Coronavirus affects North Cross international students' spring break plans

Published: Feb. 28, 2020 at 6:21 PM EST
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The spread of the coronavirus is disrupting several North Cross students' spring break plans--to see their families in China. But Wilson International, an international student services company, is here to help them still enjoy their time off, even if they can't go home.

"I know it means a lot for them to have something to do during break, and they're handling not being able to go home very well, they're resilient kids," Stephen Alexander, Executive Director of Wilson International, said.

The organization is taking nine international kids from North Cross School in Roanoke to Disney World. Two had planned to go back home to China before the outbreak.

"Our goal is to be prepared and not panic, that's what we want to do, and so far we worked through some things with students who have an emotional discomfort to with what's going on," Alexander said.

Emma Kauffman with Wilson International lives on the same floor as the students in downtown Roanoke's Boxley Building.

"I'm really close to many of our Chinese girls and when they came back from break they were quite concerned and it was a stress that was evident in their just overall being," Kauffman, Director of Residential Life with Wilson International, said.

She's hoping this trip to Disney World will bring some relief.

"It's going to be a lot of fun, I look forward to it, I love travel, and our students just need a break," she said.

North Cross Head of School, Christian Proctor, is out of town but told WDBJ7 over the phone that Spring Break is just the first of many obstacles.

"Some of them are graduating so they're also thinking about the fact that they're parents aren't going to come for graduation probably," Proctor said.

In that case, they hope to live-stream graduation. But then there's summer break.

"Are they going to be spending the summer here in the United States? So, Spring Break is really just the first step towards maybe some other difficult decisions down the road, so the best we can do is try to make their lives as comfortable as possible," Proctor said.

Through these challenges, Kauffman says the international students feel lucky to have each other.

"It's sort of a surrogate family," Proctor said.

North Cross also has two campuses in Shanghai for Chinese students.

They were on break for the Lunar New Year and haven't been able to go back to school yet because of the virus, so North Cross has been running online classes.

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