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Hello from home: Stories from people around the world

In times of great uncertainty, we all seek stories of hope–moments when people come together and show the best of what humanity has to offer.  

The EF family around the world is living these stories every day: whether it’s video chat with a friend that makes us realize we could have been better connected all along, spending uninterrupted time with family, someone helping you make it home safely or moving from a brick-and-mortar school to an online classroom 

Together, we are proving that the power of a ‘hello’–whether it’s across the street to a neighbor or through a video screen to a friend–holds unimaginable power. 

Although we dream of exploring the world again and all the amazing things that come with it, there’s an overwhelming sense of gratitude and renewed connection being unlocked by these days indoors. 

Everyone needs some positive vibes right now. So we want to shine a light on our incredible EF family: the students, teachers, travelers and staff who have a story of hope to tell. Here are some of their stories saying ‘Hello from home.’

Scott, EF Educational Tours, The United States 

It’s been an adjustment. Most of my meetings with my students are about giving them some resources to keep up their French skillsSeeing them “come to class” prepared and ready to talk has been refreshing. In my daily walk around the neighborhood, I’ve noticed so many more smiling faces. This time apart has allowed everyone to see just how much we want to talk, be kind, and help each other get through this together! I am also scheduling weekly virtual friend timeIt helps me keep track of the days of the week and gives me something to look forward to. 

Nickie, EF Educational Tours, United States 

I realize how lucky I am to work in the education field. I look at my life and am beyond grateful that my district can let us work remotely. I have also used this time to create a new home for myself. With recently purchasing a new house and having extra time, I have been able to personalize and create a space for myself. But I have also been so socially isolated by being the only person living in my housing developmentMy co-worker FaceTimed me recently, and that meant the world to me for someone to take a moment from their day to check in. 

Karin, EF Educational Tours, United States 

I’ve been able to stay very positive. I’m focusing each day on the silver linings. What amazing things are happening that wouldn’t have happened if we were living normally? What am I able to do, and what am I growing that in my busy life I don’t take time to do? I’m giving my parent’s beagle her absolute best life right now. One of the many things I don’t have time for in my own busy life is a dog. I’m not home enough to give one the great life I believe they deserve, so I spoil Annie the beagle at every opportunity. We’re best friends, and she goes everywhere I go. Silverlinings are everywhere! I write them down. I text them to others. I make my students tell me theirsI am seeing the buds of my favorite flowers on bushes that I usually don’t see until they are in full bloom in mid-June. I’m looking for the silver linings.” 

Jason, EF Educational Tours, United States 

This experience has been surreal and eye-opening. As a high school World History teacher, I have alternated between adopting dayatatime mindset, staying engaged with my students as we all move to online learning, and then switching to a thoughtful, philosophical mindset. Quite literally, trying to process the historical magnitude of this global event. Historians will be talking about this, and how we handled it, centuries from now. I hope and pray that we emerge from this as a better people. The most important thing for humanity is to show compassion and understanding towards each other. I have become more connected to the global community through all of us facing a common threat and striving to achieve a singular goal.  

Baastian, EF Educational Tours, The Netherlands 

Although my tours were put on hold, EF of course has many students and travelers all over the world and they all had to find their way back homeI was helping students who missed their connecting flights in Amsterdam and were stranded for the night. Although we couldn’t give high fives and warm hugs it was still great to help these tired travelers. I arranged a cool hotel at the airport so they could relax and catch up a bit for their flights the next morning. I hope I could be the friendly face in this strange and bumpy ride. They all left Amsterdam with a smile and I realized once more that my heart is within hospitality and I am glad I could help these kids out. 

Emily, EF Education First, United States 

I started off in Boston but went to my dad’s house in New Jersey after a week of working remotely. My dad lives on farmland with lots of outdoors to explore so it’s been a great place to be during this really stressful time. My dad and stepmom are both doctors who work in hospitals which is pretty stressful for them at the moment, so we’re doing our best to help out, make delicious meals and spend time as a family. A local farmer’s market has been allowing telephone orders and we’ve been doing most of our shopping there. Yesterday when they learned our parents are in medicine they gave us an extra loaf of bread for free to say thank you. It’s been overwhelming to process everything but really heartwarming to see the ways that people are doing whatever they can to make a positive impact.  

