Coronavirus Threat Sends School Year Abroad Students Packing


Lucy Goldberg

Lucy Goldberg (left) and Sophie Tolson (right) in Spain.

Isabel Brittin, News Editor

Sophie Tolson (left) and Sarah Erickson (right) on a trip with SYA photo credit: Sophie Tolson


“The day we left, we woke up to go to school, saw the notification, and then we had to pack up and leave in 10 hours. It was insane,” said junior Lucy Goldberg who, along with Potomac classmates Sarah Erickson and Sophie Tolson, were rushed onto a plane in the second week of March. The three girls, who had been in Spain since the fall, were planning to spend three more months studying with the School Year Abroad (SYA) program in Zaragoza, Spain. None of them could have anticipated that a teary goodbye to their host family and new home-away-from-home would come so soon.

SYA, the popular study-abroad program that Potomac students have participated in for the last three years, sent students home early for the first time in the program’s 60 year history because of coronavirus. “At first we were provided with three options: To stay in Spain and see what happens with the coronavirus; to go home and return to our home schools; or, to do SYA online school. Almost everyone chose to stay, because we all wanted to stay in Spain as long as possible,” said Sarah.

These options were narrowed, however, as the threat of coronavirus grew increasingly serious. Soon after the virus spread into Spain, local law ordered all schools in the town of Zaragoza to close close; SYA was accordingly shut down. 

Soon thereafter, the U.S. government announced its intentions to suspend international travel. “That is when School Year Abroad decided that they had to get their students home,” said Diana Page, the SYA Coordinator at Potomac and world language department chair.

Back in the United States, earlier than they expected, Sarah, Lucy, and Sophie are taking it philosophically. While they’d have liked to have had more than the six months they spent in Spain, they all left having obtained valuable lessons and developing close relationships.