BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Hundreds of flights are canceled at Sea-Tac International Airport amid coronavirus concerns.
High school exchange students in Bellingham are left in limbo between their home country and their host country.
“I don’t want to go back, but probably I will,” said Clara Costa, from Brazil.
Lucas Alves, also from Brazil, shares a similar sentiment. “I was very frustrated, actually, of course. One of the main reasons to come here is to go to school, make friends, and now I just stay home,” he said.
Intent on completing their senior year in the U.S., Costa and Alves arrived in Bellingham 10 months ago. Now with three months left in the program, their dreams are cut short.
“I wasn’t expecting that to stop school, stop my experience, but everything is good. I’m going to have more opportunities,” Alves explained.
Flights home are hard to come by, so students have little warning before they’re told to pack their bags and head to the airport, leaving no time for proper goodbyes.
“Most of them are not being given any time and they’re just shocked,” explained Deborah Keyes, Academic Coordinator for Homestay International.
“I have all my friends at school, and I didn’t say bye to anyone. My host family. Yeah, it will be super hard to say goodbye,” Costa said.
Once they arrive in their home countries, they will then head into 14-day isolation before they can see family.
“I know they are very close, I want to hug them, I want to have contact with them. But I know it’s for their security, so I need to prevent them from this risk so it’s better for everyone,” Alves said.
The uncertainty of when they’ll be back or even hug family makes the goodbyes that much harder.
“There’s a lot of tears, a lot of frustration, a lot of anger. But for most of them, they know that this is best,” said Keyes.
“It’s super sad, I don’t want to go back, but I think it’s better in this situation. There aren’t a lot of things to do,” Costa said.
Homestay International said they are booking flights as they become available to get kids home as soon as possible for everyone’s health and safety.