Exchange students trip comes to an abrupt halt

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Photo submitted by Siri Pomarius

Due to COVID-19, exchange students must return home sooner than expected. During one of her last days here, junior Siri Pomarius visits Stillwater Area High School one last time. She is feeling grateful for everything she experienced and thanks the many incredible teachers at Stillwater.

Fiona Stahl, Online Editor

COVID-19 has left exchange students feeling disappointed and frustrated after their trip to Minnesota has been cut short. Many special experiences they anticipated have been lost. These students are not the only ones feeling this way; host families must also say their goodbyes. 

“The main reason to become an exchange student was to explore the world, because not only are you gonna be able to experience an entirely new culture, you also meet so many new people during the year,” sophomore Luca Shweins explained. 

The main reason to become an exchange student was to explore the world, because not only are you gonna be able to experience an entirely new culture, you also meet so many new people during the year,”

— Luca Shweins

The exchange students got the sudden message they must return home. This devastating news brought sadness to the students, host families, teachers and fellow classmates. With the sudden notice they received, there was not much time to say their final goodbyes. 

Junior Siri Pomarius and Shweins both explained their organization was the one who made them return home earlier than expected. This decision was made in fear of possible flight restrictions if they waited until the summer.   

It was not only the organization’s decision, but it also depended on where they were from. This resulted in some students leaving and others able to stay in order to prevent spreading. 

Junior Grace Pearson is feeling thankful that her exchange student was able to stay. She added, “We may not be able to go back to school,” but “she is still able to talk with friends that she has made here.” 

Students arrive at Stillwater Area High School feeling eager to experience the American teenage life. With many of their arrivals happening during the winter, spring stirred much excitement with anticipation for a variety of events. 

“I was really excited for spring and the beginning of summer. I wanted to go to lakes and just hang out with friends,” Pomarius explained.

With stay-at-home orders being put in place, saying final goodbyes were sudden and not made easy. The students were notified they must leave shortly after returning from spring break. This left little time for those to receive one last hug before returning. 

Shweins added “there was not enough time to meet up with everyone,” which left him saying goodbye to his friends over Snapchat. He said, “This wasn’t really what I had planned when I came to the US, but at that point, I had no choice.” 

Throughout the quarantine craziness, exchange students and their host families have managed to make the most out of the time they did have together. With their trips being cut short; students like Pomarius and Shweins would do anything for an opportunity to come back. 

“Yes! I’m trying everything. I asked my school here and I think I have a chance. If I were to come back I would like to be in school for two months and then be there the whole summer,” Pomarius said. 

Despite major setbacks due to COVID-19, students search for positivity while looking back on the highlights of their trip. These memories are unforgettable and have said to have changed who they are today. 

Shweins explained he will never forget what his host parents and friends did for him, as well as that they made him the person he is today. 

“I think being an exchange student or doing a year abroad is a really great thing. It’s so good because of the skills you learn like the new language, but also to interact with people you don’t know. You also learn so much about yourself,” Pomarius said.