Mitch, EF Educational Tours, United States 

As a school administrator I’ve worked to ensure that teachers are able to provide distance learning as well as ensuring that students are safe. It has been somewhat a challenge to ensure that we as a school organization stay in contact with one another. I’m very social and need human interaction, but this time has also helped me come up with different methods of communication. We did a virtual trivia game with the EF staff which was awesome. It inspired me to have one with my school staff which has helped build our team spirit. also started playing the piano again which I’ve not played in 10 years. It was great to play it again because it brought back many childhood memories. 

Kelsey, EF Education First, United States 

I tend to live life in the fast lane with an expectation of what is to come. So to say COVID-19 shook up my life would be an understatement. This experience has taught me that when push comes to shove, I can roll with the punches and be in full survivor mode. I’ve been a part of a group we’ve been calling The Moonlight Line’, a force of 16+ EF employees, from all different rolls, backgrounds and products who have come together to support our customer service team. The support, love, tears, and laughter has been the number one thing that keeps me going every day. They have all inspired me to be more adaptable, to see the little joys in life, and to simply have more empathy for humanity. We send each other Thinking of you Notes. Its an anonymous way to let someone know you are thinking of them and that what they do matters.” 

Margot, EF Education First, United States  

I’ve learned that situations bring out the best and the worst in people, but I want to be the best side of that. I want to help in whatever way I can whether that means grocery shopping for my elderly mother, to video chatting my boyfriends’ children, to sewing masks – I want to be better. I want to make someone laugh if they are down and try to lend my support to whomever needs it. My friend and I have also been sending each other message via ‘snail’ mail. It’s been wonderful to get a handwritten letter in the mail with a message of love and support and sometimes little drawings or jokes. Every two days we have something fun to open. I think it is underestimated and can really show someone that you care about them. 

Maia, EF Educational Tours, United States

Maia, United States

“This is a time to be patient and kind to each other more than ever. One thing that has helped me a lot is writing down five things that were good and what I am thankful for along with FaceTiming my friends. It’s important to reach out and try to stay as positive as possible. My a cappella group also plans to sing together on Zoom which is going to make me feel so much better.”

Milena, EF High School Exchange Year, Italy

Milena, Italy

“Now, somehow, we feel so close to the people around us. I hear our Italian anthem coming from other houses or pictures of our tricolor flag on social media. I think it’s incredible. A few days ago, everywhere in Italy people set a time to go out on their balconies and play their instruments or sing; it was like a huge concert. We are discovering how important life is. We’re probably getting to know each other better because it’s when we miss something that we understand how valuable it is and how selfish we are to underestimate it.”

Miguel, EF International Language Campuses, Spain

Miguel, Spain

“In my country we are all staying in our houses and we can’t go out unless we are going to a pharmacy or a supermarket. I’m also exercising a lot. We are video conferencing with friends and family to stay connected. I am also helping the technology department at my school by creating support for the students. For example, we are making documents for students with important information on how to use different apps.”

Ellie, EF Educational Tours, United States

“My first day of online school happened to be on my eighteenth birthday. Even though the circumstances weren’t ideal, I was so touched by all the friends, family and neighbors who went out of their way to still celebrate my birthday. I woke up to friends from school ringing my doorbell, dropping bags at the door, and standing six feet back on my porch to watch me open gifts. Neighbors left cookies in my mailbox and my grandparents called to sing to me on the phone. By the time the evening arrived, I felt so unbelievably loved. The day made me realize how lucky I am to have such a kind and thoughtful community who, even now, were so eager to celebrate a little thing like my birthday.”

