Cotter from Colombia: Sol and Stefani adjust to new model

Cotter+from+Colombia%3A+Sol+and+Stefani+adjust+to+new+model

Students in Winona are experiencing many changes to their daily school routine, but COVID-19 has also greatly impacted many international students’ school lives.

Cotter students and cousins Solangel Suarez Duque and Laura Stefani Cardenas Suarez both are distance learning from Colombia and are experiencing many changes.  They are adapting to learning in another country and adjusting to not being able to participate in activities and sports.

They were not able to return to Cotter originally because of a travel ban, but now they are remaining in Colombia due to online learning.  The cousins managed to get back to their home country on a humanitarian flight after filling out many documents back in May.

Sol, a sophomore, is currently in Bogota D.C., the capital of Colombia, and also the city with the most cases.

“Everything was closed until almost one month ago,” Sol said.

Stefani, a junior, is living in her hometown of Satana-Boyacá and experiencing a slightly different situation than Sol.  The town is small and has few cases, so not much has changed.

“Life in my town is very normal,” Stefani said.

The cousins say that online learning has taken some adjustment, and while they find in-person learning is preferable for the most part, they say that distance learning is safer.

“Not being back at Cotter feels different from the past years since we aren’t able to be with each other, but in these circumstances, it is necessary for the safety of everyone,”  Stefani said.

The hardest part of not being at Cotter physically is not being able to be in the normal activities that we’re used to, because the activities and being close to each other is what makes school fun”

— Stefani Cardenas

Stefani is also finding ways to stay connected to the Cotter community, for example she  led a flex day school prayer activity safely from Colombia.

However, they both miss their friends and being with people, and have found the adjustment difficult.

“It feels weird not being surrounded by other people as you normally are in the school,” Solangel said.

They also both say that the best part of online learning is how it allows them to spend more time with their families than going to school in Winona does.  Although there are some positive aspects, both miss activities and sports at Cotter.

“The hardest part of not being at Cotter physically is not being able to be in the normal activities that we’re used to, because the activities and being close to each other is what makes school fun,” Stefani said.

Sol and Stefani are planning to return to Cotter if the school returns to in-person learning.