COVID Around the World: An Interview With Former Exchange Students

Every year, Apex High School is allotted five slots for exchange students to enroll at our school. Last year, many students had to go home early due to the pandemic. I interviewed three students who attended Apex High School last year, catching up with them on how their lives have changed since going back to their home country during a pandemic. I was able to get in touch with Zoey, who is from Hamburg, Germany; Maria, who is from Verona, Italy; and Carla, who lives outside of Los Angeles, Chile. They all attended Apex High last year as juniors.

Q: Is your country currently in lockdown?

Zoey: Yes, Germany is currently in lockdown, and in Hamburg especially, we have a curfew from 9 pm until 5 am. We can’t be together with more than one other household, and we have to wear FFP2 masks in the subway.

Maria: Italy is not in lockdown right now. We have been having many strict restrictions in the past months, so the cases have decreased and our government is trying to open everything up again.

Carla: Mostly but each city or town is at a different stage according to its COVID cases. My city, Los Angeles, is currently under quarantine. 

Q: How is your daily life different from pre-COVID?

Zoey: Everything is different; I can barely visit friends, we can’t go out to eat nor to go shopping, or anything else because all stores, except groceries or drugstores, are closed. I don’t go to school anymore and for example, I have two days, Tuesdays and Thursdays, on which I have ten hours of school, with four fifteen-minute breaks, where I can’t do anything really, about every one and a half hours. After school, I got tons of projects or homework, so I keep on sitting in my room doing these in front of the pc as well.

Maria: My life is not so different. I did not feel suffocated by the lockdown because I usually spend my daily life studying. I have been able to run as well. I was bothered by the fact that I could not travel and hang out with my friends as much as before though.

Carla: Well, I live outside of the city, so my daily life hasn’t changed that much. You can feel the difference when you go downtown and you have to wear a mask, keep social distance, and have a hard time shopping because most of the stores are closed or have lines of people.

Q: What do you miss most about Apex?

Zoey: What I miss most about Apex is the variety of classes that I could choose from because here I have eleven classes a week, which I can’t choose. The people in these classes don’t really change except the people that are in the same year as me so no upper or under classmates.

Maria: What I miss the most about Apex is definitely the hospitality! I was struck by all the smiles and compliments people make, and I still really am. I have never heard so many people saying, “I am thankful for…” so many times before. I have never thought about it, but I think it is such a good quality! It makes your mindset more open and happy about what you have.

Carla: Besides missing the people that I met there, I miss the food. Bojangles mostly.

Q: Did you experience a culture shock of how your country was handling COVID when you went back, considering lockdown hadn’t started in America when you left?

Zoey: When I arrived in Germany, it wasn’t very different from the state of America. Actually, in the beginning, my country seemed to handle the situation pretty well, but now we are actually short on vaccines, again, we have a full lockdown. I can’t hang with more than one friend, and I have one pretty big group that I want to hang with, most of my friends turn eighteen this year and none of them can celebrate. 

Maria: Even though I got back when my country was in lockdown, I didn’t actually. At first, I was scared not to be able to catch up with school, so I put all my efforts in there, and days were just going by. It was difficult, but I am glad it was, so I did not have the time to get upset over this situation. I got sad before getting back anyways because I could not thank all of my American friends and acquaintances properly and because I knew that I would not have found my Italian family and friends at the airport after such a long time.

Carla: Definitely. After traveling for hours and wearing a mask, most of the time, I arrived at Santiago. At that time the city was on lockdown, so I had a lot of problems getting back home. 

Fortunately, our former Apex exchange students are doing well, and hopefully, once the pandemic ends, Apex High School will be able to welcome more exchange students with open arms.

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