Andre, EF International Language Campuses, Portugal

“I have been staying home, using my time to practice languages I have been wanting to improve for a long time. I finished all the exercises in my German books from my course at EF Munich and have joined a voluntary association to help the elderly. I left my contact information on a postcard all around my street and people who are higher risk can call me to go to the supermarket, post office or pharmacy for them. One person I got groceries and medicine for delivered a handmade scarf and mittens to my door to thank me for my help. Video calls are my life now and I am talking with friends from all over the world – sharing tips, laughs and memories.”

Cato, EF High School Exchange Year, The Netherlands

Cato, The Netherlands

“It’s been weird times. We are urged to stay inside and have limited social interactions. I’m trying to distract myself with Netflix, playing games and helping others as much as I can! I’ve been FaceTiming and texting my friends and family on a daily basis to stay updated on what’s happening with them. I’ve also been going around the neighborhood asking elders and others if they need help getting groceries or walking dogs.”

Romee, EF High School Exchange Year, The Netherlands

“I am spending a lot of time with my normally very busy family and online school has been kind of nice. I have also been able to contact my international friends and family. My host family and friends from college check up on me daily too. Everyone is dealing with it in their own way, and it’s nice to help each other through this. It’s been nice to know that people are thinking about you, and I’ve been paying that forward. That’s why I texted the exchange students I have been in contact with the past year to see how they are doing and let them know I am thinking about them. I felt like it was a small thing to do, but I know it is always nice when someone thinks about you.”

Linda, EF International Language Campuses, Austria

“I’m studying at home every day and always have lunch with my family, which I really enjoy. In the afternoon I usually enjoy the beautiful weather in the garden, bake something or exercise. My friends and I use Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp to communicate and I FaceTime often with my family because we can’t meet. I stay at home as much as possible because I’m taking care of people who are high risk and, whenever I can, I help my classmates with their studies.”

Veronika, EF International Language Campuses, Czech Republic

Veronika, Czech Republic

“There is still a lack of face masks here. Many people, including my family, have started sewing them. People usually donate them to those who need them. So for example, I gave some masks to my grandparents and their neighbors. Now, more than ever, it is important to stick together.”

Mariagiulia, EF High School Exchange Year, Italy

“Although I’m in Spain, I try to stay as connected as possible to my family back in Italy. We video chat very often to catch up and we always look for something to do together. Last time, we watched a movie on Netflix and hit play at the same time so we could comment on every scene and laugh together. Being far from home, I have to admit there have been times I have been really down and times where I thought being away was the least selfish option for me to protect my relatives who are more at risk. In Italy, there have been many instances to connect and give each other strength. People open their windows every day at 8 p.m. and sing the national anthem. Some even start a concert with speakers and a console on their balcony, entertaining the whole neighborhood. A couple weeks ago, I was very busy with homework and presentations so I stayed in my room all afternoon and I lost track of time. Around 9 p.m., my roommate knocked on my bedroom door and said, ‘Hey Julie, are you OK? You haven’t left your room since 3 p.m. I made Mexican banana pancakes with raspberries if you want to try them.’ It was a small gesture but it meant a lot to me. All of this reminded me that it’s the small things that mean the most to people, make someone’s day and give someone a smile even in the hardest times.”

Lucas, EF International Language Campuses, France

“The first week, I took my online engineering school lessons, so I was able to continue having exchanges with my friends. The rest of the time I have spent with my family, watching a series on Netflix or playing sports. To stay in touch and to continue to laugh during this complicated period, my friends and I launch small challenges online; it’s fun and it helps pass the time.”

Alessandro, EF International Language Campuses, Italy

Alessandro, Italy

“I have rediscovered a lot of wonderful and interesting things I have not done for years. I rediscovered the beauty of lying on my terrace under the very hot sun while reading a great book. I have started to do crafty things again and I notice the importance of spending quality time with my family. I always video chat with my grandad because he lives far away from me and I can’t visit him. He’s always really happy to see my face and spend some time with me. I’m also helping my mum with the cooking. We prepare special meals for the whole family–something that we’ve not done for a long time.”
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