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How COVID-19 has impacted high school foreign exchange students in the Ozarks

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OZARK, Mo. — Graduation plans have changed for many seniors because of the pandemic. Some students say they feel their senior year was stolen over the last two months.

Imagine being a foreign exchange student who came to the states hoping for an American prom and graduation.

Adela Sediva is from the Czech Republic. She’s holding her cap and gown soon to be worn. She attended Ozark High School. The past two months or so have been somewhat “foreign.”

“Well instead of normally like, attend school, I have online classes and I spend all my time at home with my sister,” Adela said.

Adela is a foreign exchange student living with her beloved host family in Ozark, the Murrow family.

“I really think there could not be a more perfect person for my family,” Lucy Murrow said. “Like we are so, so exactly the same person. Like I don’t know. It just couldn’t get better.”

Adela says her experience has been amazing. Her first day at Ozark High, her first American school, she was on the school tennis team and she’s even been to Disney World. Her 10-months here have been eventful her graduation would have been in May, now the actual graduation is not until August 8.

“So I’m going back to the Czech Republic May 25 and they are planning graduation for like summer but this Saturday will be like drive thru-graduation,” Adela said. “And I’m real excited because it’s like really original like a unique experience. And it’s like I’m really happy for this.”

While Adela has great spirits she acknowledges she wishes she had been able to experience a few more things.

“Well I’m real sad I don’t get to do track and field because it’s like my sport my call I was really excited to show everyone I’m good at it,” Adela said. “And I don’t get to go to prom you know like High School. American prom it’s like not the same as Czech Republic prom, so I’m a little sad about it.”

“She did comment to me awhile ago she’s very grateful we did not wait until Spring Break to do Florida,” Linda Murrow, host mom said. “So she did get that opportunity to go and do something really exciting.”

The family has grown tight especially in these unique times.

“I feel bad for her in the beginning it was even more difficult than it is now its kind of her routine.,” Linda said.

“Like my family is amazing and I think my experience for the whole year would not be better,” Adela said. “So it’s just like so amazing.”

Adela will get her Ozark High School diploma and proudly take it back to her native home.

More international students are planning to arrive in August with precautions. There are dozens of teens waiting for host families.

People may be surprised there are foreign exchange students still ready to come to the states in August with much precaution for the next school year. The problem is many don’t have host families.

“I keep telling her she’s my favorite,” Linda said. “Truthfully each one of them you love completely differently just like your own children.”

Adela is the third foreign exchange student the Murrows have hosted. She has also hosted two other students from Spain and Taiwan.

“They are all different personalities,” Linda said. “Different things they bring with them when they come.”

In fact, Linda enjoys foreign exchange students so much; she became an area representative for the International Student Exchange or I.S.E., alongside Bridgette Burnside who says Springfield and the surrounding area is a desired location.

“I think because we are centrally located,” Burnside said. “So if families want to travel to Florida like for Spring Break. You know that’s a really fun place to take kids to and then the exchange student can experience that.

Like Adela she went to Disney World. Students pay for their own flights and travel the families provide meals and loving home. The women both say there is such a bond that is indescribable.

“That’s why I love doing it,” Burnside said. “I love getting to know all the kids. And it’s really hard for me to even say good-bye to them.”

Even though the pandemic the families and representatives try to make their experience the best it can be.

“This year’s been really tough to let them leave,” Burnside said. “It’s just been really hard to tell them good-bye and to watch their program get cut short.”

The hope is, next school year, the pandemic will be no longer and those foreign exchange students looking for an American host family, will have a chance to experience American culture will find that perfect family and they will find them.

According to the representatives from I.S.E. students also buy all their own entertainment, toiletries, school supplies, etc.

Families who host, their children receive scholarships towards studying abroad if they wish.

As far as COVID-19 is concerned, students who come in August will be required to get a certificate of health before coming to America.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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