French exchange trip suspended due to Coronavirus outbreak

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Photo courtesy of European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

The image shows a graphic distribution of COVID-19 in Europe.

The French Exchange Program that Grady participates in was suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Students were scheduled to leave for France in early March.

“I was very disappointed when I heard the trip was cancelled,” sophomore Hannah Doherty said. “I had been looking forward to going to France for several months.”

The exchange program, which eight Grady students were scheduled to participate in, would have given students the opportunity to work in fields related to their academic pathways at Grady. Additionally, the trip gave students the opportunity to earn volunteer hours while gaining first hand knowledge about the workplace.

“Being abroad would have impacted their understanding of the language very much,” French teacher Theresa Monye said. “Students that went in previous years proved that it’s a valuable learning experience, and they learned a lot about French culture and the language. Being completely surrounded by the culture would have advanced their understanding, especially if they had to have conversations with people who didn’t speak English.”

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, there have been 232,470 cases of the virus in Europe alone, and 25,233 in France as of March 26.

“I think for the safety of the students, it was the right decision because the coronavirus is in Europe, and it’s spreading everywhere,” Monye said. “Even though it hasn’t killed any kids their age, that doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk of getting it. We just need to keep our kids safe.”

The trip was cancelled due to safety concerns related to the virus, yet death rates are the lowest for individuals under 30. However, 1,331 people have died in France of the virus.

“I think it was the right decision to cancel the trip,” Doherty said. “It would be terrible if any of us got coronavirus, and I would have been working in some sort of healthcare facility. If I had gone, I would have been at an even higher risk because I’d be in such close contact with potential victims.”

Symptoms for the virus include coughing, shortness of breath and fever. 

The trip was funded by the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program, so it is unclear whether students will be given refunds. However, the trip was suspended, not cancelled, so students may still have an opportunity to study abroad.

“The students did not travel, and APS (Atlanta Public Schools) didn’t sponsor the trip,” Monye said. “It’s not a matter of getting a refund or anything, since they did not give APS money. We just have to wait and see if it gets rescheduled.” 

Monye believes that there is a possibility that similar opportunities will arise later in the year.

“I hope there’s another opportunity like this one later this year because the students were really looking forward to the trip and hopefully they’ll be able to go somewhere,” Monye said. “It would have been a great opportunity to learn not only about school but important life lessons. I hope there is another opportunity, and I’m sure the students do too.”

If the trip had not been cancelled, it is likely students would have been quarantined upon their return to the United States, due to their proximity to the virus. 

“If the trip hadn’t been cancelled, I would probably still be taking the same precautions,” sophomore Grace Porges said. “But, the scariest part would be if I got stuck in France and wasn’t able to come home.”