Exchange students sent home because of Covid-19


“I feel disappointed because my experience was not over," Giuliana, a student from Brazil who is living in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, said. "I had prom and graduation to go to and now there is nothing I can do to change this.”

Ana Nogueira Alvarez, Staff Writer

During this social distancing period, exchange students are in absolute uncertainty about the coming weeks. Many of them have to worry about the possibility that they could be sent home if they haven’t already.

Coronavirus has affected everyday life for everyone faster than anybody could expect. Stay-at-home orders, closed businesses, online classes, and a long list of changes in order to prevent the spread of the virus. But how is it affecting those students who are thousands of miles away from home?

There are many different factors that affect the decision to return home. One of those factors is the different country’s government recommendations. Regarding the situation at the borders, which have more intense restrictions everyday, world leaders encourage people who are temporarily abroad to return home. The Canadian government sent a message for all Canadian citizens currently away: “come home while you can”. An official global travel advisory from the government says travel plans may be disrupted as countries shut down borders and airlines cancel flights.

In addition to this, exchange organizations have started to consider this option with their responsibility to protect and look out for their students currently away from home. For example, Rotary International was one of the first organizations to send students back to their home country. But others, like ICES, left that choice for the families to make.

“If schools are permanently closed, I‘ll have to return,” Carlota, a Spanish exchange student living in Roseville, Michigan, said. “This is my organization’s recommendation, but of course, my opinion and the family’s count too.”

“I haven’t returned,” Clara, a student from Spain who’s living in Maryland, said. “I’ve considered ICES’ recommendation for me to do so and my parents wish for me to return, but we couldn’t find a direct flight so I’m staying.”

This is definitely an important factor with the issue. Currently, flight cancellations have limited travel options. Flights from State College to most European cities involve at least two or three layovers at various airports. When talking about teenagers who have to travel on their own, this is a lot to deal with.

Having to leave without being able to say goodbye to their friends or enjoying the activities at the end of the year is hard for these students.

“I feel disappointed because my experience was not over,” Giuliana, a student from Brazil who is living in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, said. “I had prom and graduation to go to and now there is nothing I can do to change this.”

Emilio, a student from Spain, had to leave Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania as well.

“It’s affecting me in a bad way,” Emilio said. “I’m somewhere in between mad, sad, and feeling lost. I didn’t want to come back to Spain.”

The current situation is playing an important role in the lives of foreign students. There’s uncertainty about the changes that keep happening everyday and sadness for the students who had to leave before their experience was over.

“Being this far from my family makes it different, it makes it harder,” Carlota, an exchange student from Spain, said. “This will come to an end, but I don’t think that will happen soon. I don’t think anyone, exchange organizations, governments, etc. know what is going to happen with us. The only thing we can do is to wait and calm down because things are getting crazy.”