The last few weeks have been confusing and scary not just in the United States, but all around the world, and, as a result, a number of CHS exchange students are headed home.
Once Governor Jay Inslee started announcing school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, Camas High School exchange students received an email from their counselor and their organizations announcing they would be withdrawn back to their home countries. Eight out of the ten foreign exchange students at CHS this year went back home. Six students returned to Europe, one went back to South America, and another returned to Asia. According to CHS Counselor Sarah Warta the students will be going home with their most recent term grades and a copy of their transcript and class schedule.
A senior from France, Lucas Potin, said he was very disappointed when he heard he would have to go home. “I’m very sad, I feel like there is a lot of pressure on me. I just want to see my parents.”
On March 26th, Potin got the news that he was flying home in two days. When he flew home, he said the journey was a unique experience. “All of the airports were not busy at all. In Portland I went through security in like two minutes,” Potin added. “Everyone was wearing masks. Some people were crazy with masks and gloves.”
When his father picked him up from the Paris airport, the drive home only took three hours instead of the usual four because there was no traffic on the road.
Another senior from France, César Sainte Rose, received the same email as Potin and was confused and disappointed. “It was definitely one of the weirdest times of my life, and the fact that the last week of school was my last American high school experience and I didn’t even know it, furthermore with the current situation I couldn’t see everyone and say goodbye which was weird as we were already quarantined.”
He was able to fly back home safely. “I was really fortunate to travel back home with a mutual friend of my host family and my parents back, who works as a stewardess for British airways who was flying back to Marseille airport close to where we both live,” Sainte Rose said. . None of his flights required him to sit right next to someone else. Thanks to his stewardess friend he was confident that he was able to get home safe and healthy.
One student who is able to stay in the U.S. is Matteo Peqini, a senior from Italy. Since he did not accept any scholarships for his year abroad, he was able to choose whether he went home or not. Peqini talked to his parents, and they decided it was best for him to stay with his host family in Camas until he is supposed to go back, which is the end of June.
Whether they got to stay or had to go, the exchange students agree they learned to be more mature and how to take care of themselves.
Potin said, “This experience made me grow up so fast. There is going to be a big jump between me, my friends, and my family because this year I grew up way more than them.”
His organization, AFS, also told exchange students that they are going to be different from everyone else because they have changed so much.
Sainte Rose says he is going to miss Camas very much and is grateful for his experiences here and all the people he met. “This situation definitely reminded me of the importance of being grateful and not taking anything for granted and living every moment to the fullest.”
After a quarantine period at his house, Potin is ready to get back into an everyday routine. He said, “My mom went to the grocery store and saw a teacher from my former school. The teacher said that I am welcome to join the school again.”
He wants to go to school and finish out his last year of schooling in France, but all the schools are closed right now. He plans to do online schooling with his former high school until school reopens in France. When he does eventually go back to school, he wants to continue his English, however; none of his friends can speak English as well as him. He plans to combat this problem by visiting the English teacher at his school.
Sainte Rose is back home in Marseille, France and is using this time to spend time with family and prepare for college next year. He wrote, “In France, we are all under strict quarantine rules, we need a form that can be filled out on paper or on our phone whenever we go out that specifies why we are out.” Sainte Rose also mentioned that people can only go out for necessary reasons, like groceries, and they can only go outside to get some fresh air once a day for an hour.
Here in Camas, Peqini has had more time to reflect on his experience: “I have more empathy. I think I grew up a lot, and I am more mature. I know how to speak English now.”
As far as going home early, “It sucks, but things in life are much worse than this. People are dying, prom is not the most important thing right now,” Peqini said.
Although Peqini said that prom and graduation are not super important to him, he will miss going to CHS when he goes back home. “The school is the main thing that you get to experience. School is not everything, but I am going to miss American school so much,” he said.
During this quarantine period Peqini is staying active and keeping up with his online classes at CHS. He really wants to hang out with his friends before he goes back to Italy.
From afar, Sainte Rose also mentioned his gratitude and the possibility of visiting in the future. He said he is, “So grateful for my experience in Camas. Everyone in Camas is amazing and I hope to be back very soon to visit. I’m going to miss it so much.”