AFS trips cancelled, exchange students sent home early

Kris Long, Opinions Editor

AFS, being a multinational organization, is one of the Manhattan High clubs that will be most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. All national and international trips are cancelled for the remainder of the school year and exchange students are in the process of being sent home three months early.

AFS had a trip planned for boys who stay in dorms at the Wichita Life Prep academy to shadow MHS students during their spring break. The exchange students there have no host families to spend holidays with, so many come to Manhattan and stay with host families in their time off. The trip was originally planned for this week and was cancelled last Thursday. 

“I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see them,” AFS president Ainslie Markle said. “But I think it was the right call. I don’t think we should be traveling… it made sense to keep everybody safe.”

Exchange students are in the process of being sent home when AFS can find plane tickets, a difficult task at the moment according to Italian exchange student junior Aurora Petriconne. The first group of students are expected to leave on March 20. 

“It is my understanding that the process is underway to have all exchange students return to their home countries,” AFS sponsor Tony Wichmann said. “By doing this, [there will be] no get-together to say goodbye.”

Some students are being sent home to countries badly affected by the virus in comparison to Kansas. For example, Aurora Petriconne is being sent home to Italy where her family waits in almost complete lockdown. 

“I would probably rather stay here,” Petriconne said. “But I understand things are getting worse here. And we don’t know what is going to happen here. So, it’s probably better for me to go home so that, if something happens, I’ll be with my family. But yeah, I would rather stay here.” 

In Petriconne’s hometown, her family is stuck at home, though none of them are ill. They are only allowed to go to the grocery store and pharmacy, and even then their time allowed out is limited. Both of her parents are still employed and working from home. They are allowed out without a specific purpose only to walk around the block. However, anyone found outside their neighborhood without authorization could be sent to jail for two months.  

For Petriconne, the hardest part about leaving early will be not being able to say goodbye. 

“I really wanted to see the people that I’ve been living with for a year,” Petriconne said. “And probably a lot of those people I’m never going to see again. And it’s kind of hard that I’m not going to say be able to tell them goodbye, and the last time they saw them, I didn’t know I would never see them again.” 

After the pandemic is over, Petriconne would like to come back and visit the people she met here, though her time was cut short. 

“I would love to visit this city again to see my family that, for me, is a family,” she said. “My host parents for me are like second parents. So I would love to come back and see them again.”