Pen Pals Across the Pacific: ‘It’s a small world after all’

In late February, posing in front of the map of China, the students of Jock Lauterer's Community Journalism class at UNC-CH are writing and receiving emails from Chinese college student pen pals relative to the coronavirus pandemic. The class includes, front row, left to righ, AJ O'Leary, Molly Weisner, Gianna Tahan, Sasha Schroeder, Korie Dean, Maydha Devarajan and Victoria Johnson; back row, standing, left to right, Julia Masters, Matthew Audilet, Jock Lauterer, Sophia Wilhelm, Andrew Dundas, Victor Hensley, Landon Bost and Jazmine Bunch. (Photo by Ryan Tuck)


Publisher’s Note: Back in late February, before COVID-19 became a reality for the U.S., I had my Community Journalism students at UNC-CH write letters of concern to Chinese college students. And the Chinese kids, in deep quarantine, wrote back. Now, a month later, the tables have turned, and we are in the cross-hairs. Thus, the Pen Pals Across the Pacific project has become a therapeutic exchange between new friends 9k miles apart — proving once again the truth the old childhood song: “It’s a Small World After All.” (Photo at right: from Chinese social media, Chinese college students returning from abroad aboard a chartered aircraft signal signs of hope) Photo courtesy of Prof Chen Kai. Communication University of China, Beijing.)

Jock Lauterer is the founding publisher of the Durham VOICE and a UNC-CH adjunct professor at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.