Being an exchange student at this point in time is extremely hard. I’m not only concerned about my plans for this year that are now changing and my town here, but also my family back home. This pandemic changed my exchange year completely. It messed up with all the plans I had. Of course, I came to the United States knowing that my exchange year won’t be a smooth ride, but the pandemic was a destruction I never imagined. But nonetheless, I would like to think that everything happens for a reason.

Quarantine has built a barrier between me and my social life. I’m an extrovert and can’t stay in one place for too long. Being an exchange student, school plays an important role in my life right now. This is where I have most of my friends, and I miss seeing their beautiful and cheerful faces everyday. I miss my kind bus driver who always gives me an “I’m glad to drive you to school” smile everyday, the school counselors who always offered me chocolate because they know I have a sweet tooth. I miss my chemistry teacher Mr. Anderson who got me into liking brain games, and I also miss hearing him say the phrase “please don’t die” whenever someone coughs. I miss Ms. Swanson, my human anatomy teacher, who gives me a big smile every time she sees me, my English teacher Mr. Backman who tells us stories that make me think harder when I get home, Mr. Andrich, my civics teacher, who teaches me to believe in myself and stand up for myself. I miss my choir teacher, Ms. Leander, who warmed us up every day with The Saints (I have since taught myself how to play the song on a piano now to remind me of choir), my fitness teacher, Ms. Fank, who always told us to be on the move (for her it meant to move around and stretch your body, but for me it meant don’t ever give up and work towards your dream), and Mr Burnett, the best drama teacher I ever had. He helped me discover my passion and now I will treasure it. I miss Mr. McLean, my Pre Calc teacher, whom I thought was impatient with me at first, but turned out to be very supportive. I miss the administrators at the top of the stairs, cheering everyone up with a good morning smile, and Ms. John, my favourite librarian who always wants to know everything about the exchange students. I miss the school cleaners who work so hard behind the scenes and every other staff member who puts in so much effort to make the school run smoothly. I miss every tiny bit of school, all of those moments — even the times that were boring or stressful. 

But that doesn’t mean quarantine is bad; it has its own pros and cons. Due to all the changes in our lives right now, we feel like we are ensnared, and it is normal to feel that way. But below the feeling of being cheated upon lies internal peace. I have found it to be an opportunity for me to get to know my family even deeper, do more self-introspection, exercise everyday, learn more about God, and appreciate all the memories I have accumulated so far. 

Unfortunately, I received sad news that my program is cut short, meaning I might never come back to Anacortes High School again. At this point in time, I’m waiting for my ticket to South Africa to be arranged. This pandemic has hit me harder than I thought. But I’m taking my quarantine with me — all the little memories in it. The family jokes at the dinner table, the sunflower bond with Allie, nice, thick whipped cream, McDonalds burger feasts with my fellow exchange students, and my once in a lifetime chance to be a student director. My exchange year wasn’t a year in my life, but it was a second life in a year. With all the memories I have made, I’m okay with leaving early. It is hard to leave behind this life earlier than I planned to, but I feel so lucky to have met all of the wonderful people I met and experienced the places I did. I feel that although this quarantine has changed my life entirely, it is all for the best. Everything will work out as planned, even if it is hard to see with all the darkness around the world right now.

Mapula Mmatli

I love writing, acting, and public speaking Kind and friendly to all :)

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  1. Great work on the recent Seahawk Journal articles! I love hearing what students are thinking about during these interesting times and appreciate you continuing the work of journalism.

    Thank you,
    Ms. Fox

  2. This is a very heartfelt account of the international impact of Covid-19. I’m sorry that Anacortes had less time to get to know Ms. Mmatli. Her courage, unique perspective and openness will be missed.

  3. Mapula! I feel all your words so very profoundly. I too have made all these wonderful, heart-felt memories and feel so incredibly lucky to have created such bonds with the people I have met here in Anacortes. The last thing I’d imagine when getting on that plane was a world pandemic, and it did indeed hit harder than I had imagined. Thank you for sharing your kind and beautiful thoughts. I am so very sad with this situation, but do believe everything somehow does happen for a certain reason, even if we cannot perceive it very evidently. I will miss you so much, forever.

  4. Everything happen for a reason. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself and created good memories that will never fade away. At least you’ve got a story to share. This means a lot to me as your legal guardian and older sister to you. I am so proud of you my angel. Many wanted to go to USA, myself included, but God chose you. J mean it’s everybody’s dream to go overseas but yet you did….this pandemic shall pass and shall be in everybody’s memories and guess what, we’ll be saying ‘it happened on the same year that Mapula was at USA.’ Then your memories shall always be cherished…be strong my girl. I’m happy that you’ll be coming home soon because we miss you,but on the other hand I am sad because your program had to be cut short. I am just glad you created good memories. May God bless your host family….

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