It’s safer for foreign exchange student Chiara “KiKi” Lettieri to stay in Nebraska than to return home, said her host mother, Brandee Drahota.
Lettieri, a Norfolk Public Schools junior from Carmagnola, Italy, will be staying in Norfolk until the COVID-19 outbreak decreases in her home country. Italy has the most confirmed virus cases in the world behind China, according to the World Health Organization.
Lettieri said she’s not looking forward to the possibility of going back to Italy.
“I feel really bad,” Lettieri said. “I feel like I don’t have time to do anything, it’s so unexpected.”
This year was Drahota’s first time as a host mom and her family has loved being with Lettieri, she said.
“It’s been really fun and KiKi is wonderful; she’s been a great addition to our family,” Drahota said. “We’ve learned a lot about Italy and other cultures. We’re really struggling with the possibility (of her leaving), and we are trying really hard to keep her here. But some things are out of our hands.”
Drahota and Lettieri’s parents in Italy have been in close contact with EF, her student exchange program. Everyone was notified on Tuesday that Lettieri would be allowed to stay for the time being.
Most of the students in Lettieri’s exchange program have returned home. NPS had two exchange students in the district this year, including Lettieri, and the other student had to fly back last week, said Derek Ippensen, senior high school principal.
NPS announced this week that the district’s buildings would stay closed for the rest of the school year. Lettieri and Drahota’s two other children, who both go to Norfolk Senior High, will start remote learning on Wednesday.
Lettieri said her parents want her to stay in Nebraska, especially because her hometown, Carmagnola, is only 30 minutes from Turin, one of the Italian cities that is being hit the hardest with COVID-19 cases, Drahota said.
For now, Lettieri will continue to do what she has enjoyed the most since arriving in America in August: spending time with her host family.
“It’s beautiful here, and it’s so different than my town,” Lettieri said. “It’s like a dream. It’s like living inside a movie.”