International students of Jiangsu University show paper-cutting works with the theme of the Year of the Ox at Yangjiamen community in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, on Friday. Foreign students of the university who had chosen to stay in China for its lunar new year were invited to the community to learn about paper-cutting skills and other new year traditions. [Photo by SHI YUCHENG/FOR CHINA DAILY] For Marcela Vazaves, the essence of celebrating the Spring Festival is to spend it with loved ones, whether it is with friends and teachers around her or with parents and relatives in Mexico online. The senior student from Beijing International Studies University and two of her classmates were invited to a teacher's home to celebrate the Little New Year－usually a week before Spring Festival－on Thursday, making dumplings and learning about the culture behind Spring Festival, the most important holiday for Chinese people. The 25-year-old said although she felt sorry for not being able to travel home due to the COVID-19 epidemic, she is grateful that she is safe and well in China. "The New Year celebration is all about being together. I video chat with my parents every day, so I am with them digitally," she said. "The university has taken really good care of us international students since the epidemic broke out more than a year ago, offering us epidemic prevention and control materials and looking out for our mental health." The university has paired all 49 international students on the campus with Beijing residents so they can celebrate the festival with local people and enjoy an authentic festival atmosphere, said Yu Miao, dean of the university's school of Chinese language and host of Thursday's gathering. Yu said inviting students to his home is a good way to make friends with them. "Apart from teaching international students Chinese language, we also want to build genuine friendship between the faculty and students," he said. Some of the students have not returned home for more than a year, and the school wants them to feel the warmth of the Chinese people and the Chinese New Year, he said. Lissett Li Huang, 31, from Panama, said she feels great about the experience. "I loved it and had a lot of fun," the senior student said. Her parents also want her to stay in China for the holiday since the country has brought the epidemic under control quickly and it is safer in the country, she said. Vazaves said she has been in China since the epidemic broke out and saw first-hand how the country contained it. "It is not only because of strict government policies, but also the strong willingness from the people to follow the epidemic prevention and control measures, sacrificing personal interests for the greater good." Other countries should really learn from China, as only through concerted efforts can the pandemic be contained globally, she said.