Hine-au-rangi Campbell-Collie returned home to New Zealand in March 2020 when all AFS programmes were cancelled due to Covid-19.

Covid-19 had the hugest impact on my exchange. By the time it came around, I had been in Denmark for seven months. I was finally in a place where I felt truly happy about where I was. I had become very close to my local Danish friends, I had some amazing fellow exchange student friends, I absolutely loved my host family, I was finally getting a hang of the language, I was no longer homesick, and I fell in love with being on exchange.

Then everything took a turn for the worst. We were all told that our programs were being ended, because of Covid-19. My last days in Denmark were tremendously hard. Everything was happening very fast. I met with my fellow exchange students for the last time, and we spent the day reminiscing on all the amazing things we got to experience. It was such a surreal feeling saying goodbye, to the people that I’d grown so close to in such a short time. My host family were just amazing. They made me feel at home from day one. Their kindness at home, made me feel comfortable to go and face all the other challenges that come with being an exchange student. I am forever grateful to them. The car ride to the airport was so tough. I couldn’t keep the tears back. I’ve never felt heartbreak before, but I think I definitely did that day. When it was time for the last goodbye, I couldn’t keep it together. I just didn’t want to let go of their grasp, and never really know when I’d see them again. I was not at all ready to come home to Aotearoa.

When I finally did arrive, I utterly hated every minute being back. Being on exchange, I was completely free from my previous life. There was no one saying “No you can’t do this, or you can’t go there.” I was my own boss, and had the freedom to do what I pleased. It was so difficult coming back, and having that freedom taken away from me. It has now been almost five months since being back, and I’m slowly starting to get used to being home. I just can’t wait for the day I finally get to see my host family again.