By Marissa Johnson
O’odham Action News
COVID-19 took the world by surprise. At the beginning of 2020, many countries and businesses continued to function as normal, but when the virus began to spread rapidly, the world acted. Many countries shut down—not only in their businesses, but also in the ability for anyone to leave the country. The key action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was to stop the movement of people. But closing borders and transportation options left many people who were out traveling, for personal, business or even educational reasons, temporarily stuck in another country without much choice other than to wait out the lockdown.
Such a scenario happened to a Community member when she was traveling abroad for school. She recounts how and when it all happened.
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Amerie Boni was studying abroad in Spain when COVID-19 impacted the world. At 14 years old and a freshman at Salt River High School, Boni decided to take the opportunity to enhance her education by studying at Centro Docente María, a private school in Spain. Leaving in October 2019, Boni was set to study there until the end of June 2020. But during March, all of Spain went on lockdown, only letting people leave to visit pharmacies or gather groceries.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Spain. I thought, ‘What if I just went for school?’” Boni said. “So, I started looking up exchange-student programs. I found one and got accepted to go. I had a Spanish host family of four: a mother, a father and two children.”
The host home Boni stayed in was home to eight other exchange students studying abroad. Boni was able to have her own room with a private bathroom. She explained that her schooling was much more advanced in Spain than in the U.S. Her classes were taught in Spanish (unless it was an English class). She took biology, math, physics and chemistry, reading, Cambridge (English) and French. In her free time, she would visit a nearby mall with her friends. While in quarantine, her host family would play the piano or guitar to pass time. They would also play board games like Monopoly or Clue.
In February, Boni’s birthday month, Boni’s mother Madison Lewis traveled to surprise Boni in Spain. After the lockdown began, it took two to three weeks for Boni and her mother to travel back to the United States. They were hesitant about being among the crowds in the airports and worried they could contract the virus.
“Going to the airport in Spain, I had to have a mask, gloves and hand sanitizer. In the plane everyone had their own row, but there were not that many people, so some had to skip rows,” said Boni. “[When we got to the U.S.] they questioned us [about] how long we’d been gone and if we had any symptoms. They took our temperature, and they said when we got home we had to quarantine ourselves, checking our temperature every day.”
Boni plans to study abroad again after COVID-19 clears up. Next time she wants to pick another location, to expand her list of places to visit.