Foreign exchange programs end early



The promise of a fun, major life change drew senior Leliah Tiranti to leave her quiet home in Bra, Italy, to come to study in America. Although Tiranti said her time in the U.S. has been fun, the chaos the coronavirus has brought to both of her homes has changed the exchange student’s experience in ways she never would have imagined. Tiranti ultimately had to cut her time short, leaving America on April 1 for an extended journey home. 

“It’s obviously not what I was expecting to end my experience … but I’m trying to see the bright side of everything,” Tiranti said. 

Tiranti’s host family, Tiffany and Billy Hemberger, are both teachers at Spring Valley, which brought Tiranti to the school in the first place. Panic over Covid-19 in Italy and Las Vegas has left her frightened for her family.

 “I’m obviously worried and scared [about the virus], but I’m … talking with my family and 

friends, and they are in quarantine, and they are fine,” Tiranti said. “The whole situation, it’s really scary, and I just feel like, in this moment, I’m always thinking about it. I’m worried to hear bad news.” 

Tiranti’s home is in northern Italy, where the coronavirus initially broke out. 

“They don’t seem like they are [scared], or at least, when I’m FaceTiming them, they look happy and with positive thoughts,” Tiranti said. “I know they are following all the procedures that are necessary [to] be safe.” 

Tiranti, who is on the school’s cheer team and in student council, said she has fallen in love with her school and classmates in America. The coronavirus has made it hard to continue enjoying a social life in Vegas, but she still has no regrets over coming in the first place. 

 Returning to Italy, however, will result in Tiranti being quarantined on a military base in Milan for 14 to 30 days. 

The fear Tiranti feels for her family makes her upset about how she feels the United States is disregarding Covid-19. Hemberger said she has noticed a change in Tiranti’s mindset on the virus after seeing how Italy was impacted by it. 

“So initially, I think that she was just like us and thought, ‘it’s no worse than the flu, and everyone suffers with the flu,’” Hemberger said. “‘People are just being hysterical and listening too much to the news or social media.’ But now that it has really impacted her family, I think that there’s a more serious nature to it in that her parents are unable to work, and the kids have been out of school for a month.” 

Tiranti said that young people should start taking the virus more seriously so that the country doesn’t end up in the same position as Italy. Tiranti’s fears have come to life in recent weeks, however. 

“I think some people still see [the coronavirus] as a joke or still they think it’s just like the flu,” Tiranti said. “I see my home in lockdown and all the hospitals overcrowded. … America should handle it better because they had the opportunity to see what this virus can do, but in my opinion they are not taking this seriously.”