A unique perspective: An exchange student shares her thoughts on COVID-19.


Hattig is pictured here while visiting Traverse City. Hattig had other trips planned to see other parts of the country and go on a cruise before the virus canceled those plans.

Jule Hattig, Photo Manager

Life is changing. For some more, some less. But the whole world has to deal with something that we have never experienced before. We see so much pain and sadness during these times, worst of all in the form of death and severe illness, but also with the loss of events that we were looking forward to.

I am an exchange student from Germany who expected to have a school year with all the fun American events like Homecoming and Christmas vacation in Florida (which I enjoyed), but also prom, graduation and playing a spring sport.

Since COVID-19 changed all of our lives, my exchange year changed too. I am thousands of miles away from my family, but I am happy that I can still be here. Thousands of other exchange students had to leave their host countries and go back home. I can’t imagine how hard it was to be forced to leave. Some had only 2 days to pack their new lives together and say goodbye to a world that had just started for them.

I was afraid that something like that could happen to me too. I am lucky that I was able to decide on my own if I wanted leave to return to Germany and stay with my family here. Many exchange students decided to go back, as some parents and/or host parents thought it was the best or safest. My family doesn’t want me to go on this trip at this point in time for my own safety, and actually, what would it change for me? Not a lot. I couldn’t see my friends or extended family in Germany. I have a great home here and great people who I stay with. It is different than we all imagined, but we’ll make the best out of it. 

Even though it’s hard to find positive things during this time, I’ve seen things happen in the world that show how beautifully people can work together. People are showing love, including putting hearts on the doors to thank the first responders or even just posting encouraging content on social media to give people the feeling that they are not alone during this time. I especially saw the gratefulness toward the work the medical staffs are doing right now. Many people are thanking others for doing their part in this crisis.

Another good thing for some is that they have time to relax and do things they normally do not have time for. I am happy I have more time that I can spend with my second family here in the U.S.

But there are also negative things that make me realize how thankful we should be every day that we can spend doing the things that we want to do without restrictions. I am sure that when everything settles, we will even appreciate the positives in our life more and perhaps have a new perspective on life.

I am disappointed from time to time and ask myself why am I one of the people who has to experience this during the year that I waited years for, only to see that a little virus change it. But this feeling doesn’t come over me very often. More than that, I feel sorrow for the people who are suffering more than I am. There are so many sad, frustrating and negative points about the virus, like not being able to celebrate several meaningful events or not seeing family and friends or even losing them. I see the pain that people have to deal with, but I then I am encouraged by how people work together and spread love.

As a teenager, seeing the world like that gives me hope for something better. Sometimes I think that we all just live from day to day and mind our own business, and often we forget to look out for other people. But now, in a time where everyone has to work together, exactly that happens: people are caring for each other and love spreads all over the world. 

My imagination of my year abroad was different, more focused on all the fun things that were planned. But now, I see what I can do without all these things. I am happy to become even closer with my family here in the U.S., but I also can’t wait until I can see my German friends again, and give them each a huge hug. I probably won’t see my teachers in the U.S. again this year and everyone who made my exchange year great, but I will come back someday and hopefully see all of these people again without wearing gloves and a mask. 

I want to end with the thought that we should focus on the good things, because we can´t change the bad things right now, so why be upset? We can be frustrated, sad and even angry from time to time, but we should also remember all the good in the world, and there is more now than ever.