Poland family says early goodbye to exchange students amid pandemic

Coronavirus

The girls came to the U.S. in August and were supposed to stay until June

WKBN

POLAND, Ohio (WYTV) – Everyone has been adjusting to the coronavirus pandemic differently as more things get canceled every day.

But what does all of this mean for exchange students who had their experience in the U.S. cut short by the pandemic and school closings?

For 17-year-old Maya from Japan and 15-year-old Salwa from Thailand, they had to leave their temporary home in Poland with Alexis Smith.

“Everybody’s having to deal with the confusion and the scary, and just this whole entire situation has just kind of turned everything upside down,” Smith said.

The girls came to the U.S. in August and were supposed to stay until June. They had been attending Poland Seminary High School.

Maya and Salwa were told they had to go home by their exchange program once the pandemic hit in mid-March, but finding a way there was a challenge.

“They think they have a flight out and then they don’t. I mean, we had them go to the airport, probably each of them, several times and the flights were canceled. It was very frustrating,” Smith said.

Smith said the girls were sad to leave, but she echoed their sadness because it all happened so quickly.

“I was sad that their year ended that way and it was just disappointing. I had gotten them prom dresses and we had several trips planned,” Smith said. “It permeates into everything and it’s very hard on everybody in different ways. Everybody’s fighting a battle right now.”

As of last week, both Maya and Salwa are back safely in their home countries.

“It was just so sad to kind of think of that they’re not here anymore and that was it and unless I go over there and see them, which I plan to do, I’ll never see them again,” Smith said.

Smith said it’s just another part of normalcy that COVID-19 has taken away.

“It makes you really appreciate what we had and I look forward to it coming back,” she said.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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