Yesterday my trusty calendar reminded me about an event that would have taken place in another world ... in the world as we knew it before Covid-19. I sat there for a minute staring at that popup on my laptop, remembering that world.
In that other universe, we would have had our exchange student group “farewell” meeting/potluck get-together yesterday afternoon. Some 20-25 students from more than a dozen countries would have been celebrating the year of experiences, talking about the friends they had made and exploring the mixed feelings of happiness that they would soon be returning home and sadness over leaving. Their host families and several happy local coordinators would have been celebrating their successes with them.
We didn’t get that universe.
Instead, schools shut down and students were suddenly staying at home with their host families, seeing almost no one. When our program and others made the decision to send students home early, students left one or two at a time as available flights were found. We didn’t get our celebration. Students and host families didn’t get the closure everyone wanted -- the closure we all needed.
But that universe will return.
It will be different, true. I think that most of us realize that Covid-19 will change how schools and businesses operate. Personal and professional interactions will also change in the post-Covid-19 world. International education and study abroad will need to change as well. So we’ll change and adapt.
I believe that our students will be stronger for their experiences this year, as will students around the world. And what hasn’t changed is this: we still have a universe of excited students from around the world looking forward to new experiences in a different culture. Many won’t be able to get those experiences during 2020-2021. But some will be able to have their high school exchange or international college experience, and others will follow. We will continue to have a world of students learning first-hand about other cultures, and we will continue to have families expanding their own horizons by bringing a teenager from another country into their home.