Cancelled experiences: Students abroad sent home early


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many cancellations, and some of those cancellations include the chance to experience a new world.

A chance to see the world cut short because of the pandemic.

“It was just a whirlwind of things. It all happened really fast so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to process,” Brooklyn Devries said.

Brooklyn DeVries a USD student from Rapid City, left to study abroad in Germany in August. She wasn’t expecting to come back from Europe until the end of April. Then, in a matter of days, the COVID-19 outbreak changed that.

“It wasn’t until two weekends ago, I believe, where we got the signal that my university wanted to send me home and then our program actually shut down. So this was all in the span of a weekend, which was actually kind of crazy. So, we had to get our flights and then I left that Monday and I had got my flight itinerary on Sunday,” DeVries said.

Sam Peterson from Sioux Falls and Sadie Meyerink from Mitchell are both Morningside College students on a group trip to Italy. It was supposed to last three months, but they got called home after one and a half.

“It was a little disappointing because we expected to be there for 12 weeks and then six weeks in we get told that we’re coming back. So that kind of just left a lot to be desired,” Peterson said.

“So it was the day Spring Break started and we got word that we had to be back within, I think it was, less than two weeks,” Meyerink said.

Kristen Rezac of Yankton, South Dakota, was making new friends and meeting new creatures in South Africa with her college classmates before she got the same news as the other travelers.

“We all got the email on our phones. So we were all staying in our apartment and all you could hear was just people sobbing. Everyone was just crying, it was a mess,” Rezac said.

DeVries was welcomed home with many questions.

“We landed in Chicago and we were kind of taken through this line and then we had to be screened by the CDC and they just asked, ‘what are your symptoms, where have you traveled, where are you coming from’ and then they tested your fever and then they gave you a little sheet that you fill out,” DeVries said.

But the other three experienced something else at the airport.

“I was told that it might take seven to eight hours to go through health screenings, but there really wasn’t anything like that. It was pretty chill, actually,” Rezac said.

“Surprisingly, the only time I got my temperature taken was in Amsterdam. I took two flights in the United States and I never got my temperature checked,” Meyerink said.

After arriving home, all four travelers went into a 14 day quarantine with the memories of their trips.

“There were people all over the place. Everybody eating outside, everybody just enjoying Italy. There were a lot of tourists, same with Spain too. But now, seeing photos and stuff like that, it’s a completely different world almost,” DeVries said.

Although each of their trips was cut short, the travelers are grateful for their time abroad and awaiting the day they can go back.

“At the time when we got sent home, we were all really bumped. We weren’t really expecting it because they had only had about 30 cases and the 30 cases were on the complete opposite side of the country we were located. But now I think they’re reaching a thousand cases, and it’s really concerning for South Africa too because as a country they have a really high population of HIV and Aids so a lot of their citizens are already immuno-deficient,” Rezac said.

And they know being home safe is bigger than their time overseas.

“Stay positive. Just over there, even seeing it now, there’s just a lot of unity in Italy and just seeing people come together and seeing everything that’s happening over there, I think if we stay positive here and we kind of unify to help provide for those who maybe can’t go out and get groceries, that would be a good step in the right direction,” Peterson said.

All four travelers are feeling healthy and will soon be ending their times in self-quarantine.

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

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