APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – It’s not easy being away from home, especially during a global pandemic while navigating high school.

“I could not go home this summer which is like weird, because I haven’t seen my family for like a long time,” says senior Anh Duong. Duong has been a part of Fox Valley Lutheran High School’s foreign exchange student program since she started as a freshman in 2017. Before the pandemic, she would go home to Vietnam visit her family every summer.

Enming Wang, a sophomore and foreign exchange student from China, says this past year has been anything but normal. Wang has been a part of the international student program since 2019.

“It feels bizarre, because I have not been able to go home since last summer,” says Wang.

When the CDC released its travel restrictions last year, Duong and Wang decided it was best to stay in Wisconsin, because they might not be able to return to the United States.

“It kind of feels weird, since we can talk to our parents through phones and tablets, but we’re not really seeing them in person,” says Wang.

The two are thriving despite their circumstances. Duong, who is studying biochemistry, will be attending Purdue University in the fall, while Wang is studying STEM and on FVL’S VEX Robotics team.

“It is very heartwarming to just see them be able to do well, even through the challenges that they’re facing through the pandemic,” says Monica Uhlenbrauck, International Program Director at Fox Valley Lutheran.

The 2020-2021 school year is the school’s 50th anniversary of FVL’s foreign exchange student program. This year, 27 students are enrolled in the program. There are students from China, Korea, Vietnam, Germany, Ukraine, Poland, and Spain.

“After having students come for either a semester or full year, many wanted to stay long term. Our Guidance Chair and Administration worked to become a SEVIS approved school that allowed international students to receive an F-1 visa and remain for multiple years at FVL. The approval came in 2003 which led to the school’s first I-20 student who came from Germany,” says Uhlenbrauck.

Fox Valley Lutheran provides students with a Christ-centered education preparing teens for lives of service and for eternity. For more information on Fox Valley Lutheran High School’s foreign exchange student program, click here.