive photos and videochat with her parents on campus through WeChat.

WeChat was not the only popular Chinese application that wasn’t working. Baidu, the most popular searching engine in China, Taobao, the biggest shopping website, Bilibili, a popular Chinese video website and QQ, the biggest messaging software in China were also affected.

“At first I thought it was because of a problem with WeChat itself. However, after speaking with some of my Chinese friends, we found that everyone had the same issue,” Pan said.

It didn’t take long for the Chinese students to realize that all of these problems stemmed from W&L’s network itself. They said they found that they could still access WeChat when using their own data.

Though these students reached out to ITS, they were reluctant to give the students a definitive answer.

“[ITS] said it was because WeChat was hacked recently, so they blocked it, along with other Chinese websites,” said Nouya Zhou, ‘18, who is also an international student from China.

“I use the site very frequently, and my parents are really worried because WeChat is the only method we [use to] contact each other,” said Jiasheng Zhou,’19, a first-year Chinese student. “Though there are only a few Chinese students in the school, we really need those blocked websites because they are extremely necessary.”

“I can understand the school blocking those websites because of the virus, but it should also take into account the thoughts of Chinese students and faculties,” Lingran Wang, a Chinese teaching assistant at W&L.

Tom Tinsley of ITS said the problem was a proxy issue in the campus firewall. On Nov. 4, he said ITS had fixed the problem.

But there still seem to be issues. Most parts of WeChat work well, but subscribers still cannot see pictures. Some other Chinese websites, such as Baidu and Taobao, work, but are quite slow.

“It’s a good thing the school is trying to reach out and solve the problem,” said Guanyun He, ‘19, a first-year Chinese student. “But the fact is the inconvenience still exists.”

ITS has not responded to further requests to fix these problems.